Notre Dame busted out of the gates in 2017 to an 8-1 record before losing two of its last three games. But at its peak, the Fighting Irish offense was a smash mouth juggernaut that routinely gashed opponents on the ground.
Josh Adams, Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson won’t return in 2018, though, so Notre Dame will need to produce some new stars.
Here are three players who could break out this season.
LT Liam Eichenberg
Eichenberg should take over as the starting left tackle and comes with plenty of hype. The former 4-star prospect projects as a three-year starter (if he doesn’t turn pro early) and could be the next great Fighting Irish offensive lineman.
Notre Dame has produced outstanding players up front for years, but Harry Hiestand’s departure to the Chicago Bears could be an issue. Still, Eichenberg — who was the No. 7 tackle in his class, according to 247 Sports – has a rare combination of size and agility.
Midway through the Eichenberg’s redshirt freshman season, Brian Kelly raved about his advanced precision and technique, saying “he can play any position he wants.”
Notre Dame needs him protecting the blindside. Kelly hopes Eichenberg can provide stability for a remade unit.
RB Dexter Williams
With Adams and his 1,430 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns off to the NFL, someone needs to pick up the slack in the backfield for the Irish. Williams may not be the clear-cut guy, but he’s showed the most impressive flashes of Notre Dame’s returnees during his career.
He averaged 9.2 yards per carry as a junior and has breakaway speed – Williams ran for 124 yards on 6 carries in Notre Dame’s first game of 2017. In the seven games he carried the ball, he averaged 7 yards per rush or more in five.
Williams has stiff competition in the backfield in Tony Jones, Jr. and Deon McIntosh. Jones and McIntosh are solid, but Williams looks like the home-run hitter of this trio.
WR Miles Boykin
Unbelievable catch by Boykin in the Citrus Bowl. My gawd. pic.twitter.com/klFkSTj3QU
— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) January 1, 2018
LSU certainly does. At 6-4, 227 pounds, Boykin has the size of a tight end but runs like a wide receiver. He only caught 12 passes last year but figures to be much more involved in the offense as a senior.
Boykin profiles as a particularly effective red zone weapon. Once a 4-star recruit, he could provide a boost for a Notre Dame passing attack that desperately needs a playmaker.
“He’s got the ability if we can get him the football,” Kelly said after last year’s Citrus Bowl. Look for the Fighting Irish to scheme Boykin open more often in 2018.