Know Your Enemy: Notre Dame Season Preview

Our season preview series continues with Notre Dame.

We continue our season preview series with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This is their first season as partial members of the ACC. Last season was a disappointment for the Irish, who went 9-4 (1–2 against ranked teams) a year after appearing in the 2012 National Championship game.

Florida State came from two scores down to beat the Irish 18–14 in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl. Freshman Rashad Greene was a bright spot for the Seminoles with 99 yards receiving, 1 TD, and two clutch circus catches.


Win Probability

Aug. 30: vs. Rice


Sept. 6: vs. Michigan


Sept 13: vs. Purdue


Sept 27: vs. Syracuse


Oct. 4: vs. Stanford


Oct. 11: vs. North Carolina


Oct. 18: at Florida State


Nov. 1: at Navy


Nov. 8: at Arizona State


Nov. 15: vs. Northwestern


Nov. 22: vs. Louisville


Nov. 29: at Southern California




The Irish have a difficult overall schedule, but they do start the season off with six straight home games before heading to Tallahassee. The first test will come against Michigan in week 2, as the Wolverines have won three of the last four meetings,though ND should be favored in this game. With a win against Michigan, the Domers could finish September 4–0 before entering the meat of their schedule.

The October schedule is a murderer’s row, with a three-game stretch against Stanford, North Carolina, and at Florida State. Winning two of three would be outstanding, with 0-3 a real possibility.

November is moderately easier with Navy, a good Arizona State team, Northwestern, and Louisville before concluding the season in the rivalry tilt against a Southern Cal team we expect to be significantly improved.

A very tough schedule for Notre Dame has been made even tougher with key losses from graduation and yet another academic scandal, but the Irish should see a boost on offense due to the return of quarterback Everett Golson. The Simplified Football formula puts the most likely result at 7–5 with a decent shot at 8–4, and we suspect the latter is probably about right. [Jason: 9–3 is a legitimate possibility if the ball bounces their way, as I’m not sure the schedule is quite as tough as it seems in the preseason.]


Projected Starters


Everett Golson

Running Back

Tarean Folston

Wide Receiver

Corey Robinson

Wide Receiver

Chris Brown

Wide Receiver

William Fuller

Tight End

Ben Koyack

Left Tackle

Mike McGlinchey

Left Guard

Christian Lombard


Nick Martin

Right Guard

Steve Elmer

Right Tackle

Ronnie Stanley

Key Players

QB Everett Golson: Golson led Notre Dame to the 2012 National Championship game but missed the entire 2013 season after being dismissed from the university for academic dishonesty. As a freshman starter in 2012, Golson completed 58.8 percent of his passes and threw for 2,405 yards with 12 TDs and 6 INTs. He also ran for 298 yards and led the team in rushing touchdowns with 6.

RB Tarean Folston: In the recently released depth chart by Notre Dame, Folston was named the starter over last year’s leading rusher Cam McDaniel. Folston played quite a bit as a freshman, racking up 470 yards on 88 touches with 3 TDs. He is an athletic back and is excellent in space. McDaniel and Greg Bryant are also sure to see plenty of action as Notre Dame will rotate backs.

The Offensive Line: Although the Irish return three of five OL starters from last year, they did lose their left tackle and guard. Left tackle Zach Martin was taken in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and left guard Chris Watt was taken in the third. Again, there is no shortage of talent to replace these departures. RS-FR Mike McGlinchey (6’8, 300), a top 100 recruit on in 2012, is set to take over the left tackle role. Last year’s starting right guard, Christian Lombard, will move over to left guard to replace Watt. Nick Martin remains the center. Sophomore Steve Elmer (#74 player in 2012 according to got limited work last year as a freshman, but is expecting to start at right guard. Ronnie Stanley started at right tackle last year as a redshirt freshman and he will continue there this season.

Question Marks

The Wide Receivers: The receiver position took a big hit with the loss of Da’Varis Daniels as part of the recent academic scandal. With Daniels and last year’s leading receiver T.J. Jones gone, Notre Dame lost 80% of their WR yardage and 16 of 19 receiver touchdowns from 2013. Only one returning wideout had over ten catches last season and none of had over 220 yards. There is, however, a ton of young talent on the roster as Notre Dame has recruited well in recent years. Corey Robinson (6’7 son of NBA superstar David Robinson) and William Fuller both were highly touted prospects from the 2013 class and will have their opportunities to shine. Chris Brown, Notre Dame’s leading receiver with 209 yards last season, also returns.


The Irish will depend on the running game with running back Greg Bryant getting a lot of carries alongside Folston. The offense should get a big boost with the return of Everett Golson, but the lack of experience and production at wide receiver is a concern for the Irish. Last season the Irish were 24th in offensive F/+, and we suspect Golson’s return will result in an overall improvement, putting the Irish among the best offenses in the country by the time they arrive in Tallahassee.


