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…

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley

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

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

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.