Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

Weekend notes: Floyd, QBs (present and future), and more


Let’s tackle one of the more interesting tidbits first. It’s expected that Michael Floyd will be meeting with ResLife this afternoon to ultimately determine his university punishment for his drunk-driving arrest that happened in mid-March, just before spring football practice was set to start.

Floyd’s been on indefinite suspension from all football activities, missing the first 10 practices of the Irish spring season, and has been held out of all other football activities since. He made a brief appearance on Twitter a few nights ago that got the internet humming, and supported his former teammates at ND’s Pro Day yesterday.

The meeting originally set for yesterday was rescheduled for today, certain sources have told me, and that meeting will hold the key for Michael’s future at Notre Dame. One thing I can report for certain — Floyd’s already committed to getting his life back on track, something Brian Kelly mentioned nearly a week ago, and he’s also committed to getting his degree from Notre Dame, one of the main reasons he decided to stick around for his senior season in the first place.

There’s likely no disciplinary measure that’ll make everybody happy. The hardliners can make a compelling argument that his career should be over, and they’ve got precedence to support their case. There’s also a valid case to be made that Floyd’s punishment could’ve already been served, as long as he continues on the straight and narrow. The likely outcome? Who honestly knows. For every Will Yeatman fiasco you can look at the level-headed punishment of Mike Ragone last year, a marijuana arrest last May that cost the tight end nothing in terms of games.

It’s possible the university will discipline Floyd academically and leave his athletic punishment up to the football staff and athletic department. If that’s the case, expect most of the penance to be done in either public service or private, and a suspension in the range of 1-2 games. Again, this is only an educated guess based on what I’ve been hearing, but Floyd will have to continue to prove he deserves this second chance, and in many ways the timing of this gives him the opportunity to prove it before the season starts.

(By 5pm tonight, this entire bit could be proven completely wrong, so don’t get your hopes up…)


It was Dayne Crist’s turn in the spotlight and if you’re looking for articles on him you are in luck. It was thought that if Crist could return healthy he’d be in the driver’s seat for the QB competition and that’s proven correct.

In fact, his knee surgery is once again a non-factor after being a huge concern.

“I don’t notice it,” Crist said. “I really don’t notice it out there at all. The treatment becomes less and less post-practice. I feel really fortunate and really blessed that I’m where I’m at right now. I’m just continuing to get stronger in the weight room from a lower body standpoint. That’s just me being behind for several months, but I don’t feel like there’s a huge drop-off. I’m still being real active and making up a lot of ground in there.”

There’s no benefit for Brian Kelly to announce a starting quarterback publicly at the end of spring. That said, there’s isn’t much of a benefit to him announcing that decision internally either, and he’s only committed to pairing down the depth chart to three-deep, which will likely be what happens in preseason camp.

Regardless of if the starting job stays in limbo, it’s clear Crist has taken over a leadership role on the offense, a personality trait of the quarterback’s that’s never been in doubt.


Turning to quarterbacks yet on the roster, ESPN’s Bruce Feldman took a look at the top QB recruiting battles in 2012, and Notre Dame target Gunner Kiel topped the list.

From Feldman:

Kiel has a great first name for a QB. He also has a strong pedigree. His uncle, Blair Kiel, was a quarterback for Notre Dame and in the NFL, and his older brothers also are QBs — Drew played at Illinois State and Dustin is with the Indiana Hoosiers. The younger Kiel’s arm has wowed scouts.

Kiel’s recruitment hasn’t gotten crazy, but the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder joked that “it’s getting there.” Kiel said he is determined not to rush his thought process. “I want to make a decision whenever I’m ready,” he said Tuesday night. “I’m trying to get to know these situations to find the perfect fit for me.”

Kiel said he isn’t one to surf around the web in hopes of getting a feel for what other QBs and colleges may be up to. “I don’t really follow it,” he said. “I’m just letting the cards play out and go with the flow.”

Of course, it helps that he’s probably on top of a bunch of schools’ wish lists and may get the right of first refusal. Among the many programs in the mix are Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri.

There’s been a lot of speculation that Kiel is leaning to Notre Dame (he said he rooted for the Irish growing up but added that he was always “a fairweather fan” and changed allegiances often depending on which team was hot). He said his next move is to fly to Oklahoma to check out the Sooners’ program on Thursday.

Kiel figures to have an impact on other QBs in his class. According to the South Bend Tribune, one of them could be Maty Mauk, the younger brother of former Cincinnati Bearcats passer Ben Mauk, who played for Brian Kelly at UC. “I met with Maty Mauk recently and I definitely believe he’s leaning to Notre Dame,” Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “I think he would have committed to Notre Dame already had his mother not insisted on him visiting other schools.

“Gunner Kiel recently had a great visit to Notre Dame, enough so that I think at this early stage the Irish are either the favorites or even with the other favorites. If [the Irish] take Mauk early, they could lose Kiel.”

