Miami v Georgia Tech

Golden talks match-up with Irish

34 Comments

Al Golden met with the media yesterday to discuss his team’s game against No. 9 Notre Dame. And after listening to Miami’s head coach, the Hurricanes certainly won’t enter Soldier Field overlooking the Irish.

Golden was effusive with his praise for the Irish, applauding the work Brian Kelly and Notre Dame have done in the season’s first month, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

“Really impressive defensive group. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with them,” Golden said of Notre Dame’s defense. “Really strong and rugged up front, 3-4 alignment, Nix at the nose is a load to handle. Linebackers are all big. Te’o in the middle is as good as advertised, holds it all together, and does a great job running the operation for them. Play a lot of cover 2. Make it hard for you to run the ball. Up front as good as anybody I’ve seen in the red zone in a long time. Really good.”

Golden’s comments on the Irish red zone defense actually point out something many of us have overlooked for most of the season. The Irish have been really, really good in the red zone, especially keeping teams out of the end zone.

Notre Dame is ranked second nationally in touchdown efficiency on defense, holding opponents to just two touchdowns on ten attempts, with the 20% clip behind only TCU. Putting that rate into context, if the Irish kept it up, they’d beat Alabama — the nation’s No. 1 team in TD efficiency in 2011 — by 15 percent. No team in the last five years has held opponents below 31.7 percent, putting another datapoint on the board that shows how impressive Bob Diaco’s unit has been playing while breaking in a young secondary.

Offensively, Golden and his coaching staff have prepared for both Everett Golson and Tommy Rees. And while you wouldn’t know it from talking to Irish fans, the Hurricanes staff doesn’t see much difference between the two quarterbacks.

“We’re ready for either Golson or Rees at quarterback,” Golden said. “From our standpoint, we don’t see a whole lot of difference when Golson’s in there as opposed to when Rees is in there. We see a lot of the same throws, a lot of the same reads, formations, and things of that nature. From our standpoint, as far as how they’re formationing things and what they’re calling, we don’t see a whole lot of difference between those two.”

Golden is a smart coach and has a young defense that’s learning on the fly and struggling as it goes along. But this should be a great opportunity for the Irish to let Golson get into the game plan as a runner as well, holding onto the ball in the zone read and breaking some plays on the outside with his feet. Golden was candid about the team’s struggles on defense and knows they’re a work in progress.

“There is no frustration,” Golden said about his young defense. “I know where we are right now, and there’s going to be a day when we all play our best on the same day. As I said to the team, why not today? Why not this week? I don’t know when it’s going to be, but we haven’t done it yet and we’ve won. I want to make sure we don’t lose our aggressiveness. We’re competing right now. You can’t turn on the film and say we’re walking around on defense. We’re not playing as smart as we need to, we’re not executing like we need to, and we need some guys to step up.”

After watching from the press box as Hurricane players huddled around heaters in El Paso and wore neck warmers during their Sun Bowl drubbing against Notre Dame in 2010, Golden did his best to choose his words wisely when asked about potentially cold weather this weekend, with Saturday evening temperatures expected to drop into the 30s.

“How cold are we talking about here, like Green Bay Packer cold?” Golden asked, doing his best to move past a game where the Hurricanes program was in transition. “I think we’ll be alright.  I hope we’re not to the point where we got to huddle around a heater. I hope we’re just tough enough to go out and play, to be honest with you. I don’t mean that facetiously, I mean that. We’re going to be outside for three-and-a-half, four hours against a Top 10 teams. If we have a team that’s thinking about heaters at that time or looking to get sweatshirts and stuff, I’m not doing something right.”

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
12 Comments

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
11 Comments

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
Getty
6 Comments

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)
5 Comments

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.