Notre Dame football was at the top of college football last January.
A surprising season had the team on the brink of a national championship, its charismatic linebacker was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the team had a slew of high-ranking recruits in the wings.
It’s been all downhill from there. The Fighting Irish were dismantled in the BCS Championship game by Alabama, a game that exposed some glaring weaknesses in linebacker Manti Te’o. It would only get worse for Te’o, who was later exposed as the victim of an elaborate hoax that included a made-up girlfriend and fake death.
But Notre Dame football had a difficult offseason as well. The team lost quarterback Gunner Kiel, once a top high school recruit who would have competed for the starting job. A few weeks later, quarterback Everett Golson left the university after an academic violation.
Golson had played an important role in the team’s undefeated regular season in 2012, starting 11 games and passing for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also ran for 298 yards and six touchdowns.
The news continued to get worse for Notre Dame football this week. Running back recruit Elijah Hood, who is ranked among the nation’s top 50 overall prospects, backed out of his commitment from Notre Dame. As a junior, the 6-foot, 221-pound rusher amassed 3,309 yards and scored 48 touchdowns.
Despite the troubles, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said the team is excited to follow up on last year’s surprising season.
“We’re like everybody else in college football: extremely excited about starting the season,” Kelly said. “For us here at Notre Dame, we’ve worked hard to put ourselves in a position to be back in the national spotlight. We have no intention of giving that up.”
But Notre Dame football will have a lot of question marks surrounding it when the team takes the field for the first time August 31. Senior quarterback Tommy Rees, who will be this year’s starter, was inconsistent last year but will have some good pass-catching weapons. The team’s defense remains stacked with All-Americans Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt.
Despite all the offseason troubles, Notre Dame football is likely to get out to a fast start this year. The team’s first opponent, Temple, finished 4-7 in 2012.