2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football
CoachesNo. 5
APNo. 5
2018 record12–1
Head coachBrian Kelly (9th season)
Offensive coordinatorChip Long (2nd season)
Offensive schemeSpread
Defensive coordinatorClark Lea (1st season)
Base defense4–2–5
CaptainAlex Bars
Sam Mustipher
Tyler Newsome
Drue Tranquill
Home stadiumNotre Dame Stadium
(Capacity: 77,622)
← 2017
2019 →
2018 Division I FBS independents football records
v · d · e Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
No. 5 Notre Dame ^               12 1  
No. 19 Army               11 2  
BYU               7 6  
Liberty*               6 6  
UMass               4 8  
New Mexico State               3 9  
** – Ineligible for postseason play due to FCS-to-FBS transition rules (can apply for waiver if not enough bowl eligible teams)
As of August 5, 2020 • Rankings from AP Poll

The 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team represented the University of Notre Dame in the 2018 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The team was led by head coach Brian Kelly, who was in his ninth season at Notre Dame, and played its home games at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. The Fighting Irish competed as an independent.

Notre Dame, coming off a 10–3, Citrus Bowl-winning season in 2017, began the year ranked 12th in the AP Poll. In the first game of the year, they hosted rival No. 14 Michigan, in the first game played in the series since 2014. Notre Dame won by a score of 24–17. The Irish continued to roll, and after convincing wins against ranked opponents Stanford and Virginia Tech, rose to third in the polls. Notre Dame finished the regular season with a perfect 12–0 record, and were ranked third in the final College Football Playoff rankings, earning them a spot in the national semifinal to be played at the Cotton Bowl against second-ranked Clemson. The Irish lost to the eventual national champion Tigers by a score of 30–3. Their final record of 12–1 and final ranking of 5th in the nation represented the program's best season since 2012.

Quarterback Brandon Wimbush led the offense for the first three games, after which he was benched in favor of Ian Book. Book ended the year with 2,628 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. The running attack was led by Dexter Williams, who finished with 995 yards and 12 touchdowns. On defense, cornerback Julian Love was named a consensus first-team All-American, and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery also received All-America honors by several selectors. Head coach Brian Kelly was named AP Coach of the Year.

Previous SeasonEdit

The 2017 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team finished 10–3, culminating the season with a 21–17 victory over LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Notre Dame began the season with a 49–16 home thrashing of Temple before a highly anticipated showdown with Georgia in South Bend under the lights, with the Bulldogs winning 20–19 in their first trip north of the Mason–Dixon line since 1965. Following the 1–1 start, the Irish reeled off seven consecutive wins—including a 49–14 annihilation of arch-rival USC at night and a 35–14 drubbing of NC State—that earned Brian Kelly's program a #3 ranking in the initial 2017 College Football Playoff rankings. However, the luck of the Irish ran out, as the team found itself on the losing end of a 41–8 humiliation against the Miami Hurricanes in a primetime game at Hard Rock Stadium. Notre Dame, wearing its new Rockne Heritage Uniforms for the first time, then eked out a 24–17 victory against Navy on senior day before ending the regular season with a thud, losing 38–20 at Stanford.


The disheartening finish in the latter stages of the season was only compounded by defensive coordinator Mike Elko being lured to Texas A&M by first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher three days following the Citrus Bowl victory over LSU. However, rather than make an outside hire to replace Elko, Brian Kelly chose to stay in-house, elevating linebackers coach Clark Lea to defensive coordinator.

One week following Elko's departure, the Irish would suffer another significant coaching loss, as Harry Hiestand accepted the offensive line coach position on Matt Nagy's staff with the Chicago Bears. In a surprise decision and after a national search, head coach Brian Kelly chose to promote senior offensive analyst Jeff Quinn to replace Hiestand.

The unexpected personnel loss within the program eventually spread to the roster, as running backs C.J. Holmes and Deon McIntosh, wide receiver Kevin Stepherson, and defensive lineman Brandon Tiassum were each dismissed from the program. Holmes and Stepherson were dismissed due to shoplifting charges, while McIntosh and Tiassum were booted for a violation of team rules.

However, the tide began to shift in a positive direction for the program beginning on January 30, when Notre Dame announced the hiring of Terry Joseph as safeties coach to fortify defensive coordinator Clark Lea's staff.

