Kelly speaks


Brian Kelly had his first close-up with the media, meeting with four media outlets (not us) for over 40 minutes and dishing on a variety of topics. I think the timing of this was perfect for Kelly — it’s a super slow news cycle right now with the recruiting dead and the holidays upon us — getting him maximum mileage out of the interview session.

Here are a few choice tidbits:

On the state of the program:

“This program is not broke. But there are some things that need to be
fixed. Some of the things that need to be fixed are things I believe
has held this program back from winning. I don’t have them all yet, but
I got a sense and feel for it early on.”

On quarterback Dayne Crist:

“I really enjoyed the time I spent with him. Let’s face it: Charlie
(Weis) and Ron Powlus are really good at what they do. They prepared
him from an Xs and Os standpoint. What I liked more about it was the
conversation we were able to have. … In a very short period of time,
I could tell he’s a guy that wants to be challenged… He’ll be able to do 7-on-7, non-contact stuff (in spring practice). I’m confident in that.”

On balancing good coaches with good recruiters:

“I think you have to put all of those together, but I’m going to tell
you this, there’s no way we can short the young man that decides to go
to Notre Dame because he’s getting coached by a recruiter. Not
happening with me. If it’s my son and he’s being coached by less of a
teacher, less of a developer of young men, but he’s one heck of a
recruiter, I wouldn’t want it for my son, so it’s not going to happen
on this staff. To be on my staff, you’ve got to be able to stand on
your two feet as a coach, a teacher, a mentor and a recruiter.”

On the enormity of coaching at Notre Dame:

“Being a head coach for 20 years, a lot of the things I’m going through
are things I’m experienced at. But when you come on campus, there’s
definitely a different feeling. When you sit in your office and your
call list is, who do you call back first — Joe Montana, Joe Theismann,
Dick Ebersol? So clearly, you get the enormity of it.”

On the timeline for completing his coaching staff:

“In the big picture, I’m not concerned about it. As I look at where we
want to be as a football program, big picture it’s not a concern.
Protecting the assets in this class, it’s a concern of mine. We’re
working hard to assemble coaches that may have no connection with
Cincinnati and that’s going to be something that hopefully we can get
wrapped up here very, very soon. The first names that you’ll see
popping won’t be Cincinnati names, if that gives you a little bit of
track to follow down. That’s kind of where we’re going.”

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.