Courtesy of Asheville Citizen-Times

Councell, Golson thrive in Shrine Bowl

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The game didn’t seem to be much of a contest, but two Irish prospects stood out during the annual Shrine Bowl, where South Carolina beat-up on North Carolina 42-10 in Spartanburg, South Carolina yesterday.

Both quarterback Everett Golson and outside linebacker Ben Councell played good football during the game, but more importantly, impressed during a week of practice that in many years is more revealing than the game itself.

Reporting from the game, Rivals.com’s Mike Farrell was largely underwhelmed by the play of big-time quarterback recruits Marquise Williams, Vad Lee, Everett Golson and Justin Worley, all but Lee holding offers from Brian Kelly and the Irish staff. But Farrell singled out Golson for having the best game.

Of the four, it was clear that Golson had the best game. He completed 9 of his 15 attempts for 79 yards and had a couple nice runs as well. Most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over and also connected on a touchdown pass. However, the others didn’t fare as well.

While quarterback play in an All-Star game with only a week of practice is largely a mixed bag, it’s got to be excited for Irish fans to have the best quarterback in the lot of the four blue-chippers playing. Even more impressive, the one prospect that probably turned more heads than anybody but the nation’s No. 1 prospect Jadeveon Clowney was Irish recruit Ben Councell. Councell led the North Carolina team with 13 tackles, a sack, and 1.5 tackles-for-loss, while blocking a punt as well. Even more impressive than his play in the game was the practice reports, which included blurbs like these:

From Monday:

Councell has that OLB/DE hybrid look, being long, lean and rangy. During 11-on-11 he was hell on wheels, flying free coming from the right edge wreaking havoc in the backfield and not allowing quarterbacks to even get a good look down field. His frame will allow him to add at least 30 more pounds so it is not impossible for him to eventually become an every-down defensive end. He did show the ability to turn his hips as he had a nice interception in the afternoon session. For me he was definitely one of the most surprising athletes on the North Carolina squad.

From Wednesday:

Kris Frost is more athletic and Stephone Anthony is stronger, but something has to be said about Councell’s smarts and ability to read the play. He is always around the ball, doesn’t take false steps and is very good in coverage especially in the flat. He had yet another interception on the day and a couple of nice plays where he blew things up at the line of scrimmage.

For the week:

Councell is skinny on the hoof, but he is sneaky fast, very smart and so smooth in his drops you’d think he was born to cover backs in the flat. He anticipates the play very well, doesn’t overcommit and he is physical upon arrival to the football. He has good ball skills and gets the proper depth in coverage making him a threat to pick off passes in college. Perfect as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, he could also be a situational pass rusher in a 4-3 defense because he loves to come off the edge. Once he adds some weight and much needed upper and lower body strength, he will be a solid and steady linebacker at the next level who can also get after the quarterback.

Councell isn’t one of those “names” that get Irish fans uber-excited about his arrival in South Bend, but after a week like this, expect his recruiting star to rise. (Anyone being described as “hell on wheels” should have Irish fans excited.) From the sounds of the practice reports, Councell is a perfect fit to replace Kerry Neal and Brian Smith at the drop linebacker position almost immediately, especially after a summer in strength coach Paul Longo’s training program.

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.