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Russell and Neal will get looks at cornerback

Jun 28, 2012, 1:22 PM EDT


There’s no question that Notre Dame lacks quality depth at cornerback heading into the season. Needing to replace both Robert Blanton and Gary Gray, the Irish will look to first year starter Bennett Jackson on the short-side of the field as Lo Wood and Josh Atkinson will take their competition for the field cornerback position into training camp.

With converted running back Cam McDaniel added to the mix this spring, and Jalen Brown looking the part but still learning, the Irish essentially have five cornerbacks with zero experience that’ll need to hold passing games in check if Notre Dame has BCS aspirations. That sound you hear? It could be quarterbacks Landry Jones and Matt Barkley, two Heisman Trophy candidates, getting ready for a signature game opportunity.

With Tee Shepard never making it into a Notre Dame uniform, Ronald Darby defecting after a long standing commitment to the Irish and Yuri Wright and Anthony Standifer kept out for non-football considerations, Kerry Cooks’ cornerbacks will need to hold down the fort until reinforcements come in 2013.

Unless of course those reinforcements are already on campus.

Head coach Brian Kelly revealed that talented two-way freshmen Davonte Neal and Keivarae Russell will both get a look on the defensive side of the ball, potentially adding some dynamic depth (albeit youthful) to the rotation, while the running back and slot positions are filled with proven talent.

“I think we’ve got to have all of the options open when we go into camp,” Kelly told the South Bend Tribune. “With those two kids in particular we’ve had conversations with them to be flexible.

“We’re going to do what’s best for our team. I think everybody knows where we need to continue to build some depth in certain areas. We’re going to keep open-minded and give them an opportunity to compete.”

It’s a common sense move, especially considering the depth chart Neal and Russell find themselves walking into on the offensive side of the ball. Neal was recruited by some colleges as a two-way player and many see the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder to be a potential lockdown cornerback.

Russell, who showed tremendous versatility during his high school career, is also said to be coming into South Bend with an open mind.

“He didn’t go in there thinking he wanted to be one spot,” Mariner High head coach Dave Odrizack told “He didn’t go in thinking, ‘I want to be a corner,’ or ‘I want to be a running back.’ He just went in to be a football player.”

At 6-foot, 180-pounds, Russell has the size coveted by Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. He’s also showed good speed, running in the state finals of the 100m dash and having a vertical leap of 37-inches. He saw time all over the field and on both sides of the ball as a running back, receiver, cornerback and safety, making any transition a little bit easier.

Of course, after having no depth at safety the past two seasons, the Irish will now have a whopping 12 scholarship safeties this season. Even with Austin Collinsworth lost for the season, you’ve got to think the coaching staff will be looking for candidates to play on the edge of the defense as well. That might mean talented rising sophomore Eilar Hardy could get a look. It could also mean that Jamoris Slaughter still dabbles at cornerback, entrusting the alignment duties to fellow senior Zeke Motta.

Even with two returning starters, the cornerbacks disappointed in 2011, with Gray regressing in his final season at Notre Dame. There’s no room for regression with this group, as each candidate will go in essentially a blank slate.

We’ll find out in a few months if that’s a good thing.

  1. canadianndfan - Jun 28, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    Whether Russell & Neal play on offense, defense or a little of both makes no difference to me. The bottom line for CBK is winning…preferably sooner (as in this season) than later. Get your best athletes/players on the field early, whether they are freshmen or seniors, and turn them loose! We as fans have seen alot of these guys come in with all their accolades….now it’s time to see what they can do on Saturdays this fall……….

  2. nudeman - Jun 28, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Ever since seeing a clip of Neal in a CB drill where my jaw dropped at his ability, I’ve been an advocate of this. He could be absolutely outstanding, though maybe not immediately as a Frosh.
    And there’s no reason they couldn’t get him on the field on offense for 6-8 plays/game and as a punt returner.

    In other words, “Told Ya”

    • irishraj - Jun 28, 2012 at 4:13 PM

      Keep your thoughts to yourself.

  3. dickasman - Jun 28, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    All I wanna know is how are their “hip” movement? Do they have nifty hips or birthing hips?

    • paiten34 - Jun 29, 2012 at 5:10 AM

      I can tell you that Neal for sure can unlock his hips, stop on a dime, change direction and he has college level acceleration that will blow your mind when you see him live. I have no doubt that Neal has all the tools to play on either side of the ball.

      He could be a good corner a great punt return man and a scary player in the open field on offense. I coached against this guy along with another blue chip player his QB Conner Brewer who will play for Texas this season. Conner is gifted but Devonte Neal has talent that is very special. I look forward to having Neal on my side now. I’m tired of watching him destroy the team I wanted to see win.

      As good of a corner as he is I just hope we can get some lock down blue chip corners next season so Neal can play more offense where he is explosive.

      I think even with the de who should not be named gone that our front 7 can put enough pressure on ND opponents that it takes some pressure off the corners to give them time to get up to speed and getting some game time behind them. In fact having corners that are converted RB or WR might help vs Michigan. After all how many throws were toss ups not accurate throws. In my experience converted offensive players playing defense defend the toss up pass better than full time corners. Now that advantage won’t help much come Oklahoma and USC. So let’s hope that who ever plays corner for the Irish gets help from the front seven and plays well enough to win games.

