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Notre Dame football: 3 biggest offseason questions facing Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish in 2021

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (Mandatory Credit: Robert Franklin-USA TODAY Sports)

The Notre Dame football team had a great season last year, but that was last year and Brian Kelly’s team has some work to do to get back into the College Football Playoff.

After reaching the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years, Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame football team has to go back to the drawing board this offseason.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have proven they can be a top-eight program in the College Football Playoff era. While they typically do not compete in a Power 5 conference, the Irish benefited tremendously by playing in the ACC during the 2020 college season due to COVID-19. Notre Dame split its season series with Clemson before eventually falling to Alabama in the 2021 Rose Bowl.

So with the world hopefully becoming more normal again, Notre Dame will go back to being the preeminent national independent, playing a 12-game schedule of its own creation. While they have to go undefeated to make the College Football Playoff with this setup, Kelly has his program in its best shape in years. Regardless, the Irish have some major offseason questions to answer.

3 biggest offseason questions for Notre Dame football

3. How much did College Football Playoff help the Irish in recruiting?

Notre Dame may be the most popular college football team in the nation, but it has not translated into any national championships in over a generation. While the Irish have played for a national championship and played in two national semifinals games in the last decade, it has not translated on the recruiting side of things as you think it would. Notre Dame finished No. 9 overall in 2021.

Though they had 27 players commit to play for the Irish, including 14 enrolling early, Notre Dame did not land a single five-star recruit in its 2021 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. However, they did land 12 four-star recruits, including three players in the top 100: Offensive tackle Blake Fisher, guard Rocco Spindler, and dual-threat quarterback Tyler Buchner.

All three of those high school phenoms enrolled early. While it may be a tad early to see them contribute in a significant way on fall Saturdays, offensive line and quarterback have been major areas of strength throughout Kelly’s time in South Bend. So there is a great chance players from this recruiting class like Buchner, Fisher and Spindler could be great Golden Domers in a few years.

Notre Dame also picked up a key player in the transfer portal this offseason, as former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Jack Coan has made his way to South Bend. He could be a serious contender to replace legendary Irish signal-caller Ian Book. Though Notre Dame did not land a top-five class, the Irish seem to have done enough to keep contending for future College Football Playoff bids.


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