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Friday notes: QBs, Miffed recruits, and more

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For much of the offseason, recruiting stories have focused on two quarterbacks that have become the apple of the Irish coaching staff’s eye: Maty Mauk and Gunner Kiel. The two quarterbacks both have ties to the Irish program — Mauk’s brother Ben played under Kelly at Cincinnati and has gushed openly about BK’s offense. Kiel is from Indiana, has family lineage that includes former Irish quarterback Blair Kiel, and also happens to be one of the top-rated prospects in the country, an almost certain five-star recruit.

With the plethora of scholarships on the table right now in Irish recruiting, quarterback offers are few and far between with Mauk and Kiel joined by dual-threat quarterbacks Cyler Miles and Jameis Winston as the only four quarterbacks with offers on the table. But the Irish might be adding another name to the mix, with Buffalo’s Chad Kelly, nephew to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, recently getting a visit from none other than Bob Diaco.

IrishIllustrated.com has more on the details:

“Coach Diaco was in last week,” said Kelly, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback. “I got a few e-mails from (Notre Dame) last season but this was the first time (they visited).”

Kelly didn’t have the chance to talk with Diaco, but St. Joseph’s head coach did and he relayed a message to his quarterback.

“Coach Diaco talked to my coach and said that I’m very worthy of a scholarship and what not,” Kelly said.

Kelly seems like another intriguing prospect, with a reported 4.5 forty time posted last year at the Ohio State camp. He’s obviously got impressive bloodlines as well. With Mauk and/or Kiel likely at the top of both the coaching staff’s board as well as the probability chart, the coaching staff is showing once again that under Kelly, recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin and in-house director Dave Peloquin, that they’re covering all their bases.

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One recruit that’s no longer on Notre Dame’s radar is recent Michigan commit Joe Bolden. The outside linebacker, and former teammate of incoming Irish freshman Jarrett Grace, gave some eye-opening quotes to writer Kyle Warber, reported on MLive.com:

When you tell a 6-foot-3, 230 pound linebacker he is “too small,” especially a player with the pedigree of JoeBolden, don’t be surprised if he looks forward to “beating the tar out of you” every year.

“Being told I am too small,” Bolden admitted, “when I have never heard that before, it was an eye opener. Notre Dame told me they wanted a 6-foot-4 linebacker and that I am ‘not their guy.’ I’m not upset if I don’t fit your profile, I was just surprised it was about height, because I have always believed that it’s not the size of the dog, but it’s the dogs bite.”

Now Bolden is relishing the opportunity to take a big bite out of Notre Dame (Ohio State too), including getting the better of old teammate and great friend Jarrett Grace, who currently plays for the Irish.

“It will be good to walk over and shake the Notre Dame coaches’ hands and say thank you for giving me the drive to be even better,” Bolden said.

For Irish fans looking to gloat, it might feel nice to know that Michigan’s most coveted recruit is a guy that the coaching staff didn’t see as worthy of an offer. (Then again, that’s a risky proposition, especially considering guys like A.J. Edds, the former Iowa linebacker and 4th round pick, basically begged for an Irish offer.) But looking at this analytically, it’s just another example of Notre Dame knowing exactly what it’s looking for when it comes to position groupings and recruiting “fits,” and it seems like the coaching staff had the discipline to stick with their convictions and bring in the players they know will work within the confines of their defense.

Either way, remember the name Joe Bolden. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out…

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ESPN and College Football Live took a look at Notre Dame, which they’ve got pegged at No. 17 in the way-too-early 2011 preseason polls. The panel was moderated by Kirk Herbstreit and included Craig James, Jesse Palmer and some guy named Urban Meyer.

Take seven-plus minutes to watch the video, and then I’ll come back with some commentary:

Okay, here goes:

It’s a little disappointing that of all people, Herbstreit’s little “nugget” is probably the most preposterous statement of anybody’s, including the notorious Brad James. Herbie’s note that the first round draft drought the Irish have suffered at running back and receiver since Jerome Bettis in 1993 helps explain why the Irish have had woes since Lou Holtz is beyond misleading.

Of course, on the surface this sounds like sound logic. But dig a little deeper (as our friends at the blog formerly known as BlueGraySky did) and this is one step short of Herbstreit’s “high school defense” theory that looked quite silly as last season wore on.

Until this year’s draft, Alabama has had only one running back or wide receiver (Shaun Alexander in 2000) taken in the first round since 1974, when Wilbur Jackson went to the 49ers. Even more incredible, only three tailbacks or wide receivers at Alabama have been taken in the first round in the entire history of the NFL Draft.

