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.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

echoes
@NDFootball Twitter
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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)
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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

aaron-banks
Tom Loy, Irish 247
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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)
Getty
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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

Senior
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.