Notre Dame Football: 5 Reasons Why Fighting Irish Will Fail in 2012
Is this the season that head coach Brian Kelly can turn things around and make Notre Dame a possible BCS contender?
The Irish do return seven starters on both sides of the ball, and have an extremely talented team, but there are many things standing in the way of them reaching their potential.
Since the 1993 season, the program has had only two bowl victories, and many are getting a little impatient with Kelly and his mediocre success.
While Notre Dame fans remain optimistic about the 2012 season, here are a few reasons why this team could take a step back this year.
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Notre Dame did not have a great defensive line last year, generating only 25 sacks and 46 quarterback hurries. The best player from that unit was Aaron Lynch, and he is now a member of the South Florida Bulls (via the South Bend Tribune).
Players such as Kapron Lewis-Moore and former 5-star recruit Stephon Tuitt will be expected to pick up some of the slack in Lynch's absence. Combined, those two players racked up 62 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season.
The Irish do have solid depth on the defensive line, with players such as Chase Hounshell and true freshman Sheldon Day, but there is nobody that has the ability to rush the passer quite the way Lynch did.
If Notre Dame continues to struggle pressuring the quarterback, it will hurt another part of the defense that is not exactly looking spectacular on paper.
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The Notre Dame secondary allowed 205 passing yards per game last season, which was good for 38th in the country.
However, with Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton no longer around, the Irish were already looking for replacements in the defensive backfield. Things got even worse in fall camp when projected starting cornerback Lo Wood suffered a season-ending injury (via the Chicago Sun-Times).
This secondary is now paper thin, which is not good when you have a defensive line that can't generate pressure consistently.
The Irish have found a solid cornerback in Bennett Jackson, but replacing Wood will likely be Jalen Brown, who did not see any playing time last year.
The good news is that the safety positions will be held down by upperclassmen Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter, but there isn't much depth behind them.
With that being said, head coach Brian Kelly knows his players are going to have to learn on the fly (via The Washington Post):
There’s one thing that scares me the most and that’s when you have slow corners. We don’t have any slow corners. All those kids can run. Jalen can run. Josh can run. Now it’s about honing their skills. They can certainly athletically do the job. Now it’s a matter of how quickly they can pick up the technique and discipline, which is so important in playing that position.
Inexperience at Quarterback
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It is going to be fun to watch Everett Golson play quarterback this year, as he was recently named the starter over three other contenders (via the National Football Post). However, his lack of experience is certainly going to be tested throughout the year.
Golson is a redshirt freshman, and like all freshmen, still has a lot to learn.
Can he read defenses? Can he limit his turnovers and make good decisions with the football? Will his 6'0", 185-pound frame be able to handle the pounding he is going to take, especially with his dual-threat playing style?
Those are all legitimate questions.
I didn't even mention any of those candidates behind him who are waiting for him to mess up.
There is no question Golson has the tools to succeed, but every freshman goes through growing pains at one point or another.
Shoot Themselves in the Foot
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When a team hurts itself as consistently as the Irish have over the last two seasons, a trend develops.
Notre Dame has turned the ball over a combined 53 times in the last two years, including 29 times last season alone.
However, it wasn't just turnovers that haunted the Irish last season. This team was also ranked 87th in the country, averaging 59.1 yards per game in penalty yardage.
Notre Dame was also ranked 88th in the country, scoring just 77 percent of the time they reached the red zone.
Of course, a lot of this had to do with poor play at the quarterback position, as 33 of those 59 turnovers were interceptions. However, until Brian Kelly's club can prove they are better disciplined, it is hard to picture this being a BCS-caliber football team.
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The Notre Dame schedule is what has held many back from putting this team in the BCS bowl conversation.
Not only do the Irish play Michigan and Stanford, but they travel to USC, Oklahoma and Michigan State as well. That doesn't include playing a veteran BYU team, an athletic Miami club and one of the better Big East teams in Pittsburgh.
As of right now, the Irish will play five ranked teams this season.
With question marks on the defensive side of the ball, a tough schedule and a rookie quarterback, the odds for a better outcome in 2012 are stacked against Notre Dame.