Fantasy Camp: Play like a champion today

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It looks like we all made it. Most of us are nursing a tender muscle or two, but we’re all going to run out of that tunnel with the new Irish uniforms on and play in the Blue-Gold Game this afternoon. Special mention should go to teammate Dennis Rios, a 64-year-old warrior, who spent the last two days in a protective boot for an achilles tendon injury, but still got a special mention from defensive coordinator Bob Diaco during a tape session yesterday for his effort and hustle while swarming to the ball carrier.

(Another special mention has to go to Jeff “Country” Balitsos for popping the question to his lovely girlfriend last night… and not getting turned down. Hopefully it’ll help him put up some stats this afternoon.)

The last three days have been a blur. We’ve met just about everyone associated with the Notre Dame football program. From trainers to support staff to the head man himself, this entire week has been a perfect encapsulation of what makes Notre Dame a special place.

Yesterday I sat at lunch with Chris Zorich and Shane Walton, and we both noticed that South Dining Hall used the same bowls that they had when we were in school. Last night I sat at dinner with Mike Elston and we chatted about block destruction and finding time to play golf, a good mix of both football and life.  Even Brian Kelly, between scheduled out-of-town commitments took the time to answer over 20 minutes of questions off-the-record for all the campers, touching on just about every issue out there and handling everything with the polish of some of history’s best politicians, before posing with each and every one of us for a photo. And proving he’s a smart man, Bob Diaco loves Ritter’s frozen custard, which just so happens to be steps from our hotel.

As for now, game day is under way. We’ll head to our pregame training table meal, experiencing first hand the changes to the Irish meal plan that went into effect this winter. We’ll walk to the Notre Dame Basilica, where Father Doyle will say mass for the team, just as he will on Saturdays this fall. After running out of the tunnel, we’ll go through the same rehearsed pregame warm up that the Irish do, before playing four 15-minute quarters to determine the champions of the Notre Dame Fantasy Football camp.

There’s been a lot of trash talking going on between players and staff between the two teams. Let’s just say my Gold Team is heavily favored, and Coaches Diaco, Martin, Hinton, Warinner, Carpenter, and Booker will hopefully be eating well at lunch on Friday. That said, we’re taking nothing for granted, and inside Notre Dame Stadium, anything can happen.

Onward to victory… 

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.