Bob Elliott ND

Practice Report: Day Six update


For Notre Dame fans looking to get to know new safeties coach Bob Elliott, today is your day. After having coached and mentored co-defensive coordinators Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks, Diaco was brought on to replace Chuck Martin, who transitioned to the offensive side of the ball. Elliott certainly is bona fide, having coordinated some of the nation’s top units at Iowa and Kansas State.

Tasked with replacing Harrison Smith with three safeties — Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta, and Austin Collinsworth — that all earned significant playing time last season, Elliott will hopefully develop a position group that’ll need to help stabilize the cornerback position, where both Gary Gray and Robert Blanton are being replaced.

Working inside at the Loftus Center thanks to the spring’s first poor weather, today’s report is more of a compilation reel of the safety position. As usual, here are some thoughts and observations to get you through.

  • 0:15 — No weather report, no problem, for Jack Nolan. Sporting double-adidas with the Mike Brey inspired mock-neck and that funky mustard gold, Jack keeps it fresh, per usual.
  • 0:50 — You tend to forget, but Zeke Motta sure looks good in his uniform. He’d be one of the first guys I’d have getting off the bus.
  • 1:16 — Nice to hear from Bob Elliott. Haven’t had the chance to talk to him yet, but have heard nothing but good things out him.
  • 1:48 — No mention of fifth-year safety Danny McCarthy. I’m still waiting for the lightbulb to go on for him, even if I’m all alone sitting in this dark room. Either way, he was an amazingly talented two-way prep star.
  • 2:35 — There’s McCarthy (#15) in warm-up drills.
  • 2:42 — We’re supposed to be watching Jamoris Slaughter swarming to the football, but that’s a pretty impressive throw by Gunner Kiel across the field, showing a ton of arm strength.
  • 2:54 — That’s Matthias Farley (#41) getting coached up. He’s a pretty physical looking player, as we noticed a few practice reports ago.
  • 3:20 — That’s Elliott (back to us) tight ends coach Scott Booker, and director of football ops Chad Klunder yucking it up after practice and talking Kardashians. (You aren’t the only one who is surprised that I just typed that. I’ll defer to Jon Hamm on the subject.)
  • 4:25 — Great moment with Elliot and Zeke Motta, who drops a throw at the end of agility drills. “Zeke, you’re going to get about 10 to 15 chances at interceptions this year,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to get them all.” Truer words haven’t been spoken about an Irish defense desperately in need of forcing turnovers.
  • 4:42 — Elliott coaching up the Irish defensive backs on taking a proper angle. It might seem basic for some Irish fans, but when Denard Robinson is running around in the open field, this is a good lesson to fall back on.
  • 6:40 — Gotta hold onto that one, Danny.
  • 6:48 — Bengal Bouts champ Chris Salvi (#24) and Robby Toma (#9) in a nice little collision.
  • 6:55 — That’s werewolf Austin Collinsworth (#28) delivering the blow with CB Josh Atkinson (#43)
  • 7:00 — My guy Luke Massa (#14) winning the collision with Zeke Motta. Gotta believe the odds-makers got that one wrong.
  • 7:10 — Jalen Brown (#21) and Daniel Smith (#87). Jalen has the look of a football player. Now we’ll see if he can play.
  • 7:15 — The rematch goes to Zeke, powering Massa back.
  • 7:22 — Nice rebound by Josh Atkinson too, standing up Collinsworth.
  • 8:15 — Scott Booker getting excited. Nice to see.



Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

Notre Dame v Florida State

Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)


Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*


Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*


Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more


We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.


Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention


Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.