Swarbrick gives us a progress report

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Jack Swarbrick chatted it up with the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen about the progress Brian Kelly is making and the state of Irish athletics in general. It was a pretty expansive read and you should check out the whole thing, but if you’re short on time, here are the highlights:

On the timing of Brian Kelly’s hiring, in light of the USC / Tennessee situation:

This is fundamentally why you can’t wait. You have to – if you find the
right person, and I’m confident we did – have to close that out.

“It’s
the same with NASCAR drivers at the end of their season. In every
sport, there’s this fluidness, this change. If you don’t control your
own fate, someone else is going to control it for you.”

On how the transition to Brian Kelly has gone:

“Oh, spectacularly. I’m really pleased. What I like, first and
foremost, is Brian’s sort of systematic approach to each of the
elements and getting them done in a very orderly, effective fashion –
building a staff, contacting recruits, getting integrated into the
university.

“The other thing I love about it is how much he
embraces being here, whether it’s having lunch at the South Dining Hall
or taking the time to walk through this building (Joyce Center) and
meet people. He has just been so good at reaching out to the rest of
the Notre Dame family, and that’s been great.”

On flexibility in the 7-4-1 scheduling model:

“We have the goal of the 7-4-1 model, but there may be some years where
an opportunity presents itself that we may go to 6-5-1 or 7-5. We’re
open to those sorts of modifications.”

On the time table for training table:

“Sooner rather than later. As we’ve come back into the new year, we’re
focused on trying to work through the details, but I don’t know exactly
when it’ll firm up yet.”

On the impact the Comcast-NBC merger will have on the television contract:

“It certainly impacts us, but it’s too early for any of us to
understand exactly how, and that will play out over time. I think it’s
very significant in terms of the landscape of major media.

“I
think its significance will be great overall. But I can give you a
scenario where it’s great. I can give you a scenario where it’s not so
great. We just to have to stay engaged and let it play out over time.”

On staying in touch with Charlie Weis:

“No, but a lot of texting back and forth. I sent him a note when he
landed Kansas City. He sent me one on New Year’s Eve, so we have not
had a phone conversation but do text each other.”

On the contingency plan of bringing back Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator:

“I wouldn’t describe it as ‘contingency plans.’ That wouldn’t
be fair at all. I think if an incoming coach didn’t have a plan for an
offensive coordinator, it would have been an interesting conversation,
one I would have been happy to facilitate, but there were no plans. We
weren’t out there in our search for a coach having that be a
contingency, for example.”

Another great job by Eric Hansen. While people complained about Kelly’s timing and the decision making process, Swarbrick was absolutely correct on the necessity to make a quick decision. Notre Dame had their first offer accepted. Tennessee got turned down by the Air Force coach.  What a difference 45 days makes…

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.