      • 1historian - Jun 29, 2012 at 9:08 AM

        There will come a signature game this season, a turn-the-corner game and in a dormitory in South Florida a young man 6’6″ tall and 270 lbs. possessed of uncommon athletic gifts will be watching it happen and he will say one word:


  4. dickasman - Jun 28, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    Coach D will be checking out a lotta arses this fall to be sure and I for once, will not be very envious of this arse checking.

  5. dickasman - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    One thing about freshman starting is that they are not so “fresh” toward the end of season and they get worn down so i really hope that they don’t start. One exception was michael dyer but i think he got auburned(auburned=any kind of bad, immoral and illegal activities) I can see Neal as starting pr/kr and part time slot receiver or nickel corner.

  6. dickasman - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    A lot of question marks on the field this year guys…I hope a lot of guys step up and take hold of this great opportunity. According to players twitter accounts, they’re all rockstars, models, rap stars and movie stars but that’s no different than anyone else. Who da hell wants to be the best freaking college football player and student for the best freaking university? Bueller? Anyone? Anybody can go get hammered and knee a cop in the groin, well at least my crackhead brother could. Go out there and play like a Alabama today! Show me somethin, show me what u playin with! Dannngeeeeaaa!

    • c4evr - Jun 28, 2012 at 6:12 PM

      You are forgetting one thing… Kelly has yet to show that he can INSPIRE these kids to play beyond themselves. He’s proven he can recruit, he’s proven he’s an adequate (but not yet acceptable) coach, but I have not seen a team of his that hasn’t laid down for a big time, program-measuring-stick game. You can all say we were in the games with USC, Stanford, Michigan until a fumble or a last second defensive break down happened, but I’m sorry, those are on the coaches. They have to have these kids mentally prepared to execute at all levels. And it doesn’t engender a great deal of loyalty when your coach delineates his recruits from the previous coach. Nor does it help to throw your kids under the bus publicly after the game… Holtz, all 140 dripping wet pounds of him, got the best out of his players week in and week out.

      I’ve been reading these boards for a long time and at some point you have to ask yourself – Is it these kids that underachieve?? From Crist to Rees to Hendrix to Golson to Kiel to Zaire, it’s always the NEXT guy REALLY FITS Kelly’s system and wait until we get this joker (currently Rees, but to some extent Hendrix) out of there and the next guy in. At what point is it a reflection of the coach that you can’t turn 4 straight excellent recruiting classes (including 2 by Weis) into a winning program (9+ wins a season). Did the death sentence that was Ty Willingham really do that much damage?? Or were Kelly/Weis simply in way over their heads? I hope, for the sake of the program and Irish tradition, Kelly pulls a leprechaun out of his hat and learns how to wake up the echoes and win a few for the Gipper – because he may be gone, but now his spirit is the one on life support.

      • irish4006 - Jun 28, 2012 at 6:54 PM

        Some very good points, but it’s a little too early to judge Kelly on the 2 years he had. It should take some time to undo the damage Weis had done. He was neither a complete coach (unable to execute a perfect game) nor a complete recruiter (except for Manti, he hardly recruited any defensive talent of the caliber that Kelly is bringing in). I would be on your bandwagon if he can’t find success (or, a good QB) in his 3rd year with the team. It is not NFL, you don’t get players who would stick with the team for 10 years and you get to focus on areas of need while you rebuild for 3/4 years. The biggest thing with Kelly is that I get the feeling that the program is headed in the right direction. Recruiting, player fitness, motivation, speed, everything has been way better than what Weis had. BTW, you may want to check your facts a little bit, we didn’t have “excellent recruiting classes” in 2009 or 2010, and the ones we had underperformed significantly due to lack of coaching, strength and conditioning etc.

        All bets are off if Kelly starts Rees again this year because this guy doesn’t get the playbook or that other guy is not good enough. This will, in my book, definitely be on the coaches. I said this before and I will say it again, any coach worth his salt should be able to manufacture a QB out of thin air in 3 years, there is no excuse for not having a solid QB ready to take the field against Navy.

      • nudeman - Jun 28, 2012 at 6:57 PM


        Your post is dead on.

        Today on the Podcast, the subject of a grade for Kelly came up.
        Sampson gave him a B-; Prister a C+.
        Both acknowledged the good, specifically recruiting, but both stated what we all know:
        At the end of the day it’s about how the product looks on Saturday.

        Despite what we’ve heard about BK as an offensive mastermind, they’ve stunk offensively.
        Despite what we’ve heard about him as a developer of QBs, that’s been the worst position on the team
        Despite his reputation of running a tight ship, they nearly led the NCAA in penalties and turnovers last year. Then came out in the B&G game and turned it over 23 times.

        It’s high time they started winning more than 8 games and beat someone not named Navy, Air Force, Army or Wake Forest.

        I’m still on the BK bandwagon; still believe in him. But it’s time to produce.

      • c4evr - Jun 28, 2012 at 7:37 PM

        Yes, the ’09 and ’10 classes were right around #20 and Weis did emphasize the offense. I can concede those points. While the stats continue to improve under kelly, its the intangibles that separate a great coach from a good coach in my opinion. My argument is, and has always been, that a coach that comes up through the ranks of a storied program – Urban Meyer under Lou Holtz, Bob Stoops under Steve Spurrier, etc. – is groomed for success and knows how to handle the pressure and demands of a major university. ND may not have been in the position to get a guy like that and BK may be the best we can do… but, from all indications, he is lacking in key, elusive talents that put the greats in a category all by themselves.

