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In case you didn’t know: This one is personal for OU fans

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It’s fair to say that Oklahoma isn’t looking at this weekend’s game with Notre Dame as just another Saturday on the calendar.

“Probably the most anticipated game here since 2000, when Nebraska came in here ranked No. 1 in the country and we were No. 2,” Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. “It was a pretty incredible day.”

That’s what Notre Dame has waiting for them this weekend at Owen Field, where the No. 8 Sooners will welcome the No. 5 Irish, a game that means quite a bit to Oklahoma fans. How much? Well, I’ll admit I was more than a little surprised when reading this article by the Oklahoman’s Barry Tramel, who explained why Oklahoma fans hate Notre Dame.

Blame it on the 1957 Fighting Irish. Terry Brennan’s squad finished the season with three losses, but walked into Norman and blanked No. 2 Oklahoma 7-0, shocking the Sooners after getting pasted by OU 40-0 the year before and ending the Sooners’ 47-game winning streak. From that moment on… well, it hasn’t been pretty.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire article. But here are a few choice snippets from Tramel’s piece on the OU-ND series, a match-up the Irish own with an 8-1 record.

Jack Laffoon says he never voted for Ronald Reagan, not because of politics, but because Reagan portrayed Notre Dame star George Gipp in “Knute Rockne, All American.”

“I still remember my mother crying on that dark fall afternoon in 1957,” said Laffoon, then a Tulsa grade schooler and now a retired Air Force man living in Corinth, Texas. “A bunch of papist hooligans had stolen the game from the mighty Sooners.”

And here’s another choice cut, this one comparing Oklahoma’s loss to Notre Dame in 1957 to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In fact, between Oct. 13, 1951, and Oct. 11, 1958, OU lost three games. All to Notre Dame.

Call it a hate-hate relationship Sooner fans have with the Golden Domers.

“Hate is a little too strong, but let’s go with I am intensely interested in the Sooners cleaning their clock,” said Richard Luttrell of Richardson, Texas. “I’m a little too young to remember Nov. 16, 1957, but that date was tattooed in my brain by my parents just like Dec. 7, 1941 — another day of infamy.”

Even though he’s ashamed to admit it, this fan hates Notre Dame so badly he even hates Lindsey Nelson.

Irwin still can recite his access to the Sooners in the pre-Internet days of the 1970s.

One or two televised games per season. Fifteen to 30 seconds of highlights each Saturday during the Prudential College Scoreboard Show with Dave Diles. Three lines of type and a box score in the Sunday paper.

“Do you remember what the Notre Dame fans had?” Irwin asked. “A one-hour … replay hosted by Lindsey Nelson every Sunday morning! Aaaarrrrrrrgh!!!!”

Irwin said he’s embarrassed that the jealousy, “born of youth,” continues to color his perception even though he now has virtually unlimited access to Sooner football.

“I still hope the Irish lose every week,” he said.

As you might expect, the players, 18-23-year-old kids like quarterback Landry Jones, might not have the same disdain for a football program that the Sooners haven’t played since he was ten-years old. But that doesn’t mean he’s not excited for the prime-time match-up, where ESPN’s College GameDay will set up shop this weekend.

“We’re excited for this one,” Jones said after beating Kansas on Saturday 52-7. “I’m not going to say we had Notre Dame marked on our calendar, but we’ve been looking forward to it, for sure. It’s a huge game for this program.”

Jones, the lynchpin of the Sooners offense, and one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, might be best served coming into Saturday with this attitude.

Because if he knew he were playing to avenge Jack Laffoon‘s mother’s tears, that might heap quite a bit of pressure on a college kid.

“The tears were not for the loss of a game alone,” Laffoon said. “The tears were also for the perceived loss of respect our homeplace had suffered.

“The streak brought respect to a state devastated by the Dust Bowl and besmirched by Steinbeck’s portrayal of Okies … for 47 games, we were the kings of the world.

“That was gone, wiped out, never to return and never to be repeated. I had no choice but to instantly despise them and all of their ilk.”

First Tom Joad, and then the Fighting Irish. As we roll forward to Saturday evening’s monumental game, consider this a two-fold reminder. First, Notre Dame fans aren’t the only people who take college football too seriously.

