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2011 in 100 words… Jonas Gray

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Part three of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. Part one looked at Braxston Cave, part two at Sean Cwynar.

Player Overview:

The Irish haven’t had the best of luck with elite running back recruits from the Midwest. The crown jewel of Charlie Weis’ 2006 recruiting class, James Aldridge, never lived up to his five-star billing, and seemed to be plagued throughout his career by a knee injury he suffered during his senior year of high school. Robert Hughes, who came in billed as a top 10 running back in the country, only thrived during the final games of his career. And Jonas Gray, billed as one of the top five running backs in the country, has yet to make any impact on an Irish running attack looking for a bruising tailback.

At 5-10, and 230-pounds of well-proportioned weight, Gray has all the tools to be the powerful running needed to complement the darting style of Cierre Wood. He’ll just need to shore up a spot in the running back rotation, something he’s been unable to do in his first three years, never carrying the ball more than 34 times in a season.

2010 Season:

The Irish entered 2010 with the running back position as stocked as any on the roster. Led by Armando Allen, Gray struggled to get into a rotation that featured Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes as well. Jonas got his first touch of the season against Michigan, picking up 10 yards on his only run and 13 more on a 3rd and long reception from Dayne Crist. Gray picked up a handful of carries against Michigan State and Stanford, before not touching the ball again until bursting onto the scene against Utah, breaking loose in the second quarter against Utah on a 36 yard run, nearly taking it to the house. Gray struggled to do much on his nine carries against Army, finishing the season with an even 100 yards on 20 carries, good for five yards a tote, though pulling out his long run against Utah, it’s closer to 3.3 yards a carry.

100 word preview for Jonas Gray in 2011:

This is it for Jonas Gray, with only 2011 left to fulfill the high expectations of a career so far short on results. Gray finally has the opportunity to seize a prominent role in the Irish offense, and could be the thunder to play opposite of Cierre Wood’s lightning. If the home stretch of last season showed us anything, Brian Kelly and the Irish know they can win football games running the ball behind their veteran offensive line and Gray should be given every chance to play a big part. If not, he can always take solace in dominating Screech.

Importance in 2011:

While the coaching staff is really high on youngster Cameron Roberson, they need the presence of a veteran running back, and Gray looks like he’s ready to seize a larger role in the offense. Year two of Brian Kelly’s offense should mean a more prolific output, and if they can get Cierre Wood and Gray rolling, they’ll be able to do a lot more damage on the ground, building on the 92nd ranked rushing attack in 2010.

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.