        But I’ll meet you halfway – I’ll give him his 3rd year to prove that he can:
        1. be FULLY accountability for HIS team (i.e. stop laying it on the kids, “I just don’t understand how something so easy can come out the way it does.” referring to Crist’s fumble against USC… which leads to number 2.)
        2. Not make bonehead plays (like letting Crist drive the team inside the 5 and then replace him FOR A SINGLE PLAY with Hendrix, only to have Crist come back in and fumble the ball away)
        3. Be the INSPIRING leader that these kids ‘sell out’ for on every play out of loyalty. From my vantage point, his kids are playing either scared – they may get yanked at any point – or, worse, indifferent – why put it on the line for a guy that implies I’m somehow less of a player than one he recruited.

        Then, and only then, will I believe that this program is heading in the direction of greatness.

      • nudeman - Jun 28, 2012 at 8:07 PM

        irish4006 and c4ever
        It just comes down to this in 2012.

        1. 8 wins or less is a huge step backward. I don’t want to hear about the schedule. This is Notre Dame, not Akron.

        2.The confusion at the QB position needs to STOP. Cut the playbook in half; let the center make the protection calls like Weis did; no audibles. I don’t care what it takes – FIND A WAY TO GET THE MOST TALENTED GUY ON THE FIELD

        3. Turnovers need to be cut in half. Period.

        4. Minimum of one win against the big boys of UM, USC, Stanford and OK. I’m tempted to put MSU in there, particularly at East Lansing. But they’ve handled MSU ok in the last several years, so beating them isn’t an indication of any major progress.

      • bernhtp - Jun 28, 2012 at 9:27 PM

        Nude: MSU was handled last season, but you’ve apparently repressed the memory of the fake field goal to win the game the year before.

      • dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:02 AM

        Bk should stand up in merting and start singing You’re the reason in my life,, you are my inspirationnnnnnnnn! He who does not get inspired by air supply song is not a true football player.

      • paiten34 - Jun 29, 2012 at 5:53 AM

        C4evr. What you’re missing is that every year under weis and so far under Kelly
        Nd has lacked depth at several positions making players play out of position or before they were mentally and physically ready. Have you ever played when you didn’t know the plays or were not ready from a physical stand point?

        Better yet have you coached having the same problems? Trust me it sucks when your star wide out goes down and the only player you have to plug in is a freshman who has very few snaps with the first unit and only knows a limited number of plays from the playbook. See the one thing many people don’t know is that NCAA laws only let you have so much time to coach. Only so many practice hours you can be with your team. You cannot just give half the plays you have time to run to a backup who will most likely never see the field. If you do that then you have two players who don’t know what they’re doing not one.

        What coach Kelly is trying to do is build up his depth so that after an injury he can turn around and see a mentally and physically prepared player ready to go in and play. That is what the top teams all have going for them. Oklahoma had two or three major summer injuries involving starters or players who would play major roles for the team. All they did was plug in physically and mentally ready players into the injured players position, not missing a beat. This is what Kelly is doing and as long as we give him the time and support he’ll have us in a position to win ten plus games a year.

        It is not a coaches fault when a player miss handles a catch or a hand off. It’s not a coaches fault when you call a play but the QB throws an interception. A coach can only do so much in the time he has. You can spend a week watching a QB make every right read and make every throw and is totally prepared but still goes into a game and throw 5 picks and have 3 fumbled snaps or mishandled hand offs. As a coach it’s your job to prepare your players and team. It’s the players job to execute the plays during the game.

      • bernhtp - Jun 29, 2012 at 8:59 AM

        Dick: You’re My Inspiration is a Chicago song (Peter Cetera).

      • 1historian - Jun 29, 2012 at 9:10 AM

        I hate to agree with you on this but I have to. This team is now 5/8 Kelly recruits and 3/8 CW recruits. No excuses accepted.

      • c4evr - Jun 29, 2012 at 12:23 PM


        I made room for the thin talent depth with the Willingham ‘death sentence’ reference, so I get it that he has no experienced kids to plug in. Isn’t that what he’s self proclaimed best at?? taking RKG’s and making players out of them? It’s hard to imagine that he was working mostly with WKG’s. But, if by the rest of your argument, you are saying that BK tried throwing a pass against Tulsa when he had a record breaking, walk-on kicker in the middle of his hot streak (no wonder his production went down the next year with an implied vote of no confidence) only to have it intercepted, and that he threw Hendrix in from time to time that only served to break rhythm in most cases, and that he abandoned his most experienced QB for a true freshman after only half a game (then proceeded to STICK with said freshman past all reasonable boundaries), AND that he consistently called out his players’ poor performances in public (which only served to undermine his coaching credibility IMO), then your argument that he needs time with his mentally and physically unprepared kids to succeed loses steam. All his bonehead calls, red-faced tirades, inconsistent yanking/persisting with players have made his kids scared, timid, and uncertain… a recipe for disaster. He summed up his philosophy after the benchmark, first ever night game against USC when he said, basically, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I know what I’m doing and I’m not going to change. IF I had been in his position all along, I’d have played games more conservatively knowing my kids were green, taken my lumps in the press when I’m called boring and predictable, built up trust with my guys behind closed doors by saying things like “I have your backs.”, and never have passed the buck to players, previous regimes, the weather, etc. Would you rather have the alternative?? Oh wait, that’s what we’re living out now.

