Week one depth chart released

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While Brian Kelly doesn’t address the media until tomorrow, the two-deep depth chart for Purdue has been released.

Here’s the depth-chart on offense (returning starters in CAPS):

WR 7   TJ Jones 5-11 187 Fr.
       18 DUVAL KAMARA 6-4 225 Sr.

WR 6 Theo Riddick 5-11 198 So.
       19 Robby Toma 5-9 175 So.

LT 70 Zack Martin 6-4 290 So.
     77 Matt Romine 6-5 292 Sr.

LG 59 CHRIS STEWART 6-5 351 Sr.
      66 Chris Watt 6-3 310 So.

C 52 Braxston Cave 6-3 301 Jr.
    51 Dan Wenger 6-4 298 Sr.

RG 78 Trevor Robinson 6-5 295 Jr.
       57 Mike Golic Jr. 6-3 290 Jr.

RT 75 Taylor Dever 6-5 297 Sr.
      76 Andrew Nuss 6-5 297 Sr.

TE 9 Kyle Rudolph 6-6 265 Jr.
     80 Tyler Eifert 6-6 242 So.

WR 3 Michael Floyd 6-3 227 Jr.
       81 John Goodman 6-3 207 Jr.

QB 10 Dayne Crist 6-4 235 Jr.
       13 Tommy Rees 6-2 210 Fr.

RB 5 Armando Allen Jr. 5-10 205 Sr.
      20 Cierre Wood 6-0 210 So.

Some quick observations:

* TJ Jones beat out Duval Kamara for the outside spot opposite Michael Floyd. Obviously, Kamara is still going to see the field, but this is impressive work by Jones, who obviously has done nothing but wow people since arriving on campus.

* It’s also a surprise to see Robby Toma’s name in the two-deep. Many were shocked when Toma worked his way into the rotation last season, and he’s done the same thing this season, continuing to outwork and out-perform some highly touted recruits.

* The battle for the back-up quarterback seems to have gone to Tommy Rees, who is listed behind Dayne Crist. Kelly’s been complimentary about Rees’ work, so this isn’t exactly a surprise, but I think this could be a week-to-week thing.

* Braxston Cave gets the nod at center, which Dan Wenger conceded last week when discussing his set back with a concussion. This is another job that I think still has a few twists and turns, and if Cave can’t master the mental demands of the position, expect to see Wenger on the field quickly.

* No Shaq Evans on the depth chart. There have been whispers that he’s frustrated, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to find his way onto the field against Purdue in multi-wide packages. We’ll see what kind of football player Shaq is by how he deals with this. 

Defense Depth Chart:

DE 90 Ethan Johnson 6-4 285 Jr.
      94 Hafis Williams 6-1 285 Jr.

NG 95 IAN WILLIAMS 6-2 305 Sr.
      98 Sean Cwynar 6-4 280 Jr.

DE 89 Kapron Lewis-Moore 6-4 283 Jr.
      91 Emeka Nwankwo 6-4 290 Sr.

OLB 45 Darius Fleming 6-2 247 Jr.
         55 Prince Shembo 6-2 243 Fr.

ILB 44 Carlo Calabrese 6-1 240 So.
       54 Anthony McDonald 6-2 238 Jr.

ILB 5 Manti Te’o 6-2 245 So.
      13 Danny Spond 6-2 225 Fr.

OLB 56 Kerry Neal 6-2 245 Sr.
         58 BRIAN SMITH 6-3 243 Sr.

CB 2 Darrin Walls 6-0 190 Sr.
      23 Lo Wood 5-10 178 Fr.

S 22 HARRISON SMITH 6-2 214 Sr.
   15 Dan McCarthy 6-2 205 Jr.

S 26 Jamoris Slaughter 6-0 195 Jr.
    17 Zeke Motta 6-2 210 So.

CB 4 Gary Gray 5-11 190 Sr.
     12 Robert Blanton 6-1 192 Jr.

