Rice Owls

2014 schedule comes into focus with Rice game announced

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(I was traveling for Christmas today so we’ll get to some good Tee Shepard news, a FSU Felony update, and some interesting BK comments later tonight/tomorrow.)

It might have slid under the radar, but Rice announced an addition to their football schedule for 2014, adding Notre Dame to their slate of games. The Owls will visit South Bend in what appears to be a one-game series, on a date still to be determined.

“Notre Dame is a program that shares our core beliefs about college athletics,” Rice athletics director Rick Greenspan said. “We both believe that the pursuit of excellence in the classroom need not become secondary to the pursuit of championships in athletics. This type of scheduled is reflective of the greater overall vision for the second century of Rice Athletics.

“We are excited to add this game to the schedule in order to give our student-athletes and our fans this tremendous opportunity to experience a game day in South Bend and renew this series with the Irish,” Greenspan added.

While the 2012 schedule will grab headlines for it’s opening game in Dublin, dates with Miami in Soldier Field and a trip to Norman, Oklahoma, the evolution of the schedule has been interesting to watch with Jack Swarbrick helping to undo the 7-4-1 scheduling conundrum Kevin White instituted while atop the athletic department.

The Irish have all but dropped the seventh home game from the schedule, scheduling five away games while keeping a neutral site home game on their slate, creating a unique 6-5-1 model. Next year, that neutral site match-up will be at Soldier Field. In 2013, it’ll be at Cowboys Stadium against Arizona State. In 2014, the Irish will battle Syracuse in the Meadowlands for Big Apple supremacy.

The 2014 schedule is shaking out interestingly, with the Irish potentially softening up the front-end of their schedule. The game with Rice could be a potential fit for a home opener, with the Irish set to play Navy and Purdue, before a home date with Michigan. Not to take schools like Navy and Purdue lightly, but that’s the proper way to open a season before playing Michigan, not front-loading difficult opponents like the Irish have done in the past.

(For those worried that the schedule is turning too soft, don’t worry — 2015 and 2016 have the Irish alternating between Texas and Michigan in the first two weeks of the season.)

The Irish also welcome opponents Northwestern and Arizona State in 2014, and could potentially round out their schedule with a game against BYU, who Notre Dame agreed to play four times between 2014 and 2020.

The Rice game won’t steal headlines or get a round of applause from traditionalists, but finding an opponent that’ll travel to you without being assured a return game isn’t the easiest of tasks.

 

 

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.