      • domer77blowsgoats - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:08 PM

        I 100% agree with Kelly’s arrogance and persona and the players’ “deer in headlights” look to often caught on TV – only 2 outcomes from this style:

        1. Players are frozen in fear of making a mistake and thus make mistakes
        2. They get pissed and play in-spite or the F him mentality

        The aforementioned horrendous COACHING decisions only compound the issue. Also don’t forget the following:

        1. Being unable to adapt and defend the option vs. Navy and getting ran out of the stadium
        2. Inexplicably changing defensive strategy vs. FSU in 2nd half

        COACHING decisions have cost at least 4 games over last 2 years…

      • dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:16 PM

        Dam it bern, you got me. Youre like the annoying auto correct on my iphone. I’m not that old. They re all one in the same to me!

  7. gtizzo - Jun 28, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Don’t mind young, as long as I’m talented. I think your overstating things just a little with Barkley and Jones looking for big games. USC is the very last game of the year, and even freshmen should have grown up quite a bite by then. Oklahoma had there problems when Broyles went down last year. Lets face it Oklahoma got beat by an average Texas Tech team, and a Baylor team that didn’t have a defense. Going to Norman isn’t the death sentence it use to be. I have a feeling Neal starts at corner and Russell sits his first year.

    • georgegipp - Jun 28, 2012 at 5:19 PM

      Still, USC does scare me a bit. Deep and talented group of WRs + perhaps best QB in college football = trouble for any defensive secondary in the country.

  8. bernhtp - Jun 28, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    The learning curve for CB seems a bit steeper than the average position. While there are lots of freshman running backs that make an impact, there are far fewer at corner. It’s a challenging position that greatly benefits from experience. With that said, Blanton made a good contribution as a freshman.

    Here is a good article on top ND freshman CBs.

  9. gtizzo - Jun 28, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    Hey nudeman,

    Question: How do you define “big boy” as used in a previous post?

    • nudeman - Jun 28, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      Thought I made that pretty clear

      • gtizzo - Jun 28, 2012 at 11:03 PM

        Spell it out for me, I’m not nearly smart enough to figure it out on my own.

      • nudeman - Jun 29, 2012 at 12:05 AM

        Big boys = High quality, high visibility program that routinely attracts the best athletes in the country, contends for its conference championship, plays in BCS Bowl games and is frequently in the conversation for the Nat’l Champion’p

        I’d say USC, UM, Stanford and OK fit that bill

      • dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:08 AM

        Man I just hope these guys come out this fall and just shocks da sht outta me and just play some dam championship caliber football for change. I’m still holdin out hope…you just never know. Look how long magic lived with aids. Anything is possible!(Adidas pay me now)

      • gtizzo - Jun 29, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        Was just interested in how you defined “big boy”. Overall I can agree with your post.

  10. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 28, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    Sounds like these guys have the right attitude and would welcome the opportunity to play CB, especially with the logjam at running back. I hope that any relocation to the defensive side of the ball would be only temporary (as in 2012 only) as I was looking forward to seeing Russell and Neal, in particular, in offensive skill positions be it RB, Slot or Wideout.

    • dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 1:59 AM

      Hahahahahaha, ha, hahahahaha. You said logjam, bawahahaha! That’s funny. Who said all nd fans are sterile Daryl’s? Not I…

  11. dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 1:57 AM

    Can somebody make some calls to auburn, Alabama or lsu officials to figure out how we can cheat safely to bring rocket back as nd football player? Oh how I miss thee…good ol days.

  12. bearcatirishfan - Jun 29, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Weis did far more damage to this team defensively than I think any of us can put into words.

    I will say this anyone who isn’t happy with 9 plus wins this season is not being realistic. Sorry, I know we should be in the NC every year. I doubt USC could get more than 10 wins with this schedule.

    • dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      Bearcat, true dat! Which is all the more reason why bk should be gone if he cannot meet lowered expectations because the bar has been lowered. But since he’s not a minority, he will get another year.

  13. 25kgold - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    The D keeps coming in!

  14. dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    So do the 3 stars….Rollin Rollin Rollin! We’ve already got 98 Danny Sponds Mattinglys on the team. Let’s go get some Michael dyers and cam newtons!

    Oh wait, I forgot about the dingleberry incident. Never mind!

  15. irish808 - Jun 29, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    I know they said they are keeping their options open, but it would be crazy not to put the ball in Neal’s hands as a receiver, his impact potential offensively is too great. We actually don’t have depth on the offensive side, especially when considering separation speed, all we have is a solid tight end, his highlights alone show too much proof to be messing around with him on defensive. Sure take a look at it him on defensive, but I hope they give him just as much if not more opportunity on the offensive side to prove himself.