Some defensive observations:

* I’m not sure if it’s because of injuries, but Danny Spond’s name on the two-deep at inside linebacker is eye-popping. Here’s a 225-pound, true freshman that was a high school quarterback on the depth chart at the Mike ‘backer position. Brian Kelly called Spond a dynamic player, but this is pretty amazing.

* Another freshman finding his way into the two-deep is Prince Shembo. It’s interesting that both Shembo and Spond are backing up two of the defensive cornerstones, but it still means that both of these guys will be ready to play from day one.

* Kerry Neal has the starting spot ahead of incumbent Brian Smith, something that still surprises me, even though Kelly has been mentioning Neal’s name for the past week or two. I’ve got a feeling that Smith, Neal, and Steve Filer will be seeing plenty of the field this weekend.

* Carlo Calabrese is the starting inside ‘backer opposite Manti Te’o, and Anthony McDonald is on the depth chart as well, meaning he’s at least questionable for the game this Saturday. We’ll likely hear more about the injuries to both McDonald and Steve Paskorz, but if you’re looking for a position thin on depth, middle linebacker is one of them for sure.

* No real surprises in the secondary, but I’m interested to see how the DBs come out and play after the mediocre season they had last year. If there’s a position coach that I’m confident in, it’s Chuck Martin, and we’ll see if he earns his keep come Saturday.

 

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.

 

 

 

ESPN’s Kiper & McShay: Kizer should return to Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 29: DeShone Kizer #14 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish drops back to pass during the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Notre Dame Stadium on October 29, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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It’s evaluation season. With college football’s regular season over, the focus now turns to the stay-or-go decision that faces many of college football’s best players. Return for another season? Or head to the NFL?

That’s the big question facing DeShone Kizer. Viewed as a can’t-miss prospect by some earlier in the season, Kizer now awaits feedback from the NFL’s advisory board, who’ll give him either a first-round grade, a second-round grade, or none — essentially serving as a message to return to school.

That feedback is something Kizer’s requested, with Brian Kelly revealing that Kizer is one of four underclassmen requesting a review, joined by Mike McGlinchey, Nyles Morgan and Quenton Nelson. 

And while most still think it’s merely a formality before Kizer heads to the NFL, two of the media’s most well-established pundits, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, are among those who actually think Kizer should stay in school.

In ESPN’s 25 questions about the 2017 NFL Draft, Kiper and McShay focus their attention on potential first-round quarterbacks:

There’s really only one guy right now, and he might not even enter the draft. That’s North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, a fourth-year junior who is in his first season as the starter. Trubisky has thrown 28 touchdown passes to only four interceptions, but he’s still green — with another year of seasoning, he could be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. He’s not ready to play right away in the NFL.

I don’t see any other first-rounders in the group. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, a third-year sophomore, has to go back to school. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has taken a step back this season. Underclassmen Luke Falkand Patrick Mahomes could use another year in school, and they don’t project as first-rounders.

McShay echoed Kiper’s evaluation of Kizer, stating: “Kizer needs another year.” And if the Irish get that, it means they’ll have a 1-2 depth chart of a third-year starter in Kizer and junior Brandon Wimbush, who saved a year of eligibility in 2016 and has three remaining.

Kizer’s been clear that he hasn’t made up his mind, planning on talking with his family about the decision in the weeks following the season. And with the year-end banquet this weekend with Notre Dame hosting the “Echoes,” that decision might come sooner than later.

Last year, the NFL draft wasn’t kind to the Irish roster. Four key players gave up eligibility to head to the NFL, with Ronnie Stanley going in the Top 10 to the Baltimore Ravens and Will Fuller joining him as a first-round selection after going to the Houston Texans. Even injured, Jaylon Smith was taken near the top of the second round by Dallas and C.J. Prosise was a third-round selection of the Seattle Seahawks.

Underclassmen have until January 16th to declare.

 

Swarbrick discusses the state of Irish football program

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Jack Swarbrick spoke extensively about the state of the Notre Dame football program. Released last Friday and a part of Swarbrick’s weekly podcast, the Irish athletic director covered the laundry list of hot-button issues, including Brian Kelly’s status, the NCAA order to vacate wins that Notre Dame is appealing, and the challenge of winning football games in today’s environment.

