Minter sees big things for ND with Kelly, Diaco

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Late last week, former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rich Minter spoke with the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen and Darin Pritchett on WSBT 960 AM. They covered a variety of topics, and eventually got around to discussing Minter’s time at Notre Dame under both Lou Holtz and Charlie Weis, and his time working with new head coach Brian Kelly at Cincinnati, where Minter returned as an assistant to work under Kelly after being the head coach of the Bearcats from 1994 to 2003.

You can listen to the entire interview here (with the Notre Dame discussion starting around the 5:30 mark), but if his comments are any indication, Rick Minter is a gigantic Brian Kelly fan.

“I worked for Lou Holtz three times, and I really don’t think it’s going to talk long for people to start making some of these favorable comparisons, because I do think that BK is the right guy for the job at this time at Notre Dame,” Minter said.

While he spent a great deal of time complimenting Kelly as a head coach and a leader, Minter also had rave reviews for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who came to South Bend as a somewhat unproven coach.

Minter addressed that very issue with Kelly in the days before he decided to take the job in South Bend.

Minter told Kelly:

“I really think you should think hard about taking what people perceive as a young unproven defensive coordinator,” Minter recalled.
 
“When I think about Bobby, I really believe he’s a rising star in the business. He’s tremendously high character, he’s very well spoken, he’s a high intellect guy, a high energy guy, I’ve never worked with him personally, I’ve only gathered this in a few conversations and I know the people that he knows, and how high he’s held in their regard, I trust their opinion. I think he’s truly a young star on the rise.”

The hiring of Diaco reminded Minter of the decision Charlie Weis made when he decided to replace Minter and bring in a younger defensive coordinator who would install the 3-4 defense that Weis knew from his days in New England.

“What Charlie thought he was getting when he let me know, he really
wanted a Bobby Diaco type guy. He didn’t get it, but that’s what he
wanted. That’s what he tried to get when he hired Corwin. But Bob Diaco
really is that guy. He came out of the pedigree of Belichick, Parcells,
Al Groh… I just think the timing is right to come in an implement a
3-4 defense.”

On the subject of the 3-4 defense, Minter himself has come around on the scheme, having run only a 4-3 base for much of his career. He also thinks that a 3-4 will help Notre Dame when it comes to putting together a front-line defense.

“One of the toughest things to recruit is a true-SEC looking front-four. It’s not impossible, but you have to develop them. You rarely get the ready made 280 to 300 pound kid that can come in and make a difference in a 4-3 scheme. But I believe that Notre Dame is a perfect place to come in and run a 3-4 defense.

“I did not do that when I was there, my background was a 4-3. But I truly believe after
having evolved over the last three years into much more of a 3-4 guy. that those are the kind of players that you can indeed recruit nationwide at ND. It’s going to rely on length, strength development, on intelligence, on toughness, on being sound and very coachable high character kids. I’ve already noticed the kind of kids they signed this first class, the kids they’ve already got committed. Just look at the front-four, front-five type guys, they’re these 6-5 to 6-6 guys, that are 215 to 225, let Longo have them, develop them. Guys that can run, guys that are smart, that are hard nosed and will play with great leverage.”

It’s not hard to notice the strategy that Kelly and company took during his first recruiting campaign, where size and length were one of the most important characteristics when profiling an athlete. They’ve continued to go after rangy “big skill” athletes that can develop in a strength and conditioning program that Kelly truly values.

Really illuminating stuff from Minter, a guy who has seen a lot of football under three of the last five football coaches at Notre Dame. 

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.