Notre Dame 2023: Plenty Of Firsts In Year Two

As Marcus Freeman completes his staff and prepares Notre Dame for the Spring Ball, it’s crazy to think about how much has changed in one calendar year. A lot of players have come and gone, and the staff is nothing like they were when Freeman first took the helm.

Having so many changes presents both an opportunity and a risk. No one knows this better than Freeman himself. Will these changes help the Irish next fall? Harm them? We’ll find out in about six long months. Let’s take a closer look at some of the first ones worth keeping an eye on.

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Former Sam Hartman teammate believes Notre Dame can challenge for title
Former Sam Hartman teammate believes Notre Dame can challenge for title

October 9, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman (10) watches before a game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Compulsory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It’s sometimes easy to forget that for much of the past year, Notre Dame has been battling week after week with a very inexperienced and physically handicapped quarterback over the latest in a long string of unfortunate events for [autotag]Tyler Buechner[/autotag]. This put Notre Dame in an eight right off the bat in Freeman’s first year in terms of what was possible on the field.

This year, barring another catastrophic event, Notre Dame will presumably get the starting spot. [autotag]Sam Hartman[/autotag], they want to play all year round and at a high level. This fact alone makes the Irish more successful in the second season than last year, even if we do not discuss other factors.

Just an offensive vision for Parker

What To Expect From The Notre Dame Attack With Jerad Parker As Coordinator
What To Expect From The Notre Dame Attack With Jerad Parker As Coordinator

New Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator Jerad Parker speaks to meeting attendees after he was formally introduced as Tommy Rees’ replacement on Monday, February 20, 2023 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Ndi Ndfb Gerard Parker Press Conference 1 02202023

I’m sure under the new offensive coordinator [autotag]Just Parker[/autotag], Notre Dame will still try to maintain its physical identity. Not only is this a general preference for Notre Dame when it comes to attacking football lately, but the runners room may be the deepest and most experienced group in the program at the moment and it makes sense to build on that.

The discussion becomes interesting when one considers how Parker’s vision may differ from Rees’s. Will we get narrower participation since this is Parker’s recent area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise? How much will he try to balance Notre Dame’s desire to run with the desire to toss the ball with a stronger armed quarterback and a more capable and stable group of receivers? It can be very exciting to watch.

Wide reception area changes quickly

SOUTH BEND, IN – OCTOBER 15: No. 15 Tobias Merryweather of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a touchdown pass against No. 21 Kendall Williamson of the Stanford Cardinal in the second half at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2022 in South – Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reeves/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Notre Dame found itself in a precarious position last year in terms of wide receiver skill, talent and depth. This, along with Notre Dame’s reliance on limited [autotag]Dew Pine[/autotag] meant that the passage of the game for most of the year was a massive struggle.

A year later, Notre Dame could have two quarterbacks who can expand the field and an updated receiving room with more competition and depth. I would say that last year the offensive quarterback and wide receiver were the two weakest parts of the team. They have both undergone an overhaul and are on trend. This crime now hopefully can take off!

New director of O Line U

April 23, 2022; Notre Dame, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting’s Irish offensive line coach Harry Histand watches the fourth quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashor-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone recognizes and acknowledges [autotag]Harry Hystand[/autotag]an illustrious career and an amazing pedigree of NFL talent he oversaw. Responsibility for maintaining the identity of Irish runners now rests with [autotag]Joe Rudolph[/autotag] who has himself resumed play quite successfully at previous stops, especially in Pitt and Wisconsin.

What wrinkles will be added? What kind of creativity in running games can be used with many different runners who have overlapping but different skill sets? A lot can be done in this regard and it should be a lot of fun to watch.

Will special teams remain special?

November 5, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting’s Irish midfielder Jordan Botelho (12) blocks a shot by Clemson Tigers player Aidan Swanson (39) in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashor-USA TODAY Sports

Good luck [autotag]Brian Mason[/autotag] when he transitions from playing in college to the NFL. By far, Notre Dame’s most consistently high performance last year was with a group of special teams. It was nice to look at and it was the complete opposite approach to this unit that we got under Kelly. This division has been recognized and respected at the national level.

As we wait to see who will take on the role of Mason, one thing is certain. Last year, this group set high standards that all members and participants in the program want to uphold. This block was last year’s spark plug energy is expected to be more of the same.

For more Irish news and notes, follow John on Twitter. @alwaysirishINC, Always Irish on Youtube and/or your preferred audio podcast provider.

The story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire.


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