It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

There are certainly worse situations for the Irish to be in with both Mauk and Kiel truly interested in the Irish, but it seems like Kiel wants to take his time.


We noticed him earlier in the week and coaches have been talking about the nice spring Dan Fox has put together. With Prince Shembo and Danny Spond taking most of the reps at the ‘Dog’ linebacker position, Fox has moved inside, where he’s competing for the spot next to Manti Te’o, a competition that’s getting him a lot of reps with Anthony McDonald down with a torn pectoral muscle and Te’o limited from most action, in all likelihood the Blue-Gold game as well.

Fox talked about the position shift and the changes he’s made to improve since last season, when he initially slide inside.

“Last year I was kind of figuring out playing inside linebacker, trying to read the run real fast and then getting out in my pass drops,” Fox said. “Every time you play a position for two years you are going to feel a little bit more comfortable because you have the whole year of experience under your belt. That helps a lot.”

Fox’s ascent coincides with a very candid and public statement by defensive coordinator Bob Diaco when discussing what Carlo Calabrese has to do to continue as the starting linebacker next to Te’o.

“Carlo has to clean his game up. He has to get himself to a point where he’s not a liability of one of those 11 and right now he is,” Diaco said. “He needs to improve all areas. He needs to improve on his run fits and his eye progression in his run fits. He needs to clean up his pass fits and the fundamentals of how to get that done. He needs to clean up his cardio so that he can play harder longer. He needs to clean up, just in general, his game. If he wants to be the starting inside linebacker at Notre Dame and not be 11 of 11, then he’s got work to do.”

There are five more practices for this to play out, including all fall camp, but it’s clear that Diaco is taking a move from the Brian Kelly playbook on his message to Calabrese.


Swarbrick: Kelly will be back in 2017

SOUTH BEND, IN - AUGUST 30:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches as his team takes on the Rice Owls at Notre Dame Stadium on August 30, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Brian Kelly will be coaching Notre Dame in 2017. That’s according to his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

So even with a 2-5 record and a difficult slate still to come, there will be no change atop the Irish football program.

“Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” Swarbrick told

Swarbrick’s vote of confidence is nothing new—he’s taken a similar stance in his weekly appearances the past few weeks. But it likely became necessary as the season continues to frustrate, and Notre Dame’s head coaching position becomes part of the hot seat discussion.

But even with plenty to accomplish during this week off, both on the field and in the classroom, Kelly was out front and on the ESPN airwaves, openly shouldering the blame of this season’s failures, while also mentioning this is the youngest team at Notre Dame since 1972.

See the entire segment here:


Bye Week Mailbag: Now Open

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: DeShone Kizer #14 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs the ball during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

It’s been too long. Or maybe it hasn’t.

Against my better judgment, I’m opening up the mailbag. Drop your questions below or at Twitter @KeithArnold.

How we got here: The Defense

05 September 2015:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder stands with his players in action during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Texas Longhorns at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

The first of a multi-part series as we look at the 2-5 Irish at the bye week. 


Notre Dame’s season was sunk by Brian VanGorder’s defense. That sentence is much easier to write after seeing the unit without its former coordinator. But it was just as clear after watching the Irish play their first four games of 2016 that Brian Kelly needed to make a change. The Irish gave up a combined 124 points in their three September defeats, a season-high for either yards or points (against FBS competition) for Texas, Michigan State and Duke.

For many VanGorder detractors, the move came four games too late. The Irish were plagued by big plays and schematic breakdowns throughout 2015 (and before), a fatal flaw of a defense filled with talented personnel that too often underperformed.

How did the Irish get here? Any why did Kelly make the decision to hire VanGorder—a decision that has already impacted his legacy in South Bend?

Let’s look back.



When Brian Kelly tapped VanGorder to replace Bob Diaco, he was hiring a coach who seemed like an evolutionary next step. While Diaco’s 3-4 base and point prevention philosophies were the perfect tonic for improving a team that was wrecked by the Tenuta era, Alabama undressed the Irish at the end of the 2012 season, a simplicity in Notre Dame’s scheme that received a few comments from Alabama players in the postgame glow that likely had Kelly wondering if they’d hit their ceiling.

That’s an important factor to remember when Kelly was hiring Diaco’s replacement. Because the foundation of the defense was well established. Kelly needed someone to build on top of it.

That likely made VanGorder’s pitch music to Kelly’s ears. Because while Diaco relied heavily on his base set, VanGorder’s DNA included sub-packages, complementary parts, Rex Ryan-inspired blitzes, and a philosophy that no throw would be conceded— underneath or otherwise.

Add to that Kelly’s personal relationship with VanGorder. Kelly had watched his former Grand Valley State colleague from the beginning of his career. He had seen him work with young players and believed in him as a teacher (something he referenced multiple times when he introduced VanGorder to the local media) before blazing his own trail, earning a head coaching opportunity at Wayne State, a high-profile coordinator position at Georgia and eventually making his way to the NFL—for a long time, farther up the food chain than Kelly.

