Pete Sampson over at Irish Illustrated had a chance to talk with new Akron head coach Rob Ianello. Ianello opened up about the disappointing swoon at the end of the season and what he learned coaching under Charlie Weis these last five years.
Here are a few interesting tidbits:
Ianello on recruiting:
Recruiting all over the country was great for me. I can pick up the
phone and call coaches, even though our blueprint is Ohio and western
Pennsylvania. Because other schools have a jump start in recruiting, I
can call coaches in different parts of the country and get recognition.
A good part of my network in recruiting came before Notre Dame, but
because I was also in a leadership position at a school like Notre Dame
it’s helped me as a head coach.
On why this season didn’t work:
I think one thing that I’d take from this season when I look back was
we’re 6-2 and lose to Navy and that took the wind out of our sails. I
think you look back and after that Navy game you have to get your team
to refocus their goals. Maybe you change your goals. That’s something a
head coach has to do consistently. It didn’t work after that game and
we never got the train back on track. Looking back, I learned that
after a hard loss you need to find ways to get the team back on track.
We couldn’t get that done this year, couldn’t get over the hump. I
can’t put my finger on why.
On the chance to return to Notre Dame:
I would have liked to return and I made that clear to (athletics
director) Jack (Swarbrick). I got phone calls from time to time when a
coach was released and Jack asked me to be the interim coach. There
were a couple phone calls from other schools, a couple opportunities.
My family liked it at Notre Dame. I liked it there. I’ll miss the
University. I really don’t think we were that far away from being
really successful. If I didn’t have this opportunity to be a head
coach, I would have wanted to come back. I believe in the mission of
On the importance of a recruiting strategy:
I just think there’s been a lot of groundwork put down in different
parts of the country. If I was him, I’d start where the groundwork is,
the private schools in California, the Chicago Catholic League. I would
really try to start there. It’s a big country and you have to do a good
job screening it and weed through a lot of things. Recruiting at Notre
Dame is all encompassing. You really have to have a good plan. You’ve
got to have some patience because when you jump on Johnny, there’s
usually going to be a Jimmy that pops up five states away and he might
be a better player. That’s the trick at Notre Dame.
I think our classes got better over the years. Sometimes in a program
classes don’t get better, they go the other direction. I thought our
classes got better and a lot of that production was having a good plan
and understanding it. It was about guys being in their areas for a
while, getting to know their areas, getting to know the high school
coaches and getting to know younger kids earlier in the process.
Ianello has brought a definite Notre Dame flavor to his Zips coaching staff, with Ron Powlus joining him as well as offensive line coach John Latina. Former Irish wide receiver David Grimes also joins the staff as a graduate assistant, which is great to see.
Irish fans should definitely be rooting for Ianello to succeed. He’s a good guy who served the Irish very well for five years.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.