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Game Day: No. 20 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Michigan State

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As always, we’ll be hosting the live blog here later tonight, but let’s roll through a few pressing questions as the Irish prepare to face the Spartans tonight in East Lansing.

A win would give the Irish their first 3-0 start in a decade, and likely propel the Irish into the top 15 as they head into their grudge match with Michigan. A loss — well, it makes the match-up against the Wolverines all the more pressing.

A few final thoughts before it’s time to get down to business.

Can Everett Golson manage this football game?

The Irish offensive line might be taking the heat, but there’s a high likelihood that they’re taking some criticism that could be leveled on the Irish’s young quarterback. Purdue confused the Irish by loading the box and putting the heat on Golson to make the right checks at the line of scrimmage. It didn’t happen in the second half, and after Golson led the Irish on a ten play touchdown drive, the offense sputtered, failing to put together a drive over 17 yards until Rees came in to close the game.

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi certainly isn’t known for his vanilla game plans. So if the Irish are going to walk out of Spartan Stadium alive, they’ll need their young quarterback to learn from last Saturday.

Will the Irish get production out of their wide receivers?

If two games are any indication, Davaris Daniels will end up being the team’s No. 1 weapon at the position, an impressive jump for a redshirt freshman who is also learning on the fly. After spotlighting the Spartan cornerbacks yesterday, it’s going to be important for the Irish to get some big plays with their wide receivers — taking some shots down the field vertically with players not named Tyler Eifert.

Outside of Daniels’ 41-yard catch and run last weekend, the long reception for Notre Dame’s receivers was a 17-yard gain by Robby Toma. The Irish are going to need their wide receivers to be more than possession players.

Can the Irish front seven force Andrew Maxwell into some bad decisions?

Maxwell has shown the ability to turn the ball over, getting intercepted three times in the first half against Boise State. The Irish’s front seven is the best he’s faced, and the Irish are going to need to help Stephon Tuitt get to the quarterback, with guys like Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams being counted on to supply the heat.

Bennett Jackson made his first big play as a cornerback, intercepting Caleb TerBush and setting the Irish up for a field goal. The Spartans plan on trying to confuse Everett Golson. There’s no reason why Bob Diaco can’t do the same to Maxwell.

What team is going to run the ball more effectively?

You know Mark Dantonio will figure out how to get Le’Veon Bell his touches. But will Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin figure out how to get the Irish’s talented stable of runners the football?

Kelly said Cierre Wood looked a little rusty this week as he worked his way back into the rotation. But I expect Wood to reassert himself into the mix immediately, reminding everybody why he was an 1,100 yard rusher last season and an elite player.

Kelly and Martin need to get the ball in the hands of Wood, George Atkinson and Theo Riddick at least 30 times combined, up from the 20 touches the running backs accounted for last week.

Can the Irish put it together on the big stage?

It’s been a long time since a Notre Dame team has come out on the big stage firing on all cylinders. Can this be the team that does it?

While the standard, “It was against Navy” caveat certainly applies, the Irish handled their business and looked crisp during the season opener, putting together an impressive performance. Against Purdue that was hardly the case, with penalties and play-clock issues plaguing the team all game.

If the Irish are going to win tonight, they’ll need to play clean football across the board. You get the sense that Kelly feels quietly confident his team can do this, yet we’ll find out tonight if Notre Dame can put together a complete performance.

 

 

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.