Stanford Washington Football

IBG: Ramping up the stakes


Another Thursday, another Irish Blogger Gathering. This week, I’ve drawn the godfather of the IBG, The Subway Domer. When he’s not leading the charge here, or putting a purple-faced Brian Kelly on a unicorn, he’s openly judging our Tweets. He’s also just picked himself up off the canvas and announced his non-retirement from blogging. (As if he thought we’d just let him leave…)

With another difficult opponent in front of Notre Dame, and another game that’ll likely shape the ceiling of this season, I asked SD three questions and he was kind enough to answer them.

(You can see my answers to Twibby’s questions over at Her Loyal Sons. Check out Josh’s answers at Subway Domer, and Twibby’s at Strong and True.)

Here we go:

1. You, the Subway Domer, are a red-blooded American and a Notre Dame football fan. That means these first six weeks of college football season have been an era of prosperity you haven’t experienced in some time. Are you willing to quantify just how fun it’s been watching this football team start the season undefeated? Are you willing to let yourself dream about what could possibly be? What are your expectations for the last seven games of the football season?

Absolutely not. Fun? You have to be joking. I was stressing out the entire 2nd half of the Miami game because I WANTED that no touchdowns streak to continue.

With all that said, I can admit that I am a lot more satisfied with what is taking place than in previous years, but I’m dreading that first loss- whenever it may be. I can also admit to dreaming of absolute glory, so yeah… I am the epitome of happy confusion right now.

As far as the next 7 games are concerned, I truly feel that it will be more of the same. Kelly has been preaching consistency since he arrived in the Bend, and now it appears that benchmark is set for the rest of the team. It may not be enough to win every game, but then again… maybe that’s exactly what it does.

2. If you assigned an overall ranking to every player on Notre Dame’s roster (like EA Sports’ videogame), and had 20 overall points to disperse to the roster right now to make the team better, how would you allocate them?

I could be frugal with my distribution, but I like Chunky Soup.

5+ speed Motta
5+ speed Farley
10+ awareness Golson

3. Rank your excitement/anxiety level on the remaining games on the schedule.

I’m going to rank these in order from least stress to most stress, as I am generally pretty freaked out by game time for every game:

1. Wake Forest
3. Boston College
4. BYU
5. Stanford
6. Oklahoma
7. USC

Pretty basic stuff there.

Even amidst chaos, Kelly expecting USC’s best

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rocky Hayes, Blaise Taylor

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired on Monday, with interim head coach Clay Helton taking the reins of the Trojan program during tumultuous times. Helton will be the fourth different USC head coach to face Notre Dame in as many years, illustrative of the chaos that’s shaken up Heritage Hall in the years since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

All eyes are on the SC program, with heat on athletic director Pat Haden and the ensuing media circus that only Los Angeles can provide. But Brian Kelly doesn’t expect anything but their best when USC boards a plane to take on the Irish in South Bend.

While the majority of Notre Dame’s focus will be inward this week, Kelly did take the time on Sunday and Monday to talk with his team about the changes atop the Trojan program, and how they’ll likely impact the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

“We talked about there would be an interim coach, and what that means,” Kelly said. “Teams come together under those circumstances and they’re going to play their very best. And I just reminded them of that.”

While nobody on this Notre Dame roster has experienced a coaching change, they’ve seen their share of scrutiny. The Irish managed to spring an upset not many saw coming against LSU last year in the Music City Bowl after a humiliating defeat against the Trojans and amidst the chaos of a quarterbacking controversy. And just last week, we saw Charlie Strong’s team spring an upset against arch rival Oklahoma when just about everybody left the Longhorns for dead.

“I think you look at the way Texas responded this past weekend with a lot of media scrutiny,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I expect USC to respond the same way, so we’re going to have to play extremely well.”

Outside of the head coaching departure, it’s difficult to know if there’ll be any significant difference between a team lead by Sarkisian or the one that Helton will lead into battle. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been at USC for six years, and has already held the title of interim head coach when he led the Trojans to a 2013 Las Vegas Bowl title after Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron left the program after he wasn’t given the full time position.

Helton will likely call plays, a role he partially handled even when Sarkisian was on the sideline. The defense will still be run by Justin Wilcox. And more importantly, the game plan will be executed by a group of players that are among the most talented in the country.

“They have some of the finest athletes in the country. I’ve recruited a lot of them, and they have an immense amount of pride for their program and personal pride,” Kelly said. “So they will come out with that here at Notre Dame, there is no question about that.”

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.