KLM hit

Practice Report: Day Twelve update

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The departure of defensive end Aaron Lynch cast a fairly large shadow over the Irish football program, just as the Notre Dame coaching staff was opening its doors to over 600 high school coaches. Saturday’s practice was an open look for observers (media included) to see first hand the state of the Irish football team.

With the spring game set for Saturday, and more social-media melodrama happening this morning, it’s been an eventful few months for the Irish, and a full-contact scrimmage was likely just what the doctor ordered.

As they have been all spring, UND.com had the only video footage of the action. Here are some thoughts and observations.

  • 0:10 — That’s one understated truck.
  • 0:20 — We’ve got some serious hitting coming up, so I’ll do my best to give you guys the breakdown of who is running into who (or is it whom).
  • 0:28 — Mike Golic (#57) vs. Kona Schwenke (#96) with Everett Golson dropping the snap before handing the ball off to Theo Riddick. Let’s look past the nightmare of Golson’s dropped snap. That’s impressive work by Schwenke, standing up a fifth-year senior offensive guard.
  • 0:32 — Manti Te’o and Chris Watt (#66) have a mighty big collision before George Atkinson (#4) runs through the hole. The defensive staff were very fired up after Te’o’s play, but it sure looked like Watt did everything you’d ask of a lineman.
  • 0:40 — That’s Zack Martin (#70) getting the best of Kapron Lewis-Moore (#89). It might be too soon to get really optimistic about Martin, but he’s got the chance to be a big-time, awards-level offensive lineman.
  • 0:46 — Ishaq Williams (#11) stood up All-American tight end Tyler Eifert (#80). Running back Tyler Plantz got through the right side of the line, but Ishaq held up well at the point of attack.
  • 0:54 — Louis Nix (#9) stood up Matt Hegarty (#77) then slid off the block and made the tackle on Cierre Wood. Nix had members of the Irish fanbase sweating bullets after some late-night tweeting, but all seems to be fine.
  • 0:58 — Christian Lombard (#74) against Carlo Calabrese (#44). Well done by Lombard, who is having a really good spring.
  • 1:05 — That’s Sheldon Day (#91) against Tate Nichols (#64). Heckuva job by the early-enrolled freshman holding up against a really big right tackle.
  • 1:07 — Alex Welch (#82) against Ben Councell (#30). Welch did a nice job driving blocking, but Councell eventually shakes it and shows a nice bit of nastiness by finishing the play.
  • 1:16 — Conor Hanratty (#65) handles somebody nicely, as Theo Riddick makes his way through untouched.
  • 1:22 — Top collision so far. Justin Utupo (#53) absolutely stands up Bruce Heggie (#51) in the whole and makes a great play on the ball carrier. Don’t sleep on Utupo.
  • 1:29 — Stephon Tuitt (#7) reminds Irish fans that things will still be okay at defensive end by dominating the point of attack against Nick Martin (#72).
  • 1:35 — Nice job by Ben Koyack (#18) against Danny Spond (#13).
  • 1:39 — Walk-on Dennis Mahoney (#71) takes it to sophomore walk-on Kevin Carr (#67) one-on-one.
  • 1:44 — Jarrett Grace (#59) does his best to stand up to Chris Watt (#66). Watt did just about the same thing to Te’o, so this isn’t a knock on Grace.
  • 1:49 —  Good collision between Jordan Prestwood (#79) and Tyler Stockton (#92). Stockton has become a bit of a forgotten man, so hopefully he’s ready when his number is called.
  • 1:54 — Jake Golic (#88) against Kendall Moore (#8). Nice play by Moore.
  • 2:01 — Nix stands up Golic Jr. in the hole, but Wood still squirts out of trouble.
  • 2:07 — Lombard is just too big for Joe Schmidt (#38) who does his best to stand-up in the hole.
  • 2:12 — Nice job by KLM standing strong in the hole against Zack Martin.
  • 2:15 — Koyack and Anthony Rabasa (#56) meet in the hole, as Koyack drives Rabasa away from the runner.
  • 2:44 — This looks just plain crazy. Kickoff gunner work and a massive collision on the first rep. Another gigantic hit by Utupo. (This drill is giving my flashbacks to my days as a gunner in high school football.)
  • 3:15 — Good example of why we’ll see Ben Councell on kickoff coverage.
  • 3:25 — That Jarrett Grace has himself quite a disposition.
  • 3:34 — After nearly getting his clock cleaned by Utupo, cornerback Joe Romano gets his revenge on cornerback Josh Atkinson, who tries to take Romano on high and loses a big collision. Hearty celebration follows. Nobody wants to see guys get cleaned out, but I think it says a ton that Cierre Wood, Manti Te’o, and other starters are just as quick to celebrate the big play of a walk-on, as they are of a scholarship player. Good team atmosphere on display there.
  • 3:58 — I’m on the Cam McDaniel bandwagon. I think he’s going to make a difference next year, even if it is in the secondary. He’s just a good football player.
  • 4:04 — Looking for offensive evolution? How about that playcall/design by Chuck Martin and Brian Kelly, lifting a play from West Virginia’s playbook, on a quick lateral sweep that absolutely shredded Clemson last season. Fun design, and a lot less dangerous than it looks.
  • 4:20 — Cierre Wood looking very decisive as her runs through what looks like the first team defense. Lot of real estate created by Harry Hiestand‘s guys.
  • 4:25 — I’ll choose to call this good coverage by McDaniel, but it looked like Riddick had a step on him and Tommy Rees just overthrew it. (Look forward to being shredded for this defense of Rees, too.)
  • 4:38 — Live bullets out there, as Anthony Rabasa cleans up Andrew Hendrix in the backfield for a big loss on the keeper.
  • 4:47 — The benefit of running backs making plays out of the backfield? That’s Cierre Wood on Kendall Moore in coverage. Good throw by Hendrix and a nice gain on the mismatch.
  • 4:55 — Catch by Robby Toma, strip by Cam McDaniel. I’m going to have him fighting Lo Wood for his job by the end of this video.
  • 5:02 — Nice stick, Jarrett Grace.
  • 5:15 — Shake and bake, Robby Toma, carrying the ball on a nice little end-around. Don’t think we saw that even once last year.
  • 5:20 — Keep running Everett. We all want to see that come fall, too.
  • 5:37 — Think we heard a (presumably) red-faced Brian Kelly scream “Two Hands!” during that scramble.
  • 5:48 — Hi there, Davaris Daniels. I’m guessing we’d all be happy to see more of you in these videos.
  • 5:53 — Tommy Rees: Speed Merchant.
  • 6:05 — Kona Schwenke making plays in the backfield.
  • 6:18 — Gunner Kiel steps up in the pocket and throws a dart into a tight window, with Alex Welch feeling the impact after the catch. Tough to see from this angle, but I’m guessing Gunner held onto it a second too long.
  • 6:24 — Daniel Smith making an appearance, too. Slant from Golson goes for nice yardage.
  • 6:34 — Theo Riddick definitely has the juke stick working pretty well. Haven’t seen those moves since last season’s EA Sports NCAA football videogame.
  • 6:38 — Everett Golson connects with Robby Toma in the corner of the endzone on a beautifully thrown ball. Thumbs up.

