Notre Dame lands at No. 9 in ESPN's early top 25 rankings

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

No Jaylon Smith. No Ronnie Stanley. No Will Fuller. No C.J. Prosise. No Nick Martin. No KeiVarae Russell.

No problem?

In his seventh season as Notre Dame's head coach, Brian Kelly has proved that he can develop and replace talent in South Bend, and ESPN acknowledged that trend on Tuesday. Mark Schlabach ranked the Irish No. 9 in his latest way-too-early top-25 poll, despite the fact that Notre Dame will replace 13 starters in 2016.

Four of Notre Dame's 2016 opponents — No. 8 Stanford, No. 12 USC, No. 16 Michigan State and No. 24 Miami — also appeared in ESPN's rankings. Schlabach's predicted playoff consisted of No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Florida State.

What do you think of Notre Dame's positioning in ESPN's rankings? Too high? Too low? Just right? Let us know in the comments.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field before the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring football game on Saturday, April 16, 2016, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN