Ricky’s Independents NCAAF pick for 2017 is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
It seems like just a week ago that Notre Dame had a pocket full of fantastic QBs. This season they will need to rely on sophomore Brandon Wimbush to lead the offense. Wimbush is extremely talented and should be able to keep the offense humming with his dual-threat ability. New OC Chip Long wants the Fighting Irish to increase the tempo and it will be interesting to see how quickly Wimbush can get up to speed.
The running attack should be excellent with a healthy Josh Adams (933, 5 TD, 5.9 last season) complementing the running ability at QB. The depth looks juicy with Dexter Williams and Tony Jones ready to go. The offensive line looks fantastic with two legit NFL prospects manning the left side. The Irish have a talented WR group with a lot of size including last year’s #1 wideout Equanimeous St Brown (961, 9 TD, 16.6). TE Alize Mack should cause match-up issues.
It appears that this offense has the potential to be anywhere from really good to outstanding.
Where was the penetration? Notre Dame only managed to record 14 (!) sacks last season which ranked near the bottom of the FBS. Hello, Fresno St. Hello, Charlotte. New DC Mike Elko (Wake Forest) will have his hands full trying to apply pressure on opposing QBs, not to mention improve a run defense that his regressed the past four seasons. The back seven looks fine. The Irish boast 3/3 returning starters at LB including last year’s leading tackler Nyles Morgan. The secondary has a lot more experience and will almost certainly stay more healthy than the 2016 group. They will need to figure out a way to get more than 8 INT.
Justin Yoon and Tyler Newsome supply a very good PK and P game. Dangerous return man CJ Sanders is back this season and he returned two kickoffs for TDs last year and averaged 12.5 yards on 10 punt returns. Looking good.