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Friday notes: Assistants hit the road

May 7, 2010, 8:59 PM EST

It’s officially the spring evaluation period for college recruiting. Thanks to a recent rule change, head coach Brian Kelly won’t be able to hit the hallways of high schools, but his assistant coaches will.

The Irish coaching staff will fan across the country, with each assistant working their region or position grouping for key recruits. Expect to see Bob Diaco on the east coast, Tony Alford covering Florida, Mike Denbrock on the West Coast, Chuck Martin covering the Midwest, Ed Warinner all across the country meeting with linemen, Kerry Cooks in Texas, Tim Hinton doing his best to lock down the state of Ohio, Mike Elston also working the Southeast as Charley Molnar sets sail to reel in an elite quarterback. There’s only so much time to be on the road, and with Kelly relegated to alumni functions and awards dinners, the assistant coaches will do much of the heavy lifting this spring.

Here are a few interesting headlines from a quiet week of Notre Dame football, as we cross the 120 day mark until the Irish kick things off against Purdue.

* Tim Prister at IrishIllustrated.com broke down the remaining offensive linemen in play for the Irish after receiving big verbal commitments from Matthew Hegarty, Jordan Prestwood, Conor Hanratty, and Tony Springmann.

The Irish have offers out to Maryland tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson, Arkansas’ Brey Cook, Arizona native Cyrus Hobbi, Georgia tackle Watts Dantzler, Colorado tackle Brendon Austin, and Virginia’s Jay Whitmire, according to Prister. If I had to guess the next guy to pledge to Kelly and the Irish, it’d be Austin, although the staff would be happy to take any of the guys on this list.

* It seems Jimmy Clausen didn’t need to show up in a stretch Hummer to get people wondering if he’s still too cocky or a bad teammate. Arriving at Carolina’s mini-camp with a 12-pack of Cactus Cooler that was requested by star teammate Steve Smith, Clausen had all eyes on him during an impressive mini-camp. But it wouldn’t be a football season without some Clausen controversy, and PFT’s Mike Florio seemed to supply it, with a well-placed source claiming that Smith thought Jimmy was “a punk.”

Smith didn’t take too kindly to that quote and has been on a warpath denying a report he labeled “all BS.” He was eager to challenge Florio on-air earlier today, but Mike passed on the confrontation, knowing that he wasn’t going to give up a source that Smith would’ve demanded be named.

Regardless of all the manufactured noise, it was interesting that the reports that did come out about Clausen all kept the familiar theme of his questionable off-the-field personality. Some of the more interesting reports quoted veteran teammates who were surprised that Clausen would reach out to them with text messages and introductions, something maybe not that common with rookies, but something essential in a quarterback expected to lead. If you’re looking for a comparison, there’s no articles questioning Tim Tebow’s decision to reach-out to his new teammates, and Clausen is far closer to seeing the field that Denver’s new first road quarterback is. Jimmy will battle rumors until he’s actually given the opportunity to go out on the field and play football, which I’ve got a hunch comes sooner than later.

* Uber-freshman T.J. Jones is making some noise on the national scene with his surprise ascendancy to the top of the WR depth chart after only a semester at Notre Dame. The guys at Rivals.com took a look at the top early-enrollees who made an impact during spring practice, and they listed Jones and Oklahoma’s Kenny Stills as the two wide receivers that created the most buzz.

Here’s what they had to say about Jones:

Jones, whose first name is Tai-ler, moved his way onto the first team
midway through spring drills and stayed there the rest of the way. He
caught an 18-yard TD pass in the spring game. Notre Dame is looking for a
complementary receiver for star WR Michael Floyd, and Jones could be
that guy. His dad, Andre, was a defensive end at Notre Dame from 1987-91
and played on the Irish’s 1988 national championship team. His uncle is
Philip Daniels, a veteran NFL defensive end.

I’m eager to see what Jones can do out of the slot for the Irish. After watching him during the Blue-Gold game, it’s clear that he’s one of those athletes that won’t shy away from the big stage, a crucial trait for a true freshman that wants to see the field.

* The news that the Pac-10 and the Big 12 are in discussions on a possible collaboration for a television contract is interesting news on the conference realignment front. While Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is out looking for potential additions to the conference as a way to build their TV empire, the Pac-10 and Big 12 are taking creative looks at building their negotiating power with the TV networks without mortgaging the history and affiliations of the conference.

Both the Big 12 and Pac-10 have expiring TV contracts that pay them much less than the Big Ten and the SEC, so they’re looking for every possible way to build leverage, including building a TV network that takes advantage of the fact that six of the nation’s top 13 media markets are in the heart of Pac-10/Big 12 country.

While people consistently believe that the Irish either need to relinquish independence or merely go it alone regardless of the consequences, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott are looking at an outside-the-box solution that could give their universities the revenues needed to compete with the other conferences, while not hurting the other athletic programs at their respective universities.

