Notre Dame Football 2014: Team Bulks Up On National Signing Day; Will Return Of QB Everett Golson Launch Irish Back To Elite Status?

Brian Kelly ND Reuters
Brian Kelly hopes make Notre Dame title contenders once again following a 9-4 season. Reuters

Following an undefeated run to the National Championship Game during the 2012-2013 season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football program appeared like it was back on the path to glory and ready to recapture some of the magic experienced by previous teams in the university’s storied history. After falling to the Alabama Crimson Tide 42-14 in the aforementioned title game however, the Irish and head coach Brian Kelly were forced to enter an unseen rough patch that included the suspension and removal of starting quarterback Everett Golson. The then-freshman quarterback violated the University of Notre Dame’s academic code and was forced to withdraw from school, leaving Notre Dame with limited options at the quarterback position.

Though veteran Tommy Rees found previous success under center for Notre Dame, his skillset wasn’t ideal for the up-tempo run-pass combination offense Brian Kelly likes to run. Despite the loss of Golson, Rees’ one dimensional ability and multiple injuries to key players, Notre Dame was able to finish the 2013-2014 campaign with a respectable 9-4 record that also included a win over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Now that the 2013-2014 season is in the rearview mirror and the Irish know they’ll get Everett Golson back after he was readmitted in December, Brian Kelly and his revamped coaching staff will certainly have high goals heading into the upcoming schedule.

A major step in getting back into the championship picture will come from the success of a new coaching staff. When defensive coordinator Bob Diaco left to accept the head coaching position at the University of Connecticut and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin departed to take the head coaching gig at Miami (Ohio), Brian Kelly was left with two gaping holes on his staff. In quick manner however, Kelly replaced Diaco with former New York Jets linebackers coach Brian VanGorder and announced Mike Denbrock as the new O.C. Denbrock, who previously served as Notre Dame’s passing game coordinator, will now oversee the entire offense although Kelly himself will call the plays.

While the return of Golson and the implementing of new offensive and defensive schemes should help the Irish get back to top-level form, the addition of 23 new talents via National Signing Day will certainly help Notre Dame remain consistently strong for years to come. One of the main goals for Brian Kelly was to stock up at the ‘power positions’ along the offensive and defensive lines. The departure of defensive cogs Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix to the NFL along with the exit of starting tackle Zack Martin created multiple holes for Notre Dame ahead of the approaching season.

Everett Golson ND Reuters The return of quarterback Everett Golson will make Notre Dame's offense more dynamic, since Golson holds the ability to run and throw. Reuters

Adding four highly recruited offensive lineman and six meaty defensive lineman -- including 6’4, 250 pound Jay Hayes from Poly Prep Country Day in Brooklyn, New York -- will help create consistency at major positions for ND moving forward. Early-enrollee defensive end Andrew Trumbetti is already drawing comparison to former NFL first round pick Bjoern Werner and as a player expected to contribute right away, Trumbetti will surely be someone to keep an eye on this season and for seasons to come in South Bend.

In addition to the 10 offensive/defensive lineman the Irish added to their 2014 class, Brian Kelly inked a total of seven big skill players, five skill players and one specialist in P/K Tyler Newsome out of Carrollton High School in Georgia. Highly recruited linebacker Nyles Morgan and wide receiver Justin Brent are among a handful of players coach Kelly and his staff think can play right away and have an immediate impact.

For a complete look at Notre Dame’s entire Class of 2014 Recruits, follow this link.

2014 Notre Dame Football Schedule

Aug. 30, 2014 vs. Rice

Sept. 6, 2014 vs. Michigan

Sept. 13, 2014 vs. Purdue*

Sept. 27, 2014 at Syracuse**

Oct. 4, 2014 vs. Stanford

Oct. 11, 2014 vs. North Carolina

Oct. 18, 2014 at Florida State

Nov. 1, 2014 vs. Navy***

Nov. 8, 2014 at Arizona State

Nov. 15, 2014 vs. Northwestern

Nov. 22, 2014 vs. Louisville

Nov. 29, 2014 at USC

*= Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana

** = Game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey

*** = Game at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland

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Sports reporter covering the hot topics of the day in Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, Premier League, Spanish Primera League, Liga MX and others. I've also covered 2014 World Cup Qualifying and hosted interviews with high-profile athletes including Victor Cruz and Brandon Jacobs of the New York Giants. In my spare time I work as a play-by-play announcer for MSG Networks and the Division I Northeast Conference. Graduate of Monmouth University with a B.A. in Applied Communication.