Offseason check-in: Three things you need to know about Notre Dame
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Offseason check-in: Three things you need to know about Notre Dame

Ryan Day knows what’s coming in 100 days.

The Ohio State head coach already has a head start on Notre Dame film, something he and his staff usually do over the summer to prepare for the first few games of the upcoming season. But Day knows this one’s different: the seventh meeting of two Midwest college football powerhouses.

"At Ohio State, we have to win every game. You all of a sudden put so much into one and then play again the next week,” Day said on 97.1 The Fan Wednesday morning. “But that being said, we're talking about a top-10 matchup, a night game at home. It's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere, a lot of emotion.”

From C.J. Stroud’s first game of a highly expectant 2022 campaign to the emergence of a brand new defense led by the program’s new and highly-decorated defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, Ohio State has plenty of storylines to watch heading into its primetime season opener Sept. 3.

What about Notre Dame?

With only 100 days to go until the official start of the 2022 season, here are three things to know about the Fighting Irish.

A brand new start

Head coach Marcus Freeman will lead Notre Dame onto the field of his alma mater Sept. 3.
Head coach Marcus Freeman will lead Notre Dame onto the field of his alma mater Sept. 3. (USA Today Network)

The Marcus Freeman era has begun in South Bend.

After joining Brian Kelly’s coaching staff in 2021 as the Fighting Irish’s defensive coordinator, leading a top-20 unit that allowed 19.7 points per game, the former Ohio State linebacker became the 30th head coach in school history, his first head coaching position after other coordinator stints with Purdue and Cincinnati.

Capping of the 2021 campaign replacing Kelly and coaching Notre Dame to a two-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, Freeman has generated a lot of success on the recruiting trail, finishing up the No. 6 class in 2022 and beginning what is now ranked as the No. 2 class in 2023, already securing 11 four-star athletes and five-star defensive end Keon Keeley: the No. 14 player in the class.

He’s already fired up the fanbase, igniting a sort of rivalry between the Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes, thanking God for not making the “wrong decision twice” when it came to picking between the two schools as a high school recruit.

Freeman completely revamped the coaching staff, bringing in Harry Hiestand (offensive line), Deland McCullough (running backs) and former Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington (defensive line/defensive run game coordinator) to join his staff, along with reigning Cincinnati Bengals linebackers coach Al Golden as his defensive coordinator, someone Day worked under when he was the head coach at Temple.

“With a new defensive coordinator in Al Golden, someone that I worked for, someone I have a lot of respect for in that area, kind of a new staff, some guys have been there before. It's a very good team, great program, very good coaching staff,” Day said. “Big challenge, so we're going to work all summer to make sure we're prepared to play our best football in that game."

Tyler Buchner time 

Tyler Buchner will likely lead Notre Dame's offense in the season opener Sept. 3.
Tyler Buchner will likely lead Notre Dame's offense in the season opener Sept. 3. (USA Today Network)

Tyler Buchner played the role he was meant to play for Notre Dame in 2021.

The former four-star quarterback served as the Fighting Irish’ dual-threat option behind starter Jack Coan, averaging 7.3 yards each time he tucked the ball and ran, adding three rushing touchdowns. As a true freshman, he had a chance to show what he could do in the passing game, but struggled, completing 60% of his 35 pass attempts for 298 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, including two in an extended look against Virginia Tech.

Buchner looks to be the top option on the Notre Dame roster heading into 2022, leading an offense that has its fair share of weapons in the passing game including wide receiver Lorenzo Styles, whose brother Sonny Styles will be on Ohio State’s sideline for the season opener, and tight end Michael Mayer, who led the team with 71 catches a season ago, recording 840 receiving yards and tying the team lead for seven touchdowns.

Success on offense won’t be entirely up to Buchner, returning four of its five starters on an offensive line that helped running back Kyren Williams average 5.5 yards per play from scrimmage and score 17 touchdowns. Whether it’s Chris Tyree or even freshman Jadarian Price, the Fighting Irish’s run game should be an effective weapon.

But replacing a five-year player in Coan, who ended his career with a season as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, Buchner has a lot on his shoulders, facing an Ohio State defense that could look a lot different from what it showed last season.

Weapons return for Notre Dame's defense 

 Isaiah Foskey was a force at defensive end for Notre Dame in 2021.
Isaiah Foskey was a force at defensive end for Notre Dame in 2021. (USA Today Network)

Notre Dame has a few weapons returning on defense.

Whether it’s Isaiah Foskey, the former four-star defensive end, who led the Fighting Irish with 10 sacks last year, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, who had 50 tackles and 8.5 tackles-for-loss in the middle of the defense, or Mike linebacker JD Bertrand, who led the team with 102 tackles, adding 6.5 tackles-for-loss, Notre Dame should have no issue getting to opposing backfields over the course of 2022.

In a defensive backfield without Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame will have to fill and NFL safety-sized hole for a defense that allowed 224.2 passing yards per game, opposing quarterbacks to average a 61.1% completion rate and just one touchdown per game. The Fighting Irish will return players like cornerback Cam Hart, who led the team with seven pass deflections a season ago, along with defensive back DJ Brown, along with adding Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph at safety.

A season ago, Notre Dame’s defense allowed 19.7 points per game, giving up 360.5 yards per game and 5.3 yards per play. But expect a challenge ahead for the Fighting Irish, facing Stroud and the country’s reigning No. 1 offense in Week 1.