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.)

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

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)

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.



Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”