  16. nudeman - Jun 29, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    paiten and goat,
    I agree that Kelly’s game day work has not been what we expected. There have been too many head scratching moves to list here. There are two ways to look at it:

    1. Kelly isn’t perfect and like the players, he’s allowed to grow and get better too

    2. By the time you get to a program like ND, you shouldn’t be a work in progress and the things we’ve seen – turnovers, bad decisions like Hendrix in the USC game for one play at the goal line, penalties, the playbook, Tommy Rees at QB, the FSU game, etc etc – it’s unreasonable to expect that stuff will automatically just go away.

    This year is critical in determining whether this garbage was an anomaly or he is what we’ve seen.

    • dickasman - Jun 29, 2012 at 11:14 PM

      Insert Denny green colors light quote “he is who we thought he was”

  17. bearcatirishfan - Jun 29, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    I have to say as a Cincinnati alum and whole hearted BK fan I cannot for the life of me figure out what the heck that second half was about defensively agains FSU. I think diaco sometimes outthinks himself. He was gonna hit em with pressure in the first half and play off in the second to confuse FSU. Problem is he forgot his corner backs just were not good enough for that to work. If one thing gives me hope diaco seems to learn form his mistakes. Look at the difference between the first navy game then army. Then the second game navy game, this man is not afraid to realize something does not work and change it. Here’s hoping the same thing happens this whole season.

  18. paiten34 - Jun 30, 2012 at 11:15 AM


    Yes Kelly has made some bad decisions but I’ve never seen a coach who hasn’t done the same. His calling out of the players or driving the players away from him hasn’t seamed to be a problem. After all look at Manti returning for a senior season. I don’t know very many star NFL caliber type players returning to school for a coach they’re scared of or hate. Also look at this recruiting class. Does this class look to fear and hate Kelly?

    As for going for the TD with a true freshman backup QB instead of letting your star kicker kick the go ahead score I can only say that Kelly made the tough call when it needed to be made. It was a high percentage throw that Rees should have been able to make. You’re taught to put enough air under the pass far in the corner so only your player can make the catch. Then if that doesn’t happen 9× out of 10 you still get a chance to attempt your kick. Kelly was showing that he TRUST his players to make the play. That is something you accuse Kelly of not doing. Most coaches will try to win the game on the field before they try a field goal. See Michigan vs Notre Dame for proof of that, just to name one.

    Playing Hendrix in games was a great idea. That way he gets to see Hendrix play under pressure to see how he preformed. As for putting Rees in the game removing Crist after only one bad half is a strange call. However it worked. Ress played ND back into that game making it a win able game. The end always determines the success of the play call before it.

    Kelly is a good coach who has made a few bad decisions I’ll agree with you at that point, every coach makes a few bad calls. Kelly has shown me that he’s not afraid to make high risk calls. What is a bad call in your mind? To most people a bad call is calling a play that doesn’t work. Going by that rational Tommy comes in during the South Florida game and wins the game that would have been a good call. Is that correct or was that just a bad call no matter what the game out come is?

    If Tommy had completed the pass to Floyd versus Tulsa that would have been a great play call. Oh by the way a majority of players want a game decided on the field not on the leg of a kicker.

    Let’s take a look at other coaches calls vs ND the past few seasons. Year one the O.T game vs MSU. Nd up by three in overtime when MSU makes a dumb call by faking the field goal. However the ND defensive back falls down the pass is caught for the winning TD. Case in point a bad call that turns out to look like a great call.

    Everyone my point is that every call is a bad call when it fails and every good play is a bad play when it fails. See all a coach can do is put in his best or best available player and send in his play. After that it becomes up to the players to make that play work. Now yes Kelly has made some questionable personal decisions. He is around these kids more than me so I will give him the benefit of knowledge and familiarity.

    You brought up coach Holtz who in ND’s last great season started senior QB Kevin McDougal who led the team to a 10-1 record plus a Cotton bowl win. However the starting QB going into the season was a true freshman superstar named Ron Powlus. A QB who was projected to win 2 or more Heismans. Had Ron not been hurt before the season we would have never seen Kevin lead that team to a number 2 final raking. Lou taught us that every team over a long college football season every team needs some luck to win.

    • nudeman - Jun 30, 2012 at 11:57 AM

      I like your posts as they are well thought out and well written. But there are some things here I just HAVE to take issue with.

      1. “As for putting Rees in the game removing Crist after only one bad half is a strange call. However it worked. Rees played ND back into that game making it a win able game.”

      ND lost that game.
      Rees threw 2 INTs in one half of play . That’s a rate of 4 per game.You and others who defend Rees love to cite his W/L record as if he’s a pitcher, but make excuses when he plays and they lose. ND lost and Rees contributed to that.

      2. “If Tommy had completed the pass to Floyd versus Tulsa that would have been a great play call.”

      There are no “IF”s in sports. If you give ND an “if”, you have to give Tulsa an “if”. More importantly, he DIDN’T complete the pass. He threw a flat ball without enough air under it. Translation: Lousy pass. Interception. ND loses. Good call/bad call? I get your point but it’s moot. Execution was terrible.

      3. “See all a coach can do is put in his best or best available player and send in his play.”

      Agree 100%, but BK has failed here at the QB position. The best player has NOT been playing.

