Tuesdays with Charlie: Bye week edition

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Charlie Weis met with the media yesterday without an opponent to talk about. While he acknowledged USC was on the horizon, this wasn’t a Trojan-heavy Q&A session. Here are a few interesting tidbits that came out of yesterday’s session:

* Manti Te’o impressed Weis in his first outing, yet he was quick to acknowledge that the freshman isn’t a finished product yet.

“With those ten tackles probably came 10 mistakes, too. With the learning curve, he will make less mistakes each week and he will continue to make tackles the more he learns.”

When asked to identify the 10 mistakes Te’o made, Weis acknowledged he was taking a little creative license, admitting he didn’t know if Te’o had made 10 mistakes. But Weis’ point was that Manti is only going to get better as he has “the experience of having things happening at full speed.”

* The plan for freshman and their redshirts has been hatched.

“In most cases, we’ve had the conversation here this morning about the direction we’d go unless something unforeseen comes up. We will be sharing that with these guys before the week is over.”

One freshman who has already seen the field, Tyler Eifert, is done for the season and will have back surgery. He’ll be eligible for a medical redshirt even though he played earlier in the season. Eifert will have the procedure over fall break so it won’t affect his school work.

* Weis updated the injury report, mentioning that Brandon Walker has a strain in his back and his return is unknown. (Although if Tausch keeps kicking the way he does, Walker probably won’t be seeing much of the field.) James Aldridge is back to full go at fullback, giving Weis a backfield that should be 100% healthy for the USC game. And Jimmy Clausen’s much discussed turf-toe injury won’t keep him out of practice this week, like Weis had originally planned.

“I told him he could have this week off to rest his toe, but he wants to practice tomorrow. So he’s actually requested to practice because he doesn’t want to hold off until Monday without going. This is the only week that I can give him as much rest that I can. He asked to go tomorrow so he will end up practicing at least the first half of practice tomorrow.”

* Zeke Motta has impressed. I’ve noticed Motta streaking down the field ahead of the rest of the coverage team for the past few games, and it looks like Weis has designs for him in defensive packages as well.

“I don’t think we would put him back there as a regular safety but a drop-down safety the way he plays. We would definitely do that. That’s what he was really playing in the game and I think the defensive staff would continue to utilize him in that role.”

I’ve got to think Motta might get used in the upcoming game against USC — possibly to get some speed on the field and another able tackler to take on the power running attack of the Trojans.

* Theo Riddick is going to be more than a kickoff returner eventually.

“Theo has done a really nice job for us on kickoff returns, first of all. And second of all, I think he is going to be a very, very good running back here… This kid has a chance to be really special. He’s just behind some good guys.”

If you take a leap, I think this means that Cierre Wood, who many expected to be the crown jewel running back out of last year’s recruiting class, is redshirting this season. 

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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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.



Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”