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Holiday Weekend notes: Christmas edition

Dec 23, 2011, 12:27 PM EDT

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

With Irish players at home enjoying some family time before reporting to Orlando tomorrow to begin bowl preparations, let’s clean out the note pad before Christmas weekend, with a lot of recruiting news coming soon.


It sounds like the race for five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel isn’t just between Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. Various reports have LSU pushing their way into the game, with Les Miles and the Tigers making a serious play for Kiel, who was just named Indiana Mr. Football this week.

Steve Wiltfong of has been as plugged in as anyone on Kiel’s recruitment and his latest report has Kiel legitimately torn between the three schools, with the timeline to early enroll coming very quickly.

Irish fan’s passion for Kiel — a player many regard as the No. 1 quarterback in the country — has been surprisingly level-headed. Maybe it’s the log jam that currently needs to play itself out with the current depth chart and the still-to-be-determined ability of guys like Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson, but Kiel’s recruitment hasn’t turned into the message board soap opera other top prep quarterbacking targets have been in the past.

Still, with Dayne Crist gone and Luke Massa now working at wide receiver, there’s room on the depth chart for a quarterback, a position Kelly wants to add to every year in recruiting, and Kiel’s an awfully attractive option.


Speaking of quarterbacking options, the Irish have already set a contingency plan if Kiel doesn’t commit to Notre Dame, and he’s a really intriguing option. New Jersey quarterback Devin Fuller has come out of nowhere to be an option for the Irish at quarterback, and he’s an electric dual-threat QB that shows the type of versatility Brian Kelly is willing to play with in his offense.

One look at his junior season highlight tape (with impressive production value I might add) let’s you understand the type of athlete Fuller is, and the Irish have pulled back into consideration for a guy a few recruiting services view as a five-star recruit as well.

“I grew up a fan of Notre Dame,” Fuller told Steve Wiltfong. “My coach grew up a fan. That’s our school colors. Everything fits. The school is unbelievable. The opportunities after college would be endless.”

Fuller is being recruited right now by Bob Diaco, and will likely set an official visit to Notre Dame if Kiel doesn’t commit to Notre Dame. He’s been told by the coaching staff that he’s a quarterback in their minds, but he has the type of athleticism that could get him onto the field on both sides of the ball and at a variety of positions.

Obviously, Kiel and Fuller aren’t the same kind of quarterback. But it’s refreshing to see this coaching staff be so aggressive this late in the game, and still find dynamic players that are interesting in Notre Dame. Fuller has taken official visits to TCU and Nebraska and will visit Rutgers as well. He’ll play in the Army All-American game as well.


It hasn’t been the kind of senior year Ethan Johnson envisioned having, with a high ankle sprain limiting the veteran defensive end for the bulk of the season after getting off to a good start. Finally healthy, it’ll be interesting to see how NFL teams view Johnson, a really athletic 300 pound lineman that’s shown great versatility.

But don’t expect that to cross Johnson’s radar right now. He’s focused on beating Florida State.

“It’s all that matters,” Johnson said. “It’s all we’re focused on right now. For this game we’ve had a long time to focus on it, and we’re going to continue to work and prepare and get ready to play our best football. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do that, there’s no reason why we’re not going to do that… We’re going to do that.”

For Irish fans lukewarm on a late December bowl game after having hopes for the BCS, hearing Johnson talk so pointedly about the importance of this game has to make you feel good about the progress of this football team, even if the four regular season losses were a big let down. But it all goes to the process of building a program, something Johnson and the departing senior class feel is part of their job.

“I’m a guy who believes you leave something better than you found it,” Johnson said. “I definitely want to do that. I want to leave this place better than when I found it.”


For those following the Irish’s quest to add another running back to their depleted depth chart, the Irish will find out if the recruiting class with add a complement to Will Mahone on December 29th, just a few hours before taking on the Seminoles.

