Maty Mauk

Mauk to Mizzou, QB depth chart likely stocked

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While the writing has been on the wall for a few weeks, quarterback Maty Mauk made it official when he verbally committed to Missouri. Mauk was one of Brian Kelly’s first offers at quarterback, and Mauk picked the Tigers over Michigan, Notre Dame and Illinois.

Mauk’s highlights have been message-board fodder for months, with the quarterback absolutely slicing and dicing his way through the competition since his freshman season. But if there’s a knock on Mauk it’s his lack of physical tools and the worry that he might not have the size and speed needed to dominate at the college level. That partially explains his limited offer list and three-star ranking, along with the fact that Mauk’s high school, coached by his father, doesn’t play at the higher levels of Ohio football.

Regardless, for the second year in a row, it looks as if Kelly and company failed to land their presumed No. 1 target at quarterback. Around this time last year, Irish fans were still smarting over Bubba Starling’s decision to stay home and play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, even after a great visit to South Bend. (Of course, imagine the gripe Irish fans would have now — with Starling likely to leave college football behind for millions of dollars from the Kansas City Royals. Don’t remind Florida State fans what happened when Joe Mauer took the baseball money instead of going to Tallahassee. They signed Chris Rix and spent nearly a decade in college football purgatory.)

It appears that the Irish will forgo a quarterback recruit this cycle, with reports coming from subscription-based websites that Notre Dame has already moved on to focusing on a strong crop of 2013 signal-callers. That said, at this time last year, Everett Golson didn’t exist to Irish fans, and Kelly and company managed to sweep in and sign one of the top two-way quarterbacks in the country.

The Mauk family has openly praised Brian Kelly’s offense and you get the feeling after reading between the lines that the Irish had significantly cooled on Mauk just as Mauk likely noticed a jam-packed depth chart in front of him in South Bend. Still, Kelly’s been on the record as saying he wants to get a quarterback every recruiting cycle, and a four-deep competition has the ability to become a liability pretty quickly. (For a quick history reference, recall Sharpley, Clausen, Jones, Frazer.)

If there’s a position that’s seen its fair share of turnover at Notre Dame, it’s been quarterback. Whether it was Derek Roback’s decision to transfer away last year after the QB bug bit, or Chris Olsen’s decision to depart before his sophomore season (and take along with him his All-American brother Greg), the Irish have seen plenty of quarterbacks come and go, a natural progression that comes along with uneven depth charts and a limited number of snaps and opportunities.

As we analyze the depth chart at quarterback, it’s interesting to consider that Kelly’s kept four quarterbacks in contention. Whether that’s a cagey move, or more likely a reality thanks to the diverse skill-sets of the players on the roster, it’s also setting up another odd-man out situation, not unlike what happened with Luke Massa in spring drills. If the goal is to retain the players on the roster, expect to see Andrew Hendrix in the “change of pace / Tebow bulldozer” role and Everett Golson possibly redshirting. That said, if Golson’s athleticism and grasp of the offense is too much to ignore, the newcomer could be the one taking snaps immediately, which could spell the end for a guy like Hendrix, a quarterback that many feel is too talented to be sitting around.

(Of course, the bizarro version of all of this is that Dayne Crist finds himself as the guy that’s odd man out. While I don’t think this is going to happen, people much smarter than I am have mentioned Crist as a perfect Joe Flacco-type: NFL skills, NFL body, playing in a system that doesn’t quite fit his talents. If Crist finds himself behind Tommy Rees this year, Crist could graduate and transfer immediately into a I-AA program, putting together a big year and some great tape for NFL scouts that’ll likely come knocking regardless.)

All of this is of course speculation, but as you can see, building a roster, specifically at the quarterback position is tricky business. While we’ll likely never hear anything from Mauk’s camp other than the fact that Missouri was the best fit for him, it’s likely a thin depth chart that’s been plundered in Columbia, matched with a crowded backfield with a ton of eligibility left over in South Bend was enough to make the decision an easy one.

We’ll find out in a few years if it was a good one.

 

 

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

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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