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.”

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley

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

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

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)

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.