Trevor Robinson

2011 in 100 words… Trevor Robinson

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Part four 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 Sean Cwynar, and part three Jonas Gray.

Player Overview:

Expectations heading into last season were high for Trevor Robinson. Nationally, his name was on the 2010 Outland Trophy Watch List, one of only 63 offensive or defensive linemen listed. Irish fans also expected plenty from Robinson, having played in 22 games heading into his junior season, while battling nagging injuries. When I enlisted a panel of Irish bloggers to rank the returning players on Notre Dame’s roster, Robinson was the squads highest rated offensive lineman.

But a season that had high expectations never fully materialized, and Robinson and fellow veteran guard Chris Stewart both seemed to struggle in Brian Kelly’s new offensive system while first-year starting tackles Zack Martin and Taylor Dever overachieved. Heading into 2011, Martin is likely replacing Robinson as the offensive lineman that’ll see his name listed on preseason watch lists, but Robinson returns with 35 games under his belt, including back-to-back seasons starting at guard, missing only one game in the last two seasons.

2010 Season:

After spending much of the offseason expecting Trevor Robinson to walk in and dominate, it was surprising when Brian Kelly mentioned some of the things he wasn’t doing.

“I don’t know that he was struggling as much as that we had two first-year starters at tackle, and they’ve given up really only two sacks in 99 passing attempts, and one of them was really on the quarterback not reading the play out,” Kelly said last season. “So it was really a challenge to play at the level of a first year starter because he had experience. So I guess we had higher expectations of Trevor and he’s answered the call.”

Kelly attributed Robinson’s struggles to a strength issue, somewhat surprising for a player that spent so much time on the football field in his first two seasons. But in retrospect, maybe it shouldn’t have been unexpected. Robinson was rushed to the field as a true freshman in 2008, starting three times down the stretch as the Irish swooned against Boston College, Navy and Syracuse. He battled through nagging injuries during his sophomore year, starting 11 games at guard and specializing as a pass blocker. (Basically, the Sam Young playbook on how not to develop your offensive linemen.)

Kelly singled out Robinson’s improved play as the year went on and his work was part of what led the resurgence for the Irish running attack.

100 word preview for Trevor Robinson in 2011:

There’s plenty to like about Trevor Robinson, and the Nebraska native has a great opportunity to become a dominant player if he can continue to develop. His 2011 will likely be determined by his offseason work with Paul Longo and his ability to combine the natural talent that won him a starting job as a true freshman with the physicality that comes with four years as a starting guard. The FWAA must’ve seen something in Trevor to put him on an Outland list that only had 18 guards. Irish fans should hope the reporters were just a year too early.

Importance in 2011:

Robinson playing good football on the interior of the offensive line is critical this year. With Dan Wenger not likely to receive a sixth year of eligibility, the interior of the offensive line is incredibly thin on experience and numbers, with only Robinson and Chris Watt playing any significant minutes at guard, and unproven guys like Mike Golic and Andrew Nuss serving as primary backups.

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

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UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

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ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.