That’s because Seattle running back KeiVarae Russell will be holding a press conference at his high school to announce his college choice, with the Irish and the hometown Washington Huskies finalists.

Russell spoke about the decision making process to the Seattle Times:

“It’s not tough at all,” said Russell, when asked where he’s at in the process. “I know exactly where I’m going. I’m just not going to tell anyone until next week.”

Right now, he’s not tipping his cap on whether it will be Washington or Notre Dame. He plans to make his decision public during a ceremony at Mariner at noon Dec. 29 — there is a chance it will happen on the 28th.

“I saw myself going to that school a few weeks ago, probably before my Cal visit,” he said. “I kind of knew where I was going to go but I wanted to make sure.”

Again, a quick look at his junior year highlights shows you a pretty dynamic athlete and a guy that looks to win the battle with speed and quickness as opposed to power. With Mahone looking like the kind of back that could take Jonas Gray’s place, adding Russell to the fold would help solidify the running back position, and add some certainty to a recruiting class that’s still actively pursuing a lot of big fish.


Say what you want about Charlie Weis, but the man can recruit quarterbacks. Not only did Weis sign Dayne Crist to take over the starting job next season, he also took in former Irish target and one-time five-star recruit Jake Heaps, who’ll sit out next season after transferring from BYU and have two seasons to play for the Jayhawks.

The Jayhawks only have eight verbal commitments, but Weis has already accepted the commitment of Tre Parmalee, son of his former Irish assistant Bernie Parmalee, and is likely to score the commitment of South Bend’s Gehrig Dieter, who has put up some incredibly prolific numbers this season.

Of course, Weis still needs to put together a defensive staff, something he struggled to do at Notre Dame, and that process is ongoing.

More from the Lawrence Journal World:

There has been grumbling about the slow pace with which Weis has gone about hiring a defensive coordinator and filling out the rest of his coaching staff. But according to KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, the delay has been by design. Monday night, during his time on “Hawk Talk with Bill Self,” Zenger talked about the ongoing quest for assistant coaches and shed light on Weis’ timetable.

“I’m watching him go through this process, and it’s really an old scientific term that we used to use in data collection of sifting and sorting through the folks and trying to get just the right combination,” Zenger said. “Sometimes I find myself shifting into fan mode when he shares names with me: I kind of go, ‘Well, hire him, hire him and hire him,’ but that’s not what he needs to do. He needs to make sure he gets the right puzzle pieces together to make this thing really work.”

Zenger, who has been a part of football coaching staffs at Kansas State, South Florida and Wyoming, says there is more that goes into putting together a coaching staff that many might think.

“That’s what he’s going through now,” Zenger said. “We’re going through background checks, and you gotta make sure the spouses would be happy in Lawrence. People don’t think about that, but when you bring together a staff of nine full-time assistants, you’re also bringing together nine families. And that’s critical to the chemistry of the staff.”

It’s good to see Charlie taking coaching chemistry to heart, but he’ll likely need to have his mind made up by January 3rd, when the recruiting dead period ends.


Just a quick note to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. It’s been an up-and-down season for the Irish, but we had a great year on the blog, with so many new readers coming aboard and continuing to stop by. Thanks for making this a stop in your search for Irish news. I truly appreciate it.

  1. dickasman - Dec 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM


    merry Kwaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa everybody

  2. nudeman - Dec 23, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Fuller’s tape is impressive but he looks more like a RB or slot guy to me.
    Of the 4 min or so I watched I don’t think I saw a single dropback pass. Some nice throws on the run, bus as I recall Golson looks like a better thrower.

    • danno27 - Dec 23, 2011 at 1:40 PM

      Yeah Golson’s arm motion was much smoother in the highlight video I saw.

      I’m totally confused about all these guys popping out of the woodwork (ok just Fuller and Westerkamp) and onto the ND board, but I won’t complain if we can nab one or two.

  3. notredamegrad - Dec 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    A very merry Christmas to you, Keith. Thank you for all of your work covering the Irish for us this year.

