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Ragone and McDonald set to join Weis in Kansas

Apr 17, 2012, 5:17 PM EDT

Mike Ragone

The westbound caravan heading from South Bend to Lawrence, Kansas has added two more passengers, with linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone ready to play out their eligibility for former head coach Charlie Weis. McDonald’s addition to the Jayhawk roster was finalized late last week, while Ragone’s — long anticipated after he was cleared for a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA — was announced by Kansas this afternoon. They’ll join former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist in Lawrence, with all three likely expecting to immediately contribute to a Kansas program that fell off a cliff after Turner Gil took over for Mark Mangino.

We’ve discussed Crist’s departure from the program multiple times, but closing the book on Ragone and McDonald’s careers in South Bend deserves a little consideration. McDonald in many ways typified the career path of the 2008 recruiting class. Highly ranked out of Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks (where he was teammates with Crist), McDonald’s star-ranking was much better than his recruiting cohort, with neither UCLA or USC offering the Los Angeles prospect. Choosing the Irish over Boston College and Oregon, McDonald redshirted his freshman season then contributed mostly on special teams during three injury plagued seasons. Stuck behind and passed by guys like Manti Te’o, Dan Fox, and Carlo Calabrese, both McDonald and fellow inside linebacker commitment David Posluszny failed to make any impact on the field, with the ’08 class essentially whiffing on inside linebackers.

Ragone’s career, also discussed many times here, is one more difficult to profile. Between terrible luck with injuries, Ragone also battled an up-and-down attitude and some off-the-field issues before turning his career around. Expected to be one of the best tight ends in the country with multiple national offers, an ACL injury suffered in high school kept Ragone off the field for his senior season and All-American game exhibitions. Still, he saw the field through most of the dreadful 2007 season. Ready to contribute during 2008, Ragone suffered a torn ACL, the second in just over two years, during fall camp. By the time he rebounded for the 2009 season, Ragone was delegated to second tight-end duty, with Kyle Rudolph the featured pass catcher. Ragone’s senior season was put in jeopardy when he was pulled over on the Indiana Toll Road driving home after classes ended in May. While it was less publicized than Michael Floyd’s lenient sentence, Student Affairs, and head coach Brian Kelly, allowed Ragone to play his senior season without sitting out a game.

That Ragone went from the doghouse to a fifth-year player for the Irish was as good of proof as any that he had turned the corner and matured as a player and leader. Suffering another season-ending knee injury early in the season — after he was counted on to fill a void at the tight end position — was especially disheartening, but Ragone continued with the team, delaying surgery for a brief spell to keep young tight ends Ben Koyack and Alex Welch up to speed. With the Irish needing to identify an in-line blocking tight end for 2012, the Irish coaching staff had to consider bringing Ragone back for a sixth season, but ultimately decided against it.

McDonald and Ragone will join Crist in Lawrence this summer for unofficial workouts before both being immediately eligible next season.


  1. dickasman - Apr 17, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Rees transferring next year?

    • gtizzo - Apr 17, 2012 at 6:04 PM

      You must be nudeman’s alter ego!

  2. 9irish - Apr 17, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    Only thing I can say, Weis never got things going on the field, but he definitely got loyalty, that’s for sure. They’ve got ND West going on out there.

    • dmac4real - Apr 17, 2012 at 6:29 PM

      Yea he got Ragone, McDonald and Crist. What other options (besides Crist) did they have?

  3. don74 - Apr 17, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    Over/under on TD passes from Crist to Ragone = 5….I’ll take the under.

    Better question. Who has more TD passes, Crist or whomever starts with a gold helmet?

    • irishdk - Apr 17, 2012 at 7:19 PM

      Crist. Have you seen Kansas’ running back depth chart? Whoever we start will have a solid group of backs behind them, so we won’t HAVE to throw the ball 60 times a game.

      • don74 - Apr 17, 2012 at 7:34 PM

        DC’s been such a good soldier I hope he has a magical year. I don’t know if he will have the OL and receivers to make it happen. It’s going to be interesting to see how he responds. There’s almost more pressure on him at Kansas being CW’s guy, ex ND and all the other stuff, then there was last year coming off the injury. Again, I wish him well.

      • irishdk - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:06 PM

        There definitely is a lot of pressure on him, as he has suddenly become the face of the program behind CW. Living in KC, I’ve already seen multiple stories on Crist in the paper. But I agree there’s just nothing around him at Kansas, and it’ll be interesting to see what they try to do on offense this year.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:36 PM

      Crist has more TD passes in a landslide. Whoever plays QB for the golden domers will be at a disadvantage when compared to Crist. If Hendrix or Golson get the job, they might have more total TD’s running and passing. And if TR gets the job, he’ll be handing off 90% of the time inside the 30 yard line.

