As the dust settled on the 2017 spring game, my most immediate thought was it looks as if the Irish have avoided a major injury during the spring, which is always a good thing particularly for a team that is coming off a 4-8 season. I’ve learned over the years of watching or following the spring game that it does not pay to get too high or too low regarding what transpires in the spring.
Last week, I listed several questions that I had going into the season. And while I suggested that we likely would not get answers to these during the spring game or even before the season, below are my top five takeaways from the spring game:
5) The Shirt
Much has been made of The Shirt already so I don’t want to rehash a ton. Simply put, I love The Shirt (and this one is fine). I love the concept and I love the tradition.
Quite honestly, they could put a picture of Charlie Weis and Lou Holtz on the front playing “dueling banjos” and I’d buy it. The Shirt to me says Notre Dame football is around the corner.
4) Ian Book
I was totally jazzed about back-up Quarterback Ian Book. I know it is a spring game! I also know he was going against the second team defense. However, based on what I saw, I will not cringe every time Brandon Wimbush takes off running this fall.
These days, you have to have two quarterbacks. I think the Irish do.
3) NBC’s Coverage….Ah!
I will start by saying I’ve never been a fan of NBC’s Notre Dame coverage. I’ll always love Tony Roberts and I like Don Criqui as well, which may explain my overall disdain for the NBC broadcast crews. I actually liked Mike Mayock better than anyone NBC has rolled out since he left. I absolutely loved Doug Flutie as a player, but as an announcer I’m not thrilled. If the broadcast team is Flutie and Paul Burmeister mute buttons all over America will need to be upgraded.
2)Notre Dame Will Be Better on Defense
C’mon could they really be worse? Probably not, but the defense looked faster, more confident, and better disciplined.
Daelin Hayes looked like an absolute force pressuring the passer, which would be a huge boost for a suspect defensive line should his stellar play from Saturday continue into the season. I was also impressed with the linebacker play. I cannot see a scenario where this unit is not exponentially better under new Defensive Coordinator Mike Elko.
1) Best offense of the Kelly Era?
The 2015 unit averaged 34.2 PPG. This team on paper may be better.
Quarterback Brandon Wimbush gave us just a tiny glimpse on Saturday of what he is capable of. With the return of players like Alize Mack, the receiving corps looks to be formidable and the backfield presents a ton of options. If the offensive line is healthy and performs consistently this team will light up scoreboards.
Lou Somogyi, a Notre Dame writer for years, has used the term “fool’s gold’ in his columns to describe situations involving Notre Dame football and other sports where we were duped into seeing something that isn’t there. It is certainly too early to project what lies ahead for Notre Dame and fully invest in potential “fool’s gold”, but spring is an appropriate time for new beginnings.
If Saturday is any indication, the Irish are certainly trending in the right direction.