Aaron Lynch Blue Gold

Lynch’s absence from practice sparks rumor mill

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There’s plenty of practice report video to get to, but the biggest news of the day was Aaron Lynch‘s absence from practice today. While rumors were burning like wildfire across the internet this morning after the rising sophomore defensive end was missing, Brian Kelly was quite clear after practice that nothing major was going on.

“We excused him from practice today. He needed some time to straighten out some personal matters at home,” Kelly said. “There were rumors that he quit or transferred or he went pro. All of that is not true. So we can end that right now.”

Lynch is expected back on campus Monday evening, per Kelly. School resumes after Easter on Tuesday, so his departure from practice might simply be an early getaway day from school, a logical explanation for a guy that isn’t battling for a job during spring drills. Lynch’s disappearance also took center stage on Twitter, where his mother refuted any notion that her son had gone to Florida or was transferring anywhere and instead stated that her son was “at home with me… Stop the rumors!”

Lynch’s relationship with South Bend has been the subject of message-board fodder lately. Some with knowledge of the situation do worry that Lynch’s struggles away from Florida, and his high school girlfriend, make this a situation that’s worth monitoring. But a logical assessment of the soon-to-be-sophomore’s options clearly show sticking it out at Notre Dame is the best option. If Lynch progresses as many expect, he’ll have the opportunity to enter the NFL draft after his junior season, meaning he’ll spend roughly 20 more months in South Bend, meaning it’s all downhill from here. That’s the shortest route to getting done with college, and quicker than any rumored transfer could be, where Lynch will have to sit out next season.

Of course, today’s absence will either be a minor blip in the radar or a massive shake-up in an offseason that already saw freshman Tee Shepard leave school before ever suiting up for a Notre Dame practice. Lynch is slated to be one of the best players on the field for the Irish next season, and any move by him would be the largest offseason news of the year for the Irish. That said, there’s just as likely of a chance that this is the encapsulation of the social-media tidal wave that’s taken over reporting in college sports, where rumors and fodder create and kill stories before a newspaper has time to print the morning news. Ultimately, we’ll find out by Tuesday, when classes resume and next Wednesday, the next scheduled practice.

Lastly, just to speak generally on teenagers and their collegiate choices, allow me a quick rant. The idea that 18-year-olds — whether they be students or scholarship athletes — chose their school based on the city that houses the institution is a bit ridiculous. Having picked a school when I was 18-years old, I can tell you that nobody I know considered South Bend when they chose to attend Notre Dame. Same with friends that went to Marquette, or big-time scholarship athletes that play football at a place like Florida. Gainesville is no mecca of culture, and has nothing on South Bend, but a few mild winter months and stifling summer humidity. USC — placed in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in south-central Los Angeles — still manages to draw people to school for both academic and athletic pursuits. There’s no doubt that geography is a factor for people choosing colleges, and staying close to home is clearly important to some kids. But to say that South Bend is a character in this subplot, might be looking at this a bit too close.

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.