Casper, D (head)

Former Irish TE Dave Casper named to College Football Hall of Fame

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Long before Anthony Fasano, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, and Tyler Eifert were making Notre Dame a tight end factory, former Irish great Dave Casper earned All-American status on his way to a 1973 National Championship. From there, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound former Irish star joined the Oakland Raiders on his way to a professional career that ended with his enshrinement in Canton, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The five-time All-Pro, and member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1970s is now being honored for his work back in South Bend, as the College Football Hall of Fame announced that Casper will be inducted in the 2012 class, a part of 14 former players and three coaches to be inducted at the 55th annual awards dinner this December at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Here’s more on Casper’s impressive career, courtesy of Notre Dame’s official release:

Born in Bemidji, Minn., Casper played his first three years of high school football at St. Edward Central Catholic High School in Elgin, Ill., and his senior campaign at Chilton High School in Chilton, Wis. His Chilton team in 1969 outscored its opponents 363-0.

The 6-3, 243-pound Irish tight end served as co-captain of the 1973 Notre Dame team that finished 11-0 and won the national title on a consensus basis after a 24-23 victory over top-rated and unbeaten Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He caught three passes for 75 yards in that contest.

Casper played his first two seasons at offensive left tackle in 1971 and ’72 (he started final four games as a sophomore, then won honorable mention All-America honors in 1972 from Associated Press), then switched to tight end as a senior. Former Irish coach Ara Parseghian called Casper the best athlete he ever coached.

Casper finished with 21 career catches for 335 yards and four touchdowns, with all but two of those receptions coming in his senior campaign in ’73. He was a participant in the 1974 College All-Star Game and the Hula Bowl. Selected Notre Dame’s offensive MVP in ’73, he also played earlier in his Notre Dame career as a linebacker, defensive tackle and split end.

In 1973, Casper earned first-team All-America recognition from United Press International, the American Football Coaches Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Football Writers Association of America and the Walter Camp Football Foundation – plus second-team honors from AP. In 2003 the Walter Camp Football Foundation named him its Alumnus of the Year.

A standout in the classroom, Casper earned postgraduate scholarships from the NCAA and the National Football Foundation after the 1973 season. The NCAA presented him its prestigious Silver Anniversary Award in 1999 for career achievements. With a 3.6 grade-point average, he earned first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 1973 (following second-team notice in ’72)–then in 1993 he was chosen to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame.

Casper joins George Connor, Paul Hornung, Wayne Millner, and Alan Page among former Irish standouts that are members of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is the 44th former Irish player to be inducted in the collegiate hall and among 50 players and coaches to have been a part of the Irish football program.

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

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Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

DEPARTURES
Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*

 

ANALYSIS
Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more

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We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.

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Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention

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Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, UND.com ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.