Notre Dame 2012 Season Outlook
The story of the 2012 season will hinge largely on the play of quarterback Tommy Rees. Entering summer practice as the presumptive starter after previously splitting time with Dayne Crist, who has since transferred to Kansas to play for former Notre Dame Coach, Charlie Weis, will be counted on running head coach Brian Kelly’s high-octane offense.
Rees, a former Lake Forest prep star shown flashes of greatness last year, but also showed mental lapses and the need for further development as his 14 interceptions indicate, including throwing eight int’s in five ND losses. Kelly will need to harness the talent in the quarterback’s right arm and limit the mistakes for the Irish to hold off Andrew Hendrix and early-enrollee Gunner Kiel.
The freshman from Columbus, Indiana took the circuitous route to South Bend after committing to Indiana then changing his mind to LSU before ultimately deciding to stay close to home and attend the very same university his uncle Blair attended from 1980-83 starting 29 games at quarterback. Kiel will be lurking on the sidelines and if Rees and Hendrix struggle, don’t be surprised to see the 6’4’’ 220 gunslinger taking the snaps for The Irish.
Notre Dame’s quarterbacks will have to cope with the loss of the school’s most productive receiver and first round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals, Michael Floyd and tailback Jonas Gray, who led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns.
However, The Irish return potential first round pick Tyler Eifert at tight end, leading rusher Cierre Wood, and receivers Theo Reddick and TJ Jones are looking to emerge from Floyd’s large shadow. Incoming freshman Justin Ferguson, a wide receiver from Florida will likely be thrown in the mix in summer practice to see if the 6’1’’ target can help fill the immense void left by Floyd.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Irish will be led by senior Manti Te’o, who returned after bypassing the NFL. The middle linebacker is facing big expectations after turning down the payday the NFL would have provided. One player who has left South Bend is safety Harrison Smith, who was a first round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, and finding his replacement is every bit of a concern as replacing Floyd as the Irish pass defense, who also lose senior cornerback Robert Blanton, has been suspect in recent years.
The remedy for a poor secondary is often a relentless pass rush and the Irish lost one of the more promising defensive ends in the country when freshman All-American, Aaron Lynch decided to take his talents to South Florida. The onus will be on rising sophomore Ishaq Williams, to step into the defensive line rotation and provide the consistent pass rush the Irish front seven will need to create to aid the secondary.
The Irish will not get any relief when looking at the 2012 schedule as familiar foes Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College, and USC are all on the docket. Looming large for Brian Kelly’s squad are an October match-up at Soldier Field with Miami, FL (which will provide a large home-field advantage), and a date at Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners.
The Irish leave the comfort of South Bend and travel across the pond to take on the Navy Midshipmen in Dublin, Ireland in the season opener before returning to the States for the home opener vs. The Purdue Boilermakers.
NOTRE DAME 2012 SCHEDULE
09/01 – Navy @Dublin, Ireland
09/08 – Purdue
09/15 – at Michigan State
09/22 – Michigan
10/06 – Miami FL @Chicago, IL
10/13 – Stanford
10/20 – Brigham Young
10/27 – at Oklahoma
11/03 – Pittsburgh
11/10 – at Boston College
11/17 – Wake Forest
11/24 – at Southern California
The schedule features two teams likely to be in the pre-season top 5 in USC and Oklahoma and Michigan and Michigan will possibly rank inside the top 10. Other than those match-ups the Irish may find themselves the favorite in the rest of their games, with the lone exception being the Michigan State game in East Lansing. However, The Irish did defeat the Spartans last season at home.
My early prediction: 9-3
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt
Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.
Posted on June 4, 2012, in NCAAF and tagged Brian Kelly, Charlie Weis, Cierre Wood, Dublin, Fightin Irish, Gunner Kiel, Indiana, Irish, Manti Te'o, Miami, Michael FLoyd, NCAA Football, Notre Dame, South Bend, Tommy Rees, Touchdown Jesus. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.