Perhaps that was enough to dismiss his chaotic year at Auburn, when the Tigers season—and defense—went up in smoke as Gene Chizik was fired and VanGorder’s defense gave up 63 to No. 20 Texas A&M, 38 to No. 5 Georgia, and were blown out 49-0 to Alabama—after after mid-October.

But for a variety of reasons, likely his success turning to coaches with a personal connection, Kelly once again did so, hiring an NFL position coach who was a few years removed from being an elite-level coaching target for a vacancy that was a high-profile national opening.



The challenge with VanGorder’s struggles always seemed to be the caveats. Injuries decimated his first defense, a group that shutout Michigan and stymied Stanford, but crumbled by the end of the season, with USC naming a number and the Irish tumbling after giving up big, ugly scores to Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC.

The 2015 defense had strong moments—dominating Texas, holding Clemson to 24 points and nice wins over option opponents Georgia Tech and Navy—but obviously imploded late against Stanford and never stood a chance against Ohio State, with injuries once again leveling the depth chart.

But there were improvements. Between 2014 and 2015 VanGorder’s unit got a better handle on up-tempo attacks. An offseason committed to stopping the option saw those goals achieved with successful defensive performances against Georgia Tech and Navy. And even if VanGorder’s veteran-heavy 2015 unit was mostly moving on (the talent exodus is staggering now that you look at it), most had talked themselves into believing that Year Three would have better institutional knowledge for all, a depth chart ready to step in and perform.

[A necessary footnote: Luck certainly wasn’t on VanGorder’s side. Injuries, transfers and suspensions certainly didn’t do him any favors, either. Whether it was the disappearance of edge rushers—Kolin Hill, Jhonny Williams, Bo Wallace—or the loss of KeiVarae Russell and Max Redfield, injuries to Jarron Jones, Shaun Crawford, Nick Watkins and Drue Tranquill, there was always the defense VanGorder hoped to put on the field… and then the one that he actually did.]



Austin, Texas. Opening night, 2016.

The Irish defense was exposed against the Longhorns, shredded by both the power running attack and freshman Shane Buechele’s passing. It was an all-systems failure: Scheme, blown assignments, questionable personnel decisions—all pointing back to a game plan that required a bunch of assumptions (new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert was difficult to scout), but nonetheless was a disastrous start.



Even if Kelly gave the staff’s performance a passing grade, by noon after the loss to Duke, the decision was made to relieve VanGorder of his duties.

“This is a difficult decision,” Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t it where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”



While Kelly won’t likely go any deeper into the decision to make the change than he’s done in a few media sessions, it’s telling just how different the defense is organized with VanGorder out the door.

Full-unit meetings have been turned into position group teaching sessions. Depth chart’s have been reshuffled, resulting in major personnel changes. A base three-man front has taken over as the status quo. And the defense has stopped giving up points and big plays, especially after they found their footing against Syracuse.

Where Kelly goes from here is anyone’s guess—especially considering he’s still trying his best to get this season under control. But after tapping into his personal coaching network to fill a premium vacancy, don’t expect Kelly to settle on the familiar—or for Swarbrick to allow it—when his roster is loaded with young talent and in need of a fundamentally sound plan.

CB Elijah Hicks commits to Notre Dame

Irish 247

Just hours after one member of Notre Dame’s 2017 class stepped away, another took his place. Southern California defensive back Elijah Hicks committed to the Irish. The four-star prospect, an all-purpose defender who can play safety, cornerback and contribute in special teams, pulled the trigger just days after taking his official visit to South Bend.

He made the news official via Twitter and recorded a commitment video with Irish 247’s Tom Loy. And even as Notre Dame’s season continues in the wrong direction, Hicks bought in to the message being sold by the Irish coaching staff, picking Notre Dame over programs like UCLA, USC, Michigan and Washington.

A year after stocking up the secondary—Hicks gives the Irish a nice piece to pair with Paulson Adebo and all-purpose athlete Isaiah Robertson. And as we watch Troy Pride, Julian Love, Donte Vaughn and Devin Studstill might a quick impact on the back end, Hicks compares favorably to that quartet, another prospect with elite offers who will come into South Bend ready to fight for a spot in the two-deep.

Hicks told why he pulled the trigger now:

“I chose Notre Dame because on my official visit I felt comfortable and it felt like home,” said Hicks. “One of my favorite quotes about Notre Dame is, ‘Other teams play college football, Notre Dame is college football.’ Coach Lyght, I feel like he could give me the tools that’s necessary to make it to the NFL and have a long career. Also, they have a rich tradition and great academic support.”

Hicks plays for La Mirada High School, the same program that produced reserve Irish tight end Tyler Luatua. He returns Notre Dame’s 2017 class to 18, a Top 10 group by any evaluation.