Wannstedt talks Irish

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Dave Wannstedt met with the media to discuss the showdown this Saturday night with Notre Dame. Here are a few observations:

* Wanny was certainly complementary of the offensive weapons Notre Dame has. He said quarterback Jimmy Clausen “is playing as good as any quarterback around.” After watching tape on all of Pitt’s opponents, Wannstedt said “without a doubt Golden (Tate) is the best player that we have faced.” (Although if you look at their schedule, I’m not really sure how big of a stretch that is.)

In fact, I’m going to argue that Clausen, Tate, and Michael Floyd are the three most talented offensive players that Pitt has seen this season.

* Wannstedt also spoke glowingly about the Notre Dame running game.

got as talented of running backs as anyone. They’ve got as good of an
offensive line as anyone, it’s experienced. I think their running game
is scary. It really is. They’ve got players that can take it the
distance at any time.

Wannstedt talks specifically about Armando Allen and Theo Riddick, two backs that he recruited out of high school. Maybe Wannstedt could be clairvoyant, as many Irish fans are still waiting for the Notre Dame running backs to break a run of 40 yards or more.

* When asked to compare where his team was compared to the team he had that played Notre Dame in 2005, Wannstedt admitted he overestimated the ability of the 2005 squad.

We’ve got more depth right now. We had to play some freshmen in that game…We’ve
got better depth now, that’s the first thing. We thought we were a heck
of a lot better than we really were. We found out very quickly that we
had work to do. I think we had good leadership then, but we were
probably just a little bit ahead of ourselves. I was trying to figure
out who could do what. I was with the kids for (just) a month.”

It’s amazing that it’s been five seasons since both Weis and Wannstedt maid their debuts at their alma maters. I remember vividly watching the Irish that day and being absolutely delighted with the breakout performance of Jeff Samardzija and Brady Quinn, and quitely thinking that this team might have something. Back then, people were just happy to see an adequate passing game that didn’t rely on Matt Shelton to break one on a fake bubble screen. (Ahh, how jaded Irish fans have gotten…)

* Once again the relevancy questions comes up, and once again a coach admits that people still get amped up for Notre Dame. (Shocking, right?)

Dame is one of those schools that has great, great, tradition, and
great national tradition. Maybe the most nationally recognized team in
the country. They probably are, anywhere. I know firsthand recruiting
against them, here and when I was at USC that they can go into any
state, any high school, anywhere, and they are going to be one of two
or three schools recruiting a kid…whether it’s California, New
Jersey, or Texas. There’s no other place in the country that can really
do that. They have had great tradition.”

As I mentioned yesterday, two of ESPN’s lead reporters were in attendance at Weis’ Tuesday afternoon press conference, so I expect this game to get more and more coverage from ESPN as the week goes on.

* Like all coaches find a way to do, Wannstedt even found a way to say something nice about Notre Dame’s defense, the achilles heel of this Irish squad.

they’ve got a few younger players. They’re athletic. They do more
pressure stuff. The linebackers make a lot of plays. Their corners can
cover. I think with what they’re doing on defense, the personnel
matches up well.”

Good to see coachspeak is alive and well…

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

@NDFootball Twitter

DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend



Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

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)

Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.


Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

Tom Loy, Irish 247

Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.