2017 RECORD: 4-8
As we continue our post-spring analysis of Georgia opponents for 2017, we now turn our attention to the much-anticipated game at Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs head to South Ben on Sept. 9 for a contest that will either set Georgia up with a lot of momentum heading into conference play, or leave many fretting about the immediate future.
We reached out to Lou Somogyi, the publisher for our sister site BlueandGold.com, to get an expert's take on the Irish.
UGASports.com: What’s your current overall outlook on Notre Dame for this upcoming season, just based off of what you saw and heard this spring?”
Somogyi: “There is no place to go but up after last year’s 4-8 meltdown. The team was embarrassed but feels reinvigorated with a new strength and conditioning operation and six new on-field assistants. If they can open with the home wins against Temple and Georgia, then I could see this team challenging for double-digit wins. If they lose to Georgia, then vying for the top 25 will be a challenge. There is a lot of personal pride to compensate for last year’s humiliation, but at the same time my optimism is guarded. ND probably will be favored in 10 of its 12 games. Talent is not lacking, especially on offense. Motivation should be very strong after last year. The question is whether too much damage was done to the psyche last year. 8-4 should be the absolute floor this year, but there is no reason not to win more.”
UGASports.com: Based on how the team looked in the spring game, how should an opponent like Georgia scout Notre Dame and then game-plan for the Irish on each side of the ball?
Somogyi: “I don’t have the qualifications as a college coach to say how Georgia should scout and prepare. I can tell you the point of emphasis on offense was greater physicality with a more veteran line, an experienced QB and big, strong backs, receivers and tight ends. Hopefully more like the 2015 team that also had a veteran line and young QB, but went 10-3 while averaging 207.6 yards rushing per game. On defense, the goal is to streamline much better and not have paralysis by analysis. Fundamentals under new DC Elko were the buzz word after last year’s extreme disappointment.”
UGASports.com: After the spring, which roster positions do you think Notre Dame feels best about heading into the 2017 and why? On the flip side, what positions do you see as the team's biggest concerns?
Somogyi: “The offense should be strong all around, other than experience at QB. The line returns four starters with 76 career starts, with the left side tandem of Mike McGlinchey at tackle and Quenton Nelson at guard both possible first-round picks. There is a strong three-man backfield led by junior Josh Adams (1,768 yards rushing his first two seasons), a seven-man rotation at receiver led by Equanimeous St. Brown (58 catches, 16.6 yards per catch and nine TDs last year) and five tight ends who can play. Alize Mack is back there after being academically ineligible in 2016. He caught 13 passes for 190 yards as a 2015 freshman.
“On defense, the linebacking corps developed well this spring with senior captains Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini. Another senior/captain in Drue Tranquill developed well as a rover in the 4-2-5. The rover is a safety/linebacker hybrid. All three were among their top tacklers last year, plus backup LB Te’von Coney.
“The prime concerns are inexperience at QB, safety and an unproven defensive line that did not do well against either the run and had only three sacks — and both of the top players up front, Isaac Rochell (drafted by Los Angeles) and Jarron Jones are gone.
“Kicker Justin Yoon, 28 of 34 on field goals his first two years, sat out the spring because of leg weariness.”
UGASports.com: Which position battles were some of the ones to watch this spring?
Somogyi: “There was good competition at all the skill positions, but finding safeties is especially important. Nick Coleman dropped to third-team corner last year as a sophomore but this spring moved ahead of Devin Studstill at strong safety. Studstill had started nine games as a freshman last year. Early entrant Isaiah Robertson also was battling sophomore Jalen Elliott, the starter, at free safety.”
UGASports.com: “With spring practices in the books, who do you see as Notre Dame’s top players on each side of the ball and why?
Somogyi: “On offense, that McGlinchey-Nelson tandem on the left side could rank among the best in the country. Defensively, Morgan at Mike linebacker is expected to really thrive in new coordinator Mike Elko’s system that is user friendly at his position. Morgan led the team in tackles (94) and sacks (4) last year.”
UGASports.com: Which players who entered the spring maybe under-the-radar really turned heads during practices and in the spring game
Somogyi: “Defensively, sophomore drop end Daelin Hayes really began to display the promise with which he arrived. He was a five-star recruit in 2016 but also coming off three shoulder surgeries that had hampered him. He was credited with three sacks in the spring game but more importantly he displayed consistent explosiveness and pressure ability off the edge. ND has been in desperate need of that up front, and he could be the answer.
“On offense, a lot of the tall pass catchers had very good springs to complement St. Brown, especially 6-5 Miles Boykin (5 catches, 102 yards in the spring game), 6-4 Chase Claypool and tight end Mack, who Brian Kelly said was “uncoverable” at times. Sophmore running back Tony Jones Jr., redshirted last year, also had a stellar spring and could be the top option behind Adams.”
Notre Dame 2017 Schedule
at Boston College
at Michigan State
at North Carolina