  4. bearcatirishfan - Apr 17, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    I hope he does well, I think bad luck and circumstances did him in at ND. Hope he can regain some confidence I think that was his only issue last year.

  5. 88irish - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM

    This isn’t loyalty it is familiarity. All these guys, Weis included, are grasping for straws at a basketball school. Why this stuff fills ND football pages is beyond me. Why don’t we talk about the guys who are there and committed. Can anyone help me??

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:38 PM

      Compare the ND basketball team to the FB team in recent history and we’re kinda a basketball school too?

      • 9irish - Apr 18, 2012 at 5:37 PM

        true…sad but true. Not only that, but a women’s basketball school. They’ve got to get this football thing going on again. It is a major footprint of the university.

    • 9irish - Apr 18, 2012 at 5:48 PM

      Well, I agree with that….they were obviously his guys, things didn’t work out at ND, so they follow him. As far as the talk, it’s just the time of year…and people do follow coaches and players that leave, for curiosity if nothing else. But I see your point. There is a point made below about all of the coaches from the past, too. All good men, just some of them didn’t have that “thing” that makes the machine work right. No hard feelings, but they had to go.

  6. nudeman - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Not to shift gears, but …

    … just as I predicted a few days ago, rumors swirling that Lynch wants back in.

    Developing story.

    Bern, got anything?

    • ct111 - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:27 PM

      Aahh Good one nude!!!!!!!!

    • don74 - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:46 PM

      GF applying to SMC????? :)

      • nudeman - Apr 17, 2012 at 8:54 PM

        If she did and was accepted I’d put that up with Davonte Neal and GK as the best recruit “gets” of the year.

        There might be nothing to this. But Pete Sampson posted a poll on the 4HL about whether we would want him back. Naturally the response was overwhelmingly “YES”, but more interesting, when people asked if there was a reason such a question would be asked, Sampson was fairly coy.

        Remember, this is a guy who changed his mind about 3 times during the initial recruiting process. The other thing is an intvw with T’eo was posted the other day and he talked with great affection about Lynch, saying he was “concerned about Aaron the person” about 5 times. Maybe Lynch saw that and maybe it made an impression.

        The other question is if this is true, would BK take him back?

      • nudeman - Apr 18, 2012 at 10:19 AM

        Can you read? I posted the “where” above

    • ct111 - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:01 PM

      Well nude, if Lynch does want to come back, I’ll buy you a beer.

      • nudeman - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:15 PM

        Game on
        And if he doesn’t?

      • ct111 - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:19 PM

        You can’t post anything on this blog forever.

      • newyorknd - Apr 17, 2012 at 10:36 PM

        Where are you getting your info nude? This is a big deal in more than one way. If he does want to come back, does it set a bad example to just take him back? What does that say to KLM who ends up getting shuttled around the depth chart? Clearly, Lynch is a talent that ND needs, but at what cost?

  7. ccad05 - Apr 17, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Funny. I suggested awhile back that TR will have transferred by this time next year and everyone jumped my case. Oh well, still sticking to my opinion/prediction

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 18, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      I think we could see a transfer out of this group from whoever is 3rd on the depth chart. Probably less likely from Tommy, but if G is 3rd on the charts, he’s got lots of eligibility to use somewhere else.

      I don’t want to see it happen, but if the kid wants to play football and he reads the situation as “i’m 3rd on the depth chart with Gunner Kiel waiting in the wings”, who could blame him?

  8. idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    I’m reading lots of KU football stuff and following their spring pretty closely and I’m confident in the fact that Kansas will take HUGE strides next season (granted, that isn’t a bold statement coming off a 2-10 season).

    It looks like they’ve going to have to run the ball consistently to one side the few times that they do run, because they’ve only got 3 quality linemen. And they’ve got a big decision coming this week from the NCAA about Oklahoma transfer WR Justin McCay. If they get McCay, (he’s a playmaker), with Ragone, and what appears to be 2-3 “Wes Welker” types, the passing game will be respectable.

    With Dave Campo as the D-Coordinator, they will play hard. But the Defense lacks ANY talent at all. Campo has mentioned multiple times that they just don’t have enough talent to be great, but he believes that if they get 100% effort out of the 11 on the field they will stay competitive, and he’s right. Effort on defense can hide a talent gap quite a bit.

    One of the most interesting things about their spring is that Dave Campo is handling some of the press conferences, even more so than Charlie.

