When we did our pre-season previews last season the team that we got the most flack about was Notre Dame. We pegged them at #22 but the thought around college football by many was that they were ready to arrive and should have been ranked higher. The Irish ended up finishing 8-5, which was respectable after you consider how they started the season.
Notre Dame finished 30th in total defense giving up 344 yards per game (against winning teams they gave up 401 yards and gave up just 277 against teams with non-winning records). Notre Dame planned to lose five of their top seven tacklers this season (all seniors) but got a boost when start linebacker Manti Te'o decided to forgo the NFL draft and stay in school.
One area on defense that the Irish know they are going to be young and inexperienced is in the defensive backfield at corner. One way to compensate for the lack of quality players and quality depth at corner is by getting after the quarterback. The one guy that really showed he could do that for the Irish last year was Aaron Lynch. As a freshman, Lynch led the Irish with 5.5 sacks. Lynch was expected, along with Te'o to be the major keys to the defense for the Irish this season.
It was recently announced that Lynch would be transferring following this semester. This is a huge loss for the Irish. Losing one player won't necessarily derail your season but it is a major cause for concern for the Irish. I had my doubts on the Irish "breaking through" this season before this news. Now that this news has come out I have a feeling that they might be in for another 8-5 type season. The Irish have a lot of questions on the defensive side of the football and a few of them just got a bigger spotlight.
Where will Lynch go? He wants to move back to Florida and USF is an option.