Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

Weekend notes: Spring is coming

Leave a comment

With spring practice starting in less than two weeks, any lag in Irish football news will soon be eliminated. (Until then, you can keep up with the Fighting Mike Brey’s, who are doing their best to wake up their own echoes.)

Until then, let’s take a look at a few interesting notes from the past week.

***

Pete Thamel of the New York Times got thirty seconds with Brian Kelly, and to Thamel’s credit, he crammed plenty of omfp into that half-minute, including a nice tidbit on the quarterback situation coming into spring with Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees — is it a controversy or competition?

“Competition,” Kelly said. “Last year at this time, Dayne Crist was appointed or anointed, whatever word you want to use, the heir apparent to Jimmy Clausen. It’s way too much pressure for any kid who had no experience to have on his shoulders. And then he was backed up by no one with any experience. We come into this year with two guys who’ve won football games and a quarterback who fits the system that we recruited. We don’t have Dayne Crist feeling like he has to carry the load of the entire Irish nation on his shoulders. It’s a totally different feeling when you come in and have those dynamics working for you, compared to what it was last year.”

Thamel also asked Kelly what it meant to have Michael Floyd, his six-star recruit, come back for his senior season.

“Part of building a program is the trust you need from your players and in recruiting. When you see a Michael Floyd, who was not recruited by me or this staff, nor was he a guy who had to come back to college, it does a lot toward giving trust to your program. Its like: “Hey, they’re doing the right things here. I’m sticking around.” That is why he got the sixth star from me. That meant here’s a guy who wants to stick around because he believes in what’s going on.”

Thamel also got a quote out of BK for his 7-on-7 story, a scary trend that’s moving quickly across the college football scene thanks to partners like Nike, Under Armor and ESPNU.

***

Recent Irish pledge Taylor Decker visited Notre Dame on Wednesday, less than a week after making his commitment. Needless to say, he’s staying committed.

“That visit definitely reinforced that it was the right decision 100 percent,” Decker to IrishSportsDaily.com. “I love it, I loved being there the whole day.”

Decker spent the day with his recruiter Tim Hinton and offensive line coach Ed Warinner, in between touring classrooms, the Basilica, and the Gug, where he met with strength coach Paul Longo, who no doubt is ready to get his hands on the 6-foot-8, 270-pound lineman.

***

While Jim Tressel has been stealing most of the headlines in college football this week, an interesting story came out of Stanford in the past week, where it appears that some athletes were getting preferential treatment picking classes.

From CaliforniaWatch.org, a “nonpartisan center for investigative reporting:”

A drama class in “Beginning Improvising” and another in “Social Dances of North America III” were among dozens of classes on a closely guarded quarterly list distributed only to Stanford athletes to help them choose courses.

Stanford officials said the list was designed to accommodate athletes’ demanding schedules and disputed that the list was made up of easy classes. Officials discontinued the list last week after student reporters working for California Watch began asking about it.

The list, which has existed at least since 2001, was widely regarded by athletes as an easy class list. More than a quarter of the courses on the list did not fulfill university general education requirements.

“It’s definitely not going to be a hard class if it’s coming off that list,” said Karissa Cook, a sophomore women’s volleyball player who consulted the list to pick classes in her first quarter at Stanford.

The classes on the list were “always chock-full of athletes and very easy A’s,” added Kira Maker, a women’s soccer player who used the list her freshman year.

Titled “courses of interest,” the list was distributed by the Athletic Academic Resource Center. Advisers in other departments at the university said they were unaware such a list existed.

Stanford claims that any student could get their hands on this report, but it was only made available in hard copy in the office of Athletic Academic Resource Center.

This is hardly the type of news that moves the needle, but it’s interesting considering the noise Jim Harbaugh made when he called out his alma mater Michigan for doing similar things.

***

Finally, Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd had some fun with the situation at Ohio State this week on Twitter.

 

 

Ohio State was one of Floyd’s finalist when he chose Notre Dame out of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.

 

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
Getty
2 Comments

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)
5 Comments

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)
Getty
9 Comments

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)
Getty
2 Comments

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.”