This is the season of giving and sharing, and I felt it was appropriate to share the Christmas Wish List I sent to Santa. It’s what I want over the next year.
1. A Bowl Victory — There are some holes in the program that absolutely must be addressed this offseason, but addressing them after an 11-2 record with a bowl victory would be much better than doing so after a loss. A win over Iowa State would also mean Notre Dame has defeated a team from all five major conferences in the last two seasons.
2. A Dynamic Offensive Coordinator Hire — Notre Dame has played borderline elite defense the last two seasons, and I expect the Irish to keep building on that success as long as Clark Lea remains in South Bend. Notre Dame needs an offensive coordinator that can take the offense to new heights and establish the run and pass game dominance needed for the offense to start to play championship football.
Notre Dame will return five starting offensive linemen, a lot of speed and playmaking ability at wide receiver and tight end, it returns an experienced quarterback with an ultra-talented back up just waiting on his chance to shine, and the incoming freshman class is loaded with playmakers. Make the right hire at OC and the Irish could very well be ready to kick down the door keeping them from a title run.
3. A Legit Run Game — I’ve already broken down the numbers. A run game that is good when they want it to be isn’t good enough. The Irish need a run game that is good all the time, used at a higher rate and can be effective against everyone, not just the inferior opponents.
4. Draft Success — Hopefully this is a smaller draft class, but another year with a lot of draft success would be great for the Irish. Last year it began with strong combine performances from a number of Irish players, and seeing that again would be huge. My hope is that defensive end Julian Okwara gets healthy and reasserts himself as a first-round pick. Should tight end Cole Kmet decide to leave he’s another player with first-round talent. If Chase Claypool can have a strong combine performance he could vault himself up draft boards as well, as could end Khalid Kareem, cornerback Troy Pride Jr. and safety Jalen Elliott. I’m curious to see if linebacker Asmar Bilal can put up big numbers at the combine/pro day as well.
5. The 2018 Class Takes Over On Offense — The opportunity will be there for the 2018 recruiting class to really start to take over this team, especially on offense. I’ll leave the discussion on QB Phil Jurkovec for another day, but at wide receiver and tight end this group is ready to explode as long as they continue to mature on and off the field. Wide receiver Braden Lenzy started to make his presence felt in November, now he has to stay healthy and take his game to another level.
Fellow wideout Lawrence Keys III got valuable experience this year and I could see him being an improved version of Chris Finke next fall. The wild cards are tight end Tommy Tremble and Kevin Austin. Both are capable of being monsters on offense, but both need to to push themselves to be just as good off the field as they are on the field. If that happens … watch out. I’m also going to keep my eye on George Takacs this spring, especially if Kmet goes pro. He’s a talented young player as well, and a change in coaching at his position could give him a boost in confidence.
6. A Commitment From Will Shipley — Notre Dame recruits offensive line and tight end as well as any team in the country, and its wide receiver and quarterback recruiting has been strong in recent seasons as well. If Notre Dame can get its running back recruiting on the same level it would give the offense a chance to be special. Could you imagine a running back tandem of Chris Tyree and Will Shipley?
7. A Win Over Clemson — I mean, does this need explanation?