Jones carries heavy heart after loss of his father


With TJ Jones made available to the media for the first time after the sudden death of his father Andre in June, there are a few great columns out today on the sophomore wide receiver and how impressive he’s been pushing on in a time of tragedy.

“Every second, when I’m not thinking about schoolwork or football, I’m thinking about him,” Jones said yesterday, reminding all of us how fresh the loss is to Jones and his family.

The guys over at were there to film Jones’ interview and instead of rewriting a bunch of quotes, you get a great feel for what a good kid TJ is just by watching this three-minute clip.



What the video didn’t capture was Jones talking about his confrontation with head coach Brian Kelly on the sidelines of the USF game, after Tommy Rees‘ pass bounced off TJ’s helmet and into the arms of a defender for a critical redzone interception.

“I think a lot of people reacted to that more than I guess what it was,” Jones said. “In the heat of the moment, I understand it’s coaching. I got the message he was sending, whereas other people just saw him yelling at me. I saw it as, put the play behind you. Get better the next play.”

While Kelly’s red-faced tantrum has gotten more than its share of media attention, it’s important to point out that while the volume level and facial coloring might be extreme, it’s not a coach breaking down or insulting his player, but rather coaching… with additional volume and intensity.

Besides, even Jones’ mother, who was on the field before the game with TJ during a pregame moment of silence, didn’t seem too worried about it.

“She thought it was kind of funny,” Jones said.

Having both of my parents still with me, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to lose your father at such a young age — Andre Jones was only 42 when he passed away. But it’s clear that the entire Notre Dame family has been there for TJ as he grieves and transitions into a more paternal role as he helps his mother with his five younger siblings.

“I’ve become the man of the house,” Jones said. “My problems don’t really matter to me anymore. It’s more helping my family out. I just think to myself everyday that I have six other people at home that are counting on me.”

After a shaky opening Saturday, Jones has rebounded, scoring two important touchdowns in consecutive weeks for the Irish, adding another outside threat to the offense to go along with Michael Floyd. It’s hard not to credit that to maturity both on and off the field, and watching Jones — unfortunately forced — to grow up before us.

“I think he’s really stepped up,” Kelly said. “He’s a lot more accountable. He’s not a freshman anymore. Last year, there would be times where he would just act like a freshman. He’s a lot more mature in the way he handles himself.”


Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.