But probably more important: Oklahoma fans really don’t like Notre Dame.

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

Notre Dame v Florida State
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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

***

 

Restocking the roster: Offensive Line

Notre Dame offensive line
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When Notre Dame takes the field this spring, there’ll be two very large holes in the offensive line that need filling. All-American left tackle Ronnie Stanley is gone. As is captain Nick Martin at center. Both three-year starters leave Harry Hiestand with some big decisions to make in the coming months as the Irish look to fill those key positions and still field a unit with the ability to dominate in the trenches.

The Irish have had incredible stability at left tackle, with Stanley sliding in seamlessly after four seasons of Zack Martin. Perhaps the best six-year run in the program’s storied history at the position, Stanley will likely join Martin as a first-rounder, back-to-back starters at a key spot that often dictates the play of one of the most important units on the field.

Replacing Nick Martin could prove equally tricky. Rising junior Sam Mustipher served as Martin’s backup in 2015, filing in capably for Martin after an ankle sprain took him off the field briefly against UMass. But Mustipher will face a challenge this spring from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge, the first true center recruited by Hiestand and Brian Kelly since they arrived in South Bend.

Kelly talked about 2017 being a big cycle on the recruiting trail for restocking the offensive line. You can see why when you look at the depth, particularly at tackle. Let’s look at the work that’s been done the previous two classes as Notre Dame continues to be one of the premier programs recruiting in the trenches.

 

DEPARTURES
Ronnie Stanley
, Sr. (39 starts)
Nick Martin, Grad Student (37 starts)

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Tristen Hoge
, C
Trevor Ruhland
, G
Jerry Tillery
, T
Parker Boudreaux
, G
Tommy Kraemer
, T
Liam Eichenberg
, T

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Hunter Bivin, T
Quenton Nelson, LG
Sam Mustipher, C
Steve Elmer, RG
Mike McGlinchey, RT

Alex Bars*, T
Colin McGovern*, G/T
Mark Harrell*, C/G
Tristen Hoge*, C
John Montelus*, G
Jimmy Byrne*, G
Trevor Ruhland*, G

*Has an additional year of eligibility remaining. 

ANALYSIS:
It’ll be a fascinating spring up front for the offensive line. We’ll get our first look at potential replacements and see if the Irish staff values a veteran presence (as it has done in the past) or puts former blue-chip recruits in position to become multi-year starters.

For now, I’m putting last season’s backups in line to ascend to starting spots. That’s not to say I think that’s what’ll happen. Hunter Bivin may have been Stanley’s backup last season, but as long as Alex Bars is fully recovered from his broken ankle, I think he’s the best bet to step into that job. Sharing reps at guard—not a natural spot for Bars to begin with—was more about getting him some experience, with the aim to move him into the lineup in 2016. That allows Bivin to be a key swing reserve, capable of playing on either the right or left side.

At center, the decision is less clear cut—especially since we’ve yet to see Tristen Hoge play a snap of football. Size and strength is a genuine concern at the point of attack for Hoge, not necessarily the biggest guy hitting campus. But it sounds like he’s had a nice first season from a developmental standpoint, and if he’s a true technician at the position, he could be a rare four-year starter at center if he’s able to pull ahead of Mustipher this spring.

On paper, the other three starting jobs don’t seem to be in question. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are ready to step to the forefront. Concerns about Steve Elmer’s buy-in will certainly be answered by spring, there’s little chance he’ll be on the field in March if he’s not going to be around in August. I’m of the mind that Elmer’s too good of a character guy to leave the program, even if his life doesn’t revolve around football 24/7. Now it’s time for him to clean up some of the flaws in his game, the only starter from last season who held back the Irish from being a truly elite group.

Depth isn’t necessarily a concern, but there isn’t a ton of it at tackle. That happens when you move a guy like Jerry Tillery to defensive line and lose a player like Stanley with a year of eligibility remaining. That could force the Irish to cross-train someone like Colin McGovern, a veteran who can swing inside or out if needed. McGovern seems to be a guy who would start in a lot of other programs, but has struggled to crack a two-deep that’s now filled with former blue-chip recruits, all of them essentially handpicked by Hiestand and Kelly.