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Kelly adds Floyd and Rudolph to his recruiting list

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Brian Kelly addressed the media as he discussed the Irish schedule heading into their December 31st date with the Miami Hurricanes in El Paso. We’ve got plenty of time to discuss some of the intricacies of the bowl preparation, but one comment should likely steal most of the attention from today.

After avoiding the topic for much of the regular season, Kelly came out openly as he pushed hard for wide receiver Michael Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph to stick around for their senior seasons.

“We’re heavily recruiting them,” Kelly said candidly. “We’re recruiting them for Notre Dame. But they’ve got to make decisions. We’ve already begun the early evaluation process for them, they’ve asked, both of them.”

That Floyd and Rudolph would request the NFL advisory committee to give them an idea of their draft ranking should be a surprise to absolutely nobody, and might be the best thing to happen if the Irish want to keep either Floyd or Rudolph around for a senior season. Kelly alluded to the fact that neither Jimmy Clausen nor Golden Tate did that after big junior seasons led them to leave Notre Dame early.

“Last year, I don’t know if either one of those players even asked to be evaluated early,” Kelly said. “They were going to go. Both of these men asked to be evaluated by the NFL committee. We should be able to get some information on where they’re projected to go in the next few weeks.”

Kelly’s philosophy here is obviously different than the one employed by former head coach Charlie Weis, who had many more connections to the NFL through his coaching tree than Kelly. Still, if Tate or Clausen didn’t get a draft grade by the advisory board, you’ve got to think they were dealing with some pretty faulty information when deciding whether or not to forgo their senior season at Notre Dame. This might have been a case where Weis’ NFL relationships actually hurt his players, providing biased information to both Irish stars last year instead of an accurate predictor of where Clausen or Tate would end up.

It’s easy to play a guessing game now, but another year of Clausen or Tate in college wouldn’t have hurt either players’ draft standing, barring a major injury. If you look at the work that Floyd did becoming a more complete wide receiver and the QB-friendly system Clausen would’ve learned, it’s doubtful that he’d have been picked any later than 48th, regardless of guys like Andrew Luck and Jake Locker in the draft.

Still, the wildcard in all of this is the uncertainty of the labor agreement between the NFL and its players union. There’s no one out there that truly has any idea when this will get settled and what the landscape will look like after a new agreement has been reached, and what the timeline for signing draft picks will be.

It’s easy for those of us not making a multi-million dollar decision to say that your senior season at Notre Dame is priceless. But for the legacy of two great players, both Floyd and Rudolph could become immortal as Irish players if they sign up for one more autumn in South Bend.

Drue Tranquill named first-team Academic All-American

Drue Tranquill
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Drue Tranquill was named a first-team Academic All-American. The junior safety, who returned from his second major knee injury during his three-year career, earned the honors after posting a 3.74 GPA in mechanical engineering.

Tranquill is Notre Dame’s first academic All-American since Corey Robinson earned the honor after the 2014 season. He finished second on the team in tackles with 79 and lead the team in solo stops with 52. He also had two TFLs and an interception.

Tranquill is Notre Dame’s 60th Academic All-American, the third-most of any school behind Nebraska and Penn State. He’s active in the university community, serving as a mentor for the Core Leadership Team for Lifeworks Ministry, and is a member of Notre Dame Christian Athletes. He is a also member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and Rosenthal Leadership Academy.

 

Postseason Mailbag: Now Open

SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 12: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field before the start of their game against Army in a NCAA college football game at the Alamodome on November 12, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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It’s been too long. Let’s talk about the season, the decisions ahead and where Notre Dame stands after its nightmare of a 2016 season.

Drop your questions on Twitter @KeithArnold or in the comments below.

 

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If you’re interested in hearing my recap on the USC game and where Notre Dame’s goes now that the season is over, give a listen to the latest episode of Blown Coverage, with Newsweek’s John Walters. 

 

Report: Zaire set to depart with graduate transfer

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The wheels are in motion for Malik Zaire‘s exit from Notre Dame. What felt like an inevitability after Zaire lost out to DeShone Kizer after the Texas game is now a reality, as the Ohio native is expected to receive his release tomorrow, according to a report from Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated.

Sampson identified four programs as potential landing spots for Zaire: Florida, Pitt, Michigan State and Wisconsin, Power Five programs that all had better seasons (minus the Spartans) than Notre Dame. All have uncertainty atop their quarterback depth chart, though none look like guaranteed jobs.

With Notre Dame out of a bowl, Zaire can get a jump start on looking around, capable of taking visits and finding a home after the semester. That would let him join a program in time for spring drills, where he’d compete and be able to play out his final year of eligibility.

When Zaire leaves he’ll join a line of recent quarterbacks to finish their eligibility elsewhere. Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix, Gunner Kiel and Everett Golson all either played or were recruited by Brian Kelly and finished their careers elsewhere. That could leave a scenario—one many predict—where the top-two on Notre Dame’s depth chart depart, Kizer to the NFL and Zaire elsewhere, turning the keys over to Brandon Wimbush who redshirted this season.

Tillery apologizes for actions during USC game

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Sophomore Jerry Tillery issued an apology for two controversial incidents against USC. Notre Dame’s defensive tackle was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a referee caught him stepping on Zach Banner‘s ankle. Cameras also spotted him intentionally hitting Aca’Cedric Ware‘s head after the Trojan running back was injured after a collision with Nicco Fertitta.

Tillery wrote on Twitter:

“I want to take full responsibility for my actions on Saturday. I am truly sorry. I acted in a way that was out of character for me. What I displayed in those two instances were completely unbecoming and not indicative of the kind of player or person I am. My actions in those two instances do not represent what my family or Notre Dame has molded me to be. I want to especially apologize to Aca’Cedric, Zach, their families and anyone else affected by what I did. I assure you I will learn and grow from this moment and become a better man because of it.”

While the backlash on social media has been harsh, USC head coach Clay Helton downplayed it.

“It was a poor decision by a young person. I know it’s not Notre Dame football and I know that’s not Brian Kelly,” Helton said. “He’s been a class act the whole way and I know he’ll address it with his player and handle it in a way that he sees fit. I have always found Brian to be a man of class and integrity.”

Ware himself responded via Twitter, doing his best to put the incident to rest.

Kelly stated after the game that he’d review the incidents, both plays Kelly didn’t see happen live. With the season over, Tillery’s discipline will be handled internally.