Chris Badger

Badger weighing early return from Mormon mission

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With the Irish’s depth at safety a question mark for the second straight year, Chris Badger, a Notre Dame safety that chose his Mormon mission before ever playing a down for the Irish, could be back in South Bend earlier than expected.

Badger’s decision to walk away from the Irish after participating in spring practice left the Irish thin at safety, a position that saw Zeke Motta pressed into emergency time when Dan McCarthy and Jamoris Slaughter were injured last season. Badger, who had done good things in his limited time on campus, would’ve likely been thrown into the fire last season as well, had he not decided to go to Ecuador.

Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune reports that Badger and his family are looking for a dispensation that’ll allow Badger to return to South Bend and enroll in classes in January, allowing the safety to participate in spring practice next year.

More from Hamilton:

Badger, a Church of Latter Day Saints member, was rated a three-star recruit by He was an early enrollee freshman in 2010 and then opted to take his mission, starting in September 2010, before his college careerstarted in earnest.

Already, Rod Badger said his son received permission to return from Ecuador six months early — his original return date was Aug. 31, 2012 — so he could prepare for the 2012 season with the Irish. Now the family is looking for another dispensation to Badger can be on campus this winter.

“We live in ParkCity, Utah, and a member of the U.S. ski team serving a mission just came home last spring to prepare for the 2011-12 ski season,” Rod Badger said. “Similar scenario.”

Badger apparently has entertained no thoughts of returning anywhere else. (Though Rod Badger noted a new NCAA rule requiring missionaries who transfer to sit out a year.) If Badger does not receive permission to return in time for spring practice, his father said he will enroll at Notre Dame in June, as previously planned.

“Chris has expressed zero interest in returning to the Pac-12, from where most of his offers came,” Rod Badger said.

It’s hard to know what the Irish can expect from Badger, who has been away from football and has relied on protein shakes and personal workouts to keep his fitness levels up. At first glance, Badger doesn’t fit the mold of safety prospects Kelly and company have looked to bring in, as Badger is a six-foot, 190-pound safety that will never be a blazing runner.

That said, Badger was an early commitment to Jim Harbaugh and Stanford, had an offer from several Pac-12 schools like Oregon and Cal and even had an offer from Florida State before picking Notre Dame and enrolling early.

If Badger can get back in time for spring practice, he’ll get a chance to be thrown in the mix as a potential replacement for Harrison Smith, in a secondary that’ll be filled with promising options. Here’s a look at the proposed 2012 depth chart at safety:

2012 Potential Safety Depth Chart

Jamoris Slaughter, 5th year candidate
Dan McCarthy, 5th year candidate
Zeke Motta, Senior
Austin Collinsworth, Junior
Eilar Hardy, Sophomore
Chris Badger, Freshman
Nicky Baratti, Freshman
C.J. Prosise, Freshman
John Turner, Freshman

There’s no guarantee a guy like Dan McCarthy comes back for a fifth year if he doesn’t show he can break into the mix for playing time, battling Slaughter and Motta for time in the nickel. (That said, older brother Kyle McCarthy only started one game before his senior season before ultimately thriving in his fourth and fifth years on campus.) While it’s still a long time away, it’s interesting to see how quickly a position can go from perilously thin to nine-deep.



Irish prepared to take on the best Navy team in years


Brian Kelly opens every Tuesday press conference with compliments for an opponent. But this week, it was easy to see that his kind words for Navy were hardly lip service.

Ken Niumatalolo will bring his most veteran—and probably his most talented—group of Midshipmen into Notre Dame Stadium, looking to hand the Irish their first loss in the series since Kelly’s debut season in South Bend.

“Ken Niumatalolo has done an incredible job in developing his program and currently carrying an eight-game winning streak,” Kelly said. “I voted for them in USA Today Top 25 as a top-25 team. I think they’ve earned that. But their defense as well has developed. It’s played the kind of defense that I think a top 25 team plays.”

With nine months of option preparation, Notre Dame needs to feel confident about their efforts against Georgia Tech. Then again, the Midshipmen saw that game plan and likely have a few tricks in store.

As much as the Irish have focused their efforts on stopping Keenan Reynolds and the triple-option, Navy’s much-improved defense is still looking for a way to slow down a team that’s averaged a shade over 48 points a game against them the last four seasons.

Niumatalolo talked about that when asked about slowing down Will Fuller and Notre Dame’s skill players, an offense that’s averaged over 48 points a game during this four-game win streak.

“We’ve got to try our best to keep [Fuller] in front of us, that’s easier said than done,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to play as close as we can without their guys running past us. I’ve been here a long time and we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.”


Navy heads to South Bend unbeaten, defeating former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco‘s team just two Saturdays ago. And while Diaco raised a few eyebrows when he said Navy would be the team’s toughest test of the year (they already played a ranked Missouri team), the head of the UConn program couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise.

“I have been competing against Navy for some time and this is the best Navy team I have seen for, let’s say the last half-dozen years,” UConn coach Bob Diaco told the New Haven Register. “I could click on footage from three years ago and see a lion’s share of players who are playing right now in the game as freshmen and sophomores. They have a veteran group, a strong group, a talented group and they look like the stiffest competition among our first four opponents.”

As usual, there will be those who look at this game as the breather between Clemson and USC. That won’t be anybody inside The Gug. So as the Irish try to get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd, a complete team effort is needed.

“I’ll take a win by one,” Kelly said Tuesday. “That would be fine with me.”


Kelly confident Robinson will rebound

Notre Dame v Florida State

Corey Robinson‘s season was already off to a slow start. And that was before a difficult night at Clemson. The junior receiver came into last weekend with only four catches, held out against UMass after a pregame tweak of his knee put a scare into the Irish.

Robinson’s knee checked out fine. But mentally, it appears that the sure-handed junior is struggling.

Just before halftime against the Tigers, Robinson failed to reel in a long catch that would’ve given the Irish a much-needed touchdown heading into half. Early in the fourth quarter, a high throw from DeShone Kizer on the Irish’s first failed two-point conversion play slid through Robinson’s hands. Made worse was a mental mistake by Robinson, the Irish needing to use one of their second half timeouts when the junior wasn’t on the field.

Coached hard on the sideline by Brian Kelly and coached up by his position coach Mike Denbrock (as we saw on both Showtime and Fighting Irish Media’s ICON), the staff is doing it’s best to get Robinson’s confidence back.

With some wondering if Robinson’s struggles should open the door for talented freshman Equanimeous St. Brown, Kelly talked about their belief that the junior will return to form.

“Corey Robinson is going to get the job done. I had a very lengthy conversation with him yesterday,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I believe in Corey. Corey’s got to believe in himself, and he will. He’s got to go attack the football. He’s letting the football come to him. He’s letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.”

There’s no better place to showcase that belief than against Navy. The Midshipmen don’t have a defender physically capable of matching up with the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who will likely face his share of single coverage with Will Fuller likely demanding safety help.

Then it’s just a matter of Robinson showing the hands and confidence that made him one of last year’s most consistent performers.

“Once he starts attacking the football, I think we’re going to see somebody that can make the plays that we expect him to make,” Kelly said. “So I’m optimistic that we’re going to see the guy that we need to see on Saturday.”