    It’s a joy to follow the Irish – I’m thankful for the players’ and the coaches’ hard work and passion this year. Here’s hoping for a great game vs. FSU and a strong win to finish the year. (And a long-sought and very happy ending for Dayne at Kansas in the new year.)

    • tradertrik - Dec 23, 2011 at 4:30 PM

      I agree with your comment on Dayne. Break a leg, kid……..sorry guys. Couldn’t pass it up! I know, a gazillion thumbs down.

      Recruiting – please, for the love of all things holy, get a big, tough running back. Like a Bettis big, right? How many quarterbacks do we really need right now? We’ve got three youngsters; let’s get some nasty defensive guys. I’m talking about the kind of guys, like a defensive end, that would make Barkley wish he’d gone on to the NFL rather than stay for his senior year.

      Thanks for doing your best to shine a bright light on a very mediocre year for Irish football, Keith. I admire your self control. Merry Christmas to you and yours and a very safe New Year. As to all of you, thanks for the great reads, insightful comments, and the laughs. Clearly the season’s not over yet as we get the enjoyment of watching FSU getting the snot beat out of them, and then recruiting of course. I suspect we’re all gonna enjoy next year………………….

      • irishbornraised - Dec 23, 2011 at 7:02 PM

        Don’t count the irish out quite yet. last year against USC rees had 5 turnovers (i think 2 fumbles and 3 interceptions) he came baack and played one of his best games yet against a good Miami team.

  4. danno27 - Dec 23, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    You da man Keith. Merry Christmas.

  5. smurphdoggy29 - Dec 23, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    Thanks for all your hard work Keith !

    Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year !

    Same to all the Bloggers ! Here’s hoping for a stunning 2012 !

  6. oldestguard - Dec 23, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    Enjoy this blog and all the contributors.

    Merry Christmas to all and a bright future for our Irish in 2012 and beyond.

  7. trbowman - Dec 23, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    Gunner Kiel sounds like the name of a great college quarterback, no?

    I bet he goes to LSU.

    We’ll take this Devin Fuller guy!

  8. trbowman - Dec 23, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    Wow, see this article from USA today?

    Craaaazy streak.

  9. gtizzo - Dec 23, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    Merry Christmas Keith,

    I will be at the Champs sports bowl working security. I hope to be able to at least pay some attention to the game but I doubt it. Gunner Kiel isn’t going to sit, if he comes to South Bend he will start. I seriously doubt he is going to pick a program were he isn’t “the guy”. Starting Kiel makes sense at ND, young receiving corp, this whole need for a dual threat QB has gone to far. Brain Kelly won games with Pike he wasn’t dual threat and barely mobile. If Brain Kelly wanted a dual threat kid he should have made his move earlier then heading into this third year.

  10. irishbornraised - Dec 23, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Just a few( not really just a few) things i thought i had to get off my chest and put somewhere

    1. There is very good reason behind BK started TR for the bowl. Although Hendrix is a good QB (strong arm, fast legs, athletic build) he hasn’t gotten enough practice reps. He came off the scout team for crying out loud! He had a 45% completion rate, and other than the amount of throwaways, this can probably be attributed to his lack of time spent with the receivers. Give him time during the spring to practice, last year he was like 5th string and he might be looking at the starting job. He redshirted and Rees didnt for a reason, Rees is the band aid, hendrix is the medicine.

    2. I only started reading this this year and was wondering, did you guys hate on Rees when he was 4-0? did you talk about his lack of arm strength or mobility? Did you root for him to get the starting job? I’m not being sarcastic, im legitimately interested

    3. there’s a serious likelihood that TR has pictures of BK in the shower with a little boy

    4. I share an alma mater with both the great Te’o and Toma, they won the state championship in their senior season there and Te’o doubled as a RB and if i remember correctly did pretty well. We need a big bruiser so why not put him in once or twice as a surprise. Couldn’t you see him going full speed up the middle, shoving defenders out of the way and dragging 3 safeties into the endzone.

