Notre Dame is in desperate need of a big turnaround after a 4-8 season in 2016. With seven of the Irish’s losses coming by just one score, the program could be closer to a big rebound campaign than we might think. But to turn the tide and make those close contests go their way, the Irish will likely need a boost from several new faces.
Here are five newcomers to watch for Notre Dame this fall, as the Irish have an abundance of true and redshirt freshman chomping at the bit to get on the field and make an early difference.
5 Newcomers for Notre Dame to Watch in 2017
DL Darnell Ewell, freshman
Here’s what head coach Brian Kelly had to say about Ewell on national signing day: “He's a guy that is prepared and wants to play immediately. We're not going to tell him anything different. Come over here and compete right away. He's got the physical traits and he's got the mindset.” For a 6-foot-4, 280-pounder joining a line in desperate need of a push up front after last season, Ewell is in prime position to make an immediate impact.
OL Liam Eichenberg, redshirt freshman
Eichenberg was described by Kelly as a “stud” on the scout team this past fall, and he will likely push for playing time in one way or another in 2017, likely at tackle. He is 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, and with an open starting spot there for the taking, perhaps he can be the first-team right tackle, with returning starter Alex Bars sliding back to right guard, where Bars has experience.
OL Tommy Kraemer, redshirt freshman
Kraemer cracked the two-deep last season but ended up redshirting. If Eichenberg isn’t starting next fall, that’s likely because Kraemer is. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Kraemer figures to make a push for that final starting spot, either at right guard or right tackle. The versatility between Kraemer and Bars should prove beneficial.
QB Ian Book, redshirt freshman
Book enters spring ball as the presumed No. 2 quarterback on the Irish’s roster, behind Brandon Wimbush. That’s a far cry from a year ago, when he was buried as a redshirt behind three other guys. But as recent years have proved in South Bend, you truly are one snap away from becoming a starter at all times, meaning Book better be ready come 2017.
LS John Shannon, redshirt freshman
Don’t laugh at this one, as Shannon has big shoes to fill after the graduation of Scott Daly. Daly was a four-year player who started 51 consecutive games for the Irish. More importantly: He had 488 snaps in his career, with zero errors. With snappers, you never know what you’ve got till he’s gone.
— Written by Matt Fortuna, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and spent six seasons covering college football for ESPN.com. Fortuna’s work has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) seven times. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Fortuna and like his Facebook page.