Weekend leftovers: Plenty to talk about…

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The last few months of Mondays have been a struggle to find blog-worthy items to write about. That certainly isn’t the case anymore, with camp opening up and the Irish ready and working towards Purdue (27 days).

For your best piece of footage, head over to UND.com for some excellent practice video from the opening work out.

A few impressions:

It’s pretty easy to tell that the guys are absolutely jazzed to be practicing. That goes for both the coaching staff and the players, as the energy level and pace are just as electric as they were during spring drills, the benefit of a new coaching staff and a season anew.

If you’re not a Bob Diaco fan yet, after seeing it first hand and then watching him run the defensive drills in practice, expect to see an intensity out of this defensive staff that just didn’t exist in the defense run by Jon Tenuta. You can’t help but think that intensity and energy will help a unit in need of a fresh start.

*****

Preseason All-American Michael Floyd raised a few eyebrows when he reported to camp at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds, a lot of weight to be carrying in an offense that’ll be as quick-paced as Kelly offenses of the past.

Of course, that didn’t stop him from talking about triple cheeseburgers.

Like I do every time I’m home, Floyd spent some of his time at The Nook, a burger joint just past the left field fence of Cretin-Derham Hall’s baseball field and the home of St. Paul’s best burgers.

The Nook has burgers named after some past Cretin greats like Paul Molitor, Joe Mauer, Matt Birk and Jack Hannahan, and if Floyd has anything to say about it, he’ll be the next to get on the menu.

“When I go back the next time, the owner and I will talk about some
kind of funny name for a burger for me,” Floyd said after practice. “I want a triple
burger, something sloppy like that.”

All reports are that the weight Floyd’s carrying is good weight, making him an absolute beast out in space, and poised for a junior campaign that’s highly anticipated.

As for the burgers, The Nook usually waits to name a burger after someone who’s made it to the professional ranks, so Irish fans should be hoping it’s still two years until Michael gets his burger.

*****

Theo Riddick took first-team reps with the wide receivers along side Floyd and freshman TJ Jones, but the move may be short lived, as senior Duval Kamara missed practice because of some outstanding paper work that needed to be returned.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Kelly said of Kamara’s missing paperwork. “He seemed to think he had it all figured out and he didn’t have it all figured out.”

Sounds like someone might be starting fall camp in the doghouse, although there will be plenty of time — and opportunity — available for Duval to make up for it. 

If you’re looking for an interesting training camp battle, look no further than the ball. Senior Dan Wenger must’ve missed the memo that had many people writing him off for Braxston Cave, and he opened camp as the starting center, with Cave nipping at his heels.

*****

Kelly had great things to say about South Bend native Daniel Smith, citing the over-sized newcomer as a pleasant surprise.

“He’s a lot more fluid that I thought he would be,” Kelly said. “We were worried he might grow into a defensive end, but he looked a lot more comfortable.”

Kelly also cited freshmen Austin Collinsworth and Bennett Jackson as two guys that will get an advanced look early in camp. Many pegged Collinsworth as one of the freshman that may switch from offense to defense, but from the reports I’ve been hearing, he’s got a ton of upside at wide receiver. 

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.