2018 Season Preview: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Season outlook

Brian Kelly has won at least 10 games in four of his eight seasons as the head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and 2018 has the chance to be the fifth 10-win campaign.  There are reasons for optimism in South Bend because the  Fighting Irish have playmakers on each level of the defense and a returning 12-game starter at quarterback.  Offensively, junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush (6'1, 228) will resume his position as the top signal-caller for the Fighting Irish.  Last season, Wimbush finished with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.  However, he was sacked 25 times and completed just 48-percent of his passes.  In losses to Georgia, Miami and Stanford, Wimbush combined to throw three touchdowns and four interceptions.  If Wimbush can get in concert with his offensive line and get the ball away sooner, then he -along with his defensive playmakers- have the ability to go far this season.  Defensively, senior linebacker Te'Von Coney and senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (6'7, 304) dominate in the run game and on the back end junior cornerback Julian Love (5'11, 194) is emerging as one of the best defensive backs in the nation.  The talent and coaching experience is there in South Bend for a memorable season.

Troy's player to watch

4 Te'Von Coney 6'1 235 LB-Senior
Coney (No. 4 pictured) registered 17 tackles versus LSU in the 2018 Citrus Bowl.

Coney fits the mold of a sideline-to-sideline inside linebacker and his skills are reminiscent of the Jaguars' Telvin Smith.  Coney also has enough strength to absorb contact with running backs and drive them backwards.  Last year, the senior linebacker finished with 116 tackles, three quarterback sacks and11.5 tackles for losses.  If he can sharpen his skills in pass coverage, he has all the makings to be a potential Day 2 NFL prospect.

Game of the season 

September 1st against Michigan
The season opener will set the tone for the Fighting Irish.  Michigan hasn't played Notre Dame since 2014 and in that game, the Wolverines, lost 31-0. Notre Dame and Michigan both have College Football Playoff aspirations and a week one victory in South Bend would be a big boost to either team.

DraftNasty's Prospect Watch

53 Sam Mustipher 6'2 306 OC-Senior
Mustipher has been a contributor since 2015 and a starter the last two seasons for an impressive offensive line.  His 'nasty' in sending messages to defensive linemen stands out on film.  He can sink his frame in both pass protection and as a run blocker.  Aside from

Mustipher (No. 53 pictured) will perform as a graduate student in 2018.

getting to his spot on angle blocks, his quickness aids him effectively on combination blocks.  For him to improve his draft stock, Mustipher needs to improve his latch-and-sustain.  His size -while adequate- has gotten him into trouble versus leverage players at the point of attack in short yardage (Phillips, Stanford '17).   Over the course of the last three years, he has rounded himself into much better shape than he was earlier in his career.

Prediction: 11-1

Notre Dame has the potential to run the table like they did during the 2012 season. Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish will finish with its lone loss coming against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, according to DraftNasty's Troy Jefferson.

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