McDaniel wins player of the year award in Texas 5A football


The contrarian among Notre Dame fans would look at the Irish’s recruiting class and see a running back haul that’s a bit thin, especially after the high profile defection of Justice Hayes to Michigan and the loss of Savon Huggins to home state Rutgers.

But the Irish did reel in one running back, Coppell Texas’ Cam McDaniel, who committed on the spot to an Irish offer at the end of November. And while skeptics look at the undersized (and white) running back with limited big program offers, they should also take note that McDaniel dominated competition at the highest level of Texas high school football, no small feat.

As Brian Town of writes, while the recruiting services might not have McDaniel ranked among the best players in his state, he accepted the Ford Motor Company’s “Built Ford Tough Player of the Year” award for class 5A last night in Cowboys Stadium.

Here’s more from Town on the qualifications of the award:

To be eligible for this award a player had to be nominated once throughout the 10-week season as the “Ford Built Tough Player of the Week.” Then at the end of the season, Ford and its advisory board, would choose one player from each of the classes to be Player of the Year. The criteria for judging included:

1. The performance on the field, including significant stats from that weeks game.

2. How they contributed to their team success through their individual leadership abilities.

3. Their success off the field, including academics and community citizenship.

McDaniel was nominated in week nine of the 2010 season for his performance against Keller, in which Coppel won 56 – 16.

He carried the ball 20 times for 265 yards and four touchdowns (33, 79, 20 and 59 yards). He also returned a punt 80 yards for another touchdown, giving him five in the game.

“I was a little bit surprised,” said McDaniel. “It was just an honor to be there with all those guys, 55 or so tremendous athletes, I mean it was fun.

“I’m giving all the praise and glory to God on this, he’s just good all the time. It’s just a tremendous honor to be named one of the top players in the state.”

On Signing Day, running backs coach Tim Hinton mentioned he saw a lot of Danny Woodhead in his new running back. Woodhead was passed over by the home state Nebraska Cornhuskers and instead went on to a record-setting career at Chardon State, where he rushed for 1,840 yards as a freshman and left the D-II ranks as a two-time national player of the year before breaking out this year with the New England Patriots.

Obviously, playing high school football at the highest level in Texas is a different story than playing for North Platte High in Nebraska, and Woodhead’s exploits on the field — as well as his elite speed in high school — probably separate him from McDaniel. That said, if the Irish are looking for a skill player to make an impact this season, it could come from a guy like McDaniel, who was one of the best punt returners in Texas and could immediately bolster a punt return game that ranked 101st in the nation.

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

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

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)

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.