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IBG: Prepping for primetime

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As we do every week in season, we’re rolling with the IBG. After a chaotic day on campus, UND.com’s Josh Flynt of the Strong and True blog answered my questions.

Here goes.

1. Let’s get it out of the way — How excited are you about the move to the ACC? Taking football out of it, it’s a great opportunity for the Irish sports teams to play in a prestigious conference that pretty much elevates the level of play across the board. Taking the subject back to football, what teams are you most excited to renew or build rivalries with during Notre Dame’s five ACC games?

Thrilled. Excited. Pumped. “Insert other adjective to describe happiness.” And if you watch any of FIDM’s videos from yesterday, you’ll hear almost every Notre Dame coach comment on how their sport’s best competition resides in the ACC.

Men’s basketball at Cameron Indoor and the Dean Dome? Sign me up.

Men’s lacrosse, already a strong conference, becomes a who’s who list of the sport’s best, with the addition of Syracuse and Notre Dame.

In women’s soccer, Randy Waldrum’s team will have the opportunity to battle North Carolina, the country’s premier program, for conference titles.

These are just a few of the many exciting opportunities that await the Fighting Irish and their fans in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Aside from athletics, the conference is also home to several “peer institutions,” in top academic universities such as Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest, just to name a few.

As for football, the idea of games in Blacksburg and Death Valley has me wishing the 2014 season started today. Virginia Tech and Clemson are two of the strongest teams in college football, and Notre Dame has very little historywith either (none, in fact, with the Hokies). It will be a fun day when ND meets Va. Tech on the gridiron for the first time.

Though we’ve played Florida State and Miami in the past two bowl games (and will obviously take on the Hurricanes again next month), it’s exciting to know these rivalries will soon return to Notre Dame Stadium. Not to mention, the Irish have a pretty long history with Georgia Tech, so it will be nice to see that series renewed as well.

As an alum and East Coast guy, I’m truly ecstatic about this move. The BIG EAST was a great home for Notre Dame for quite some time, but in the shifting landscape of college athletics, I think moving to the ACC was the best decision the university could have made for the long-term future. Now, if only we can get the ACC and Madison Square Garden to sign an agreement for March, we’ll be all set.

2. Brian Kelly said the coaching staff could’ve done a better job getting George Atkinson touches against Purdue, a game where he inexplicably got only one carry. With Cierre Wood coming back from suspension and Theo Riddick still starting, what do Kelly and Chuck Martin need to do to get the ball to these three guys?

It’s funny – this is nearly the exact question that I asked Bayou Irish from HLS. Getting all three of these backs on the field will certainly be a challenge, but I think it’s very important to Notre Dame’s season moving forward. As Coach Kelly said on Tuesday, each of these guys has the talent to be a starter, and it just seems like a waste of talent to not use them frequently.

I’m not really sure what the solution is, to be honest. While Theo has said he feels more comfortable as a running back, he does have some experience as aslot receiver, so maybe we’ll see him back at that position for a few plays each game. Whatever happens, I’d really like to see two of the three on the field at almost all times. If that can’t happen, sub them in and out of the backfield frequently. It can’t hurt to have three sets of fresh legs, right?

3. The is the first time Notre Dame and Michigan State face each other ranked and undefeated since 1987. It’s Everett Golson’s first time playing in a hostile environment. I’m not going to make you make a prediction, but if you had to pick two lines on the box score that you wanted to put in the Irish’s favor, what would they be?

Rushing yards and sacks/QB hurries/etc.

With two tough defenses, I wouldn’t expect it to be a high scoring contest, but the Irish need to re-establish the ground game with their stable of running backs, especially with a young quarterback at the helm. The Spartans obviously have a very talented back of their own, in Le’Veon Bell, whose name has been mentioned in the early Heisman conversation. If Cierre, Theo and GAIII can outrun Bell, the Spartans only major rushing threat, I think we’ll be in good shape. Much of this will come down to the Notre Dame offensive line, which dominated in Dublin, but struggled against Purdue. It should be interesting, as Michigan State has allowed just 109 rushing yards in two games.

On the other side, I think the Irish defensive needs to put pressure on Andrew Maxwell. So far, Notre Dame has registered seven sacks, led by four from sophomore Stephon Tuitt. The defensive line is arguably the Irish’s strongest unit, and Stephon, Big Lou and Kap need to show the nation that on Saturday night.

If you’re interested in seeing my answers to Subway Domer’s questions, head on over and check them out.

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)
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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.