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Irish notes: Combine, injuries and recruiting

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Before we start digging into the season that was, I wanted to clear a few little notes off the desk. The first is that running back Armando Allen and defensive tackle Ian Williams were the only two Irish football players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. (Obviously, that would change if either Michael Floyd or Kyle Rudolph decide to head to the NFL.) Cornerback Darrin Walls is an alternate.

I can’t say I was surprised that the Irish didn’t get a larger contingency invited, but guys like Chris Stewart, Brian Smith, and Robert Hughes will definitely get looks by NFL teams as well, even if they don’t make the trip to Indy.

Allen receiving an invite to the combine is fortuitous and if he can come back healthy by late February, he’ll have a great chance at making a career of it on Sundays, especially with his versatility out of the backfield. Healthy, he’s the kind of guy that could light up a stopwatch, and the drills in Indy could be somewhere he’ll get noticed.

Williams has also been invited to the Senior Bowl, the best of the college all-star games that serve as a draft showcase.


Nose tackle Sean Cwynar will undergo surgery on his broken foot, suffered during the Sun Bowl against the Hurricanes. Safety Jamoris Slaughter, who’s been plagued by an ankle injury all season will have minor surgery to help clean up some loose cartilage. Slaughter’s season was essentially ruined by the ankle injury he suffered in the season opening game, an injury that forced Zeke Motta into full-time duty opposite Harrison Smith, and had the Irish down to essentially two healthy safeties for much of the year.

Irish fans can officially take a deep sigh of relief as the knee injury Manti Te’o suffered was diagnosed as a mild sprain, meaning there’s no need for anything other than a little rest for the Irish’s tackling machine.


Jake Brown of has a great article on one-time Notre Dame commitment Aaron Lynch, who found some “closure” with the Irish after receiving plenty of backlash for decommitting.

From Brown:

The Seminoles secured Lynch’s commitment on Nov. 16 and Lynch will enroll in Tallahassee after spending a couple days at home following the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

But looking back on how he handled the situation, Lynch has some regrets about how the de-commitment went down. Rather than call Alford to deliver the news, Lynch consulted with his high school coach and sent a text message, then didn’t answer or avoided phone calls.

“I should’ve handled it differently,” Lynch said. “I shouldn’t have sent a text out. I shouldn’t have listened to nobody. I should’ve just called him, that’s how close we were. I regret it and that was foolish of me to do that. So, we didn’t talk for awhile.”

I’m not going to get into the idiotic mindset of fans texting and Facebook-ing recruits, but kudos to Lynch for taking his share of the blame in the entire fiasco.


With the Irish’s lack of depth at safety a concern, it’s interesting that George Atkinson, one of the Irish’s touted wide receiver commitments, is taking all his snaps at the US Army All-American Bowl at safety.

Atkinson still says he’s coming into South Bend as a wideout, but the cross training at safety, especially if Michael Floyd decides to come back to school.


Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.