And in that corner… the USC Trojans

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Enough has been said about the recent dominance of the USC Trojans that it doesn’t warrant me talking about it as well. But I read one stat though that was particularly grim.

70% of Notre Dame’s roster has yet to see the Irish score a touchdown against Southern Cal.

Dan Woike has certainly seen plenty of the good times for USC. As a staff writer at USCFootball.com, Dan has watched Pete Carroll and his Trojan troops beat Notre Dame to a pulp, as well as sneak out of South Bend on that fateful Saturday in 2005. Dan was kind enough to give me some time during this busy week for both of us, and give us a little better look at what we can expect this weekend.

Inside the Irish: Why do Pete Carroll and USC own Charlie Weis and the Irish?

Dan Woike: I think Pete Carroll has owned virtually every coach he’s
faced. It just so happened that Carroll and Charlie Weiss intersected at a bad
time for Notre Dame. USC was amassing so much talent while the Irish were
falling behind. After a couple of lopsided wins, it becomes a mindset.

ITI: Carroll is an immensely competitive person. Was there
something that Weis did or said that gets Pete especially amped up to play the
Irish? Did the 2005 game almost awaken the Trojans and remind them to assert
their dominance?

DW: I don’t know if there was a specific instance or anything. I
think the 2005 game was a classic, and Carroll knows that. The ending was
probably one of the most exciting drives of the past 10 years. Carroll would
never say this, but maybe the “decided schematic advantage” talk from Weis’
opening presser caught his eye, but I doubt that has a ton to do with it. He’s
competitive, but he doesn’t seem all that vengeful.

ITI: This isn’t the same USC team that we saw last year. Can
you talk a little bit about the offensive struggles the Trojans have had this
year? Did the performance against Cal lead you to believe good things are
coming?

DW: The struggles can be directly tied to the quarterback play.
The USC coaches were hesitant to really let Matt Barkley loose early in the
season, and that really hampered the team’s ability to make the big play.

I think against Cal, USC and the coaches decided to open
things up. You saw Barkley look down the field more, and with Ronald Johnson
coming back on Saturday, it’s only going to get better.

ITI: The defense didn’t rebuild it reloaded. Can you talk
about the challenges ND’s offense present the Trojan D, and what you think the
keys will be in this match up?

DW: This USC defense might not be as physical as in years past,
but this group is faster. The biggest challenges Notre Dame will face come from
the defensive line. This group is scary good and scary deep. Nick Perry and
Everson Griffen are devastating pass rushers, and defensive tackle Jurrell
Casey is just a flat-out star.

Also, the secondary with Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard do a good
job limiting big plays, making things tougher on any offense.

ITI: Are you at all scared about this game? Or have Trojan
fans just taken for granted Southern Cal’s recent dominance? If there is
something that worries you about Saturday’s game, what is it?

 DW: I think any time you go on the road with a young
quarterback, you should be a little worried. You never know when he’s going to
have a two or three interception game. I also think people realize this is a
much more gifted Notre Dame offense. I think Golden Tate is a key guy. If he
can make a big play, especially on special teams, it could shift the game.

ITI: What’s the perfect recipe for a Trojan win?

DW: Eliminate penalties and win the turnover battle, pretty
simple.

ITI: The Irish and the Trojans target a lot of the same
players. What does this game mean to recruiting?

DW: Not as much as you’d think. I explored this angle a lot last
year. Look at Manti Te’o. USC wanted him bad, beat up on Notre Dame and didn’t
get him. I think certain guys are more comfortable playing at USC for a guy
like Carroll, and other players are attracted to what Notre Dame has to offer.
Still, with mutual targets on the Notre Dame sideline, it never hurts to
impress.

Be sure to check out more of Dan’s coverage on the big game this week at USCFootball.com.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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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
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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
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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)
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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.