Weekend leftovers: Walk-ons and Wolverines


Most head coaches gave their assistants and support staff some much deserved time off, with Signing Day come and gone and Spring Practice not yet ramped up. Hopefully, Brian Kelly and company take a few days away before getting back after it, with one of the more important springs in recent memory just ahead.

Here are a few thoughts I collected over the weekend:

* If there’s a controversy brewing in the early days of the Brian Kelly era, it’s the changes in the walk-on policy. Depending on your sources, Kelly has either canceled the walk-on program, or merely changed the tryout dates for those students that would like to earn a place on the roster of the football team.

After sending an email to the football office for clarification, I was told that they have simply been rescheduled, though that would go against what I’ve heard from a few other sources, all of whom have given me a version similar to this, a student letter to the editor at The Observer:

“A few friends of mine were planning on trying out for next year’s team this spring and called the football office to find out when tryouts were. What they eventually found out was that the new head coach Brian Kelly and his staff were not going to have walk-on tryouts this year. Furthermore, they found that some of the current walk-ons were being cut.”

I think on the totem pole of issues, the walk-on program should be as close to the bottom as you can find, but it’s never a sound PR move to cancel a tradition, especially when it spawned people like Mike Anello and — gasp! — Rudy Rudiger. I expect Kelly to invite students to tryout for the team eventually. I just think this fall, where he’ll be working on installing an offense without a healthy quarterback and coming off a hectic recruiting season, might not be the best time to find guys that won’t contribute to your program for at least a few seasons at best. It’s not the worst thing in the world to push this off.

Chin up, aspiring Rudys. Your day will come…

* There was plenty of buzz on message boards about highly touted Michigan recruit Demar Dorsey, an elite safety that comes to Ann Arbor with a lot of baggage. Dorsey was charged with multiple felonies while in high school, stemming from multiple robberies. Here are Rodriguez’s comments from his Signing Day press conference.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the young man and his family to pass judgments on something before you know the whole story,” Rodriguez said. “As a coach we got a chance to visit these kids at the school, at their home and have them come up here and spend a weekend. You get to know them, certainly you get enough time to research and learn the whole story, not just what somebody’s written out there. Sometimes people are too quick to judge on something they read on the internet. I think that’s dangerous to do.”

I’m pretty disappointed with Rodriguez, but not for giving Dorsey a chance at going to college. The Free Press has the whole story. They’ve done the research and what they’re writing isn’t just something you read on the internet message boards. For Rodriguez to simply attempt to brush Dorsey’s past under the table is inexplicable.

I don’t make a habit out of supporting people that have committed felonies, but I think Dorsey deserves the chance to turn his life around. If Rodriguez simply said that Dorsey, who comes from an extremely at-risk background, made some mistakes and was dedicated to turning his life around, I think he’d gather some support and turn Dorsey’s story into one of redemption.

But Rodriguez dismissing some pretty serious criminal exploits as internet rumors is unacceptable, especially coming on the heels of the Justin Feagin incident, another questionable Rodriguez recruit that was eventually dismissed from school for his role in a botched cocaine deal.

Irish prepared to take on the best Navy team in years


Brian Kelly opens every Tuesday press conference with compliments for an opponent. But this week, it was easy to see that his kind words for Navy were hardly lip service.

Ken Niumatalolo will bring his most veteran—and probably his most talented—group of Midshipmen into Notre Dame Stadium, looking to hand the Irish their first loss in the series since Kelly’s debut season in South Bend.

“Ken Niumatalolo has done an incredible job in developing his program and currently carrying an eight-game winning streak,” Kelly said. “I voted for them in USA Today Top 25 as a top-25 team. I think they’ve earned that. But their defense as well has developed. It’s played the kind of defense that I think a top 25 team plays.”

With nine months of option preparation, Notre Dame needs to feel confident about their efforts against Georgia Tech. Then again, the Midshipmen saw that game plan and likely have a few tricks in store.

As much as the Irish have focused their efforts on stopping Keenan Reynolds and the triple-option, Navy’s much-improved defense is still looking for a way to slow down a team that’s averaged a shade over 48 points a game against them the last four seasons.

Niumatalolo talked about that when asked about slowing down Will Fuller and Notre Dame’s skill players, an offense that’s averaged over 48 points a game during this four-game win streak.

“We’ve got to try our best to keep [Fuller] in front of us, that’s easier said than done,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to play as close as we can without their guys running past us. I’ve been here a long time and we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.”


Navy heads to South Bend unbeaten, defeating former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco‘s team just two Saturdays ago. And while Diaco raised a few eyebrows when he said Navy would be the team’s toughest test of the year (they already played a ranked Missouri team), the head of the UConn program couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise.

“I have been competing against Navy for some time and this is the best Navy team I have seen for, let’s say the last half-dozen years,” UConn coach Bob Diaco told the New Haven Register. “I could click on footage from three years ago and see a lion’s share of players who are playing right now in the game as freshmen and sophomores. They have a veteran group, a strong group, a talented group and they look like the stiffest competition among our first four opponents.”

As usual, there will be those who look at this game as the breather between Clemson and USC. That won’t be anybody inside The Gug. So as the Irish try to get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd, a complete team effort is needed.

“I’ll take a win by one,” Kelly said Tuesday. “That would be fine with me.”


Kelly confident Robinson will rebound

Notre Dame v Florida State

Corey Robinson‘s season was already off to a slow start. And that was before a difficult night at Clemson. The junior receiver came into last weekend with only four catches, held out against UMass after a pregame tweak of his knee put a scare into the Irish.

Robinson’s knee checked out fine. But mentally, it appears that the sure-handed junior is struggling.

Just before halftime against the Tigers, Robinson failed to reel in a long catch that would’ve given the Irish a much-needed touchdown heading into half. Early in the fourth quarter, a high throw from DeShone Kizer on the Irish’s first failed two-point conversion play slid through Robinson’s hands. Made worse was a mental mistake by Robinson, the Irish needing to use one of their second half timeouts when the junior wasn’t on the field.

Coached hard on the sideline by Brian Kelly and coached up by his position coach Mike Denbrock (as we saw on both Showtime and Fighting Irish Media’s ICON), the staff is doing it’s best to get Robinson’s confidence back.

With some wondering if Robinson’s struggles should open the door for talented freshman Equanimeous St. Brown, Kelly talked about their belief that the junior will return to form.

“Corey Robinson is going to get the job done. I had a very lengthy conversation with him yesterday,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I believe in Corey. Corey’s got to believe in himself, and he will. He’s got to go attack the football. He’s letting the football come to him. He’s letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.”

There’s no better place to showcase that belief than against Navy. The Midshipmen don’t have a defender physically capable of matching up with the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who will likely face his share of single coverage with Will Fuller likely demanding safety help.

Then it’s just a matter of Robinson showing the hands and confidence that made him one of last year’s most consistent performers.

“Once he starts attacking the football, I think we’re going to see somebody that can make the plays that we expect him to make,” Kelly said. “So I’m optimistic that we’re going to see the guy that we need to see on Saturday.”