Sure, Herbstreit’s comments sound good in an eight-minute roundtable discussion, but when presented against a program as prestigious as Alabama, you realize that it’s a pretty worthless evidence.

One note probably more interesting than any other? It’s that Urban Meyer — the only guy on that panel that’s seen Notre Dame in person since last football season — was the most bullish on the Irish.

“I think they’ve got the right guy,” Meyer said of Brian Kelly taking the reins of the program. “I don’t think — I know they got the right coach.”

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Finally…

As if his performance on the NFL Network’s draft coverage wasn’t enough, apparently Brian Kelly is working to get his SAG Card.

“Get that chocolate milk!”

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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Restocking the roster: Offensive Line

Notre Dame offensive line
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When Notre Dame takes the field this spring, there’ll be two very large holes in the offensive line that need filling. All-American left tackle Ronnie Stanley is gone. As is captain Nick Martin at center. Both three-year starters leave Harry Hiestand with some big decisions to make in the coming months as the Irish look to fill those key positions and still field a unit with the ability to dominate in the trenches.

The Irish have had incredible stability at left tackle, with Stanley sliding in seamlessly after four seasons of Zack Martin. Perhaps the best six-year run in the program’s storied history at the position, Stanley will likely join Martin as a first-rounder, back-to-back starters at a key spot that often dictates the play of one of the most important units on the field.

Replacing Nick Martin could prove equally tricky. Rising junior Sam Mustipher served as Martin’s backup in 2015, filing in capably for Martin after an ankle sprain took him off the field briefly against UMass. But Mustipher will face a challenge this spring from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge, the first true center recruited by Hiestand and Brian Kelly since they arrived in South Bend.

Kelly talked about 2017 being a big cycle on the recruiting trail for restocking the offensive line. You can see why when you look at the depth, particularly at tackle. Let’s look at the work that’s been done the previous two classes as Notre Dame continues to be one of the premier programs recruiting in the trenches.

 

DEPARTURES
Ronnie Stanley
, Sr. (39 starts)
Nick Martin, Grad Student (37 starts)

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Tristen Hoge
, C
Trevor Ruhland
, G
Jerry Tillery
, T
Parker Boudreaux
, G
Tommy Kraemer
, T
Liam Eichenberg
, T

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Hunter Bivin, T
Quenton Nelson, LG
Sam Mustipher, C
Steve Elmer, RG
Mike McGlinchey, RT

Alex Bars*, T
Colin McGovern*, G/T
Mark Harrell*, C/G
Tristen Hoge*, C
John Montelus*, G
Jimmy Byrne*, G
Trevor Ruhland*, G

*Has an additional year of eligibility remaining. 

ANALYSIS:
It’ll be a fascinating spring up front for the offensive line. We’ll get our first look at potential replacements and see if the Irish staff values a veteran presence (as it has done in the past) or puts former blue-chip recruits in position to become multi-year starters.

For now, I’m putting last season’s backups in line to ascend to starting spots. That’s not to say I think that’s what’ll happen. Hunter Bivin may have been Stanley’s backup last season, but as long as Alex Bars is fully recovered from his broken ankle, I think he’s the best bet to step into that job. Sharing reps at guard—not a natural spot for Bars to begin with—was more about getting him some experience, with the aim to move him into the lineup in 2016. That allows Bivin to be a key swing reserve, capable of playing on either the right or left side.

At center, the decision is less clear cut—especially since we’ve yet to see Tristen Hoge play a snap of football. Size and strength is a genuine concern at the point of attack for Hoge, not necessarily the biggest guy hitting campus. But it sounds like he’s had a nice first season from a developmental standpoint, and if he’s a true technician at the position, he could be a rare four-year starter at center if he’s able to pull ahead of Mustipher this spring.

On paper, the other three starting jobs don’t seem to be in question. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are ready to step to the forefront. Concerns about Steve Elmer’s buy-in will certainly be answered by spring, there’s little chance he’ll be on the field in March if he’s not going to be around in August. I’m of the mind that Elmer’s too good of a character guy to leave the program, even if his life doesn’t revolve around football 24/7. Now it’s time for him to clean up some of the flaws in his game, the only starter from last season who held back the Irish from being a truly elite group.

Depth isn’t necessarily a concern, but there isn’t a ton of it at tackle. That happens when you move a guy like Jerry Tillery to defensive line and lose a player like Stanley with a year of eligibility remaining. That could force the Irish to cross-train someone like Colin McGovern, a veteran who can swing inside or out if needed. McGovern seems to be a guy who would start in a lot of other programs, but has struggled to crack a two-deep that’s now filled with former blue-chip recruits, all of them essentially handpicked by Hiestand and Kelly.