    5. If defense wins championships, why do we keep making offensive gurus into our head coaches?

    6. Dayne Crist may have had problems with the big stage. He looked confident on that first drive, but then when the game seemed to be in jeopardy, he was unable. this might be partially attributed to BK putting pressure on him and yelling rather than trying to make the situation better

    7. Brian Kelly showed that when he can be constructive rather than explosive he can be a very good coach by getting J-Gray (that nickname’s going to stick) to explode in his senior year.

    8. I think Brian Kelly is inspiring the team by setting high goals and showing them that they have the talent to be champions. They can no longer toil on the bottom rungs of mediocrity and have it become the status quo, they must turn their heads toward the sky and see that it will be a long journey but a realistic one.

    9. Is it possible that BK is just under too much of a microscope

    10. Despite a hard schedule next year, there’s not a single game that I woudn’t give the Irish the advantage in. In a weird way, it feels like the kind of schedule that can whip a team into champions!

    I would be honored beyond belief if some of these things could be addressed by the legend that is nudeman(no.11: why the username?)

    • bernhtp - Dec 24, 2011 at 10:30 AM

      Rees got the job for a number of reasons and none that include having Sandusky-style photos of BK:

      1. There was a lack of QB talent on the roster from the Clausen era. When Jimmy came and started, the QB position was settled. The other QBs transferred. Recruiting QBs became difficult because Dayne, another 5 star, came on board the next year.

      2. Tommy has a dad as a coach, played a pass-oriented offense in HS, and learned quickly. But most importantly, Rees enrolled early and had a full semester head start on Hendrix. Had Andrew also enrolled early, my bet is that history might be very different.

      3. When Dayne got injured last year, the cupboard was bare; we had only walk-on Nate and true-freshman Tommy. Tommy had more experience – both HS and the extra semester – and so he got the nod over Andrew.

      4. The dramatic improvement of the defense last year relieved the pressue on Rees and the O, and provided him with some good wins, confidence and experience. Tommoy got invaluable game experience and first-team practice reps. The experience built on itself – it put more distance between Tommy and Andrew. When BK decided in the USF game that Dayne didn’t have “it,” there was Tommy.

      5. Games against the good defenses have been tough. They figured out that Tommy’s weak arm, lack of speed, and inability to throw on the run effectively contracted the field they need to cover. The box got stacked to stuff the run and the short pass and Tommy became less effective.

      God love Tommy. He has exemplified reaching your potential far faster than anyone could have expected. He has worked hard and smart. He is becoming, as the Army ad says, “be all that you can be.” For whatever reason, God only blessed Tommy with the spirit and intelligence, but not the arms and legs necessary to be a top D1a QB.

      So, here we are with Tommy as starting QB in the bowl game. I suspect that Andrew will not only be brought in to run his package, but will stay in (ala Stanford) if FSU can also effectively stack the box with Rees in.

      Final thought: I think the lowest point in watching Notre Dame football ever (since my freshman year many years ago) was the Dayne Crist fumbled snap at the one. It was USC, a perfect night, new gold helmets, Ozzie cheering us on – an incredible atmosphere. We were clawing our way back from having our butts kicked the first half. Tommy went down and Dayne brilliantly drove the ball to the one yard line, about to score a touchdown and tie the score. It wasn’t just USC or a possible big comeback win, it was Dayne Crist in a moment of redemption – something that we at Notre Dame were taught to look for and honor almost more than anything else. I had a great view of everything low on the 40 yard line. We all had our breaths held for the big moment of Dayne Crist redemption, USC revenge and big game win, and then IT happened. I actually turned my head and closed my eyes when the USC defender picked up the ball with no one near him. I didn’t see the last 70 yards of the run. I couldn’t.

      • don74 - Dec 24, 2011 at 12:19 PM

        Your description of the DC fumble is spot on. I too was in the stands and like you simply couldn’t watch once the ball hit the ground. All we can hope is the best for Dayne. If it doesn’t come on the field may it come to him in other ways.

