South Florida v Notre Dame

Dever looks back at his five years under the dome

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For an offensive lineman that was recruited by Charlie Weis, Taylor Dever‘s big break came when Brian Kelly took over the Notre Dame football program. Up until then, Dever was mostly an anonymous tackle, stuck in Sam Young’s shadow, a four-year starter that didn’t give up his job until he graduated and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

While Dever came out of nowhere to most Irish fans when he won the starting right tackle job in Kelly’s first year, his tale is a rather ordinary one at many big BCS programs, where offensive linemen put in years working their way onto the field in special teams before they’re ready to ascend to a starting position as fourth and fifth year players. As Dever looks back on five years and his final regular season game, his hometown newspaper, The Union of Nevada City, had a very nice look at one of the departing members of the Irish offense.

But a knee injury at the Hawaii Bowl following the 2008 season required surgery and created a new set of challenges to overcome. The following year, Taylor continued to persevere through a tough rehabilitation after his injury, serving both on special teams and as a backup to tackle Sam Young. A tough role indeed as Young was a 6-foot-8-inch, 316-pound, four-year starter who now plays for the Buffalo Bills.

In 2010, with Young moving on to the NFL, Dever was poised to assume his role as a starter, but he would have to do so under a new coach.

Brian Kelly replaced Weis as head coach, and Dever liked what he saw. The same was true for Kelly who gave Dever his first career start in the 2010 home opener against Purdue. He got 10 starts and saw action in 11 games at right tackle.

“The biggest difference I see in Brian (Kelly) is his instilling in us that you have got to do all the little things right to win,” Dever said. “We all have bought into that, and once you get so many guys on board that believe in the same thing and want to do all the little things right, you will start winning a lot of games.

“I strongly believe coach Kelly is a great fit here. I believe he can win a national championship here in the next couple years,” he added.

There’s a lot of really thoughtful stuff in this article and it’s certainly worth a read, and it goes to show you just how interesting of a guy Dever is, who sometimes plays an anonymous role on the offensive line. After a career that included three offensive line coaches and two leaders of the program, Dever acknowledge how different it feels knowing he’s run out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium for the last time.

“When you’re in it, it’s slow. It’s tough. You’re always looking for that light at the end of the tunnel,” Dever said of his bumpy career. “When that senior day passes and you don’t get to do it anymore, it is a different feeling.”

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.