Walls not taking the bait from Baldwin

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“I never even heard of him before we played them last year.”

Those were the words of Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, talking about fellow Pittsburgh native Darrin Walls, one of the highest-rated recruits to hail from the the area in 2006, two years before Baldwin would catch the eye of colleges nationally.

Even if you’re to believe that Baldwin had never heard of an All-American candidate in his backyard, you’ve got to wonder if the standout Pitt receiver is playing mental games with Walls, a defensive back he got the best of during last year’s match-up between the Panthers and the Irish, when Baldwin went for 142 yards on five catches and a touchdown.

“Everybody was telling me he was from North Hills or Woodland Hills — I’m
not even sure — so I never even knew him before that time,” Baldwin said this week. “He didn’t really press that much, so I can’t really determine if he was
physical from the pressing standpoint. He didn’t tackle
me, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you that… I played a great game last year, so I circled the game on my calendar
for this year and I plan to have a great game this time, too.”

If Walls is looking for bulletin board material, he certainly isn’t taking the bait.

“I’ve seen what he said,” Walls said Wednesday. “I really don’t care really about it. I know
that I’m a different player from last year, and so is he. I don’t
really talk much, and we’ll see a lot on Saturday.”

Walls’ junior season was a disappointing one, as he struggled to return to form after sitting out the 2008 season for personal reasons. Walls talked about how hard it was to watch from the sidelines the last time Pitt came into Notre Dame Stadium, when they walked away with an overtime victory.

“The year off, it was tough watching at home. But I kept my energy up
and my kept talking to the guys, and my spirits didn’t get down too
much,” Walls said. “I came up for the game, and it was tough watching knowing
that I could have and should have been out there with my teammates.
But yeah, I was down on the sidelines when the game went into overtime
and it was tough watching, but I mean, I was rooting for my team, and we
didn’t get it done, so it was tough.

Darrin was given a fresh start by the new coaching staff and has embraced it. Earlier this week, head coach Brian Kelly singled out Darrin for his work this season, and said he’s consistently graded out as his top cover corner.

“He’s been outstanding,” Kelly said of Walls. “He’s our best cover corner consistently. He’s played through injury. He’s probably been our most professional and locked-in player. I say
professional from a day-to-day standpoint. He is very purposeful in what
he does. He has been somebody that we can really point to in our senior
class and say that’s mental and physical toughness. He’s displayed that
each and every week.”

Walls was measured when commenting on the tactics the Irish defensive will take to slow down Baldwin and a passing game that’s yet to get up to speed with young quarterback Tino Sunseri. Taking his cue from the mindset Kelly and the staff are drilling into the players, Walls is trying to keep a level head.

“I mean, really just another game for me,” Walls said. “I’m just trying to go out
there and help my team win, and we need to play well and we need
everyone else to play well. That’s the mindset I have going into this
game. It’s big because I’m from Pittsburgh, but the ultimate thing here
is the big three.”

The “big three” Walls refers to is likely much needed win No. 3 for the Irish. If Darrin and his teammates walk away with that, Baldwin will likely know who Darrin Walls is after Saturday.

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.