    • pjm79nd - Dec 24, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      Great comment regarding BK in the shower with a little boy.

      YOU ARE A JERK!!

      • bernhtp - Dec 24, 2011 at 10:40 PM

        Give the guy some Christmas charity. It was just some dark humor and obviously not a slam against Kelly.

    • irishbornraised - Dec 24, 2011 at 5:38 PM

      I have to actually rethink some of the above. As a result of the holiday season I recently acquired a new big screen television and thought it would be a great time to watch the Stanford game which I had taped but never fully watched due to being at the game and it being too painful to see twice. I could only handle so much of the first half and fast forwarded to Andrew Hendrix’s turn at it. I had forgotten just how amazing he had been! There were definitely some rookie mistakes. I have always had faith in TR, mainly because it was just too good of a story to end in tragedy and getting taken over. But there’s just too much talent for him to get the starting job. And regarding my comment about TR having pictures of BK, I apologize if that was over the top. That being said, I still find it funny

    • nudeman - Dec 25, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      I did not know I had attained legendary status here, but ok … let’s run with it.

      1. Starting Rees in the Bowl was prob the right thing, for reasons you mention. Hendrix is still an unknown quantity, and at least with TR we know what we’ve got. I still maintain that there’s a decent chance BK will go with TR next year. I hope not, but his management of the QBs and love for TR has defied logic so far.

      2. Yes, many including me were suspicious of Rees’ ability to get them to the next level even when he was 4-0. Too careless with the ball (though he’s improved on this a little) and too many physical limitations. Everyone agrees he’s a good guy though and gives it all he has, so no one “hates” him.

      3. There is definitely a story about the Dayne/BK relationship that has yet to be told/leaked. Dayne hinted at something this week with a comment about lack of communication. Worst case: BK was jealous or threatened by DC’s immense popularity and found a way to marginalize him. Or maybe it was what you and others have observed: Dayne got rattled in big moments and BK couldn’t live with that.

      4. Under too much of a microscope? I don’t think so. Despite a couple explosive moments he’s been reasonably cool. Go watch some old tapes of Lou grabbing face masks and screaming in players’ faces. Sometimes it’s the only way to get through to 18 – 22 yr old kids with ADD.

      Merry Christmas to all from nudeman.

  11. newyorknd - Dec 23, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Merry Xmas Keith!

    Go Irish!

  12. gracehall1980 - Dec 23, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    Happy Holidays, Keith. Are you back in chilly MN with us?

  13. tlndma - Dec 24, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    Merry Christmas Keith………………..Go Irish….Beat Seminoles!

  14. dbldmr - Dec 24, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    Merry Christmas to all. Great work throughout the season, Keith. Hard to believe that we’re almost at the end. Beating FSU would be a wonderful end to an up and down season.

    Just a bit more than eight months until the opener in Dublin. Until then, Slainte.

  15. leftcoastirishfan - Dec 24, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    Merry Christmas Loyal Irish fans. It looks to me like we’ll be adding a 4 star running back next Thursday.

    • irishbornraised - Dec 24, 2011 at 5:41 PM

      t count your chickens before they hatch

  16. barneysbullet - Dec 24, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Thanks for your work in the trenches Keith…a Merry Merry and Happy Happy to you and yours!

  17. papadec - Dec 27, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    Gunner Kiel committed to LSU today.

  18. barneyzonk - Dec 28, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    nudeman this in reply to some of your older putrid posts
    when the lord made people he made some fat ones and some skinny ones
    at that time he did not say that fat people could not coach college football
    or that skinny ones couldnt coach sumo wrestling
    so please sir refrain from your stupid logic that morbidly obese
    are somehow inferior people and not deserving of an oppertunity
    to coach college football in another year you’ll be saying the same
    thing about bk and cw is not a threat to anyone in south bend

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