      4. “However the starting QB going into the season was a true freshman superstar named Ron Powlus. A QB who was projected to win 2 or more Heismans”

      Powlus goes down as one of ND’s most monumental disappointments. He was NEVER a superstar. Yes there was blather about how great he was going to be coming out of HS, but it never materialized. And Beano Cook is the only guy who projected 2 Heismans for him. Maybe it was coaching; maybe he was overrated, but Powlus looked decent his Frosh year, then seemed to regress a little every year thereafter. By his Sr year, he was awful.

      • paiten34 - Jun 30, 2012 at 6:06 PM


        I couldn’t agree with you more that if’s or could be’s don’t amount to wins. Bottom line ND didn’t beat south Florida in a game that made me sick. I don’t know if crist would have played better in the 2nd half but I think that he deserved to fail or win because he earned that by being the teams starter for the game.

  19. paiten34 - Jun 30, 2012 at 2:03 PM


    The changing of our defensive strategy during the FSU game was down right stupid. Pressure was all over the FSU backfield in the first half then we pull back in the second half giving a frazzled QB time to set his feet and kill us.

    As for the USC game placing Hendrix in to try and do some Tim Tebow type of play was a good call if ND gave time during practice to get that play right. How the play turned out I’d say Kelly devoted no time to that play during the teams prep time. So overall a bad prep time leads to poor results on the field.

    However I disagree that Kelly should have been prepared because of his long career in college football. Nothing in life can prepare a coach for life and game time at ND. Most people bring up how tough the schedule is as an excuse. I only think ND has a tough schedule because the diversity of the teams we play. No other school plays option teams, pro style and spread offensive teams. ND this season will play ACC teams, PAC 12 teams, BIG10 and BIG12 teams throwing in a few independent teams. There’s not another school that plays such a wide diversity of teams.

    My point being that most teams worry about opponents in their conference who for the most part are built much like each other to beat each other. It’s very difficult to build a team that can face offenses and defenses that they’ve rarely or never seen while being able to beat the regular teams they face all the time.

    My last point is that Kelly and the rest of ND’s coaching staff had never seen Navy’s triple option before two seasons ago. Trying to prep for something you rarely coach against is tough. After all look at the game this past season to see how much better ND was prepared for the second meeting. It’s tough stopping that power triple option that navy plays because that game is the only time you see it.

  20. c4evr - Jun 30, 2012 at 2:15 PM


    I realize this BK debate can go round in circles for eternity, so for the sake of more argument, I’ll agree with most of your post… specifically the good call/bad call philosophy. As we all can see from the USC dropped pass for the winning score against us, the bounce of the ball is what determines most fate. But aside from the fickle finger of fate, I find a number of Kelly’s calls and personnel moves indefensible. I am surprised there’s not been more discussion over his mishandling of Riddick’s talent. All the back and forth in positioning has turned a once promising careers into another Powlus redux. You have contradicted your own argument, though. In your First post, you said he had no depth and had to play these young men before being prepared -a fair assessment -and then you said he made calls where he he had to TRUST his guy to make the play. I think your right on both counts… which is why I think BK is in way over his head. That sounds like decisions made from a panic mode. THEN he overreacts in the media to basically cover his gaffe by laying it on the kids. It looks like the one thing we can all agree on is that we are getting a lot of mixed signals from the Kelly camp and you are misdirected if you think his current players and future recruits aren’t picking up on it. ND tradition will buy him another 2 or 3 years of kids glowing about the chance to be Irish, but he better start producing in a big way or that aura goes away.

    • nudeman - Jun 30, 2012 at 2:57 PM

      paiten and c4
      Seems like we agree on many of Kelly’s moves. Indefensible.

      Crist getting thrown overboard, Rees starting under ANY condition, the FSU game, the last drive of the UM game, the fateful drive against USC, having a playbook that apparently no one can learn, the penalties and the turnovers, etc.

      Then add to that how they’ve been flat and played DOWN to their level of opponent so many times. Struggling to beat Wake Forest, BC and Pitt last year. Looking like they were on Xanax against USC on nat’l TV. Frankly they didn’t look all that great against Army and Maryland.

      The first two years have been pretty sickening.

      I repeat, I still like BK. But his game management and player development and team discipline (on the field) need to improve significantly. I’m not so sure they will.

      And to whoever made the point that it’s unreasonable to expect a first year coach to excel … disagree emphatically. How about Ara? Different era altogether I realize, but there are other examples of guys coming into a program, cracking the whip and seeing immediate improvement.

      • c4evr - Jun 30, 2012 at 3:27 PM

        What Nude said… totally concur. I also remember Holtz having a fairly successful first year losing to 4 top 10 opponents by less than a total of 14 points, if I recall correctly. The discussion will hopefully turn towards solutions – I don’t really relish being the voice of negativity, but all these rose colored Kelly posts were starting to cause me to question reality. For the record, I like Kelly… I also liked my senior History teacher in High School, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that she was the worst teacher I ever had in preparing me for college and life in general. Kelly may be going down the grocery list of how to build a program, but, bless is heart, he’s making mistakes (and continues to make well into his 3rd year – i.e. the QB kerfuffle) that a coach can’t afford to make if he plans to stay at a place like ND. It’s unacceptable to be heading into your 3rd year by answering QB questions after the Blue Gold game with, “We saw some errors that were all too familiar… clearly, we’re not there yet.”

