Recruiting recap

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One of the better ways to pull ourselves out of the USC hangover is to take a quick look at the recruits that came and visited over the weekend. As I mentioned before the game, there was an abundance of talent on campus, and from the sounds of it, the early returns are very good.

First some info on the commitment that Notre Dame snagged this weekend.

* Tai-ler Jones has to be a great get for Notre Dame fans. Originally committed to Stanford, but still taking official visits, Irish faithful had to feel like they had a good chance at swaying Jones once he saw campus on a game day, especially when you take into consideration that his father Andre Jones played for the 1988 National Championship Irish.

Turns out that hunch was correct. Right after Jones got home from the visit he decommitted to Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and called up Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello.

“Awesome,” Jones told Irish Illustrated about Ianello’s reaction. “He said he can’t wait to get my application in and get me enrolled in January.”

The fact that Jones is an early enrollee has got to be more good news for Irish fans, as the ability to poach a recruit is much harder with him getting on campus after the holidays.

Another plus is the fact that Jones is immediately going to work for the Irish staff.

“I’m going to try and work on Seantrel and Louis Nix,” Jones said. “I spoke to both of them and they said that they enjoyed their visit a lot and had a lot of interest in the school. That’s a good base to have.”

* Other big name recruits had plenty of good things to say about the weekend as well.  Blue-chip safety Dietrich Riley, who is also being heavily courted by USC had such a good time this weekend that he’s going to come back again, this time on his own dime, so his mom can see Notre Dame.

“It was incredible,” Riley said. “It was better than I expected. I
loved it there. I want to go back but this time, take my mother with
me. There were so many great things about it but ironically, the thing
that probably stood out the most for me was the area itself.

“A
lot of college coaches have been telling me negative things about it,
saying Notre Dame was in the middle of nowhere but I really liked it.
It’s a family environment and reminds me a lot of my high school. The
people there were so kind and it’s just a first class place. Even the
girls there all dress professionally and you don’t see that at a lot of
other places.”

Surprise, surprise on the negative recruiting tactics, but it’s still great to see that Riley obviously enjoyed the visit, and it also looked like he formed a bond with fellow California recruit Josh Shaw. Those two would be great reloads for the ND secondary.

A few other names that I’ve been seeing that enjoyed the weekend:

* Seantrel Henderson wasn’t talking yet, but his dad talked to Irish Sports Daily, and he said all the right things about Notre Dame.

* Chris Martin spoke with Irish Illustrated, and gave a quote that must make Notre Dame fans feel better about their chances.

“I did learn that this team is a lot closer than what I expected to
being a national power like it used to be,” Martin said. “That was two
great football programs battling it out in a long-time rivalry. Nothing
more, nothing less, just a big-time rivalry game and a really good
game.”

It remains to be seen whether or not ND can withstand the heat schools like Florida and USC are putting on, but the visit came at a perfect time.

* Illinois wide receiver Kyle Prater, who is verbally committed to USC, opened the door a bit and now says that the Irish are in the running for him, though he’s still “committed” to the Trojans.

* Another Illinois wide receiver, Corey Cooper, is committed to the Illini, but with the SS Zook sinking, he’s taking a look at other schools. Cooper was on hand in South Bend, and was hosted on his visit by a graduate of his high school, Sergio Brown. Cooper is being recruited on both sides of the ball, and he’s going to make a decision on signing day… a sign that has to be considered a positive one for the Irish.  

There have been rumors swirling that there are a few other recruits very close to pulling the commitment trigger, but nothing has been announced just yet. Either way, it’s pretty easy to tell that the game’s final score didn’t do much to take away from the experience of the recruits on campus.
 

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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