Chinedum Ndukwe

Turner’s pledge to Irish continues commitment to secondary


It turns out it didn’t take a few weeks to make a college decision. Over the weekend, just days after earning his way to a scholarship offer, John Turner pulled the trigger, committing to Notre Dame.

“It was just a perfect fit,” Turner told the South Bend Tribune. “Every time I came up I fell in love with it again. The academics, the people there, the coaches, just everything. I loved it.”

Turner is the eleventh commitment to the Irish, and the 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety adds another physical presence to the secondary’s depth chart. After spending last recruiting cycle making a commitment to the physicality and size of the front-seven, the Irish recruiting efforts seem to have been focused on replentishing the secondary, with Nicky Baratti, Ronald Darby, CJ Prosise, and Tee Shepard already committed to play for Chuck Martin and Kerry Cooks.

The Irish are in need of reinforcements, with Gary Gray, Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith all in their final seasons of eligibility. And while Turner’s commitment might not have resonated on the national scale, he fits the prototype of what Brian Kelly and his staff are looking for in a safety.

We’ve spent a lot of time pointing out the height/weight specs of defensive ends and outside linebackers in Brian Kelly’s system, but Kelly seems to be revealing the archetype of what he’s looking for in defensive backs as well.

Until last season, the Irish defense was plagued by mediocre secondary play. Either a step slow or underwhelming physically, Notre Dame was often “out-athleted” by opposing offenses, and the results were often painfully obvious.

Under Charlie Weis, the Irish rarely picked up players of Turner’s physical profile. If you’re looking for safeties that were at least 6-foot-2 and 200-pounds, you can only find four — David Bruton, Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta and Danny McCarthy. Motta had a breakout season last year, thrust into action after injuries depleted the depth chart. McCarthy has been plagued by injuries throughout the beginning of his career, but like his brother has the chance to be a great late bloomer. David Bruton, when he’s not substitute teaching, is an NFL safety for the Broncos. Harrison Smith is on the way.

(Interestingly, Chinedum Ndukwe is the perfect example of why finding prototype athletes at safety is such a good way to go. Whether he was on campus as a linebacker, wide receiver, or safety, his speed and athleticism is what got him on the field, and player development is what turned him into a tenured NFL safety.)

In many ways, Turner embodies the type of player Kelly is targeting. A physically impressive safety that just proved to the staff that he has the speed and skillset needed to play at a high level. At safety, all three of the players Notre Dame has received commitments from are 6-foot-2 and at least 190-pounds, revealing that the Irish understand the need to bring in physical players that can both cover space and play physically at the point of attack.

We won’t know how good Turner, Baratti, or Prosise truly are until they get to campus, but as we saw last year, there’s a plan in place. Once you look at the details, you realize there’s a bit of architecture when it comes to Brian Kelly’s plan. More often than not, that’s a very good thing.

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.