    Given their schedule, i’d bet they’re bowl eligible by early November and the only blowout they suffer is from Oklahoma.

    And to assure myself of multiple thumbs down from the grumpies on this board, i’ll finish with this. Dayne Crist will have a season that makes him a high round draft pick in 2013 (1st or 2nd). I firmly believe this because he’s got a pile of good karma coming his way. He’s had enough tough breaks and injuries to fill a football lifetime. I think the karma takes a turn in his favor in 2012

    • 88irish - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      You just need to join them.

      3-9 will be a great year. Dayne goes in 5th round and follows the footsteps of BQ and JC. Sad but true.

      Wish them wellbut have you forgotten reality. Personally was hoping DC would win the Heisman last year. Didn’t quite work out. USF and USC just stood between him and RGIII.

      Not trying to be harsh but I am really confused with all the Weiss and KU chatter. Giving CW way too much credit while ND fans are piling on BK. Odd but true

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 18, 2012 at 2:58 PM

        I have joined them. I became a fan of the Jayhawks as soon as Charlie and Dayne got to campus, mainly because I don’t harbor any ill will toward ANY past coach of the irish. You can’t name one single ND head coach in my lifetime that has been less than honorable. None of them have been caught with a hooker and a pound of coke. None of them have turned a blind eye to grades or the importance of making boys into men. They just didn’t win enough football games.

        Look, i fully agree that Charlie didn’t do a good enough job as a head coach at ND. But this is the SINGLE TOUGHEST COACHING JOB IN THE COUNTRY. For a first time head coach, he was in over his head. To say that he will fail anywhere else because he failed at ND is foolish. Imagine if we took your past=future argument for EVERY head coach. Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belicheck would be JV coach in a Newark, NJ suburb and guys like Rich Rodriguez or Dennis Erickson would have a half dozen national championships by now. Imagine how much he’s learned as a head coach since he first stepped on the South Bend campus!

        The biggest reason that i see much success for Dayne is that there are there are three steps to learning any system or set of skills….and this is true across all walks of life and any task…

        (1) learning – actively understanding the system’s pieces and how they work
        (2) mastery – understand the entire system, how it works, and how to use it
        (3) teaching – understand the entire system, how it works, why it works and having a depth of knowledge that allows you to pass that knowledge to others

        If you watch any number of player interviews from Kansas, these kids are actually making a game out of trying to stump Dayne by asking him questions about the offensive system that Charlie is implementing. And, up to this point, all he does is answer every single question they have off the top of his head…like it’s second nature to him.

        He knows the system, he’s 1000% times more comfortable with Charlie than he was with BK, and he’s only under the media microscope regionally instead of nationally.

        CW gets “way to much credit” because the bar is much lower at KU and he’s got an assistant coach playing QB. ND fans are “piling on BK” because his expectations are the same as they were for Charlie and Ty and Bob Davies.

      • nudeman - Apr 19, 2012 at 6:36 PM

        I am pulling for CW.
        I admit, I badly wanted to see him go from ND as he just wasn’t up to the job

        But when I saw the interview when he took the job, he seemed like a changed man
        Less bravado, borderline humble. I felt bad for him and wish him well.

        Having said that, just having a few more yrs experience after getting his ass kicked at ND doesn’t automatically mean he’s a better coach.
        And now he has crummier players and facilities.
        So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t take Kansas in the office pool to win the NC.
        Or even finish .500
        Tough job. Maybe not as tough as Davie’s but very challenging.

  9. papadec - Apr 17, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    NYND – certainly coach Kelly knows best what to do IF Lynch were to decide to apply for re-admission, and the circumstances surrounding his departure. Based on how coach has handled prior players with issues – I would expect a fair handling of the situation, supported by the administration, and players.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:58 AM

      With the way this kid changes his mind, he could re-commit to ND, defect again to some FL school and come back all before the first snap of the Spring game. I do hope he can get his situation figured out. He could be a legendary player if he finds the right fit and has his heart and head both in it. We saw him lead in sacks albeit only half-heartedly.

  10. ccad05 - Apr 18, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    What about bring back bob davie as def. Coordinator? Had good defenses in his day.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Apr 18, 2012 at 11:39 PM

      Bob just took one of the worst jobs in college football. he’s at New Mexico. I’ve watched his spring a little bit and if i remember correctly, they aren’t even having a spring game because they don’t have enough bodies.

      They had major rules violations a few years ago and it wiped out the team along with a head coach or two that basically signed contracts, took the money, and ran.

      If you thought Charlie Weis had an uphill battle when he took that job, BoB Davies’ stack of $h!t is 10 times as high.

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