As the rumor mill churns… Meet me in New York edition

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For those of you that missed the weekend editions of the rumor mill, I apologize greatly. If I can make it up to you, it’s with a gigantic dose of coaching chatter, this time from sources that hopefully won’t retract anything in the next day or two.

Let’s get started…

* Randy Edsall sounds like he’s a legit candidate. He’s even following the “not talking about it” script that has quickly become this year’s “I’d like to withdraw my name from consideration,” for coaches’ comments regarding the Notre Dame job.

(I’m not sure what excuse I like more, if you’re wondering. There was a lot of fun to be had with coaches like Mark Mangino pulling their name from consideration at Notre Dame, even if there was no job to be had and Mangino is walking the same streets as Weis right now.)

According to the Hartford Courant, here’s what Edsall had to say when asked about the Irish opening:

“I’m not going to talk about anything. I’m here at UConn. I’m coaching
at UConn and as I said this is just a press conference about the bowl
game and that’s what we’re talking about. I don’t think I have to say
anything other than that… and what I said earlier. I’m not making any
comment on rumors or innuendos or speculation or anything like that.
I’m going to address those thing so it makes no sense to ask it.”

Right now, I’ve read a variety of people mention Edsall’s handling of the Jasper Howard tragedy as the thing that’s most impressive about him. I couldn’t agree more with them, and that’s exactly the reason why I’m not enthused about his candidacy.

* The New York Post weighs in on the coaching search, linking Edsall’s name with Brian Kelly, the presumptive front-runner for the job. The Post’s Lenn Robbins mentions that candidates could be interviewed as soon as today, while also throwing out the same list we’re all working off of, mentioning Urban Meyer, Skip Holtz, Bob Stoops, Jim Harbaugh, Butch Davis, Pat Fitzgerald, and a wild-card, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin.

I’ve got to believe some of these guys will get looked at, but guys like Sumlin must have agents that are just peppering reporters, hoping that they get their client’s name mentioned, in hopes that it gets him a new contract extension.

* Tim Prister over at Irish Illustrated, posted this declarative statement regarding the coaching search:

Regarding all this speculation about the next head coach
at Notre Dame, let the record show that at 12:20 a.m. ET on Dec. 6.
2009, senior editor Tim Prister stands by IrishIllustrated’s
information and sources that say Brian Kelly will be the next head
football coach at the University of Notre Dame.


Doesn’t sound like anyone can claim miscommunication with this statement. Prister seems like he’s going “all in” on the Kelly claims, which seems to be a pretty smart play considering the odds at this point.

* Speaking of Kelly, he’s finally talking about the job. This morning, Dan Patrick had Kelly on the air to discuss the Cincinnati BCS game against Florida, as well as to pester him about the Notre Dame job, including asking Kelly if he could guarantee he’d be coaching in the Sugar Bowl.

“No, there’s no guarantees in anything that you do,” Kelly said. “I’ve never given a guarantee whether I was going to make it home at the end of the day.”

On cue, Kelly recently tweeted the following message:


“Just informed our team that Notre Dame has contacted me and I will listen to what they have to say.”


Uh-oh, Bearcats fans.

* And finally, to the New York portion of this edition. A little organization called the New York Times reported that both Kelly and Jim Harbaugh would be interviewing for the Notre Dame job in the Big Apple this week.

The fact that the Times mentioned Kelly isn’t surprising, but the fact that they linked Harbaugh to the job is a pretty big bombshell, and more proof that Action Jack is everywhere.

Harbaugh was unwilling to refute the rumors:


“Not now or not in the future will I talk about any other jobs or opportunities,” he said. “I’m out recruiting right now.”

Expect all of this to go down surrounding ESPN’s College Football Awards Show, where Kelly, Harbaugh, and just about every other big-name coach and player will be this week.

(And Action Jack will surely be lurking in the shadows…) 

FAVORITE THEORY OF THE WEEKEND:

This one has to be a tie between the Martin’s jet rumor and the Urban Meyer hospitalization rumor.

While Notre Dame has made sure that the university jet wouldn’t be allowed to be tracked at FlightAware, a reader at IrishSportsDaily mentioned that the corporate jet for Martin’s grocery store was making a flight into Oklahoma City. Did that mean that Bob Stoops was back on the grid for the Irish? (Probably not, but still — pretty solid work to be tracking Martin’s plane during this time of crisis.)

I lost the exact location of the second rumor, so I can’t recognize the true source, but the second has to do with Urban Meyer’s mysterious hospitalization for dehydration after the SEC Championship game.

