Charlie-Weis

Weis to Kansas, Crist to follow?

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It’s not like you couldn’t see it coming. Yesterday’s bombshell news that Charlie Weis was leaving his post as the offensive coordinator at Florida to take over the Kansas football program led to me openly hypothesizing about quarterback Dayne Crist joining him in Lawrence. (I even tweeted it 18 hours ago.) Well, just minutes ago Pete Thamel of the New York Times reported that Crist will leave tomorrow for an official visit to Kansas, where he’ll consider reuniting with the coach that brought him to Notre Dame.

The ties to the Kansas quarterbacking job and Notre Dame are all too unique. For Crist, rejoining Weis could lead to the renaissance he’ll need to resurrect any professional aspirations he had. It’ll also put him back in a pro-style offense that’ll fit the fifth-year senior’s skillset, playing in a system he spent two years learning. But before he makes the decision to head to the Jayhawks, he’d be well served to discuss the move with one of his current coaches, offensive line coach Ed Warinner. It was Warinner that led the charge recruiting current Jayhawk starting quarterback Jordan Webb. (Warinner will also likely know just about all of the veteran offensive personnel for the Jayhawks, giving Crist an idea of just what he’ll be walking into.) If Crist is going to play at Kansas, he’ll need to beat out a quarterback that started all 12 games this season and seven during his redshirt freshman season. At six-foot, 195-pound, Webb doesn’t profile as a prototype Charlie Weis quarterback, but he’s got a lot of experience and is one of the team’s leaders.

Even before a coaching change was in the works, competition at the quarterback position was a given. Then offensive coordinator Chuck Long told the Kansas City Star that spring practice would be dedicated to building depth, with redshirt freshman Michael Cummings, entering the fray and two high school commitments, Seth Russell and Bilal Marshall committed to the Jayhawks. Russell is a lanky 6-foot-4 Texas product with an offer to Wake Forest his only other BCS option, while Marshall looks a little bit more impressive, with the dual-threat Florida prospect sporting a handful of impressive offers including Georgia Tech, Virginia, Northwestern, Baylor and Boston College among others. Weis honored the commitments of Ty Willingham’s recruits when he took over at Notre Dame, so you’d expect him to do the same at Kansas, especially this late in the recruiting game.

Of course, bringing in Crist could also lead Weis down the wrong path. One of the pitfalls Weis ran into at Notre Dame was failing to develop depth in his first two seasons in South Bend, and bringing in a one-year quarterback like Crist could be more of the same for the former Irish coach. Turner Gill only won one game in the Big 12 in his two seasons at Kansas, so the “win now” attitude that was needed in South Bend doesn’t likely apply to the demands of Jayhawk football fans. (They leave that to Bill Self’s basketball team.) Does a stop-gap quarterback send the right message to a team that likely needs to be rebuilt from the ground up? His second time around, will Charlie learn from mistakes he made at Notre Dame and develop the youth on a roster that’ll likely need to be fully restocked?

On a day when the Irish lost their offensive coordinator to UMass, the college football world was abuzz with Weis’ sudden departure from Florida, where he was the highest paid offensive coordinator in the country and had his son working in the football program. Say what you want about Weis — and yesterday, far too many media members resurrected tired pot shots and half-decade old grudges — but the man can develop quarterbacks and run an offensive (even if Florida fans didn’t see it in his only season in Gainesville).

If Crist does decide to head to Kansas to finish his career, it’ll be a walk down memory lane for Irish fans. It’ll be bizarre seeing Weis and Crist wearing Jayhawk blue and red, but it’ll also be fun to see Dayne finally get the chance to play in the offense he was recruited to run.

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.