Brian Kelly’s former team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, got drilled last night in the Sugar Bowl, losing to a Florida Gators team that could’ve named the score against its out-classed Big East opponent. Whether it was Kelly, interim head coach Jeff Quinn, or the ghosts of Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi, the Bearcats would’ve had absolutely no answer for Tim Tebow and the high octane Florida offense, as the Bearcats’ achilles’ heel — their defense (sound familiar, Irish fans?) — was unable to force a punt until Florida was leading 44-10 in the fourth quarter.
For Irish fans watching the Bearcats for the first time, there were more questions than answers after watching Cincinnati try to slow down the Gators attack. Likely defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense gave up 659 yards of offense, 533 yards of it to Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, and the Bearcats explosive offense only managed 246 total yards, nearly all of it after the game was well in hand for the Gators.
For those Irish fans that worry about Kelly’s ability to install a defensive system with the ability to play passable defense, Friday night’s game does nothing to instill confidence in the new coaching regime, which will have as many as four Cincinnati coaches joining Notre Dame’s staff. But those sweating the ghosts of Rick Minter, Jon Tenuta, and defensive coordinators past, fear not: the Irish defense already has better personnel than the 12-1 Bearcats.
Diaco and his new Notre Dame defensive staff will inherit a defense replacing little in the front seven, and only Kyle McCarthy from the starting secondary. They’ll also have nine months to instill a new attitude and develop fundamentals that plagued the Irish defense during its transition back to Jon Tenuta’s favored 4-3, heavy blitzing, Cover 2 system.
Anybody that watched Cincinnati this season knew their defense was mediocre, and even Brian Kelly acknowledged his coaching strategy was designed to win football games — most often in spite of his very green defense. While it would’ve been nice to see the Bearcats put up a good fight against the defending national champs, there’s no reason to hit the panic button just yet.
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.
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.