Scrimmage provides some answers

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Exactly one week before the Blue-Gold game, Brian Kelly gave the members of the media and the nearly 800 coaches that attended the annual coaching clinic an advanced look, offering a completely open two-hour window for viewing.

A few notes after reading various reports:

* Looking for an early enrollee that’ll see the field first? Look no further than Tai-ler Jones, now known as T.J. Jones, who worked with the first team offense, lining up mostly in the slot between Michael Floyd and Duval Kamara. Kelly has been impressed with what Jones has brought to the offense.

“You know, T.J.’s got some real good ability,” Kelly said. “But his work volume, he’s still got the tassel on the car window from
graduation, he’s just a young kid. He’s got a chance to be a player for
us and contribute this year but boy, his work volume really tapers off.
That’s why we’ve got to get two or three guys ready at that position.”

Working in after him was Theo Riddick, a guy that many assumed would be moving from spot running back duty to full-time receiver play, but Riddick is still slightly hindered from offseason surgery.

* From everything I’ve read, Manti Te’o was an absolute beast out there today, laying the lumber on offensive players left and right. This spring, Te’o has taken the steps the coaching staff needed him to take, and I expect him to be an elite defender next season. From the sounds of it, Kelly has the same expectations.

“I think he’s in his own mind and his coaches and myself, living up maybe to some of the expectations that everyone had coming in as one of the top premiere high school players in the country,” Kelly said. “He can be a great player. He’s got a chance and he’s showing some signs of that. His recognition. His leadership. It’s exciting to watch him grow. He’s really growing quickly in a very short period of time.

Te’o also landed the biggest hit of the day (which you can see here at the fifteen-second mark), de-cleating Armando Allen on a sweep play around the right end. As Te’o becomes more comfortable and experienced, expect him to truly flourish in the new defensive system.

* It sounds like the offense is still a work-in-progress, but expect both Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd to excel from the start. Rudolph was limited in the scrimmage today, but was a weapon in the red zone, catching a few touchdown passes from Dayne Crist and also showing what a physical presence he is down there as well. Meanwhile, Mr. Floyd scored on an end around, caught a few short passes, and connected with Crist on a nice route down the seam as well.

* The offensive line had a new combination of starters today, with Taylor Dever getting reps at left tackle, Trevor Robinson sliding to left guard, Braxston Cave at center, Chris Stewart at right guard, and Zack Martin at right tackle.

* After practice, Kelly caught a flight to his brother’s wedding, where he’s serving as the best man.

“I’m going in flip-flops and Notre Dame green. If he doesn’t like it, strike three for him,” he joked about his brother’s second wedding.

* Both wide receivers coach Tony Alford and lineman Alex Bullard missed practice today, heading home to spend time with their ailing fathers.

“Coach Alford would be here if he could,” Kelly said. “I thought he needed to be back with his family. Our prayers and wishes are out to him. And then Alex Bullard, his dad is fighting a similar battle and we gave him the opportunity to go home this morning. That’s why our team was out on the field a little bit later, making sure we were passing our respects on to the families.”

 

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.