Friday notes: Combine, achievers, competition and more

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For those of you reading this at work, you probably have a pretty relaxed IT filter on your computer. Join me and a few thousand other people and stream the USA hockey game online at NBCOlympics.com. Honestly, nobody even forced me to tell you this, I’m just giving people a friendly reminder to tune in or stream live at 3p ET.

* As the NFL Scouting Combine heats up this weekend, that means those that keep track will certainly be updating their mock drafts. One of the better ones out there is SI.com’s Don Banks, who has Jimmy Clausen going 14th to the Seattle Seahawks and new coach Pete Carroll. (Something I hypothesized weeks ago…)

Banks writes:

We admittedly don’t know what Pete Carroll thinks of
Clausen just yet, but we can’t help but wonder if the Seahawks’ new
head coach will pick up the phone and give his good friend Charlie Weis
a call to discuss the former Golden Domer. That could be a bit awkward,
eh? With an offensive tackle secured at No. 6, and this draft deep in
running backs, it makes sense for Seattle to spend its second
first-rounder on Matt Hasselbeck‘s eventual replacement.

Chris Zorich, Todd Lyght, Ricky Watter, and Tony Brooks were just a few standouts from that class, but I can’t get over that both Tom Lemming and Allen Wallace were doing this 23 years ago! I can safely say the only thing I was worried about in 1987 was Kirby Puckett and the Minnesota Twins, and not missing the bus to grade school.

* Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders put together a fascinating article on the importance of recruiting rankings. While it’s difficult to sum up in a single sentence, Connelly took a look at the over and underachievers in recruiting over the past three seasons:

From Connelly:

Here is the three-year overachiever list, with numbers.
1. TCU (+44.0/season)
2. Cincinnati (+43.5)
3. Boise State (+39.1)
4. Florida (+35.1)
5. Navy (+32.7)
6. Air Force (+32.6)
7. BYU (+28.1)
8. Connecticut (+25.7)
9. Utah (+24.2)
10. Penn State (+21.7)

The expansion to a three-year sample bumped Texas (+18.6) to 16th
and Alabama (+18.2) to 17th, thanks to their underachieving 2007
seasons.

You can make this list in two ways. You can either win with average
(or worse) recruits, or win big with good (or great) recruits.
Florida’s recruiting-based projected F/+ was second behind USC in all
three seasons (2007-09), but their actual F/+ output suggests that
recruiting can only get you so far. Coaching, execution, and a little
bit of overachieving are what you need to win (or contend for) titles.

Here is the three-year underachiever list.
1. Washington State (-39.3/season)
2. San Diego State (-28.2)
3. Texas A&M (-27.0)
4. Iowa State (-23.8)
5. Kansas State (-23.6)
6. Washington (-22.1)
7. Syracuse (-21.8)
8. Notre Dame (-21.7)
9. Colorado (-20.9)
10. Michigan (-20.3)

The fact that Notre Dame has upgraded from Charlie Weis, who led the
Irish to the eigth-place spot on the underachievers list, to Brian
Kelly, who led Cincinnati to second place on the overachievers list,
tells you all you need to know about why Notre Dame fans should be
absolutely ecstatic about their coaching upgrade. Experience and system
fit still matter, and we’ll see what Kelly has to work with in the 2010
season. But Kelly has proven himself more than almost any other coach
in recent seasons, and if anybody can take the Irish back to the Top
10, Kelly seems to be the man to (eventually) do it.

 While I may have been one of the last to think that Charlie Weis needed to go (well, not compared to one of our famous commenters), it should be very interesting to see what happens when an underachieving group of players meets an overachieving coaching staff. Like Connelly said, Irish fans should be very excited for the future. 

* Finally, I thought I’d share a video that’s making the rounds from Brian Kelly’s former team and the “Bearcat Olympics.” I never knew that the Tug of War could be so exciting. It sounds like this is an annual event, so it’s very possible Paul Longo and the strength staff could be bringing this to Notre Dame.

 

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half 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’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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