Jaylon Smith

Weekend recap: schedules & stars

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Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend and had a chance to step away from the computer for a few days. There’s been little news to report on the football front, and hopefully everyone enjoyed some time with family and friends celebrating the unofficial start of the summer. With everyone back to work and catching up, let’s do the same thing here.

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Friend of the blog Bruce Feldman ran down the country’s toughest schedules. Not surprising, Notre Dame ranks first after Feldman awarded points for various levels of opponents. (A cupcake was worth 1 point, a decent team gets 2 points, 3 for a top 40 caliber team, 4 for a top 25 team, and 5 for a top-five heavyweight.)

Here’s Feldman’s rationale for putting Notre Dame at the top:

1. Notre Dame: Wait, where are the cupcakes? Notre Dame is one of the few programs that doesn’t play any FCS programs. The closest things to “cupcake games” are the opener against Navy in Ireland (the Midshipmen have won 24 games the past three seasons); Purdue (a Big Ten team which won seven games in 2011); at BC (who did beat both NC State and Miami last year) or against Wake Forest (which has beaten FSU four of the past six times they’ve met.) More impressively, the Irish face five teams that have a good shot to be in the top 15: at Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, at Oklahoma and then the Irish finish at arch-rival USC. Perhaps the best proof of how hefty this route is for the Irish, consider that Miami–after BYU (a team that may win 10 games this fall)–could prove to be the seventh toughest game on the schedule. Points: 42

The Irish rank just ahead of a top five rounded out by Washington (they’ll face potential Top 5 teams Oregon, LSU and USC), Oregon State, Michigan, and Kansas. Former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist will get to open with South Dakota State before facing a conference schedule that includes away dates against Oklahoma and rival Kansas State, and non-conference games at Northern Illinois and West Virginia*, not to mention a home game with TCU.

* Former Irish flamethrower Drew Duff reminds me that West Virginia will be in the Big 12 next year. This conference realignment stuff takes some getting used to.

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Rivals just announced an updated Top 100 and there are plenty of Notre Dame targets on the list, topped by outside linebacker Jaylon Smith. The 6-foot-3, 218 pounder from Fort Wayne has visited Notre Dame numerous times and many believe the Irish are the team to beat.

Other players the Irish are in good shape with include:

No. 9 — CB Vernon Hargreaves III — Tampa, Florida
No. 39 — WR Laquon Treadwell — Crete, Illinois
No. 42 — LB Trey Johnson — Lawrenceville, Georgia (Committed to Auburn)
No. 49 — LB Alex Anzalone — Wyomissing, Pennsylvania
No. 50 — RB Ryan Green — St. Petersburg, Florida
No. 58 — LB Chans Cox — Lakeside, Arizona
No. 79 — John Montelus — Everett, Massachusetts
No. 86–  LB Doug Randolph — Richmond, Virginia (Committed to Stanford)
N0. 88 — DE Isaac Rochell — McDonough, Georgia
No. 94 — DE Jordan Sherit — Tampa, Florida

Here’s Rivals rationale for Smith making the huge leap up to No. 4 in the country:

“Smith dominated several offseason camps on a level we have not seen in the Midwest for years. His length and athleticism at 6 foot 3 and 218 pounds is unreal,” said Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt. “Not only does he own the middle of the field from his linebacker position, but we saw him drop down to defensive end and destroy offensive tackles in pass rush scenarios as well as bounce out to a cornerback role and lock down some of the region’s top wide receivers in man coverage. The kid is just a freakish specimen at the linebacker position.”

Landing Smith would be a monumental deal for the Irish, and the best defensive prospect to sign with Notre Dame in ages. Landing any of the other guys in the list above would be huge additions to the class as well. Expect quite a few of the current Irish commits (other than Montelus, who is at No. 79) to show up in the Rivals250, a place where Steve Elmer is now likely listed after being bumped down by the current Rivals staff.

The Irish will likely add eight to ten more names to the class before things are all said and done.

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.