Chip Long

Is Brian Kelly out at Notre Dame if new QB Brandon Wimbush’s rocket arm doesn’t deliver for Irish in 2017?

Is Brian Kelly out at Notre Dame if new QB Brandon Wimbush’s rocket arm doesn’t deliver for Irish in 2017?

A 4-8 season in 2016 has put Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly firmly on the hot seat as he heads into his eighth season with the Fighting Irish.

In response to a tumultuous season, Kelly made major changes to his staff this past offseason by hiring new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

Mike Elko, who previously led Wake Forest to an FBS Top-40 total defense ranking, was hired by Kelly to be Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, and Chip Long — former offensive coordinator at Memphis — will now be in charge of the Fighting Irish offense.

However, the biggest change and arguably the No. 1 factor in Kelly's long-term future in South Bend, will be the person under center in 2017.

Barring an unforeseen circumstance, junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush — a former Rivals four-star recruit — will lead Notre Dame out of the tunnel in Week 1 vs. Temple.

Wimbush has only thrown five passes during his time at Notre Dame, but showed what kind of talent he has with a 58-yard rushing touchdown as a freshman in 2015.

Wimbush was one of the focal points of a recent Rivals story regarding quarterbacks who will be facing pressure in 2017

Earlier this week, Rivals Recruiting Director Mike Farrell gave his scouting report on the Notre Dame quarterback.

I’m a big fan of Wimbush but that hasn’t always been the case. It’s not that I didn’t like him when I first scouted him before his high school career took off, but what I saw way back when was a kid who had a rocket arm and zero touch. But throughout his high school career he improved every time I saw him, showed much more than just a strong arm and flashed impressive poise for his age.

I’ve seen very limited action when it comes to Wimbush in college as he hasn’t played often and his spring game performance had ups and downs, but I believe in this kid’s ability. He can extend the play, has that great arm and just needs to get comfortable in the Notre Dame offense and make sure he doesn’t try to use that cannon to fit the ball into tight spots. I can see him having some growing pains this season, but as he gets more comfortable and learns to take what the defense gives him while keeping defenses off balance with his athletic ability, I think he’ll finish strong.

Will Wimbush's rocket arm be enough to save Kelly from the hot seat?

That's still to be determined.

Notre Dame will reportedly hire Memphis' Chip Long as OC

Notre Dame will reportedly hire Memphis' Chip Long as OC

Notre Dame will hire Memphis offensive coordinator Chip Long for the same position, according to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman and multiple reports. Long will replace Mike Sanford, who left Notre Dame for the head coaching job at Western Kentucky earlier this month. 

Memphis ranked 35th in yards per play (6.25) and 16th in points per game (38.8) in 2016, Long's first year as an offensive coordinator. Previously, Long was Arizona State's special teams coordinator and tight ends coach from 2012-2015, and also coached the Sun Devils' running backs in 2015. 

Long was Illinois' tight ends/fullbacks coach from 2010-2011 under Ron Zook, and got his coaching start as a graduate assistant under Bobby Petrino at Louisville from 2006-2007 and Arkansas from 2008-2009. 

Long spent four years in the NFL as a wide receiver/tight end for the Detroit Lions from 2002-2005 after spending his college career at the University of North Alabama. 

Whether or not Long will call plays in 2017 remains to be seen, though, given the departures of Sanford (who didn't call plays) and Mike Denbrock (who did). Coach Brian Kelly could wind up deciding to call plays next fall, as he did earlier in his tenure at Notre Dame.