Cierre Wood Pitt

Offense vs. Defense in the 83rd annual Blue-Gold game

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Brian Kelly met with the media after the penultimate practice of spring, and one of his first orders of business was breaking down the rules for the 83rd annual Blue-Gold Game. With the depth chart a bit thin at positions like cornerback and wide receiver, after two seasons of a traditionally formatted game, scoring will be broken down between offense and defense.

“Because we’re short of numbers at the cornerback position, and in particular at the wide receiver position, we do want to protect some guys,” Kelly explained. “If we were to go strictly blue versus gold, you’d have guys like Zack Martin who would have to play four quarters. I’m not interested in that. I know what he can do. Tyler Eifert would have to play a lot. I’m not interested in having him out there the whole game. Manti would have to play quite a bit.”

Still, for those feeling a little cheated with a non-traditional format, this year’s game will actually be the first time in the Kelly era where there’s actually a chance to take stock of what the Irish have. For the first time, all four quarterbacks will be live. The defense is free to send pressure and mix coverages. And while no special teams will be played fully live, the deck will be stacked evenly between both units.

“We’re going to go offense versus defense, and in that system, we’ll try to have it ones versus ones,” Kelly said. So A goes against A, B goes against B, and it’s not ones versus twos. We’re trying to balance it the best that we can. So if it’s A versus A, offense versus defense, it’s not strictly ones versus ones. Then the second offense comes out, it’s not all twos. We’re mixing and matching players.”

After twenty-plus years of spring games, Kelly has decided that simplicity in scoring is the best way to go. The offense will earn points the good old fashioned way — with touchdowns and field goals. The defense will earn theirs through turnovers and stops. For those worried about a complicated formula that necessitates a calculator, there’s no bonus points for sacks or tackles-for-loss, but a simple equation for the defense.

“I’ve really looked at all the scoring systems I’ve used, and we’re going to make this a team scoring system,” Kelly explained. “There will not be individual points for sacks or tackles for loss or pass breakups or any of that stuff. We’re going to talk about stops and turnovers for the defense. Their points are earned by stops and turnovers.”

Special teams will be limited in the game, with punts being fair caught and all drives starting on the 35 yard line. There will be no block attempts on field goals or extra points. The first half will be standard timing, while the second half will feature a running clock. The teams will break 15 minutes for halftime.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the scoring system for the 83rd Blue-Gold game.

OFFENSIVE POINTS:
6 points for a touchdown (1 point for PAT kicks, no rush allowed).
3 points for a field goal.

DEFENSIVE POINTS:
4 points for a defensive stop before offense crosses the 50.
2 points for a defensive stop after offense crosses the 50.
7 points for a turnover before the offense crosses the 50.
3 points for a turnover after the offense crosses the 50.
1 point for holding the offense to a field goal.

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.