Weekend leftovers: Walk-ons and Wolverines

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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.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

echoes
@NDFootball Twitter
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DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend

 

 

Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.

 

Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

aaron-banks
Tom Loy, Irish 247
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Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.