The good news was compounded a week later, as Notre Dame closed out National Signing Day with the nation's 10th-ranked recruiting class, per

The Shirt 2018 and Blue-Gold GameEdit

The Irish then finished up their winter conditioning program led by Matt Balis, in just his second year on the coaching staff, before heading into spring practices. The annual Blue-Gold Game, a spring exhibition with Notre Dame's offense pitted against its defense, ended the spring football season and was played at Notre Dame Stadium on April 21, 2018, with Blue defeating Gold 47–44.[1]

A day before the Blue-Gold Game was arguably more exciting for Irish fans and especially Notre Dame students, as the 2018 Notre Dame Football Shirt was revealed in front of the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore at the Eck Center. There was much debate as to which color The Shirt would be this year, and Coach Kelly ended the suspense by ripping off his jacket to reveal the Kelly green shirt.[2] The front of The Shirt features the iconic image of the top of the outside of the stadium directly above the Knute Rockne Gate, which displays "University of Notre Dame" etched in gold under two flags–one for Notre Dame and the other for the team that the Irish happens to be playing that week. Below this image is "Fighting Irish Football 2018," printed in large gold letters. The back of The Shirt features a portrayal of Notre Dame's defensive line with "No Breaking Point" printed below it, which is a reference to one of late coach Ara Parseghian's famous mottos. The Shirt would then be sold immediately following its reveal, with many cheerful fans and students alike walking out of The Bookstore, proudly donning The Shirt just minutes after it was revealed.

Preseason award watch listsEdit

Award Player Position Year
Lott Trophy[3] Te'von Coney LB SR
Drue Tranquill LB SR
Rimington Trophy[4] Sam Mustipher C SR
Chuck Bednarik Award[5] Te’Von Coney LB SR
Jerry Tillery DE SR
Maxwell Award[6] Brandon Wimbush QB JR
John Mackey Award[7] Alizé Mack TE JR
Butkus Award[8] Te'Von Coney LB SR
Drue Tranquill LB SR
Jim Thorpe Award[9] Julian Love CB JR
Bronko Nagurski Trophy[10] Te'Von Coney LB SR
Julian Love CB JR
Jerry Tillery DE SR
Outland Trophy[11] Alex Bars OL SR
Sam Mustipher C SR
Jerry Tillery DT SR
Lou Groza Award[12] Justin Yoon K SR
Wuerffel Trophy[13] Tyler Newsome P SR
Drue Tranquill LB SR
Nic Weisher TE SR
Walter Camp Award[14] Brandon Wimbush QB JR
Ted Hendricks Award[15] Jerry Tillery DE SR
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award[16] Brandon Wimbush QB JR
Manning Award[17] Brandon Wimbush QB JR

2018 NFL DraftEdit

The following former Notre Dame players were selected in the 2018 NFL Draft:

Round Selection Player Position Team
1 6 Quenton Nelson Guard Indianapolis Colts
1 9 Mike McGlinchey Tackle San Francisco 49ers
4 123 Durham Smythe Tight end Miami Dolphins
6 207 Equanimeous St. Brown Wide receiver Green Bay Packers

Transfers out/departuresEdit

  • QB Montgomery Van Gorder (graduate transfer)
  • RB Josh Adams (Declared for NFL Draft)
  • RB C.J. Holmes (Dismissed from program)
  • RB Deon McIntosh (Dismissed from program)
  • WR Freddy Canteen (transfer)
  • WR C. J. Sanders (transfer)
  • WR Kevin Stepherson (Dismissed from program)
  • WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Declared for NFL Draft)
  • DE Jay Hayes (graduate transfer)
  • DE Jonathon MacCollister (transfer)
  • DT Elijah Taylor (transfer)
  • DT Brandon Tiassum (Dismissed from program)
  • DT Pete Mokwuah (graduate transfer)
  • CB Nick Watkins (graduate transfer)
  • CB Ashton White (transfer)

Transfers inEdit

  • FB Keenan Sweeney (graduate transfer)

Coaching changesEdit


  • Mike Elko – accepted defensive coordinator position at Texas A&M
  • Harry Hiestand – accepted offensive line coach position with the Chicago Bears


  • Clark Lea – promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator
  • Terry Joseph – hired as safeties coach after spending one year as defensive backs coach at North Carolina
  • Jeff Quinn – promoted from senior offensive analyst to offensive line coach


Position keyEdit

Back B Center C Cornerback CB Defensive back DB
Defensive end DE Defensive lineman DL Defensive tackle DT End E
Fullback FB Guard G Halfback HB Kicker K
Kickoff returner KR Offensive tackle OT Offensive lineman OL Linebacker LB
Long snapper LS Punter P Punt returner PR Quarterback QB
Running back RB Safety S Tight end TE Wide receiver WR


Notre Dame signed 21 recruits during college football's second-ever early signing period (December 20–22) before inking an additional six on National Signing Day.

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