That's what he said: Mark Dantonio

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Mark Dantonio met with the press yesterday and discussed his upcoming game with the Fighting Irish.

Here’s what he said:

On moving past last week’s loss:

I think it’s important that we move forward. Certainly, we need to
focus on the solution here, what the problem was, critique the problems
that we had, plan forward, practice towards the things we need to get
accomplished, and really emotionally sort of regroup ourselves and move
forward. I think our players are doing that. I feel good about our
coaches. I feel very good about our players. The bottom line is we need
to take strength from everyone and fortitude and push it forward.
That’s what we’ll do.
We’ll focus on the future. Right now, the focus is on Notre Dame.

On why Michigan State has Notre Dame’s number:

Well, I would say it comes down to specifics in terms of blocking
and tackling. I’m sure there’s an emotional edge to both teams when you
play in this game. So I can’t say it’s emotional totally.

Things have happened. I think we’ve played pretty fundamentally
sound. Whenever I’ve gone down there in the past, we’ve played very
fundamentally sound. We’ve not turned the ball over. We’ve done things
that allow us to win.

On the winning streak:

I’m just happy to win. Whenever I’m on the winning side, that’s the
only thing that really matters. I don’t really look at it as a streak.
I think maybe alums do. But the players that are at Notre Dame, the
players that are here, you can only really evaluate what has happened
while they have played.

That streak goes back a number of years. So it’s really out of
those people’s hands. It’s on the people that have played in the game.
So it comes down to guys blocking, tackling, catching the football,
playing the ball in the deep part of the field, mental errors, emotion,
adversity, those types of things. And that’s really got to be carried
by the people that are currently here.

I think the people that have been down there in the past share in 2007’s win, but beyond that I would say it’s a clean slate.

On the challenge of facing Notre Dame’s offensive weapons:

First of all, they have outstanding receivers, in Michael Floyd and
Golden Tate. Duval Kamara is another guy, No. 18. Rudolph is an
excellent tight end, and Clausen spreads the ball around.
Clausen is in his third year now, so he’s an experienced
quarterback. He knows where to go with the ball, and he gets rid of the
ball quickly. They’re going to throw it deep.

Yeah, it presents problems. It presents a lot of different
things for us, challenges I would say more than problems, but extreme
challenges because any time the ball goes up in the air, you’ve got to
play it. You’ve got to get up there and get it, climb up a ladder and
grab it. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll focus on that.
But just like everybody who is experienced, when the ball goes up in
the air, you can look at it every Saturday, when the ball goes up in
the air deep, somebody’s going to come up with it usually.

What Blair White means to the Spartans offense:

Obviously, Blair has been very, very productive. He’s been a
big positive for us. He’s gone up and made the catch for the most part
but nobody’s perfect. He’s proven to be is a very productive player.
He’s a gamer and he’s tough. He’s going to do everything he can to win
a football game, whether it’s on special teams, he had a big punt
return in the game Saturday, or whether it’s catching the football, or
whatever it is.

But there are things that everybody just needs to ask where
they’re at and try and improve, and he’s one of them, and he’ll do
that. But he’s an outstanding person and competitor. He’s a man of
great character.

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

Notre Dame v Florida State

Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)


Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*


Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*


Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more


We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.


Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention


Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.