Armond Amstead

Are the Irish courting two Armsteads?

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By now, most Irish fans that have been reading this blog are familiar with Arik Armstead, the highly touted two-sports athlete that’s been recruited by both Brian Kelly and Mike Brey. Armstead is practicing right now at the US Army All-American bowl, where the 6-foot-8, 280-pound defensive lineman and power forward is still mulling through his recruiting options, with the Irish in the thick of it with schools like Cal and Oregon. Armstead has been tackling extra school work so he has the option to early enroll, and plans to do so for the spring semester.

In a bizarre twist of fate, the Irish could be getting two Armsteads for the price of one, with Arik’s older brother Armond Armstead also reportedly looking at Notre Dame as well.

The Orange Country Register reports that Armond, a graduating senior at USC who sat out last season with a medical condition after the Trojans’ medical staff refused to clear him for participation, is looking to transfer without penalty and play out his final season of eligibility in 2012. And Notre Dame is one of three possible destinations.

Although he hasn’t ruled out returning to USC next season, defensive lineman Armond Armstead is strongly considering transferring after the school wouldn’t clear him to play in 2011.

“Nothing’s set in stone, but I’m going to start taking visits and checking some other schools out,” Armstead said by phone Tuesday night. “I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going to happen.”

Armstead, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior from Elk Grove, has three options to choose from: Return to USC, transfer or enter the 2012 NFL draft. Based on conversations with him and his father, transferring seems like the most likely outcome, returning to USC the least. Armstead listed Notre Dame, Auburn and Arkansas as three possible destinations.

After starting all 12 games in 2010, Armstead was hospitalized in March ’11 because of an undisclosed medical condition. Despite passing numerous tests and being well enough to work out with the team, Armstead never gained medical clearance from USC’s doctors and redshirted.

The school’s reluctance to clear Armstead was a source of frustration for him and his family and led his brother, top-rated two-way lineman Arik Armstead, to decommit from USC.

“We haven’t been real happy with the process and some of the procedures about how everything was handled,” said Guss Armstead, Armond and Arik’s father. “Because of that, it may be time for him (Armond) to move on.”

Neither Guss nor Armond Armstead would say whether USC has cleared Armond to play in 2012. But the uncertainty of that situation clearly is a deterrent.

Scholarship numbers are tight for the Irish, but I’d highly doubt Brian Kelly would turn down a player of Armond’s stature, especially with the youth — however promising it is — along the defensive line. Of course, if bringing in Armond would help Notre Dame sign Arik, expect the Irish to sign on for that combo deal as well.

What remains to be determined is the elder Armstead’s scholarship release. There is a murky line that’s drawn (see the recent case with Phil Martelli and Todd O’Brien) and in all likelihood, USC will need to approve the schools that Armond can transfer to, meaning a marriage between a former Trojan and the Irish is a tough one to envision.

Still, if the landing spot of Arik has been a mystery to the reporters that cover recruiting, the fact that Armond isn’t reportedly considering Cal is an optimistic sign for Notre Dame’s staff, who have doggedly pursued Arik, even when the odds looked long to even get him out of California.

Decisions will be coming soon for both Armstead brothers, with Armond having a hearing scheduled at USC that’ll determine his football playing future and Arik deciding whether or not to take a recruiting visit before he enrolls somewhere next semester.

It was a long shot of long shots to start, but there’s a legitimate chance that both Armstead brothers could be on campus next semester at Notre Dame, a welcome sight to Irish followers, who get the added bonus of putting a stick in the eye of Trojan fans.

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.