Gunner Kiel

With Kiel to LSU, Irish should mull their QB options

34 Comments

Don’t blame Gunner Kiel for turning his recruitment into a soap opera. He was merely a bystander as dozens of college football programs battled for one of the country’s most heralded quarterbacking prospects.

With fans from Notre Dame and Vanderbilt holding their breath, Kiel decided to pick the hat that belonged to, well — The Hat. At LSU, Les Miles welcomes a quarterback that will walk into one of the nation’s premiere football programs, and also into a depth chart that’s actually far more inviting than what would have lied in front of him in South Bend.

The Irish’s pursuit of Kiel was one of dogged determination. The Indiana product supposedly grew up a fan of Notre Dame, cooled on the Irish early in recruiting when he committed to Indiana, then circled back as the football season heated up. The Irish always seemed to be a good fit for Kiel personality wise, but Notre Dame never offered enough for Kiel to pull the trigger and commit, a sign that there was likely something keeping him from joining the 2012 recruiting class.

In all likelihood, it was the trio of Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson, quarterbacks with two, three and four years of eligibility remaining respectively. It doesn’t take much of a rooting interest to notice the Irish depth chart behind center is a crowded one, and even the transfer of Dayne Crist does nothing to open a pathway for Kiel to quickly ascend to the starting role. We’ll likely only be able to speculate that the depth chart was a factor, but either way — the Irish’s No. 1 quarterbacking target is off the board for 2012.

Let’s take a look at what’s left for options moving forward.

Go get Devin Fuller.

The romance might have the tenure, but once Devin Fuller came onto Irish fans’ radars, it’s been hot and heavy ever since. The dual-threat quarterback is one of the nation’s top athletes, and is a pretty great fallback plan after missing out on Kiel. (Whether it’s sour grapes or not, a ton of Irish fans immediately aimed their sights at Fuller over Kiel, even before Gunner made his decision.)

Fuller was open about his love for the Irish, and he was waiting to see what happened with Kiel before deciding to take an official visit to Notre Dame. Now that Kiel has moved on, the Irish will push to get Fuller to campus as soon as possible, hoping to make up for lost time in the recruiting process.

On film, Fuller looks like a more explosive runner than Everett Golson, but lacking the throwing touch and polish of the Irish freshman. Fuller wants to play quarterback in college, and the Irish will give him that opportunity.

Go get somebody else’s quarterback.

Last year, the Irish came out of the blue to snag Golson out from under Butch Davis and North Carolina’s nose. Could the Irish be planning to do the same thing right now? We likely won’t know until after the 3rd of January, when the coaching staff will go full speed into recruiting, making a final push to secure a full allotment of recruits.

Rounding up the usual suspects, you’d expect the Irish to kick the tires on guys that you’ve heard about in the past. That includes recruits like Maty Mauk, now committed to Missouri, potentially Chad Kelly of Buffalo, now committed to Clemson, and a guy like Washington commit Cyler Miles, who Tony Alford was recruiting out of Denver. Maybe the coaches even take a Hail Mary on Jameis Winston, who’ll be getting a good look at the Irish when they take on Florida State, where he’s currently committed. (Winston is also a big-time baseball prospect, so ask Nebraska fans how the Bubba Starling experience has been so far.)

Realistically, another name is going to pop up on the board fairly quickly, with an even higher chance it’ll be one that I didn’t guess. But we’ll know how the Irish really feel about the three men battling for the starting job next year with how the Irish handle the final month of the season.

Go get cracking on 2013 quarterbacks.

I won’t pretend to tell you I’ve watched Matt Alviti play — a Chicagoland junior quarterback that the Irish targeted early. But if there’s nobody available on the Irish board, expect Brian Kelly and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin to be working hard on 2013 quarterbacks.

In many ways, this could be the preferred situation. It’ll give a little space for a young quarterback to believe he’ll be able to both learn the offense and make an early claim on a starting job. Still, there’s a danger whenever you leave a position open in a recruiting class, and the success rate of multiple quarterbacks in a single class is never very good.

Losing Kiel hurts in the short term, if only because a five-star quarterback would help build momentum amongst the skill players still on the Irish board. But only time will tell if Kiel is truly the one that got away, or another five-star recruit that fails to live up to the hype.

 

 

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty Images
6 Comments

Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
Getty Images
6 Comments

Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

6 Comments

On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Getty Images
11 Comments

Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

***