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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”