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IBG: All that’s left are the Trojans

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Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Hope we can all spend a little time with our families before the entire focus turns to the big game this weekend. Until then, I tried to throw my best at the Subway Domer for this week’s Irish Blogger Gathering, and he stepped up and took on all comers, not unlike a certain movie character that the ol’ SD channels.

For more IBG, remember to check our our partners in crime, Her Loyal Sons and Strong and True, where I answered some questions for Josh, who once again reminded me why I’ll never predict wins or losses in the preseason. (Makes me look smarter.)

Here goes nothing.

1. I’m sure there are a few cinematic parallels going through your head as the Irish get set to play their arch-nemesis Trojans for a chance at immortality. As a fellow movie lover, compare this match-up to a great movie, and then cast it for me.

(Manti Te’o is Superman, Marqise Lee is General Zod, Lane Kiffin is Miss Tessbacher, etc.)

Although I do often think of these games in a cinematic sense, it usually has more to do with the soundtracks of such movies. So this is, believe it or not, quite difficult for me. I guess I’ll just reach back into some “old faithful’s.” Aye. Braveheart it is.

“Here are Notre Dame’s terms. Lower your flags, and march straight back to Troy, stopping at every camera you pass by to beg forgiveness for 10 years of theft, rape, and murder. Do that and your men shall live. Do it not, and every one of you will die today.”

William Wallace: Brian Kelly
King Edward “Longshanks”: Monte Kiffin
Prince Edward: Lane Kiffin
Phillip: Max Wittek
Hamish: Stephon Tuitt
Stephen: Manti Te’o
Robert the Bruce: Kirk Herbstreit
Bobby Bruce’s Leper Dad: Brent Musburger

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2. It was an absolute lovefest at Notre Dame Stadium last weekend, with the Irish crushing Wake Forest, the seniors getting a proper send off, and then Oregon and K-State losing to push Notre Dame to the top of the college football world. With the stars seemingly aligning, do you feel like this is a team of fate heading to Los Angeles? Or are you preconditioned to expect the absolute worst to happen?

The term, “Team of Destiny” has been embedded into my brain for quite a few weeks now. How could it not? Gone are the days of OMFGZ HERE WE GO AGAIN, or any of that other wussy type crap. This is BIG BOY football, and this is a BIG BOY football team. It really is hard to quantify the level of tunnel vision that I have for this game and this season. Every single moment that has been placed before this team that could have sent them tumbling down a wormhole of destruction, they have extended their fists and put up a finger. WHAT THOUGH THE ODDS INDEED.

Team of Destiny.

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3. You and nine of your Notre Dame fan friends are watching Saturday’s game together when the ghost of Knute Rockne appears and tells you that you can guarantee an Irish victory on Saturday night with a cash donation. How much money is your group willing the shell out for the victory? What do you guys pay for a guaranteed victory over Alabama in the national title game?

My bank account LAUGHS at this question. Well, I’d tell Lane Kiffin to take off that god damn Rockne costume and get his own money to pay recruits. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear enough before… THIS IS A TEAM OF DESTINY! You can not buy your place in paradise with any amount of earthly possessions. For by GRACE you have been saved by FAITH.

Have faith Irish fans. Paradise is within reach. All you doubters- DOUBTING THOMAS! GET BEHIND ME SATAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

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)
Getty
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.