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Blue-chip defensive lineman Jarron Jones commits to Irish

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For years, Notre Dame struggled to land elite defensive linemen. With Brian Kelly in charge, the Irish can’t miss.

Monday night, Kelly reeled in another mega-defensive line recruit, with 6-foot-7, 310-pound defensive lineman Jarron Jones from Rochester, New York pledging his commitment to the Irish, adding another jumbo-sized, blue-chip defensive lineman to a rapidly filling stable.

Jones commitment comes just a few short weeks after the Irish asked four-star defensive lineman Tommy Schutt to cancel a visit to South Bend, content on leaving a blue-chip prospect out in the cold that in years past would have been a can’t miss, must-land Chicagoland recruit. Understandably, a faction of ND Nation flipped out, no doubt remembering an uneven past when it comes to tracking down top defensive prospects.

From Shaun Cody to Marvin Austin to Gerald McCoy, the list of runner-up finishes in recent Irish memory are a who’s who of former collegiate standouts and players that would’ve helped solidify an Irish defense that always seemed to come up short when it came to the battles in the trenches.

But as Kelly stood in front of the assembled media announcing his first recruiting class, a group mostly built by the previous regime, he made it known that the position that had plagued the Irish for years would become the focus of his coaching staff.

“I think the area as we continue to move forward, we have to continue to build our defensive line pool, especially at the end position,” Kelly said back in February of 2010. “That is going to be absolutely crucial for us moving forward next year and looking at 2011.

“We feel like we’re set inside. There’s a number of players that are going to be able to help us on the inside. We’ve got to get bigger and stronger on the edge of our defense, more athletic on the edge of our defense. I think those are two absolutely crucial needs for us moving forward after this class.”

Kelly called his shot, landing guys like Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt as immediate contributors at defensive end while also bringing in guys like Tony Springmann, Troy Niklas, Ben Councell, Chase Hounshell and Ishaq Williams in last years class alone. This year he’s added Jones, four-star DT Sheldon Day and outside linebacker Romeo Okwara.

Jones compares favorably to just about every one of the above recruits, with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, and a previous commitment to Penn State just a few of the schols Jones had at his choosing. He’s a Top 100 player by any measurement, and depending on the website might be a top twenty player in the country, rarefied air for the Irish football program.

Pete Sampson of IrishIllustrated.com got a wonderful quote out of Jones, explaining what drew him to the Irish.

“I really feel like the coaches at Notre Dame are younger, more energetic like my high school coaches, more hands on and that’s really what I need,” Jones told Sampson. “This morning I just thought it was right. I just really felt like I’ll be more successful at Notre Dame than at Penn State or any other college.”

Jones is the fourteenth commitment to the Irish recruiting class, joining Tee Shepard, Deontay Greenberry and Ronald Darby as Irish commitments that are listed in Rivals’ newest top 100.

 

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

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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.