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Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.

 

 

 

ESPN’s Kiper & McShay: Kizer should return to Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 29: DeShone Kizer #14 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish drops back to pass during the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Notre Dame Stadium on October 29, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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It’s evaluation season. With college football’s regular season over, the focus now turns to the stay-or-go decision that faces many of college football’s best players. Return for another season? Or head to the NFL?

That’s the big question facing DeShone Kizer. Viewed as a can’t-miss prospect by some earlier in the season, Kizer now awaits feedback from the NFL’s advisory board, who’ll give him either a first-round grade, a second-round grade, or none — essentially serving as a message to return to school.

That feedback is something Kizer’s requested, with Brian Kelly revealing that Kizer is one of four underclassmen requesting a review, joined by Mike McGlinchey, Nyles Morgan and Quenton Nelson. 

And while most still think it’s merely a formality before Kizer heads to the NFL, two of the media’s most well-established pundits, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, are among those who actually think Kizer should stay in school.

In ESPN’s 25 questions about the 2017 NFL Draft, Kiper and McShay focus their attention on potential first-round quarterbacks:

There’s really only one guy right now, and he might not even enter the draft. That’s North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, a fourth-year junior who is in his first season as the starter. Trubisky has thrown 28 touchdown passes to only four interceptions, but he’s still green — with another year of seasoning, he could be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. He’s not ready to play right away in the NFL.

I don’t see any other first-rounders in the group. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, a third-year sophomore, has to go back to school. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has taken a step back this season. Underclassmen Luke Falkand Patrick Mahomes could use another year in school, and they don’t project as first-rounders.

McShay echoed Kiper’s evaluation of Kizer, stating: “Kizer needs another year.” And if the Irish get that, it means they’ll have a 1-2 depth chart of a third-year starter in Kizer and junior Brandon Wimbush, who saved a year of eligibility in 2016 and has three remaining.

Kizer’s been clear that he hasn’t made up his mind, planning on talking with his family about the decision in the weeks following the season. And with the year-end banquet this weekend with Notre Dame hosting the “Echoes,” that decision might come sooner than later.

