Corwin Brown officially out at Notre Dame

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While it isn’t exactly a surprise, Corwin Brown confirmed that his time on the Notre Dame coaching staff is over.

“I’m just cleaning out my office,” Brown told Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister. “I had a good time here. I’ve got a lot of good memories. It was a true learning experience.”

Brown’s tenure at Notre Dame was an interesting one. He was hired by Charlie Weis to install a defense that shared the 3-4 principles that Weis was comfortable and accustomed to from his time in the NFL. And while the Irish only managed to go 16-21 in the three seasons that Brown was with the Irish, during Brown’s two seasons as coordinator the Irish ranked 39th in total defense, a stat even more impressive when you think about how abysmal the Irish offense was in 2007.

Brown was the epitome of a team player this season, giving up the reins of the defense to Jon Tenuta and accepting a change in responsibility for the betterment of the team. While the change in strategy obviously backfired, Brown never questioned the decision, and after the Navy game, Brown showed some of the fire he brought to the team when he stood up for Tenuta’s defensive game-plan.

“Coach Weis and Coach Tenuta do a great job getting us prepared on
offense and defense,” Brown said after the loss to Navy. “I don’t care what foxhole they’re in, I’m jumping
in the foxhole with them every time.”

The decision to part ways with Brown was probably a tough choice for Kelly. In many ways, Corwin and Bob Diaco are similar — both are fiery former Big Ten players that came up the Parcells coaching tree. While I can’t speak to Diaco’s recruiting acumen, Brown was a rising star as a recruiter, and his ties to Chicago were instrumental to reeling in players from a recruiting hotbed. While Corwin has ties to the NFL, it sounds like he’ll stay in the collegiate ranks.

“I’ve coached in the pros and that’s an option,” Brown told Prister. “But I’d like to stay in college because I think I can have a bigger impact on the lives of young people. That’s what I would prefer to do, but obviously, I’m open to all opportunities.”

Cutting ties with Brown might have been a necessary evil for the psyche of the Irish defense, as a fresh start with a new staff might be what it takes to rebuild the confidence of a group that is likely shattered.

But Brown will be missed. His experience as a collegiate player at Michigan, his time in the NFL as both a player and a coach, and his ability to relate to players with his hard-knocks upbringing in Chicago supplied a critical element to the coaching staff. I have no doubt that Brown will land on his feet, and in all likelihood his departure will come back to haunt the Irish. If not on the field, then definitely in a recruits’ living room. 

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.

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)
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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.