Offseason Cheatsheet: Tight Ends

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The series continues with your Du Lac approved crib-sheet for the upcoming season. For previous entries, check out quarterbacks and running backs here.

POSITION OVERVIEW:

Many worried what the role of the tight end would be in a Brian Kelly offense. But if the Blue-Gold Game and the beginning of fall camp are any indication, the tight end will likely thrive in the new Irish offense, especially with the personnel the Irish have at the position. Kyle Rudolph is arguably the best tight end in the country, and while the junior battles a balky hamstring, he’s also giving back-ups Tyler Eifert and Alex Welch a chance to get noticed. Mike Ragone, who seemingly received a death row pardon from Res Life after his arrest on the Indiana Toll Road for marijuana possession, suffered from heat illness during the steamy fall camp, and has been slow to get back on the field after being hospitalized. Bobby Burger will spend some time as a tight end and H-back and sophomore Jake Golic is battling for playing time as well. None of the injuries will be enough to keep anyone off the field against Purdue, and the stable of talent at tight end makes it one of the deepest positions on the roster.

ROSTER READING:

Short a program? Here’s every tight end listed on the roster:

     No.    Name                   Yr.     Ht./Wt.     Hometown/High School
     41      Bobby Burger      Sr.     6-2/248    Cincinnati, OH (LaSalle)
     80      Tyler Eifert           So.    6-6/242    Fort Wayne, IN (Bishop Dwenger)
     88     Jake Golic            So.    6-4/235    West Hartford, CT (Northwest Catholic)
     83     Mike Ragone        Sr.     6-4/245    Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden Catholic)
      9      Kyle Rudolph        Jr.     6-6/265    Cincinnati, OH (Elder)
     82     Alex Welch           Fr.     6-4/240    Cincinnati, OH (Elder)

KELLY ON TIGHT ENDS:

Kelly on Ragone: “He’s going to move the chains for us and do some things that allow us to get in two tight ends as well. He’s very important in terms of what we’re going to be doing in the fall.”

Kelly on Eifert: “I had some good players at the other schools at that position, but he’s as good as I’ve coached. Now I’ve only coached Eifert. I really haven’t coached Rudolph yet and I hear he’s pretty good, too. But Eifert’s really a good player.”

Charley Molnar on Rudolph: “I think we have the best tight end in the country and in Michael Floyd we probably have one of the best wide receivers in the country. Those are great tools to have.”

CRYSTAL BALL:

For the Irish offense to be high octane, they’ll need a healthy Kyle Rudolph, something the Irish didn’t have as they collapsed down the stretch last season. Right now, Rudolph is a preseason All-American for the potential and ability he has, not necessarily for the numbers he’s put up in his two seasons. If there’s a player that’s forced himself into the limelight, it may be Tyler Eifert, someone many worried might not recover from a serious back injury. He’s pushed tight end Mike Ragone back to number three, where he’s battling true freshman Alex Welch, who was singled out for his great fall camp. That much depth is a nice problem to have if you’re offensive coordinator Charley Molnar. Also I expect multi-purpose weapon Bobby Burger to be utilized in some formations, either out of the backfield or attached to the line of scrimmage.

POSITION STRENGTH:

B+ The only proven commodity at the position is Rudolph, but if we’re to believe anything we’ve heard from the coaching staff, the depth — however untested it may be — could be the strength of the position.

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half 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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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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