Last year, the NFL draft wasn’t kind to the Irish roster. Four key players gave up eligibility to head to the NFL, with Ronnie Stanley going in the Top 10 to the Baltimore Ravens and Will Fuller joining him as a first-round selection after going to the Houston Texans. Even injured, Jaylon Smith was taken near the top of the second round by Dallas and C.J. Prosise was a third-round selection of the Seattle Seahawks.

Underclassmen have until January 16th to declare.

 

Swarbrick discusses the state of Irish football program

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Jack Swarbrick spoke extensively about the state of the Notre Dame football program. Released last Friday and a part of Swarbrick’s weekly podcast, the Irish athletic director covered the laundry list of hot-button issues, including Brian Kelly’s status, the NCAA order to vacate wins that Notre Dame is appealing, and the challenge of winning football games in today’s environment.

The entire 25 minutes are worth a listen, as Swarbrick and Nolan cover just about every question and complaint that’s out there. And in case you don’t have that time, here’s a quick breakdown:

 

Swarbrick on the 2016 season. 

“It was an extremely disappointing year. Every player, every coach, myself, other administrators involved in the program, we all share the same view. There’s no way around that conclusion. It’s not bad breaks, it’s not a play here, a play there. We didn’t do what we need to do. So we do start from that perspective.

“I think there’s a danger in overreacting to any one piece of information that you get in the course of the evaluation of football programs. That begins with, it looks one way from a this-season perspective, but it feels a little different to me from a two-season perspective.”

 

Swarbrick on the evaluation process: 

“I’m looking at the program. Wins and losses are a huge indicia of where the program is, but it’s not the only one. More important to me, frankly, is the experience of our students. My interaction with them and what their interactions with the coaches, and the environment and are we meeting their expectations. Now, we clearly didn’t meet their expectations competitively this year, because they want to win, too. But on many of the other things, the program elements are in good shape.”

 

On the off-field issues, and the challenges that faced the football team this fall. 

“I don’t want to do anything to minimize the disappointments, whether they’re competitive or unacceptable behavior in the last game at USC by one of our players, obviously, which just isn’t acceptable, it isn’t okay. The disciplinary issues we had to deal with at the front of the year, none of those are acceptable, all of those go into the evaluation, but those are the only ones that sort of get the public scrutiny. I’m dealing with the other 120 young men who are for the most part like my co-host James (Onwualu), doing everything right, making every right decision, having a real positive experience. You’ve got to look at it all, not just isolated elements of it.

 

Discussing the disappointment of the NCAA’s ruling to vacate wins and why the university is appealing: 

“If you’d merely expelled the students, you wouldn’t get this penalty. But because you went though an educative process and kept them in school and adjusted credits and made those things, you subjected yourself to this penalty. That seems like a bad message to send, but that’s one that we’re continuing to advocate for down the road.”

 

On the challenges of winning in today’s college football, as opposed to 30 years ago. 

“I think undoubtedly it is harder. Now, people from that era may have a different view. But there are things that make it harder. But it doesn’t make any difference. It’s harder to win basketball games than it was back then. It’s harder to do a number of things.

“We don’t treat any of that as an excuse or a reason to have different goals. I sort of embrace that. Some of those things that you might view as obstacles are ultimately the things that we have to offer young people. It is the eliteness of the institution and the quality of the education. You can’t say it’s an obstacle and then talk about how great it is because it helps you. That’s the way it is. I wouldn’t trade anything for the circumstance we now compete in. I think it is exactly what it should be. We have to do a better job with it, that’s all.”

Report: Corey Holmes set to transfer

Irish Illustrated / Matt Cashore
Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated
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Receiver Corey Holmes is transferring from Notre Dame. The junior, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, will look for a new program after earning his degree this summer, Tom Loy of Irish247 reports.

Holmes told Irish247:

“It’s just the best decision for me. I’m graduating this summer and I’m just going to find the best fit for me to finish things up.”

Even after a strong spring, Holmes saw little action this season, though he played extensively against USC in the season finale. He had four catches against the Trojans, a large part of his 11 on the year, also his career total.

That Holmes wasn’t able to find a consistent spot in the rotation is likely a big reason why he’s looking for a new opportunity. After opening eyes after posting a 4.42 40-yard dash during spring drills, the Irish coaching staff looked for a way to get Holmes onto the field. But after losing reps at the X receiver on the outside, Holmes bounced inside and out, never finding a regular spot in the rotation, playing behind Torii Hunter Jr. and Kevin Stepherson on the outside and CJ Sanders and Chris Finke in the slot.

Holmes has two seasons of eligibility remaining, redshirting his sophomore season. Because he’ll earn his degree this summer, he’ll be able to play immediately next year. Irish 247 reports that Holmes is looking at Miami, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and North Carolina, though he’ll have a semester to find other fits.