Brindza reaffirms commitment to ND (and other notes)

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Kicker Kyle Brindza reaffirmed his commitment to the Irish for the 2011 recruiting class, both Irish Illustrated and Irish Sports Daily report.

Brindza’s commitment to the Irish was unique, even for a position that’s fully of, well… “unique” players. Brindza is just completing his junior year at Plymouth High in Canton, Michigan and he not only was offered a scholarship from the Irish, but had hoped to skip his senior season in high school and enroll at Notre Dame in time for next season.

The move didn’t get approved by university admissions, and Brindza opened up his commitment, taking closer looks at Vanderbilt and the in-state Wolverines. After heading back to South Bend last weekend, it appears that Notre Dame has its kicker for next year’s recruiting class all locked up.

“I just wanted to make sure it’s the right place and it is,” Brindza told ISD. “I’m going to try and get in in January. I’m just really excited to play my senior football season and then be Fighting Irish for sure.”

The decision to delay admission for Brindza might be better for him anyway. With incumbent Nick Tausch only going into his sophomore season and David Ruffer providing depth along with Brandon Walker, there’s a back-log of kickers creating a scholarship imbalance on the roster. With Brindza enrolling in the 2011 class, he’ll be able to redshirt a season if he doesn’t beat out Tausch and still have four full years of eligibility remaining during Tausch’s senior season.

* Head coach Brian Kelly will be honored Saturday night in Washington, D.C. by the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. The Foundation matches a child in need with a college or high school athletic team, forming a bond between the players and coaches and the child and family, while helping to improve the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors.

Kelly and the Bearcats adopted 12-year-old Mitch Stone, who is battling a pediatric brain tumor in Cincinnati.

“There are some things in the world that are bigger than football,” Kelly said at the adoption ceremony of Mitch back in July of 2009. “For out players, coaches, and staff to be able to support Mitch and the entire Stone family through his battle with cancer is a blessing to all of us. Our players have already embraced Mitch, sending him emails and posting notes on his website. It just speaks volumes of the kind of student-athletes we have here at the University of Cincinnati.”

Mitch was active with the team the entire season and led Kelly’s Cincinnati team onto the field when they played Virginia Tech in the AllState Sugar Bowl.

* Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins sat down with The Chronicle of Higher Education and discussed briefly the reshuffling of collegiate athletic conferences. While the quotes were minimal, they hit on a few familiar topics, including independence perks like games in Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl.

“I would worry that joining the Big Ten would regionalize us,” Father Jenkins said. “If we were regionalized, we wouldn’t be playing in those areas.”

He also made the same analogy I did back in early March, comparing the realignment discussions to a game of musical chairs. (I wonder if he’ll get the same hate emails?)

“It’s like musical chairs,” Father Jenkins said. “You don’t want to be left standing when everybody else has a seat.”

Expect the conference discussion to stick around for the next few months, if only because it’s an incredibly juicy topic that has implications that will ripple across universities throughout the country.

(That, and because there’s little else to talk about this time of year.)

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

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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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

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UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.