Projected Starters

Defensive End

Andrew Trumbetti

Defensive Tackle

Sheldon Day

Defensive Tackle

Jarron Jones

Defensive end

Romeo Okwara

Outside Linebacker

Jaylon Smith

Middle Linebacker

Nyles Morgan

Outside Linebacker

Ben Councell


Cody Riggs

Strong Safety

Austin Collinsworth

Free Safety

Max Redfield


Mathias Farley

Key Players

LB Jaylon Smith: Smith returns to anchor the linebackers for the Irish at one of the outside linebacker spots. He was their third leading tackler last season with 67 and was second on the team in tackles for loss with 6.5. He also had 1 interception. Smith was all over the field last season as a freshman and will need to continue to do so this season.

LB Nyles Morgan: A 2014 5-star, Morgan has secured the starting role in the wake of inside linebacker Kendall Moore’s suspension. Look for a some growing pains early, but Morgan has great instincts and is a great athlete.

CB Cody Riggs: Riggs is a player that Florida State fans should know, as he transferred from Florida to Notre Dame this off-season. Riggs had 51 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks last season for the Gators but left Florida because he wanted to play corner rather than safety, where Florida had planned to play him in 2014.

Potential Weakness

The Defensive Line: Both starting defensive ends from last year are gone, and probable starter Ishaq Williams was a part of the academic scandal and is suspended from the team. In their places the Irish will start freshman Andrew Trumbetti and junior Romeo Okwara. Trumbetti (the #20 defensive end in the 2014 class) was an early enrollee and saw time with the Irish first team defense in the spring, but that was mostly in pass rushing packages. Okwara saw time last year as a back-up outside linebacker and is a bit undersized at end. On the inside, the impact of defensive anchor Louis Nix III will be very hard to replace, as his ability to eat double teams and create space for the linebackers was crucial to the defense the last two years. Notre Dame has moved both Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, both defensive ends last year, to defensive tackle, but lacks the overall physical presence they had previously.


The defense should take a step back from last year, but we’re divided on whether this will be relatively minor (Staples) or major (McGahee). Not only did they lose high quality talent on the front seven to graduation, they also lost three starters to the academic scandal. Add in the adjustment to the 4-3 scheme that new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has brought in and the defensive side should be interesting to watch in 2014. The Irish finished 33rd in defensive F/+ last season. Wayne expects some growing pains leading to a lower overall output, while Jason figures they’ll finish around the 30s again. There’s not shortage of talent on this defense, but they will need the defensive line to mature quickly if they want to stay improve on 2013’s performance.

Special Teams

Projected Starters


Kyle Brindza


Kyle Brindza

Punt Returner

Greg Bryant

Kickoff Returners

Greg Bryant

Amir Carlisle

Key Players

Kicker/Punter: Kyle Brindza handles both the punting and kicking for the Irish. Last season he punted 43 times with an average of just over 41 yards. He also attempted 26 field goals and made 20 of them. He converted all 38 extra points he tried. Brindza also handles the kickoff duties. He kicked off 75 times last season with 35 of them going for touchbacks.

Question Marks

Returners: Wide receiver Amir Carlisle and running back Greg Bryant were named the starting returns for the season, but neither has much experience. Carlisle returned three kicks last year for 81 yards. Bryant has not returned any. Bryant was also named the starting punt returner. He hasn’t fielded a punt either. There’s little reason to expect this to be a real weakness, however, as both are outstanding athletes and catch the football well.

How They Match Up With FSU

Again, our expectations aren’t completely in sync here, but both of us agree Notre Dame would have matched up much better against Florida State with the four players involved in the academic scandal on the roster. The Irish receivers lack experience, but they’re enormous and have the potential to create some matchup problems even against FSU if they can mature quickly. Starting a freshman offensive tackle against Mario Edwards Jr. and the FSU defensive front is also not ideal. That said, Notre Dame should be very physical and will put pressure on FSU’s defensive interior both with their backs and Golson’s running ability.

[Jason: Don’t be surprised if ND has more success against FSU’s defense than anyone else in the regular season. Notre Dame’s size at WR is significant enough to bother FSU’s secondary, and Brian Kelly’s consistent use of vertical stems in the passing game is designed to negate the edge gained by the pattern reading principles FSU applies. I expect Notre Dame’s offense to put up a better fight here than most foresee.]

On the other side of the ball, the Seminole offensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage against ND’s inexperienced defensive line, and FSU’s receivers should have the edge against the Irish secondary. Even if Notre Dame is able to score some points against the Seminole defense, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to stop the FSU offense enough to win the game.

Wayne’s Prediction: 45-17 FSU (Win Probability: 85%)

Jason’s Prediction: 45–31 FSU (Win Probability: 80%)

Nole Digest Top Stories