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.

 

 

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.