Monday morning catch-up

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After our introduction to the coaching staff Friday, it was a pretty quiet weekend on the football front. I’ll do my best to keep up with the recruiting news, but just about anything you hear from now until Signing Day will have a dash of hearsay sprinkled in.

Let’s clean up some weekend left-overs.

* Last week, Brian Kelly offered 6-foot-3 athlete Danny Spond a scholarship. The Littleton, Colorado native was a quarterback commitment at one point to Dan Hawkins and the in-state Buffaloes, but he’s since opened up his recruitment and started looking around. Spond visited Stanford this weekend, and lists the Cardinal and TCU as finalists along with the Irish. Spond was on the radar of Charlie Weis’ staff, and his combination of size and speed are the precise kind of athletes Brian Kelly says he wants to collect, then he’ll develop them into the best positional fit. Spond will follow up the Stanford trip with a weekend at TCU, then finish with the Irish before deciding.

* During Brian Kelly’s press conference Friday, he rolled through the new coaching hires and specifically spelled out the recruiting regions each coach was set to cover. I was particularly interested when Kelly mentioned outside linebackers coach Kerry Cooks’ success in the state of Texas while coaching at Wisconsin. Having watched a ton of Badger football the past few years, I never noticed a Texas influence, yet sure enough there are seven players on the Badger roster from the Lone Star state, including heat-seeking missile Jay Valai. A few of the guys Cooks got to Madison were highly regarded players, and any victories in the state of Texas have to be looked at as steals.

* On Friday, Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay got into their weekly screaming match when talking about the draft, and specifically quarterbacks. As he has done for the past few months, McShay did his best to downplay Jimmy Clausen’s professional prospects. Here’s the transcription of what McShay had to say about JC:

“When I watch him – listen, he’s improved – he’s well-coached, he comes from
a pro-style offense, and I get that, and he has good tools, but he does
not have elite physical tools. He is 6’2″, barely 6’2″, about 215
pounds, he’s had a little bit of trouble in terms of getting beat up
and I wonder if he’s going to hold up physically on the next level. His
arm strength is good, but it’s not great, and if you really study him, he
has to overcompensate on a lot of throws, he makes his wide receivers
work for the ball constantly. He has good accuracy, but not great
accuracy. And you talk about intangibles and leadership, go back and watch
some of these games, throwing a touchdown pass and pointing at opposing
head coaches, getting into an argument and shoving a guy from BC at the
end of a game, talking to NFL scouts, guys who were in the locker room
and around it, see how he carries himself, I’m not saying he’s a bad
person, but I do think there are a lot of questions in NFL scouting
circles about his overall intangibles and how he’s going to be as a
leader in the NFL.”

You can watch the whole segment here, but I’ve got a lot of problems with McShay’s analysis of Clausen. I’ll never pretend that I have a scouting background, and I’m guessing McShay’s watched more tape this year than I have, but I’d bet that I watched a lot more Jimmy Clausen than he did this season. I was constantly impressed by just how strong Clausen’s arm was this season, and it’s almost as if McShay is just doing his best to attack the always ambigious intangibiles when he goes after Clausen. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t honestly remember Clausen pointing at an opposing coach. (His brother did when he played against Notre Dame.) As for the shove after the game against Boston College, McShay must not have watched that exchange very closely either, as his characterization of the incident is a little one-sided. What next, is he going to hypothesize on the incident outside the bar, too?

Jimmy Clausen was an incredibly accurate quarterback this season, whether you just look at the raw numbers or simply watch the tape. Here’s a guy who completed deep hitches and comebacks all over the field, really tough throws that rely on great timing and accuracy. As the Rakes of Mallow point out, McShay has been plenty wrong about a quarterback before, and I really think he’s missing with Clausen here. I expect JC to go in the first half of the first round, and perform up to his grade.

* As Florida continues to reel in high-profile recruits, even with its head coach maybe/possibly stepping away from his job, you start to wonder how Urban Meyer does it. And then you read articles like this, and stop wondering. It’s no wonder Sharrif Floyd picked the Gators.

“Sharrif was really confused and put a call into Coach Meyer. When
they spoke Coach Meyer told him that he had a ‘dream’ the night before,
and that Coach Meyer saw himself on the sideline coaching Sharrif. Told
him that is was a “message from God that I should come back and coach,
as I guess if it’s my time to die, I’d rather die on the sidelines
coaching you than anywhere else in the world.

“Sharrif talked to us the next day and said Ohio State is great and all, but Coach Meyer said he would DIE for me. That’s pretty intense.”

I really wonder how Urban Meyer has kept his reputation intact after he pulled that 180 a few weeks ago, but it’s clear his charms are still working. 

 

 

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.

 

 

Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”