Ronnie Stanley

The Commitments: The offensive line


Part two of our series recapping the recruiting commitments set to sign letters-of-intent with Notre Dame next Wednesday.

Often times, the most attention is heaped on the recruit that got away. That was certainly the case when Taylor Decker, a six-foot-eight, 310-pound tackle that was long pledged to the Irish flipped his commitment to Ohio State after coaches Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton did the same. After months of simmering on the back burner as the Irish’s longest tenured recruit, Decker made gigantic waves, throwing away a commitment that had lasted since early March to join Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes in the final month of recruiting.

Decker’s defection was part of a wave of negativity, coupled with Ronald Darby’s reopening of recruitment, a bad week turned on its head when the Irish were able to flip five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel the day before the spring semester started. Even without Decker, the Irish are adding two (technically three including long-snapper Scott Daly) linemen to the fold, a slender class, but one that likely won’t haunt the Irish because of their significant depth along the front line.

Let’s take a look at the three linemen the Irish will be adding next Wednesday:

High School: Bishop Gorman — Las Vegas, Nevada
Measureables: Six-foot-seven, 290-pounds
Other major offers: Auburn, Cal, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, USC
Fun Fact: Bishop Gorman will have over a dozen players in D-I football next year.
On choosing Notre Dame: “LeBron took his talents to South Beach. I’m taking my talents to South Bend.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: The top player in the state of Nevada, Stanley is another prototype tackle coming into the Irish system who will likely have some time to develop and build on an impressive frame. It’s tough to quantify how good Stanley is until we see him against legit competition, but he certainly looks the part and has a really impressive list of offers. Just as important, the Irish fought their way into Bishop Gorman to land Stanley, a school that’s been supplying the Pac-12 talent for years.

High School: Charlotte Catholic — Charlotte, North Carolina
Measureables: Six-foot-five, 270-pounds
Other major offers: Auburn, Clemson, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee
Fun Fact: Was a fullback in middle-school until a growth spurt.
On choosing Notre Dame: “It’s an incredible academic situation there, an awesome academic school with the business program,” Harrell told Irish Illustrated. “The coaching staff, the players, the students overall, they’re all just awesome people. The football tradition can’t be beat. Notre Dame just checked all the boxes as far as that goes.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: Will join an interior of the offensive line that’ll need to replace both Trevor Robinson and Andrew Nuss, and potentially Mike Golic. Has done nothing but impress ever since coming out of nowhere at the U.S. Army All-American combine after his junior season. Built big enough to be a tackle, Harrell will start on the interior, giving the Irish a great athlete at guard.

High School: Downers Grove South — Downers Grove, Illinois
Measureables: Six-foot-four, 230-pounds
Other major offers: Northwestern
Fun Fact: Rated No. 1 long snapper in the country by Rubio Long Snapping.
On choosing Notre Dame: “I was pretty much thinking this is a dream come true,” Daly told Irish Sports Daily. “I’ve really been waiting for Notre Dame to pull the trigger, and now that it’s finally happened, I’m still pinching myself. It’s like I said, it’s a dream come true and I’m very happy about it. I still can’t believe it.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: He’ll bring in immediate competition for Jordan Cowart, who found himself in Brian Kelly’s doghouse after breaking his hand in a scrum against Purdue, and hasn’t been able to hold down both the short and long snapping job. The Irish were actively recruiting a long snapper late last year as well (potentially another hint at their evaluation of Cowart), missing out on Bryce Haynes, who ended up at Ohio State, and was similarly ranked by Rubio Long Snapping. Daly is a perfect fit for today’s long snapper, a tall and lean athlete that can run down the field and cover punts.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley

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

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

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)

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.