Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

Reeling in RBs a must in this recruiting cycle


If you’re looking at the Irish roster, you’ll notice there’s one particularly important position that could use a little bit of padding. After focusing on quarterbacks and defensive ends in their first two recruiting classes, Brian Kelly and his offensive staff have spent most of this recruiting cycle identifying running backs and casting a wide net, hoping to fill a void on the roster that’s come with the loss of seniors Armando Allen and Robert Hughes.

With Cameron Roberson likely spending most of the season still recovering from ACL surgery, the Irish have Cierre Wood returning and Jonas Gray back for a final season. Behind them — well, it’s anybody’s guess.

Incoming freshman Cam McDaniel was the only running back recruited on the roster. George Atkinson, who was expected to enter as a wide receiver and played safety in the US Army All-American Bowl, will shift to tailback to help add some depth. But as the Irish head into the fall looking to fill some slots on the offensive side of the ball, they’ve targeted some pretty big names to fill the depth chart. Let’s look at a couple that the Irish have their cross-hairs on.


Keith Marshall, Raleigh, NC: Just watching his highlight tape gives you a clue that he’s one of the most explosive backs to come out of the high school ranks in quite some time. Marshall plans on enrolling early, and he’s got the Irish in his top dozen teams.

William Mahone, Austintown, OH: A powerful back with Ohio roots, Mahone had his eyes opened by a recent Notre Dame visit. The Irish will battle Michigan State, Pitt and Penn State among other teams.

KeiVarae Russell, Everett, WA: One of the best offensive players on the West Coast, Russell has legit interest in the Irish and plans on being in South Bend for the Irish’s date with the Trojans. He could slide to the slot as well.

I’Tavious Mathers, Murfreesboro, TN: The Irish have had their sights on Mathers for months, along with programs like Alabama, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. The reigning player of the year in Tennessee rushed for over 2,600 yards during his junior year.

Byron Marshall, San Jose, CA: Marshall has most of the West Coast after him, but he took a summer Spanish course to get his credits up to speed for the Irish, a signal that Mike Denbrock is doing his job. Getting an official visit from Marshall will be next, but the Irish appear to be in great shape.

Chris Mangus, Raleigh, NC: Another North Carolina running back, Mangus looks better suited to play in space as opposed to being an every down back for the Irish. Virginia Tech and Clemson are in the running as well, but the Irish have already gotten Mangus on campus.

Drew Harris, Exton, PA: Another big back, Harris might be tough to pull out of Pennsylvania, especially after a Skype conversation with the ageless Joe Paterno. He’s got offers from Arkansas, Florida State, Miami, and South Carolina among others.

Expect Kelly and the Irish to continue chasing running backs even after they get their first commitment. If they could play it correctly, the Irish would take one pure tailback and add another guy that can play well in space, making a guy like Russell or Mangus great complimentary players as well as running back targets.



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.