ESPN names ND's top five players

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Brian Bennett of ESPN.com had a nice rundown of the Notre Dame’s top five players, in addition to the Blue Ribbon Preview of the Irish that’s running between pop-up advertisements for “The Decision,” starring LeBron James.

Their analysis of the Irish for next season:

Notre Dame’s golden dome has lost some of its shine over the last
decade, but the Fighting Irish still have some of the best talent in the
FBS. The question is whether that talent will mesh with first-year
coach Brian Kelly’s new systems.

The biggest adjustment will be on offense, where Notre Dame will run the
spread under first-year starting quarterback Dayne Crist. If Crist
grasps the spread, the offense will be successful.

Defensively, the Fighting Irish are better suited to run Kelly’s 3-4.
Most of Notre Dame’s tougher games are in September and October. If this
team can make it to November disaster-free, it should have no trouble
winning eight games. The BCS, however, might be a year or two away.

Certainly nothing mind-blowing, but they’ve got a decent enough breakdown of the offense, defense and special teams if you’re looking for a cliff notes version of the Irish.

As for Bennett’s breakdown of the top five players, I found this a bit more interesting.

Here’s his list, and I’ll recap his rationale:

No. 5: Dayne Crist — No way to prove Crist will do it, but QBs thrive in BK’s system.
No. 4: Darius Fleming — Upside pick, the 3-4 should help turn Fleming into a sack artist.
No. 3: Kyle Rudolph — Should be regarding as nation’s best receiving tight end.
No. 2: Manti Te’o — Even while lost, he was one of top playmakers. All the tools to be a star.
No. 1: Michael Floyd — Injuries the only Kryptonite for MMF. If healthy, one of best in NCAA.

It’s always a little sports-talk radio when doing lists like this, but I actually love this topic, and would like to see this extended into the Top 25 Irish players on the roster.

(Consider this my new summer project…)

If I had to nitpick Bennett’s list, I’d flip-flop Rudolph with Te’o, and possibly even put Rudolph to the top of the list with Floyd coming in at number two. After talking with some people on staff, it’s pretty clear that they think Rudolph is an absolute specimen, and has the toughest decision on the roster for leaving early next year, more so than Floyd.

Also, while I’m bullish on Fleming this year, and think Bennett’s rationale for increased sacks is absolutely spot-on, I’d like to see Chris Stewart at the top of this list, most likely ahead of Crist, who’s only completed 10 of the 20 throws he’s made in his first season of action. Dayne is certainly the key to the season and has the potential to be the best football player on the roster, but putting him among the top five without having started a game is a little premature. 

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.