7 way-too-early predictions for Notre Dame's offense in 2022
Notre Dame’s offense is one of the most intriguing units in the country heading into 2022.
With Brian Kelly off to LSU, the Fighting Irish will have the opportunity to open things up a bit more under offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. The skill position talent — led by tight end Michael Mayer — should be enough for the Fighting Irish to put plenty of pressure on opposing defenses.
There are some question marks at quarterback and receiver, but nothing that can’t be handled by Marcus Freeman and his staff.
Here are 7 predictions for Notre Dame’s offense in 2022:
Tyler Buchner will win the starting job — and succeed.
With Jack Coan moving on, Notre Dame will turn to an unfamiliar face at quarterback this season. Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne have been competing for the job this offseason, and it seems like Buchner is ahead going into the summer.
Both quarterbacks have received praise from the coaching staff, but Buchner showed significant potential last season. He threw for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns while also rushing for 336 yards and 3 more scores in spot duty.
With the way the rest of this roster is setup, Buchner will be in great position to succeed. And Notre Dame will need him to if it wants to make it back to the College Football Playoff in 2022.
Chris Tyree will seamlessly replace Kyren Williams
Kyren Williams has been arguably Notre Dame’s most consistent offensive player over the past 2 seasons, and replacing him won’t be an easy task.
Williams rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the last 2 seasons. He also carried a significant role in the passing game, clearing 35+ catches and 300+ yards over that span as well.
Enter Chris Tyree, who is expected to fulfill a lot of those running back duties in 2022. Tyree was the No. 1 all-purpose running back in the country for the class of 2020, per 247Sports Composite rankings. He’s relatively proven, too — as Williams’ primary backup the past 2 seasons, he’s rushed for 718 yards and caught 32 passes for 323 yards. He’s more than ready to step into this role full time.
The offensive line will be much improved
Notre Dame’s coaching staff went through multiple changes this past offseason, but perhaps the most significant was the reunion with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. He returns to South Bend after a brief NFL stint with the Chicago Bears.
Hiestand will now lead a group that has often struggled to live up to its potential in his absence. The Fighting Irish won the Joe Moore Award for the nation’s best offensive line in 2017. That was Hiestand’s final season at Notre Dame — until this year.
Joe Alt and Blake Fisher are expected to start at the two tackle spots after manning those positions as true freshmen last season. Jared Patterson will be the starting center, provided he recovers from offseason surgery. The guard positions are less certain, but there’s no shortage of capable options for Hiestand to choose from.
Hiestand’s return should mean great things for Notre Dame’s offensive line.
Notre Dame’s offense will get to 6.5 yards per play
Notre Dame’s offense has the potential to be elite in 2022. If Buchner performs, the Fighting Irish have all the pieces necessary to produce an explosive offense — both in the passing game and in the running game.
This is an offense that should average at least 6.5 yards per play — something it hasn’t done since 2015. Last season, averaging 6.5 yards per play would have ranked No. 17 nationally. There’s no reason why the Fighting Irish can’t break through that threshold in 2022.
Predicting Notre Dame’s leading receiver
If there’s one major question mark for Notre Dame on offense, it’s at receiver. The Irish are without Kevin Austin, who was the team’s only wide receiver to clear 400 yards last season. That lack of production was helped by tight end Michael Mayer — who is back in 2022 — and running back Kyren Williams — who isn’t.
Braden Lenzy is the name that sticks out as a potential breakout candidate. He caught 32 passes for 350 yards last season, which ranked 4th amongst all pass catchers on the team.
Other veterans like Joe Wilkins and Avery Davis should contribute at some point this season, but both are questionable due to injuries suffered last season. Lorenzo Styles — a former 4-star recruit — is also a candidate to contribute in a big way.
Running back Jadarian Price will be Notre Dame’s top true freshman on offense
Notre Dame picked up a steal in running back Jadarian Price in the 2022 recruiting class. While Tyree and Logan Diggs are expected to get the majority of the work this season, look out for Price to make an impact.
He certainly made a name for himself with this catch-and-run during Notre Dame’s spring game:
I’m sure it’s been noted, but Zeke Correll picking them up and putting them down on the lead block for Jadarian Price on his long TD Saturday is some peak spring game Hit and Hustle, we love to see it pic.twitter.com/ygEcR1aZXM
— Greg Flammang (@greg2126) April 25, 2022
Other candidates for this honor are offensive linemen Billy Schrauth and Joey Tanona, who are also early-enrollees. Receiver Tobias Merriweather could receive playing time at a thin position, too, but his (relatively) late arrival to South Bend means his spot as a true freshman is less certain.
Notre Dame will blow out USC
It’s about time Notre Dame opens up another blowout vs. its rivals to the west. Both Notre Dame and USC have new head coaches this season, but Freeman was able to keep much of the staff — and roster — together when he took over from Brian Kelly.
Meanwhile, it’s a complete rebuild in Los Angeles where Lincoln Riley will be trying to piece things together in Year 1. The difference in those approaches should be apparent by the time Notre Dame travels to LA on Nov. 26.
Notre Dame’s 49-14 win over USC in 2017 the model to follow here.