Five things we learned: Notre Dame vs. Nevada


The Irish’s 35-0 dismantling of Nevada has a lot of people wondering what this means for Notre Dame this season. I’m not quite ready to project the future, but it was certainly a good way to start. Here are five things we learned:

1) Jimmy Clausen is ready for his close-up.

Clausen was in complete control today, looking composed in the pocket, decisive with his reads, and deadly accurate with the football. Even his three incompletions were nice throws. Clausen did a nice job early stepping up in the pocket, especially on the first play of the game when the deep ball wasn’t open. Clausen’s passer rating was in the mid-300s, which I think qualifies as a pretty nice day at the office.

2) The offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage.

Stat of the day: Notre Dame averaged 8.8 yards a play in the first half. For the first time since 2006, the Irish looked competent running the ball, which is especially encouraging with Nevada’s run defense ranked so highly last year. Armando Allen consistently got the corner when the Irish stretched the field on the ground, and the ability to run really opened up the play-action passing game.

3) The offensive weapons are legit.

Michael Floyd should be a first round draft pick. Golden Tate probably could be as well. And tight-end Kyle Rudolph might evolve into one as well. Add in Jimmy Clausen to the draft projections, and the sheer artillery is a sign of things to come. We won’t know quite how good Notre Dame truly is until next week when they play in enemy territory, but today’s impressive output was quite an airshow. Floyd’s touchdown catches, Tate’s explosiveness, and Rudolph’s first-quarter TD grab might be a sign that the vertical passing game that Weis established in his first two seasons has been resurrected.

4) Jon Tenuta is going to bring the house.

Tenuta served notice that he’ll be bringing the house early and often. With a 35-0 lead in the fourth quarter, Tenuta still brought the heat, not sitting back and playing it conservative, but attacking with linebackers, defensive backs, and anybody else on the field. The change back to the 4-3 seemed to go smoothly, and Tenuta’s the perfect coach to lead the transition. Expect even more heat next weekend, when Michigan breaks in a freshman quarterback against a team that doesn’t have a direction in its name.

5) Manti Te’o is a stud.

The freshman made quite a debut today. He was all over the field, running down Kaepernick from behind after blitzing off the snap on his first play. He made a great read on a middle screen and blew up two different Nevada players with some very big hits. Te’o will most likely see the field often against Rich Rodriguez’s Wolverines next week, utilizing his speed and ability to move in space to run down Michigan’s spread offense.

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.