Freshman Focus: Jarron Jones


(The third in a multi-part series profiling select members of the incoming class of 2012. The first installment was on wide receiver Chris Brown. The second on safety Elijah Shumate)

Once viewed as a luxury defensive item or a potential offensive lineman, the transfer of Aaron Lynch has moved blue-chip defensive lineman Jarron Jones up the depth chart by default. The Rochester native, who had given a verbal commitment to Penn State early (pre-Sandusky) before committing to the Irish over offers from schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, and Ohio State, is the type of mold-breaking defensive linemen that only saw South Bend in a visitor’s uniform until recent years.

A good enough athlete to be one of the better basketball players in upstate New York, Jones will bring his 6-foot-6, 300-pound frame to the Irish defensive line, where he’ll at the very least give Stephon Tuitt a run for most imposing-looking guy getting off the bus.

Let’s circle the bases and take a closer look at Jones.

The Skinny: It’s worth covering Jones’ recruiting cohorts once more just for emphasis. His offer sheet might be the best looking of any member of the class of 2012, and any other year he’d be the bright shining defensive line recruit to surpass all others, but two guys named Lynch and Tuitt got Irish fans spoiled. With Lynch gone, it’ll be interesting to see if Jones is ready to push for a spot in the rotation at defensive end, or if he’s more likely to play on the interior as a defensive tackle.

How Ready is he? Probably the million-dollar question. Jones wasn’t all that impressive to recruitniks at the Army All-American bowl, sliding down the Rivals board and perhaps affirming the thoughts of analysts who thought his best position was along the offensive line. I’ll trust this coaching staff’s projection abilities more than the online recruiting services, but it does say that Jones wasn’t the physically dominating type that Lynch and Tuitt were.

You can’t teach Jones’ best asset — impressive size and great feet. The work he put in after his basketball season in the weight room — not to mention Paul Longo’s three months with him this summer — will determine whether or not he’s in the rotation or a prime candidate for a redshirt season.

Best Case Scenario: Jones walks in and adds another valuable swing player to the defensive line rotation. Nobody saw Chase Hounshell getting snaps along the defensive line last year and Jones already walks in with a better frame than Chase. With his length and athleticism, Jones could turn into a Stephon Tuitt-like freshman performer, but doing more without getting a one-game suspension and tackling a bout with mono.

Worst Case Scenario: Jones enjoys a season watching… the offensive line. After working with the defense early, Jones’ move to the offensive side of the ball shouldn’t be seen as a true “worst case scenario” but it does take away even more from a depth chart along the defensive line that started as a strength, but now could be surprisingly thin in 2014.

What Should Make People Happy: Just about anything. If Jones contributes next season, it’s going to be because he’s really good. Logically, Kelly is going to want to protect eligibility for 2014, when Stephon Tuitt might be on his way to greener pastures. A redshirt year didn’t mean the staff didn’t like Jarrett Grace or Ben Councell. It won’t mean they don’t like Jones either.

How Badly Does the Irish Need Him? On a scale of 1-10, short-term 3, long-term 8. He’s a great building block for Bob Diaco’s defensive line and guys that big certainly don’t grow on trees.

One Tidbit for the Road: A two-time first-team, All-State player, Jones wasn’t the state’s player of the year. His 5-foot-7 teammate was. Rochester Aquinas running back Billy Lombardi won that honor. He’ll play lacrosse at Penn State.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

@NDFootball Twitter

DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend



Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.


Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

Tom Loy, Irish 247

Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

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)

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

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.