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College Football Preview: The 2014 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame looks to fill a few voids and finish in the the Top 20.

2014 College Football Preview

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Brian Kelly and Notre Dame face the usual high expectations at South Bend in the 2014 season.

Overview: The pressure to succeed at Notre Dame is on a different level then most programs and Kelly not only has to deal with some new faces on the field but also on the coaching staff with OC Chuck Martin heading to Miami (Ohio) and DC Bob Diaco off to Connecticut. Throw in the departure of key contributors and there are enough changes to cause concern.

College Football Preview: The 2014 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: Tommy Rees takes over 3,200 passing yards with him to graduation but he was only a 54% passer. Enter Everett Golson who threw for 2,405 yards on 58.8% in 2012 but missed last season because of academic issues so the Irish appear to be set under center if Golson doesn't falter in the classroom. Cam McDaniels led the team in rushing with 704 yards with #3 Tarean Folston (88-470) giving Golson help on the ground. DaVaris Daniels (49-745) gives the receiving corp punch if he doesn't fall victim to academic issues which is not a given. Chris Brown and Corey Robinson and other three & four star athletes give this unit loads of potential with the more accurate Golson delivering the football. The O-Line loses Zack Martin and Chris Watt but six return with starter experience.

Defense: New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will implement a 4-3 so the loss of Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix will hurt more but Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day are back at tackle. The line has plenty of talent on paper but we need to see it produce on the field. The linebacking crew lost three of the top four but return Jaylon Smith who is a solid piece to build around. The secondary is a veteran group with corner KeiVarae Russell leading a unit that did not give up the big play. As with any secondary, the pass rush by the guys up front will determine how well things turn out and this is a solid unit already so with some help the potential is high.

Special Teams: The coverage teams weren't very good in 2013 and need to be shored up. Kyke Brindza averaged 41 yards on 43 punts and hit 20-26 FG attempts. Both primary returners are gone so Kelly has a void to fill in both areas.

Outlook: The Irish always have talent and need it to survive a decent schedule. I'd say a top 20 spot is always a possibility and a Bowl berth is a no brainer but how high up the national rankings is the question for a team that will get the best of each opponent each week.

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