Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brian Kelly’s first year as the head man at Notre Dame gave the school and the fan base a possible preview of what to expect from the program going forward; a winning season culminated by a 33-17 rout of Miami in the Sun Bowl. With plenty of returning experience Kelly will be expected to improve the team even more and history dictates that unless this program is in the running for the National Championship year in and year out, then the season isn’t a complete success. We’ll see if the team just improves in 2011 or takes a major step towards becoming a legitimate title contender with loads of talent coming in and already in place.
Kelly has a decision to make as to who will be the starting quarterback with several players competing for the job in camp. The leading candidate appears to be the most logical as well with senior Dayne Crist assumed to be the choice because of experience and for no other reason; he isn’t a bad option. He might not end the year as the starter with the team needing to thing about the future with several able bodied candidates waiting in the wings. Whoever is throwing the passes, they’ll have solid receivers hauling them in with Michael Floyd leading the way after returning from an injury plagued season. Combined with Theo Riddick, TJ Jones and TE Tyler Eifert the Fighting Irish have on paper one of the better receiving corps in the game. With experience along the offensive line Notre Dame should have the necessary parts in place to improve upon their production in the spread offense Kelly prefers
The Irish have eight players back from a defense that showed improvement from the previous year but was also vulnerable at times. However, every time they take the field ND will likely have the best player in linebacker Manti Te’o who finished last season as the number one tackler on the team despite a slow start. He should be even better in 2011 with the Fighting Irish returning five players that saw the field a season ago. Throw in the signing of Ishaq Lynch who was ranked as one of the nation’s top recruits and this group will make life tougher for opposing rushing attacks. The secondary was also suspect at times but benefit from plenty of returning experience. Of the eight players that saw the field a year ago, seven are back which should make this one of the better units on the team
With 17 starters back, Notre Dame is poised to be even better on both sides of the ball in 2011. This doesn’t even take in to consideration one of the better recruiting classes is intact as well. Common logic dictates this team should be improved with another year of seasoning under Kelly’s watchful eye and I see this the Irish approaching double digits in the victory column and securing an even better Bowl invitation.