We are one week away from Jimmy-palooza

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For all those people who are worried that Jimmy Clausen isn’t getting the national respect that he deserves, fear not: It’s coming.

Clausen’s weekly heroics during this Saturday’s game against Washington earned Jimmy the Davey O’Brien Foundation’s Quarterback of the Week award. His 422 yards passing and almost 75 percent accuracy pushed Clausen’s passer rating to an NCAA best 179.3

It also got many members of the media looking at Clausen, a habit that will no doubt only escalate with next weekend’s high-profile match-up with USC on the horizon.

Here are just a few of the things written about JC this week:

Stewart Mandel
at SI.com:

And then there’s the increasingly intriguing case of Jimmy Clausen, whose make-or-break date with stiff-arm destiny comes that same day against No. 7 USC.

The
Notre Dame junior put on yet another spectacular and dramatic
performance Saturday against Washington, throwing for 422 yards and two
touchdowns, including a go-ahead score to Kyle Rudolph with 1:20 remaining. After Washington came back to tie, Clausen threw a 22-yard completion to Golden Tate
(who himself had a staggering 244 yards on nine catches) on the first
play of overtime to set up the Irish’s eventual game-winning TD. He
constantly avoided pressure to make long throws downfield.

Clausen now leads the nation in pass efficiency, completing 67.6
percent of his passes for 1,544 yards, 12 touchdowns and two
interceptions. However, it’s been hard to take the Irish too seriously
what with their weekly habit of needing a furious last-second rally to
fend off an inferior foe. AP voters clearly have little respect for
Notre Dame’s competition; the 4-1 Irish received just nine poll votes
this week.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to find fault with Clausen, who is posting
all those big numbers despite getting almost no help. He lost his most
dangerous receiver, Michael Floyd, early in the Michigan State game. Running back Armando Allen
has been hobbled by an ankle injury, contributing to the Irish’s
red-zone woes (settling for four field goals from inside the 20)
against Washington. And with the notable exception of those three
goal-line stands Saturday, the Irish defense has been porous.

But
gone are the days when a Notre Dame player could win the Heisman
without beating anyone of merit, which is why Clausen’s next game (the
Irish have a bye this week) will serve as his defining opportunity.
Thus far the Irish have offered little sign they can play with a team
that’s throttled them seven of the past eight years. The Trojans’
defense suffocated Cal on Saturday and is sitting in their customary
spot among the nation’s top-five teams in total defense (238.6 yards
per game).

“We don’t have to underestimate that we have a
top opponent on deck,” said Weis. “But the way this quarterback is
playing and the way he’s acting and the way he’s leading the team, the
confidence the team has in him, you’ve got a chance to win every time
you play.”

The one time this rivalry was competitive any time recently was 2005, the famous “Bush Push” game. Even in defeat, Brady Quinn emerged from that game as a Heisman contender (he finished fourth).
Clausen will need to do something similar — but he’s going to need a
whole lot more help than he’s currently getting.

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.