Season previews continue: the pragmatic Dr. Saturday

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Dr. Saturday, Yahoo! Sports’ Matt Hinton, takes his turn at the operating table as he dissects this season’s Fighting Irish. Doc’s preview is especially pragmatic, as he analyzes some of the talking points we’ve hit on a few times this week. Here are some of his thoughts on…

BCS or bust:

“Given just how dire the straits were
between last year’s regular season finale at USC — yes, as I am
obliged to mention, the one in which the Irish took all of three
quarters to pick up their first down — and the bowl win in Hawaii,
it’s not too much a stretch to read between the lines and come away
with the assumption that another “disappointment” is the death knell
for Weis.”

A coming of age story:

“This group of players has more talent and more experience than the
similar set of misfits — Brady Quinn, Darius Walker, Jeff Samardzija,
Rhema McKnight, John Carlson — that made the leap from woeful
underachievers in Tyrone Willingham’s last two years to Stirrers of
Echoes as upperclassmen when Weis showed up in 2005. In every respect,
Clausen, Armando Allen, Golden Tate, et al are in better position to
make that kind of leap than their predecessors were at the same stage
of their careers.”

Experience can’t be that bad of a thing:

“Beyond any doubt, this has been a terrible line and is by far more
likely than any other culprit to derail the offense; they’re also not
up-and-comers just rounding a corner like the skill guys. Still, there
aren’t many circumstances where five seniors with at least a season of
starting experience would be considered anything but a major positive,
and this isn’t one of them — it’s much more likely the veterans
produce a more passable effort than a bunch of cabbage.”

The ceiling:

“I defy you to honestly project more than two losses from games
against Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College, Pittsburgh, UConn and
Stanford. ND is likely to go into each of those games as a clear
favorite, meaning it can drop two games it shouldn’t and still finish
in the nine-win/top 15-20 range.

So I think it’s hard to argue that the Irish’s ceiling isn’t very high,
along the lines of 10 wins and a BCS berth that will set most of the
rest of the country into a furious backlash and projections of doom,
which of course they’ll take in a heartbeat. I think they’ll take nine
wins, too, as a significant step toward the prize even if it remains
slightly out of reach.”

It seems as if we’ve found our median.

Hinton, along with Kirk Herbstreit, seem to be as middle-of-the-road as you can get with his forecast for the 2009 season. When dealing with the sticky question as to whether and 8-4 season is a fireable offense, Hinton wisely declares that it “probably depends on which eight and which four.”

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley

Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.


Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson

Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.