Saturday will feature the final chance for most of us to see the Irish before the 2017 opener on September 2nd vs. Temple. Unless you live close to campus or you have viewed the practice clips that are available on the Internet Saturday is likely the only opportunity most fans will have to see the Irish this spring. For those of us that will not be on campus, NBCSN will carry the game at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Spring always brings renewed optimism and the things we are hearing say all the right messages such as a “commitment to building a defense from the ground up”, “Family”, “much improved strength and conditioning program”. That being said, this team is coming off a 4-8 season, lost its starting quarterback, and has seven new coaches which leaves us with far more questions than answers as we push to the end of spring ball.
Here are my 5 most pressing:
5. This is essentially a “new coaching staff” how much improvement (AKA more wins) can we expect?
A new offensive and defensive coordinator certainly brings welcome change, particularly on defense. But how quickly this can all gel together at maybe the most pressure packed university in the nation will likely define the season.
4. Can Brian Kelly re-invent himself?
I called last year the beginning of the end for Brian Kelly, was I wrong? In thirteen seasons at the Division I level, Kelly has had two losing seasons. Following the first one, he turned in a winning season. Is this a reasonable expectation for the 2017 Irish?
3. How tough is the schedule really?
Yes, I know…Georgia, Miami, Sparty, Stanford, and USC to name a few. Three of those are road tilts also. But consider, only Stanford, and USC won 10 football games last season. Seven true home games is a cause for optimism.
2. Is Brandon Wimbush for real?
Despite some uneven play last year, DeShone Kizer is a huge loss if for nothing else his game experience. Wimbush has not played in a game since 2015 and never rose above #3 on the depth chart.
1. Will the Irish run it more and more effectively?
I know the 4.5 yards per carry average is okay. I know Josh Adams had some nagging injuries; however, 77 yards per game and an average of 15 touches a game is not going to get it done. Great Notre Dame teams have run the ball well. This is area that needs to improve. Will it?
Though we can’t begin to answer all these questions on Saturday, hopefully the spring game will give us some insights into what lies ahead for the 2017 Notre Dame football squad.