(I thought Lindsey Lohan was the only one who got hospitalized for dehydration…)

Anyway, the specifics escape me, but the players include, Meyer, Action Jack Swarbrick, a mystery meeting in a Gainesville hospital, and doctor/patient confidentiality. I score this 100 out of 100 for pure imagination, but have to think that there is more of a chance that this guy reconsiders before Meyer comes to South Bend.

Path to the draft: Ronnie Stanley

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #6 overall by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Your name didn’t have to be Mel Kiper or Mike Mayock to understand that from the moment Jaylon Smith stepped foot on campus at Notre Dame he was destined to be an early-round NFL draft pick. But as the dust settles on the Irish’s impressive 2016 draft haul, a look back at the developmental process of the team’s seven draft picks serves as a wonderful testament to Brian Kelly and the program he has built.

Notre Dame’s draftees come in all shapes and sizes. Fifth-year seniors like Nick Martin. Three-and-out stars like Jaylon Smith and Will Fuller. Consistent four-year performers like Sheldon Day and one-year wonders like C.J. Prosise.

But each followed a unique path to the NFL, one that was fostered by a coaching staff that allowed each athlete to develop at their own pace and ascend into a role where an NFL team thought highly enough to select each player in the first 103 picks of the draft.

Let’s take a trip down (recent) memory lane, as we connect the dots from recruitment, development and playing career as we look at Notre Dame’s seven success stories.

 

Ronnie Stanley
No. 6 overall to Baltimore Ravens

The first offensive lineman selected in the 2016 draft, Stanley’s recruitment saw the Irish find their first bit of success at Bishop Gorman High School, leading the way to Nicco Fertitta and Alizé Jones. A four-star prospect who hovered between a Top 100 and Top 250 player depending on the evaluation, Stanley was invited to the Semper Fidelis All-Star game, a second-tier game that all but signified his status outside of the elite, at least on the recruiting circuit.

That’s not how Notre Dame’s coaching staff felt about him, though.

“He’s probably as gifted of an offensive linemen that we have seen in many years,” Kelly said on Signing Day in 2012.

Stanley proved early that Kelly wasn’t blowing smoke. He saw the field in 2012’s first two games, earning reps against Navy and Michigan before he suffered an elbow injury that allowed him to save a year of eligibility.

But even offseason surgery didn’t prevent Stanley from stepping into the starting lineup, flipping to right tackle and playing 13 games in a very successful sophomore campaign across from first rounder Zack Martin.

Even though Stanley was blossoming into one of college football’s best players, we still openly wondered who would slide to fill Martin’s left tackle spot. (That’s how it goes with offensive linemen, their work only truly appreciated by those with either inside information or a coach’s eye of evaluation.)

In his opening comments before spring practice in 2014, Kelly named Steve Elmer, Christian Lombard and Mike McGlinchey as candidates along with Stanley, so it wasn’t necessarily a lock for the staff yet either. But it took just a few practices for the Las Vegas native to solidify his spot on the left side.

Stanley’s first season at left tackle was so solid that some wondered if there’d be two. While some of the online analysts saw Stanley as a potentially elite draft pick, the NFL Advisory Board came back with a second-round grade, perhaps all Stanley needed as he made his decision to stick around for his senior season. Still, Notre Dame took no chance. Kelly, Harry Hiestand and Jack Swarbrick traveled to Las Vegas to sell Stanley on the virtues of a final season in South Bend.

It worked. With a healthy offseason and weight-room gains needed, Stanley stuck to the script and played a mostly anonymous 2015 season. That was a very good thing—only along the offensive line can All-American honors and being named Offensive Player of the Year be considered ho-hum.

Add in the vanilla off-the-field life, and an elite academic profile that’s a comfort to teams investing millions in a potential cornerstone, Stanley’s placement as a Top 10 pick should have never been in doubt. While he lacked the dominance at Notre Dame that we saw from Zack Martin, he possesses athleticism and a body that Martin wasn’t given—a big reason the Cowboys shifted him inside to guard from day one.

Picked instead of Laremy Tunsil amidst a bizarre scenario that’ll go down as one of the draft’s cautionary tales, John Harbaugh talked openly about his relationship with Harry Hiestand and the comfort that came from Notre Dame’s offensive line coach as they pulled the trigger on Stanley. And Stanley, almost epitomizing that faith that the Ravens showed, all but embodied that when he told Joe Flacco in his first visit to Baltimore that he celebrated his selection by heading back to his hotel room and going to sleep.

Counted on by Baltimore to be a key piece of the puzzle as the Ravens look to rebuild an offensive line tasked with protecting a franchise quarterback in his prime, now it’s up to Notre Dame’s highest draft pick since Rick Mirer to continue his ascent.

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.