It’s interesting now that Jack Swarbrick is moving closer to a 6-5-1 scheduling model instead of continuing to try and work with the ridiculous 7-4-1 template Kevin White installed, the Irish could put themselves in a better position to forge creative alliances that could be both lucrative for the university financially while also allowing them to hold on to their independence.

* One final note: It’s SHOCKING, just shocking, to see that NFL defensive rookie of the year and former USC Trojan Brian Cushing has been suspended for performance enhancing drug use. Rumors of steroid use have dogged Cushing since his days at USC, and pictures like this one have been around for years.

Cushing had appealed the suspension, but was rejected earlier today. Cushing will sit out the first four games of next season for the Houston Texans.    

  1. B! - May 8, 2010 at 3:55 AM

    Sure, the story about Smith supposedly calling Clausen “a punk” is juicy, but given the other quotes from Jimmy’s new teammates, I’d bet that the quote is either wholly fabricated or has been taken wildly out of context and twisted around. Oddly (or not) the story with the favorable quotes (http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com/2010/05/clausen-brings-fire-to-panthers.html) isn’t getting nearly the amount of play that the “punk” story has. Just one more example of a press corps that likes to play the role of hater and spread negative quotes from “sources” while ignoring anything nice anyone has to say.
    Panthers OLB Thomas Davis: “I was surprised, but at the same time I was excited about it,” said Davis. “I know he probably had a lot on his mind about draft positioning and where he was expected to go. I think he put all that to the side. He was excited to be a Panther and we definitely embrace him. We’re glad he’s here.”
    How about this quote from Steve Smith? “Somebody told me this one time (and) it really struck me,” he said. “When you run into somebody who’s confident and you’re not as confident, the person who isn’t confident walks away and says ‘Oh, he’s cocky.’ There’s nothing wrong with a guy who believes in himself and feels like he’s the best. I think that’s a good attribute of every competitor.
    “The bottom line is if he can deliver, he can deliver. How he does it, that’s public opinion. But at the end of the day, those people aren’t the people playing on the field.”
    Sounds to me like someone might have heard him saying something along those lines, speaking favorably about his attitude and confidence, and gotten the “punk” quote out of it. But of course, the off-the-record 2-word comments get more attention than the on-the-record sentences.
    Whatever. You come to expect that sort of thing from the media, especially when Notre Dame is involved.

  2. TLNDMA - May 8, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Keith, Brendon Austin committed to Stanford. (whoops) There’s been talk that ND is looking for someone with a little more bulk than Austin as they seem to have a couple guys already with the same type of frame.(Hegarty, Prestwood) With three in the fold, ND is in a position right now where they can be very selective with O-line recruits.

  3. Joe - May 8, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    Who cares what other people think of Clausen. As long as he’s a leader and plays well, that’s the most important thing.

  4. Stupid - May 9, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Clauson could suck or he could be great. Who cares when he got drafted nor what the media says. Also I will be watching for the day when Fag Boy goes on feild, Tebow, and gets smashed in the NFL. I cant stand this False Prophet.

  5. terry - May 9, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    Clausen was a hot dog supreme when announcing where he would go to college.
    That was 4 years ago.
    GET OVER IT
    For most of last season he played with an injury that, had it been properly diagnosed at the time, would have sidelined him for the rest of the season. He could have easily sued the doctors who made the mistake and won some serious bux. He didn’t. To me that says character.
    10 years ago Tom Brady, after being drafted in the 6th round at #199, came up to Robert Kraft and told him that he – Brady – would be the greatest draft pick the Patriots ever made.
    How’s that for cocky?
    Good luck kid.

  6. terry - May 9, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    “a well placed source claiming that Smith thought Jimmy was a punk.”
    If you will NOT identify your “well placed source”, you lay yourself wide open to the accusation of having made up the quote – in other words – if there is no story, make up one.

  7. E-Man - May 10, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    I am very suprised that media outlets are not digging into the whole “Cushing on PEDs” story more, looking back to his USC days. Weren’t the Tang brothers implicated in a steroid scandal while at USC? Wasn’t there talk about some players (Mays, Maluga) exhibiting very violent outbursts at local clubs a-la “roid rage”. There’s a ton of smoke here.

  8. Shazamrock - May 11, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    Being from the Charlotte area I can tell you this, Jimmy has opened some eyes with his play in mini camp so far. He has made some absolutly fantastic throws. The offense, including most of the terminology, is the same as it was at ND. That puts him a lot closer to Matt Moore than a lot of people think.
    Want to guage the Panthers offense? Just watch and listen to Steve Smith. When he is happy and genuinely up beat(not complaining to the media or getting into fights with team mates) that means he is getting the ball earily and often, and the ball is on time and on target.

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