Coming into the 2015 season, Notre Dame is at a pivotal point in determining the direction of the program. After their national championship disaster against Alabama, they have failed to meet the expectations that came with that. The schedule they have set up for themselves, while technically a member of the ACC, they play nearly every game against someone who could potentially knock them off. Malik Zaire took over as the starting QB in the bowl game, and never looked back. As a result of this, Everett Golson is now competing for snaps in Tallahassee, who the Jackets will also see later in the year. Georgia Tech will be facing their first true test when they get to South Bend,after games against Tulane and Alcorn State to start the season.
QB Everett Golson
Shortly after the season ended, and Zaire was clearly going to be the starting QB going forward, Golson announced his decision to transfer. After touring several SEC schools, Golson decided on heading down to Tallahassee to help fill the shoes left by former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
TE Ben Koyack
Koyack was the latest in a spree over the past several years of productive TE's to leave South Bend and end up in the NFL. "TE U" is what they are now calling Notre Dame, and someone is going to have to help replace the production left by Koyack, who is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
CB Cody Riggs
Riggs was a transfer who had previously played at Florida in his college career. Riggs had an extensive amount of snaps last season due to injuries and suspensions, and made the most of his time. Riggs is now a member of the Tennessee Titans.
WR DaVaris Daniels
Daniels was suspended for the entire 2014 season due to academic issues, and is now a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
OL Matt Hagarty
Hagarty was an impact player on this Irish offensive line last season, but when the coaching staff asked him to play a position other than C, he opted to transfer to Oregon for his last season of eligibility.
While Zaire may not technically be new, this is his first full season as a starter, first season with all of the first-team reps, and lastly his first season with all eyes on him. Zaire proved fully capable against LSU in the bowl game that he could handle the pressure, the spotlight, and the hits that come with being the guy in South Bend.
Alize Jones was one of the top TE in the class of 2015, and the freshman from Las Vegas, NV will have the chance to come in as a true freshman and contribute. The offense is looking for a new security blanket at TE after losing Koyack in the draft. Jones is more than capable of handling that position.
Williams was another one of the Irish top recruits from the class of 2015. He was one of the top 100 players in the country, and with the recent suspension of Greg Bryant, along with the graduation of Cam McDaniels, Williams may have a chance to fight for carries as a true freshman.
Russell may not be a fresh face around campus, but he was forced to miss all of last season due to academic misconduct. Coach Kelly and the staff will be glad to have him back, as he adds depth to a position that definitely had their ups and downs last season.
This game is going to be huge for both teams. Georgia Tech is coming into this season with high expectations, an experienced QB, and prolific offense which this Notre Dame defense has had a history struggling with in the past (don't mention Navy to an Irish fan) Jaylon Smith is going to be the key for this Irish defense attempting to contain Justin Thomas and company. When The Irish put extra defenders in the box, Thomas is going to have to be able to make the throws necessary. On the defensive side of the ball, Penetrating through the Irish line is going to be tough, with potential top-5 pick Ronnie Stanley leading the experienced unit into the season. The Yellow Jackets' experience in the secondary is going to be key in setting the tone early against this WR core led by Will Fuller. In the backfield, the Irish recently found out that Greg Bryant was not going to be able to play this season, citing academics as an issue. Justin Thomas, the world is watching, what are you going to do in the 4th quarter down by 3?
Georgia Tech pulls off a huge win for the program, beating the Irish 35-31.