Michael Floyd combine

Salvi earns scholarship, rebuilding, recruiting, and combine

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News has broken from the Twitter accounts of several Notre Dame players that walk-on safety Chris Salvi has earned a scholarship for next season. The move will bring the senior back for a fifth-year, one that will give Salvi a shot at earning a graduate degree for free, and solidifies some depth on the back end of the defense, not to mention gives Irish special teams one of their best coverage men back for another season.

Salvi’s return was likely solidified when the Irish left a few empty seats on the recruiting bus, with Notre Dame only signing 17 players to the class of 2012. While an official announcement hasn’t been made, it’ll be interesting to see what players come back and fill out the 85 man scholarship roster. From what the whispers have been, it sounds like other than the obvious returning seniors — Kapron Lewis-Moore, Jamoris Slaughter, Braxston Cave — guys like John Goodman and Mike Golic Jr. will also return. No word on the others, but expect something soon.

Not everybody is going to have the straight-to-the-silver-screen story of David Ruffer, but Salvi’s run at ND is pretty impressive, too, with the game ball and game captaincy a pretty impressive feat. He’s thought of as more than just a walk-on to this staff, and after talking to some people close to the program, I know there wouldn’t be much hesitation to put Salvi in at safety, where he’ll likely be in the mix as well as on all coverage units. Congrats to the Lake Forest, Illinois native.

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In other news, the guys over at One Foot Down have been doing a pretty cool feature on rebuilding the Irish football program. That term alone is enough to get some hard-core domers up in arms, but it’s a thoughtful read filled with some well-made points, and it’s worth your time if you’re combing the net for some good Irish reading this weekend.

To butcher their work accordingly, here’s the basic breakdown of their four-part series:

  • Part One: Build and keep a staff, and beat ranked teams. (Agree!)
  • Part Two: Avoid losing seasons, get good QB play. (Double-Agree!)
  • Part Three: Get your depth chart healthy, keep up in the arms race. (Yep!)
  • Part Four: Dominate bad competition, stop losing bad games, find the right guys. (Nodding.)

Nice work by Eric Murtaugh, who really dug into this one. Well worth your time.

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Lastly, with Davonte Neal finally on board with the Irish, it’s time to begrudgingly turn our attention to the class of 2013. No, I haven’t been under a rock and I’ve noticed the early returns Michigan has had in recruiting, with Brady Hoke gobbling up some impressive verbal commitments, from a lot of guys that also had Notre Dame offers. Last season, it was easier to dismiss the players Hoke was taking, many of whom didn’t have offers from Notre Dame or didn’t seem like true fits in Brian Kelly’s scheme.

But there’s no question that guys like Kyle Bosch, Logan Tuley-Tillman and Taco Charlton were on Notre Dame’s radar, and the ridiculous 12 verbal commitments the Wolverines have currently puts them in Texas territory for this time of year.

Yet here’s a reminder to those Irish fans pulling your hair out. Those early commitments from guys like Taylor Decker, Ronald Darby, and Deontay Greenberry? They didn’t last. Coming off an 11-win season and a victory in Sugar Bowl, you’d expect a great return in recruiting and credit Hoke and company for taking advantage. But the Wolverines will have to earn it this season, facing a schedule that opens with Alabama instead of Western Michigan, and features away games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State.

If you’re getting worked up about recruiting with over 11 months to go before Signing Day, you might need to take a step back and reevaluate things. We already know that a commitment won’t stop the Irish coaching staff from coming after players (nor will it stop Urban Meyer). But the Irish will look to start building their recruiting momentum at an upcoming Junior Day.

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Lastly, six Notre Dame football players are at the NFL Scouting Combine, the annual cattle call where college football’s best pro prospects are herded together and put through interviews, testing, and workouts.

Notre Dame has Robert Blanton, Taylor Dever, Darius Fleming, Michael Floyd, Jonas Gray, and Harrison Smith attending, with the microscope most closely focused on Floyd, who has some character questions thanks to last offseason’s DUI arrest.

Immediate reports have Floyd acquitting himself quite well with reporters, and he’ll meet with several teams — some of whom will consider taking Notre Dame’s all-time leading receiver in the first round of the draft.

As of now, here’s the official measurements of the former Irish players in attendance, compared to their roster listing at Notre Dame (I’ll update as the reports come in):

Robert Blanton: 6-0, 196, 6-1, 200
Taylor Dever: 6-5, 298, 6-5, 301
Darius Fleming: 6-2, 245, 6-2, 255 (This will be an interesting, I expect Fleming to be 6-1, 245.)
Michael Floyd: 6-3, 220, 6-3, 224
Jonas Gray: 5-10, 223, 5-10, 230
Harrison Smith: 6-1, 213, 6-2, 214

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.