Notre Dame’s 2019 season is already shaping up to be a good one for Notre Dame fans. The 2018 season is in the rear view and the focus has shifted to recruiting and the future. Now that the pain of a loss in the playoff has lost some of its sting, you can appreciate what this team has done. With last years success and this years recruiting class fans should be optimistic about Notre Dame’s 2019 season.
Looking Ahead: Notre Dame’s 2019 Season
I have been critical of Ian Book in the past for his performance at times down the stretch. That doesn’t mean he can’t grow and become a better player. I just don’t know yet if he has the ability to become the next great Notre Dame QB. Notre Dame’s 2019 season will be the time to prove it.
Book gets most of his supporting cast back and has a year of starter experience under his belt. Book got to play in some of the brightest lights and toughest places so there no excuse for him to be shell shocked in 2019. The redshirt Junior has proven that he can play but also would disappear at times and that cannot happen for Notre Dame to build off of 2018.
With Chase Claypool, Chris Finke and the majority of the offensive line coming back, this team can make strides to become a threat. Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr. will also have to pick up the work load with Dexter Williams off to the NFL. But Armstrong is my real reason for so much optimism on offense.
The redshirt Sophomore served in a support role for most of 2018 but he did not disappoint. The talented back had 7 rushing touchdowns on 72 carries and added in 14 catches for 159 yards. This production all came from sharing time with Tony Jones Jr and then taking a backseat when Dexter Williams came off suspension. Armstrong still has to develop but will return to his role likely sharing time with Jones Jr.
He is still early on in his Notre Dame career but there is a reason BK called him the next Theo Riddick. The former high school receiver and track star has good hands, great quickness and will make you miss in the open field. Replacing Dexter Williams will be difficult and I wouldn’t expect Armstrong to be there yet. With some more experience and time in the weightroom, Notre Dame’s 2019 season could be a breakout year for BK.
The defense definitely lost some key guys to graduation and the draft. Replacing someone like Julian Love or Jerry Tillery is often tough to do. While they might not be able to find the production like Jerry Tillery had, they can hide that spot. Tillery was a great pass rusher but an average to above average run stopper. As important as Tillery was, Notre Dame has all three of their highly talented defensive ends back. Something similar can be said about them as was said about Armstrong. Another year in a college football weight lifting program could be all the difference. Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara will be a lethal pass rush in Notre Dame’s 2019 season and could be what masks some other weak spots.
Julian Love was also a major loss after he chose to skip his Senior year. But don’t sleep on Troy Pride Jr. After he returned from injury he actually performed at a higher level then Julian Love with better stats. Pride Jr. will be more then capable to step in and replace Julian Love. The real question will come down to that second corner spot. Shaun Crawford will return but him staying healthy is a stretch. He also is slotted in for a nickle/slot corner instead of playing out on the boundary.
Donte Vaughn could step in to take over that second despite what many Notre Dame fans probably feel when hearing that name. Vaughn was torched in the playoff game and made most fans never wanting to hear that name again. Vaughn was also thrown in against one of the best receiving cores in the country in a playoff game. Given an entire off season to work as a starter could do wonders for someone that could not sink any lower. He had as bad of a quarter as you could have. It isn’t all his fault but it was also a great teaching moment as he moves forward. If not Vaughn then maybe Noah Boykin could make a push to lock up that second spot.
The defense has always been Notre Dame’s biggest strength in the Brian Kelly era. (lets pretend BVG never happened) This is a defense that lost quite a few pieces but have plenty returning. The real question will be who can step up in the place of Drue Tranquill and Tevon Coney.
Put It All Together For The 2019 Season..
Notre Dame has proven that they play elite level defense year after year. The offense needs to catch up if the Fighting Irish ever want to become a serious contender. This is a team with experience and a host of returning players and therefore fans should be very optimistic about Notre Dame’s 2019 season.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.