About that rumor…

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No, I didn’t miss the rumor/bombshell that came out of Charlie Weis’ sit-down with five hand-picked media members. I think the story has been pretty well chronicled around the interwebs, and for the sake of everyone involved, I don’t feel like I have that much to offer.

Here’s what I will say:

I’ve got no idea what the context of Weis’ comments were, but I will say that it was pretty stupid to even make the comments. Whether you’ve got a problem with it because he broke “guy code” or you think he gut-lessly slandered his arch-nemesis on his way out of town, I think this is a situation where Weis probably felt far too comfortable with media members he considered more like friends than working journalists.

I don’t know Tim Prister, but he’s a graduate of Notre Dame and has a few more decades covering the Irish than I do. But I’ve got to believe there was a pretty big error in judgment by him to be the only one of the five reporters present to post those controversial comments.

Here was Prister’s mea culpa after he pulled the Weis quotes from his story:

The five reporters and Charlie Weis were discussing Internet rumors
Saturday when a question pertaining to Pete Carroll was asked. Comments
were made that were, in my opinion, on the record, and corroborated by
another reporter in attendance as on the record. However, Coach Weis,
later in the day, indicated that they were not on the record and were
taken out of context.

Before talking to Coach Weis later in the day, I took the comments at
face value and reported them after transcribing the interview and
presenting it in its entirety (the question-answer part) before any of
the other reporters presented it.

Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Coach Weis and asked to remove
the comment because it was an off the record statement taken out of
context. We took the necessary measures to remove it because of the
miscommunication, but a national story still contained the comment. The
reason it appeared on our site and no one else’s is because we were the
first to report it. The other reporters were asked not to use it after
our story appeared and prior to them publishing their stories.

I regret the miscommunication and in no way intended to misrepresent
the comments made by Coach Weis. I was one of five reporters asked to
this gathering and in no way would I intend to disparage or
misrepresent Coach Weis.

Again, I have no idea what was said during the 90 minute media session. When I saw this all start to shake down late Saturday night, I didn’t know how to cover it, as I was completely shocked that Weis would say something like that. That said, I’ve got to believe that there had to be some context to these quotes by Weis, and that somehow, Prister missed something.

(The rumors weren’t what bothered me. They aren’t new by any means, and as someone living in the heart of USC country, I’ve heart them before. But that’s all I’ve known them to be, strictly rumors. The fact that someone would put them in print was what shocked me.)

It sounds like Weis did his best to clarify his remarks and apologize to Carroll, and the one person who should decide whether this is over or not, clearly wants it to be.

“I talked to Charlie and he wants to set the record straight,” Carroll said. “He apologized profusely for being represented wrongly. I’m not commenting anymore.”

A week after Tiger Woods got taken down by salacious extra-marital affairs, it’d be a devastating blow to college football if these comments turned out to be the 2:30 am car crash that sparked a TMZ witch hunt. 

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

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Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

DEPARTURES
Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*

 

ANALYSIS
Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more

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We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.

***

Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention

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Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, UND.com ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.