Tuesdays with BK: Navy edition

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As he does every Tuesday, Brian Kelly threw on a suit and addressed the assembled media for his weekly press conference. On tap this week, a date with the pesky Naval Academy.

Here’s a snippet of what BK said:

 

As usual, here are a few observations:

During an interesting exchange, Kelly was asked about the difference in using a 3-4 alignment against the triple-option as opposed to using a 4-3, with Eric Hansen asking if in theory, a 3-4 is a better fit against Navy’s attack.

Kelly agreed:

“I think you could probably make the case for it. We’ve defended in four
down and three down. We’ll continue to blend and mix up,” Kelly said. “It still comes
down to assignment football, getting off blocks whether you’re in the
three down or four down. Provided you start with the premise that you’re
fundamentally sound. After that, three down, four down, you’re still
defending inside out across the board.”

I’m glad that Kelly made it known that he’ll vary the looks against Navy’s option, something the Irish didn’t seem to do last year. As Kelly said, assignment-correct football is more important than alignment, but giving the Navy offense varied looks and reads is a smart move.

*****

For all the talk that’s been around about Kelly getting into the ear of this player or that one, number one on the list might be a guy you never suspected: Back-up quarterback — and chief signal caller — Brian Castello, who claims he’s the most yelled at player on the roster.

“That’s probably true. I would probably give him that,” Kelly said. “He’s way too smart for me anyway.

“Funny story, we have pass pictures that we give out. It’s probably that
thick, it’s probably 35 pages of pass pictures, all of the diagrams of
every play. He will digest those and find any error in them within 30
seconds.  So if you need your taxes done, that guy — or maybe you don’t want him to do your taxes, but he’s pretty good.”

Castello works as a grader/corrector in Mathematics department, so I’m guessing he’s one-part back-up quarterback, one-part Good Will Hunting.

*****

Kelly expanded on a bit of coaching jargon this afternoon when he talked about Carlo Calabrese’s difficulty playing the curl routes against Western Michigan.

“His responsibility is the curl,” Kelly said. “If you have a drive route underneath or
you have a divot route that is at your level and then bouncing out on to
the flat, you want to chase that because they want to throw the ball
over on the curl route, and he got baited a couple of times.

“The funny thing about it is after the game we ran the same route during
the week and he didn’t fall for it. But that is the nature of football.
18, 19, 21-year-olds not getting caught up in the emotion of the moment,
but staying with what they’ve been coached. He didn’t handle the
emotion of the moment, and consequently there were some completions
there that shouldn’t have been made.”

Carlo has made some great strides this year, but difficulties playing the pass are part of the evolution of becoming a complete linebacker.

*****

Zack Martin is shifting back to left tackle, regardless of whether or not Taylor Dever is healthy.

“We’ll move Zack back to left tackle, and Romine will battle that out,” Kelly said of the right tackle battle.
“Romine’s had two very good consistent weeks. Taylor’s been out, so you
can imagine there may be a little bit of rust there. So both those guys
will battle that position and Zack will move back over to the left,
backed up by Andrew Nuss.”

Good for Matt Romine, who is playing well enough to push for playing time on the right side, and good for Kelly in letting everybody on the roster know that competition battles happen every week and at every position.

*****

Think Shaq Evans is kicking himself? With injuries to both Mike Floyd and Theo Riddick, Shaq would likely be playing meaningful snaps instead of getting only practice reps with the scout team at UCLA.

If there’s reason to be hopeful that Kelly won’t see massive attrition after this season, it’s because he’s shown a willingness to play and develop depth and competition, things that the Charlie Weis regime didn’t seem to stress as much.  

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.