Notre Dame went into the spring with a lot of questions surrounding the offense, and it wasn't just about the fact the Irish lost their starting quarterback, four offensive linemen, a drafted tight end and two starting wide receivers.
The Irish offense made a lot of progress during the spring, and we learned a lot of positions about that unit, which we broke down HERE. Despite the progress there are still plenty of questions that will have to be answered in the fall, which is true for every college program coming out of the spring.
Here are the questions that I'm pondering as we work through the summer and head towards to fall.
1. Offensive line needs to get a lot better in a hurry, but will it?
We knew going into the spring that Notre Dame's offensive line would be a problem, and it ended the spring as the biggest question mark. Notre Dame ended the spring with two true freshmen in the starting lineup, and that's not a good sign no matter how good those freshmen are.
Notre Dame's staff decided to move the returning linemen around a lot this spring, and it hindered the ability of older players like Andrew Kristofic and Quinn Carroll to ever settle into one spot. While it certainly created the competition Brian Kelly said he wanted, it hindered the unit's development.
Freshman Blake Fisher seems to have a tackle spot locked down, Zeke Correll has center locked down and both Josh Lugg and Jarrett Patterson will have started roles. That movement now appears to be in the rearview, and both Kristofic and Carroll have settled in at guard. Kristofic should get a chance to battle freshman Rocco Spindler for a starting role.
With four spots locked down, and everyone expected to be healthy for the fall, the unit should make a lot of improvement in fall camp. It will give the freshmen time to grow up in a hurry, and it should give Kristofic a chance to push for at least a rotation spot. If he can't beat Spindler out that hurts Notre Dame's experience, but it would speak volumes about how good Spindler is.
There's promise with this group, the question is how quickly can it develop into one cohesive unit.
2. Who starts at quarterback?
Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan was the most consistent player this spring and he certainly has the most experience. I'm quite high on Coan, but he still needs to fend off sophomore Drew Pyne and freshman Tyler Buchner.
I would imagine the starting job won't get announced until we get closer to the Sept. 5 opener against Florida State, so the position remains a question mark. Despite the relative unknown about who starts I'm actually quite confident that Notre Dame will get strong quarterback no matter who starts.
3. How will the wide receiver unit work together?
Notre Dame's wide receiver unit had a quality spring, with fifth-year senior Avery Davis stepping into a leadership role and Lawrence Keys III developing into a playmaker for the Irish. Davis and Keys were regulars in the Notre Dame highlights after practice, and they were the two best pass catchers in the Blue-Gold Game.
Braden Lenzy stayed healthy all spring, which is also a huge plus for Notre Dame. Kevin Austin Jr. is expected back in the fall and young wideouts Xavier Watts, Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie are talented and should be able to help out this season, assuming the staff can get them all ready to play, which has been a struggle in recent seasons.
Joe Wilkins Jr. is a solid player that is experienced, which means he'll be part of the rotation.
Those are the knowns, and there's a lot of talent in that unit. The question with the group is primarily about how it will play together. Davis and Keys play the same position, so can OC Tommy Rees and position coach Del Alexander figure out ways to get them on the field together? It needs to happen, but we don't know if it will, or how.
Can Lenzy stay healthy and give the offense the home run ability he's shown he can provide when he is feeling good? If so, how does he fit into the rotation with Davis and Keys?
I'm not looking at the wideouts as a question mark from a talent or depth standpoint, but the staff must figure out how to use all the unique talents as part of one cohesive pass game. It's not as easy as it sounds, and it's something Notre Dame has had issues with in recent seasons.
4. Was the spring just a start of things to come regarding offensive changes?
I was very encouraged by the evolution we saw from the offense this spring. We talked about the specifics of what we saw in our most recent podcast, which you can listen to HERE. We still don't know the full extent to which those changes will be implemented once we get to the fall, we don't know what other nuances and chances will come, and we don't know if Kelly will have the patience to allow the offense to work through early season growing pains before he steps in or blows things up.
If Rees is allowed to truly make this offense his own, and if he continues making the changes we saw in the spring - and then some - I'm confident Notre Dame will have the scheme and philosophy to make a big leap forward as a scoring offense.
Irish Breakdown Content
To comment below be sure to sign up for a FREE Disqus account, which you can get HERE.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook