With the Blue-Gold game in the books and spring practice complete, let’s take a look back at some of the highlights of yesterday’s game. There was plenty to like, plenty to worry about, and plenty of things to discuss for the next four months before the Irish prepare for fall camp.
Sticking with the bullet-point review system that served us well during the practice reports, here’s a quick cut-up of yesterday’s highlights:
- 0:10 — With Troy Niklas in street clothes on the sideline, the Irish tight ends didn’t miss a beat blocking, with Ben Koyack making a nice block on Cierre Wood‘s big burst. Cierre ran confident, looked quick, and should have a monster season next year.
- 0:38 — Great cut-back. Cierre looks to be running away from Josh Atkinson, who is an elite level sprinter. It’ll be interesting to see what type of speed numbers Wood puts up when he heads to the NFL.
- 0:52 — With Atkinson coming off the edge on a corner blitz, Andrew Hendrix made a decisive throw, hitting All-American Tyler Eifert before safety Chris Salvi could get there, leading to the Irish’s first offensive score. Nice job by Andrew identifying the open man and getting the ball out in a hurry.
- 1:20 — If there’s a throw that encapsulates the “Bad Tommy” Irish fans have started to loathe, it’s this overthrown seam route that Rees forced into traffic. On a third and long, this is the exact type of play that’ll turn Brian Kelly purple, and was the worst decision of the day for Rees. It actually looks like Rees might have had Theo Riddick open if he threw the ball to his outside shoulder.
- 1:30 — Everett Golson throws an absolute laser to Eifert on a deep post route. With decent coverage provided by Cam McDaniel, Golson sits back comfortably in the pocket and throws a bullet for a big gainer. In what looked to be a two-man route, Ben Koyack ran the in-route underneath while Eifert, split out at wide receiver, ran the post. Good usage of the two-tight end set.
- 2:04 — Great work by the Irish offensive line, paving the way for George Atkinson to run untouched for a nice gainer.
- 2:14 — Good play call on 4th and four, with Riddick escaping out of the backfield and making a nice catch on a tricky throw by Rees. Shockingly, the Irish led the country in 4th down conversion rate, succeeding on all seven attempts. Inteestingly, only one team went for it less last season: LSU, coached by the notorious riverboat gambler Les Miles.
- 2:24 — That’s quite a burst by George Atkinson. That entire press box came away in awe of Atkinson’s speed on that run, covering ten yards mighty quickly.
- 2:35 — Andrew Hendrix looks like a handful to bring down. It’s not a stretch to call him a Tebow-esque runner.
- 2:47 — Great throw by Hendrix, stuffing that dig route into Davaris Daniels for a nice gainer. There’s no denying Hendrix can put some heat on the ball.
- 3:08 — Everett Golson decides to show off his arm, too. I can’t remember too many plays like that last season from Irish quarterbacks, where a QB buys a little time and them zips a ball into a hole in zone coverage.
- 3:15 — Run of the day. Atkinson shakes off a 250-pound linebacker, then runs through about five other defenders. Looked like a page out of Marshawn Lynch’s book, only with better speed.
- 3:58 — Nice blitz pick-up, and a great throw by Golson floating a ball in there to Ben Koyack. That’s the benefit of having four really large tight ends that can catch the ball. Not much Josh Atkinson can do against a 6-foot-5 monster that basically posted him up.
- 4:08 — Great catch by Daniels on a ball thrown to the outside shoulder by Rees. Not much Cam McDaniel can do there either, and a good confidence building throw by Tommy. Daniels wasn’t a huge factor, but made a few big plays.
- 4:24 — George Atkinson is going to be a beast in space, especially if they can throw him the football out of the backfield.
- 4:33 — This is a terrible interception by Hendrix. Locked in on the tight end from the beginning, Ishaq Williams cashes in the freebie when Atkinson was open for the dump off. Exhibit A in the case against Hendrix.
- 4:42 — Another nicely thrown ball by Golson for the TD. Even if it is against a walk-on cornerback, that’s a matchup the Irish feel like they’ll win with Riddick.
- 5:15 — Some very good horsepower.
- 5:21 — There’d be worst things to happen next year than Cierre Wood developing a nose for the end zone. Nice bit of running and usage of blocks to get in for the score.
Alex Flanagan caught up with former Irish tight end Kyle Rudolph on the sidelines, where the Minnesota Vikings tight end talked about Tyler Eifert‘s future and uniting with former Irish tight end John Carlson.
This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Flanagan also ran down Michael Floyd and Jonas Gray, both at the game to support their former teammates as they wait to hear their names called during the upcoming NFL Draft.
This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
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.
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.
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.
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.