The entire 25 minutes are worth a listen, as Swarbrick and Nolan cover just about every question and complaint that’s out there. And in case you don’t have that time, here’s a quick breakdown:

 

Swarbrick on the 2016 season. 

“It was an extremely disappointing year. Every player, every coach, myself, other administrators involved in the program, we all share the same view. There’s no way around that conclusion. It’s not bad breaks, it’s not a play here, a play there. We didn’t do what we need to do. So we do start from that perspective.

“I think there’s a danger in overreacting to any one piece of information that you get in the course of the evaluation of football programs. That begins with, it looks one way from a this-season perspective, but it feels a little different to me from a two-season perspective.”

 

Swarbrick on the evaluation process: 

“I’m looking at the program. Wins and losses are a huge indicia of where the program is, but it’s not the only one. More important to me, frankly, is the experience of our students. My interaction with them and what their interactions with the coaches, and the environment and are we meeting their expectations. Now, we clearly didn’t meet their expectations competitively this year, because they want to win, too. But on many of the other things, the program elements are in good shape.”

 

On the off-field issues, and the challenges that faced the football team this fall. 

“I don’t want to do anything to minimize the disappointments, whether they’re competitive or unacceptable behavior in the last game at USC by one of our players, obviously, which just isn’t acceptable, it isn’t okay. The disciplinary issues we had to deal with at the front of the year, none of those are acceptable, all of those go into the evaluation, but those are the only ones that sort of get the public scrutiny. I’m dealing with the other 120 young men who are for the most part like my co-host James (Onwualu), doing everything right, making every right decision, having a real positive experience. You’ve got to look at it all, not just isolated elements of it.

 

Discussing the disappointment of the NCAA’s ruling to vacate wins and why the university is appealing: 

“If you’d merely expelled the students, you wouldn’t get this penalty. But because you went though an educative process and kept them in school and adjusted credits and made those things, you subjected yourself to this penalty. That seems like a bad message to send, but that’s one that we’re continuing to advocate for down the road.”

 

On the challenges of winning in today’s college football, as opposed to 30 years ago. 

“I think undoubtedly it is harder. Now, people from that era may have a different view. But there are things that make it harder. But it doesn’t make any difference. It’s harder to win basketball games than it was back then. It’s harder to do a number of things.

“We don’t treat any of that as an excuse or a reason to have different goals. I sort of embrace that. Some of those things that you might view as obstacles are ultimately the things that we have to offer young people. It is the eliteness of the institution and the quality of the education. You can’t say it’s an obstacle and then talk about how great it is because it helps you. That’s the way it is. I wouldn’t trade anything for the circumstance we now compete in. I think it is exactly what it should be. We have to do a better job with it, that’s all.”

Report: Corey Holmes set to transfer

Irish Illustrated / Matt Cashore
Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated
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Receiver Corey Holmes is transferring from Notre Dame. The junior, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, will look for a new program after earning his degree this summer, Tom Loy of Irish247 reports.

Holmes told Irish247:

“It’s just the best decision for me. I’m graduating this summer and I’m just going to find the best fit for me to finish things up.”

Even after a strong spring, Holmes saw little action this season, though he played extensively against USC in the season finale. He had four catches against the Trojans, a large part of his 11 on the year, also his career total.

That Holmes wasn’t able to find a consistent spot in the rotation is likely a big reason why he’s looking for a new opportunity. After opening eyes after posting a 4.42 40-yard dash during spring drills, the Irish coaching staff looked for a way to get Holmes onto the field. But after losing reps at the X receiver on the outside, Holmes bounced inside and out, never finding a regular spot in the rotation, playing behind Torii Hunter Jr. and Kevin Stepherson on the outside and CJ Sanders and Chris Finke in the slot.

Holmes has two seasons of eligibility remaining, redshirting his sophomore season. Because he’ll earn his degree this summer, he’ll be able to play immediately next year. Irish 247 reports that Holmes is looking at Miami, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and North Carolina, though he’ll have a semester to find other fits.