Tee Shepard

Elite CB recruit Tee Shepard is commit No. 1 for Irish

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With eleven months to go until next year’s signing day, the Irish notched their first verbal commitment for the 2012 recruiting class. And while it’s hard to get too excited about a verbal commitment that’s far from binding, the Irish reeled in Fresno cornerback Tee Shepard, one of the most coveted cover corners on the West Coast.

IrishSportsDaily.com got the quote of record from Shepard:

“I committed to Notre Dame,” Shepard told IrishSportsDaily.com. “I am happy to get it over with. I didn’t want to play with the other coaches. They have a job to do, and I didn’t want to lead them on. I just wanted to get it out of the way. I mean, I had 27 offers, but I always wanted Notre Dame. I am excited.”

And a runner-up quote from ESPN.com’s Greg Biggins:

“They knew I was going to Notre Dame but thought I would go through the process a little longer,” Shepard said. “For me, it came down to knowing what I wanted to do and just not wanting to waste anyone’s time. The second they offered me, I knew I would be going to Notre Dame so there was no need to drag this out.

“Notre Dame had everything I was looking for. I love the tradition, the new coaching staff and what the school is all about. It’s a privilege to say you attend Notre Dame and I know the program has been down for a few years but they’re turning the corner and I’m excited to be a part of making them the top program in the country once again.”

We learned during the last recruiting cycle that a verbal commitment travels a long and winding round to actually signing on the dotted line, but there’s plenty to get excited about for Irish fans looking at commitment No. 1 for Brian Kelly and the Irish. Here are a few:

COHORTS:

If you’re looking to judge Shepard on his offer list, get ready to be impressed. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound cornerback has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Cal, Miami, UCLA, Washington and USC among the 27 Shepard claims.

PRIORITY:

Shepard was the first cornerback offered by the Irish back in May of 2010, and during the Team USA All-Star game where 2011 commits Matt Hegarty, Stephon Tuitt, George and Josh Atkinson, and Anthony Rabasa played, Shepard was already hinting that he’d be joining the Irish soon.

He’s another great recruiting get by tight ends coach Mike Denbrock in California, who reeled in the Atkinson brothers and Troy Niklas this year, and kept Justin Utupo and Cameron Roberson in the fold in 2010.

STAR RATING:

It’s too early to get star crazy as the major websites haven’t gone through their initial evaluations, but all signs point to Shepard being a Top 100 player in the country, and potentially a five-star recruit.

MESSAGE BOARD INTEL:

This comes courtesy of Fresno Mike, who frequents the ND Nation board, and has probably, actually, shockingly had a chance to see Shepard play with his own eyes, something not many recruitniks can actually say:

His DB coach, Tony Perry, says that he’ll be the best corner that he’s coached. That’s a tall order as this particular area of Fresno (primarily Edison High but now also Central) has sent DB’s coached by Perry to Oklahoma, Michigan, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Cal, Georgia Tech, Arizona, Colorado and Fresno State among other schools over the past 10 years. That includes current Oregon starter Cliff Harris and Arizona starter Robert Golden. Harris has also indicated that Tee could be the best of the bunch. Oregon will be in the hunt also…especially since Harris is in Eugene and they do a great job recruiting this area.

Harris at Oregon. TJ McDonald…now a starting safety at USC. Robert Golden…now a starting corner at Arizona. Tevin McDonald…will start at UCLA this fall as a redshirt freshman. Courtney Viney…scholie to UCLA. Brandon Leslie…scholie to Georgia Tech…now going to Hawaii. Aaron Miller…scholie to Oklahoma. Johnny Sears…scholie to Michigan. Bernard Hicks and Robert Peele…scholies to Cal. Lorenzo Sims…scholie to Colorado. Clifton Smith…scholie to Fresno State and played in ’08 Pro Bowl. All of those kids played at Edison between the ’01 and ’09 seasons and the ’08 team had a starting defensive backfield of Harris, TJ McDonald, Golden and Leslie. Not a bad high school defensive secondary.

Translation: This guy could be good.

CONCLUSION:

It might have taken a little longer than most wanted for that first recruiting domino to fall, but Shepard is the type of recruit that’s worth waiting for. Now all the Notre Dame staff has to do is hold off the rest of the country.