        Yes times have changed in college football, but the same thing that made coaches great in Rockne’s time still make great coaches today. Inspiration is timeless. And unfortunately, as I learned from my HS teacher, can’t be taught.

      • nudeman - Jun 30, 2012 at 4:24 PM

        There is a saying we’ve all heard in sports: “You play as you practice”

        For me the B&G game was a horrific omen.
        Yes, some nice things took place.
        But after a year when turnovers took them into the crapper time and time and time again… how do you practice an ENTIRE SPRING with coaches harping on ball security, then come out and play like that.

        I had hoped Chuck Martin taking over the O would help.
        Doesn’t seem to be the case.

        Are we to STILL believe the “we’ll get that corrected” stuff?

        I love ND. I still like Kelly a lot. There are definitely good things going on.
        But I am disappointed in him as a game day coach and a developer of talent.

        The arrow on him is still pointing up in my opinion.
        But it’s not at 12 o’clock anymore. More like 2:00
        Tick, tick, tick …….

  21. paiten34 - Jun 30, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    I totally agree that you play like you practice. I preach that to my kids all the time and I see that same problem when I watch ND practice taps and then the blue gold game. You can’t practice like crap and think that Saturday a magic switch goes on and you play with focus and determination. I hope to see better practices coming out of south bend. I have total faith in notre dame to succeed but they better be ready when the whistle blows. I think part of the problem has been players from the last reign who don’t play with the right intensity or tuff ness. That is coming quickly to an end as Kelly is bringing in the kind of players who fit the style ND wants to play now. More and more Notre Dame is getting players that want to be at ND and play for this group of young energetic coaches.

    Now if coach Kelly can get one of his young talented quarter backs ready for this season we could see the start of something special. To me all the signs are pointing to a team that plays front 7 defense getting preasure in the backfield protecting that young secondary. On offense I see a young up and coming QB that will control the clock use that stable of running backs their all American TE throwing nice short passes to the explosive receivers. Ofcourse keep the defense honest and show off that great team speed down the field with our strong armed mobile QB who can either keep the ball and run or throw deep. Those two elements have been greatly missed these past few years.

    GO IRISH!!!!!!

    Just win coach Kelly!!!!!!!!

    • nudeman - Jun 30, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      “That is coming quickly to an end as Kelly is bringing in the kind of players who fit the style ND wants to play now. More and more Notre Dame is getting players that want to be at ND and play for this group of young energetic coaches.”

      What makes you think the guys BK is getting “want to be at ND’ more than the ones Weis got? Or Willingham?
      Yes, BK has some great guys, and more on the way. Not the issue. Even Faust was a decent recruiter.

      As far as it “coming to an end”, I hope so, but have to see it on the field.
      We’re just a couple months removed from the B&G Game when we saw:
      1) BK start a QB who arguably could not start for any other top 50 program. Maybe top 75.
      2) 6 turnovers
      3) A talented QB who’s been there over a year and still doesn’t know the playbook.

      WTF? When does it end?

      • paiten34 - Jul 1, 2012 at 8:52 AM


        I say that Kelly is getting guys that want to be at ND because more and more I see players who support one another. I see a team that is building a solid running game with several good backs. I see a team that runs more than any Notre Dame team since Lou Holtz left.

        I see the best O line and D line in 20 years. I see a new offensive coordinator who wants a simplified offensive system. This all shows that we can turn over quarter backing duties to a less experienced QB who can enhance our running game.

        Brian Kelly can see the writing on the wall. Another season with Rees running the show will be the end of this great incoming recruiting class and the end of any hope of ND returning to greatness under Kelly. None of the four quarter backs that we have at this time can throw the ball 30+ times a game. However we have two quarter backs that can run a spread running offense built on a strong O line. Powered by a strong running game with a ton of speed and the best tight end in college football.

        I think this is what will happen giving Notre Dame the time to build up our two youngest quarter backs who also have the most skill. This will also allow us to recruit talented outside wide outs to open up an even more explosive offense.

        You heard it here first. A glorious future.

    • c4evr - Jun 30, 2012 at 8:49 PM

      Winning will cover a number of sins. Losing will only drive the nails in deeper. Like George Perles said, “When you lose, everything you do is wrong. When you win, you can stick your finger up your own a** and walk backwards and people say, ‘That’s the way it should be done.” Problem is, in my book, Kelly’s already to the walking backwards part but without the winning. I hope, for his sake, ND turns it around in 2012 and starts playing like the Fighting Irish in stead of the Frightened Irish.

      • nudeman - Jul 1, 2012 at 10:37 AM

        c4 and paiten,
        I sincerely HOPE you’re right that BK knows that another season with Rees at QB is detrimental to his future. And I sincerely HOPE the new offensive coordinator has simplified the system.

        Unfortunately I’ve seen no evidence of either.

        If he’s really had an epiphany re: Rees’ inability to play the position, then why did he have him starting the B&G game? Why so many snaps in practice? Why so many favorable and supportive comments? And if the system has been simplified, why can’t EG or AH learn it?

        If he’s seen the light on the QB, you’d think that, especially after the FSU and Stanford games, he’d just go all in with one of the other three. No need to humiliate Rees and publicly demote him, but for God’s sake, your future is on the line and this is big boy football. Quit worrying about hurting someone’s feelings and give the keys to EG, AH or even GK.

