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Analysis NCAA Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview

Fighting Irish: Can Chip Long and Brandon Wimbush take the Irish Offense to the Next Level?

Notre Dame has a new Offensive Coordinator, and a new quarterback, but Brian Kelly has a lot of tools on the offensive side of the ball that should help the transition. Exit DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire, and Mike Sanford. Enter Chip Long, Brandon Wimbush, a talented group of running backs, who will be running behind a huge, and experienced offensive line.

Chip long arrives on campus , having taken over for local product Mike Sanford. Coming from Memphis,  Long, comes to the Irish after a single season as the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach at Memphis. In 2016, the Memphis Tigers were among the top-20 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in passing offense (304.4, 14th), scoring offense (38.8, 16th), completion percentage (.635, 17th), passing efficiency (152.53, 19th) and first downs gained (303, 20th). Memphis was one of six FBS teams to rank in the top-20 in each of those categories.

Brian Kelly had this to say about Long upon the hiring,

“Chip will be given the full responsibility to call plays in 2017, His offense at Memphis displayed a unique blend of physicality, athleticism, versatility and explosiveness. Chip’s play-calling created mismatches all over the field and did it in a number of different ways. He likes to use players who can fill numerous roles in an array of formations, whether that be two and three tight ends or multiple running backs”

I’m not sure what the bigger story is, the fact that Chip Long is a pretty damn good hire, or that Brian Kelly is doing what his predecessor couldn’t. See, college football is a lot about coaching up young men, the X’s and O’s, giving them the tools to succeed at the next level. However it’s also a lot about pride, so admitting that your offense needs a coordinator, and your team needs a Head Coach is actually a step in the right direction.

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For all of the talent on the offensive side of the ball, it won’t be enough if the inexperience of Brandon Wimbush comes to the forefront. The Irish only need Wimbush to be a game manager, he doesn’t need to be the hero. Get some games under his belt,  get hit on the chin a few times, and then let his speed and athleticism take over.

He has the arm strength, and speed to make defenses pay, but he can’t let the competitor in him force a throw into double coverage, or try to bounce outside and put the ball on the ground. Sometimes the best decision a quarterback can make is keeping it third down and short instead of third down and a mile.

Listed at 6’1.5″ , 226 lbs, he has the frame to take hits when he does tuck the ball and run. Outside of minimal work, a spring game, and a 58-yard scamper against UMASS, the Irish faithful do not know much about him. He had some impressive accolades coming out of high school. He was a USA Today American Family Insurance All-USA New Jersey Football Team as offensive player of the year and quarterback … rated 38th player in nation and No. 2 dual-threat quarterback on Rivals.com.

If he can spend the first part of the season, being somewhat patient, not force throws, and manage the game. The Irish will win a lot of ball games. If he doesn’t, well, Brian Kelly along with his offense is in trouble.

The good news is they have a massive offensive line anchored by 6’2″, 305 pound Sam Mustipher, 6-5, 325 lb Quenton Nelson, 6’8″, 310 pound Mike McGlinchey, 6’6″, 320 pound Alex Bars, and 6’5″, 313 pound Tommy Kraemer. With tons of experience, they should be able to open holes all year long. If they can develop, play together and keep an attitude, watch out this could be a great for the talented running backs that the Fighting Irish have.

Speaking of running backs, the Irish are loaded at the position. With 6’2″, 220 pound Josh Adams anchoring the stable, they also have 5’11”, 202 pound Dexter Williams, and 5’11”, 224 pound Tony Jones Jr. Josh Adams ran for 933 yards, and five touchdowns last year, while Dexter Williams rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns last season. If the offensive line can find footing together, the running backs may be the reason the Irish have a great season .

Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

The Irish also bring back a ton of experience and talent at the wide receiver position. 6’5″, 204 pound big play threat, Equanimeous St. Brown (961 yards, five touchdowns last year),  Speedy 5’8″, 185 pound Cj Sanders ( 293 yards, two touchdowns last year), 6’4″, 224 pound Chase Claypool, 6’4″, 225 pound Miles Boykin, along with 6’5″ , 256 pound TE Durham Smythe (112 yards, and four touchdowns last year). Add the fact Alize Mack returns from team discipline, the offense could be in for a breakout year on the offensive side of the ball. St. Brown is able to score anytime the ball is in his hands, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins major awards at the end of the season. He’s got NFL talent.

So there is a short look at what the Irish have on the offensive side of the ball. But ultimately if Brandon Wimbush and company struggle out of the gate, the confidence could follow. I look for the Irish to be fast and strong this year. I see Chip Long working wonders for the offense, and hopefully a lot less of Brian Kelly turning purple,while waging war on assistants. The seat is hot for Brian Kelly but if it all clicks, something special could be on the horizon!

Go Irish, beat Temple!!!

 

 

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