 

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

Notre Dame v Florida State
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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

***

 

Restocking the roster: Offensive Line

Notre Dame offensive line
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When Notre Dame takes the field this spring, there’ll be two very large holes in the offensive line that need filling. All-American left tackle Ronnie Stanley is gone. As is captain Nick Martin at center. Both three-year starters leave Harry Hiestand with some big decisions to make in the coming months as the Irish look to fill those key positions and still field a unit with the ability to dominate in the trenches.

The Irish have had incredible stability at left tackle, with Stanley sliding in seamlessly after four seasons of Zack Martin. Perhaps the best six-year run in the program’s storied history at the position, Stanley will likely join Martin as a first-rounder, back-to-back starters at a key spot that often dictates the play of one of the most important units on the field.

Replacing Nick Martin could prove equally tricky. Rising junior Sam Mustipher served as Martin’s backup in 2015, filing in capably for Martin after an ankle sprain took him off the field briefly against UMass. But Mustipher will face a challenge this spring from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge, the first true center recruited by Hiestand and Brian Kelly since they arrived in South Bend.

Kelly talked about 2017 being a big cycle on the recruiting trail for restocking the offensive line. You can see why when you look at the depth, particularly at tackle. Let’s look at the work that’s been done the previous two classes as Notre Dame continues to be one of the premier programs recruiting in the trenches.

 

DEPARTURES
Ronnie Stanley
, Sr. (39 starts)
Nick Martin, Grad Student (37 starts)

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Tristen Hoge
, C
Trevor Ruhland
, G
Jerry Tillery
, T
Parker Boudreaux
, G
Tommy Kraemer
, T
Liam Eichenberg
, T

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Hunter Bivin, T
Quenton Nelson, LG
Sam Mustipher, C
Steve Elmer, RG
Mike McGlinchey, RT

Alex Bars*, T
Colin McGovern*, G/T
Mark Harrell*, C/G
Tristen Hoge*, C
John Montelus*, G
Jimmy Byrne*, G
Trevor Ruhland*, G

*Has an additional year of eligibility remaining. 

ANALYSIS:
It’ll be a fascinating spring up front for the offensive line. We’ll get our first look at potential replacements and see if the Irish staff values a veteran presence (as it has done in the past) or puts former blue-chip recruits in position to become multi-year starters.

For now, I’m putting last season’s backups in line to ascend to starting spots. That’s not to say I think that’s what’ll happen. Hunter Bivin may have been Stanley’s backup last season, but as long as Alex Bars is fully recovered from his broken ankle, I think he’s the best bet to step into that job. Sharing reps at guard—not a natural spot for Bars to begin with—was more about getting him some experience, with the aim to move him into the lineup in 2016. That allows Bivin to be a key swing reserve, capable of playing on either the right or left side.

At center, the decision is less clear cut—especially since we’ve yet to see Tristen Hoge play a snap of football. Size and strength is a genuine concern at the point of attack for Hoge, not necessarily the biggest guy hitting campus. But it sounds like he’s had a nice first season from a developmental standpoint, and if he’s a true technician at the position, he could be a rare four-year starter at center if he’s able to pull ahead of Mustipher this spring.

On paper, the other three starting jobs don’t seem to be in question. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are ready to step to the forefront. Concerns about Steve Elmer’s buy-in will certainly be answered by spring, there’s little chance he’ll be on the field in March if he’s not going to be around in August. I’m of the mind that Elmer’s too good of a character guy to leave the program, even if his life doesn’t revolve around football 24/7. Now it’s time for him to clean up some of the flaws in his game, the only starter from last season who held back the Irish from being a truly elite group.

Depth isn’t necessarily a concern, but there isn’t a ton of it at tackle. That happens when you move a guy like Jerry Tillery to defensive line and lose a player like Stanley with a year of eligibility remaining. That could force the Irish to cross-train someone like Colin McGovern, a veteran who can swing inside or out if needed. McGovern seems to be a guy who would start in a lot of other programs, but has struggled to crack a two-deep that’s now filled with former blue-chip recruits, all of them essentially handpicked by Hiestand and Kelly.