Jamoris Slaughter

Fox edges Calabrese at LB, Slaughter over Motta at FS

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While the news didn’t trend on Twitter like Dayne Crist did nationally this afternoon (another example of Notre Dame’s irrelevance in college football I guess), one surprise in Brian Kelly‘s press conference was that junior Dan Fox unseated Carlo Calabrese as the starting Will linebacker next to Manti Te’o. Calabrese spent the lion’s share of last season starting while Fox transitioned from outside linebacker during an injury riddled season.

Asked for the biggest reason Fox found himself in the starting lineup, Kelly was pointed.

“Last year, he was not a guy that liked contact,” Kelly said of Fox. “He likes contact now. He knows that contact is necessary in that zone that he plays in. Here’s another young man that’s developed a toughness to him.”

The move is high praise for Fox, but also underscores the multiple nature of a position that almost seems situational. With South Florida bringing in a mobile quarterback like B.J. Daniels, having a guy with athleticism like Fox might give the Irish their best chance to contain the Bulls’ offense.

“Danny Fox will start at the Will, Brian Kelly said. “Both those guys are going to play, I think I’ve made it pretty clear, just like Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke, Jamoris is going to start there, but that’s a 50/50 deal. It will be the same thing with Watt and Nuss and it will be the same thing with Fox and Calabrese. I’m very pleased we’ve got the kind of depth at those positions.”

To give you an idea of how close the battle at linebacker was, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco clarified that both Fox and Calabrese will have a prominent role in the defense.

“It’s not a 1A, 1B, it’s an or,” Diaco said. “We see them as both starters. Carlo and Dan are going to be fifty-fifty players.”

As with the job at linebacker, Jamoris Slaughter taking back the starting job at safety after being hobbled with injuries throughout much of last season is interesting, although not entirely unexpected. Safeties coach Chuck Martin talked about how important it was to get consistent play out of the field safety, likely one of the reason’s the staff tapped Slaughter in front of Zeke Motta.

“We go into the year with the idea that those field safeties better not give up plays, because that’ll cost us the game. And then with the idea of hey, let’s pitch in,” Martin said. “We know Manti’s going to make plays, and Gary and RJ, and Harrison and a lot of guys up front can make plays, so we want the field safety position to start off being very solid and then at some point we want to put that tape on Sunday and say, Jamoris or Zeke that’s really the play that tilted the game in our favor.”

With Slaughter and Motta being called upon to play consistent football, Martin also has the advantage of knowing that he’s got more than just the minimum allotment of players at his disposal.

“I think we have trust in more than just three safeties and two corners,” Martin said. “I think as camp’s progressed we’ve got a lot of guys that are fighting to get on the field and help us win. I don’t think we’re going into the season like last year where we knew we had really limited options, we go into camp with the idea that a lot of guys are going to play well and adjust. We’ve still got a lot to improve on to get guys ready to play.”

Those options are likely senior Dan McCarthy and sophomore Austin Collinsworth, two promising athletes that just need to find a way to get on the field and get some experience.

“I think they’re both getting there,” Martin said of McCarthy and Collinsworth. “They both need reps and both need experience. We know its a process back there, especially deep defenders. They’re fighting to gain the ground they need to feel comfortable to get in the game.”

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.