        Bottom line: If there’s no suspension, I think there’s a decent chance, maybe 50%, that Tommy is the QB in Ireland. And in that case, BK will be doing the George Perles walk.

      • c4evr - Jul 1, 2012 at 2:54 PM

        If I were Kelly at this point after having made so many questionable calls, I would pull a Mike Shanahan and give the keys to Golson and basically say, “You do what you do and I’ll taylor the offense to maximize your effect.” He’s, without stating as much, been doing just that with Rees who has the least tools physically of all the candidates.

  22. bearcatirishfan - Jul 1, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Nude, i think you are forgetting that Rees is the incumbent starter. You can’t just declare an open QB competition an dthen say your out only guy with real experience. Yes I don’t think Rees can get much better, but none of the other guys has made a great statement. You got to remember your also managing 18 to 22 year old egos as well. These guys are friends with Rees, you just pull him from the blue and gold game with no chance at redemption how could that affect the rest of the team? He’s got to think of all those things, so I would not read too much into Rees starting the blue gold game. Start of the season different story.

    And don’t give me any crap about Christ getting yanked with no second chance. There has to be more to that story behind then scenes that is not public information. Maybe he went in at half time and said something like I can’t win with these losers.

    • c4evr - Jul 1, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      Now that’s something I would like to see… Kelly yanking Christ from a game : )

      No doubt there would be BK supporters justifying his call : D

    • nudeman - Jul 1, 2012 at 8:23 PM

      (Sarcasm font)
      You’re right. ND was horrid at QB last year but we can’t do anything to hurt Tommy’s feelings.

      COME ON.

      Do you think the players don’t know that he’s sub par?
      They practice every day against Golson (who was the scout team player of the year) and Hendrix (who I’m not a huge fan of, but is light years better than Rees).
      Then they watch film of Rees playing bad football against the likes of Maryland, Pitt, Army and Tulsa. Not to mentione USC, FSU, Stanf, UM.
      Then they go out the following Saturday and Rees is the QB again.
      The players want this offense to have a SPARK more than they want to protect Tommy Rees.

      I understand your point but the counter to that is this: Spring was the perfect time to send the team a message that if you play QB for ND and turn the ball over 19 times YOU’RE ACCOUNTABLE and it’s time for someone else to take over.

      Instead BK has treated this kid with kid gloves like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

      I don’t get it. And I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him at QB, either.

      • bernhtp - Jul 2, 2012 at 12:03 AM

        You forgot BC. That was certainly one of his worst games where ND scored a mere 16 points against a miserable team and kept them in the game through the fourth Q.

      • irish4006 - Jul 2, 2012 at 1:34 AM

        Come on, Nude! You don’t just want to hand out the job to anyone, you want someone to step up and claim it. I think the things Kelly said with regards to taking a step back, simplifying things and open competition send a clear enough message. What more could he do? I get the feeling, esp. after the B&G game, that he would love Golson to take it but he needs to take care of the little things first (getting the play in on time, managing the offense etc.). I think we will definitely see EG in the Navy game, whether he will start the game is something we will have to wait to find out.

  23. bearcatirishfan - Jul 2, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    I’m with irish4006, I wasn’t trying to say that kelly can’t hurt his feelings or that he should play, all I was trying to say is that the blue gold game a scrimmage with no other proven commodity is to the place to do that, I guess what I was trying to say is it could at that point demoralize some of the players, when they are waiting for someone else to step up. What would it look like if he did tell tommy sit then found out none else can do the job and starts him anyway. Sometimes you gotta look at all the angles.

  24. bearcatirishfan - Jul 2, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    Sorry I meant the bg game is not the place to bench him.

    • nudeman - Jul 2, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      I understand the point. But there’s NEVER been accountability for Rees.

      Throws 2 INTs in one half against USF. They lose; he starts the next game.
      Personally turns it over 3-4 times against UM, they lose, starts the next game.
      Plays absolutely terribly against USC; they lose; starts the next game
      Plays badly against Pitt, BC, Wake; starts the next game
      Played terribly against Stanford, starts the Bowl game
      Plays even worse against FSU, starts the Spring game.

      At what point does BK stop making Tommy’s feelings a priority and say “ENOUGH”???
      There’s NEVER a good time to deliver bad news. Just DO IT.

      If he starts in Ireland, BK is taking a huge step toward becoming the next failed Irish coach.

      • bernhtp - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:26 AM

        The sad truth is that Rees apparently does better in practice than the others. But apparently that doesn’t translate into gametime performance.

        Joe Montana wasn’t the best practice player and was often relegated to 2-3rd string because of it. However, when you put him onto the field, magic happened. We need to try the same 35 years later to see who has magic in their veins.

  25. bearcatirishfan - Jul 2, 2012 at 12:30 PM


    I agree with a lot of what your saying, just don’t thin the circumstances around the blue gold game were the appropriate place to make the move that’s. Major reason, golsen has had 1 session of spring practices to run with the 1st team. Just bad timing is all. I will let Kelly know what the pulse of his team is, we are not in the locker room.

    • nudeman - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      My point is that, if you’ve got a guy who obviously can’t play the position, why worry about “timing”? Make the damn decision and move on.

      Tommy has played more QB at ND already than he reasonably could have expected to play in an entire 4 year career. He’s been treated fine.

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