Key recruit Vanderdoes no longer committed to USC


Key defensive line recruit Eddie Vanderdoes has publicly announced he’s no longer committed to USC, a decision he reportedly made three weeks ago. Notre Dame, who had a limited target list at defensive tackle this recruiting cycle but has long offered the 6-foot-3, 300-pound blue-chipper, spent the better part of the last two months pushing hard to get a visit from Vanderdoes, and it looks like that hard work has paid off.

Vanderdoes made the de-commitment public in the days prior to the U.S. Army All-American game, partially to avoid the media circus that accompanies the event. And while he’s still set to give the Trojans his final official visit, he’s in the process of setting an official visit to Notre Dame as well.

Justin Hopkins of 247Sports.com tracked down Vanderdoes and got a comment:

“It’s not anything USC did or necessarily that things changed,” Vanderdoes said. “I just wanted to be up front about every thing and I haven’t been committed to USC for quite some time. I actually told the staff a few weeks ago but just have kept it to myself since then. I’m still considering USC, but I just want to make this decision with a clear mind.”

Vanderdoes said the increasing pressure as he heads to a Trojan commit filled Army Bowl may have been the final straw. He will visit USC in January as planned and it will be his final visit.

“I’m still going to visit USC and it will be the last trip I take,” he said. “Right now I’m scheduled to visit on Jan. 18 but I also need to schedule my Notre Dame visit. I may have to move things around to make everything work.”

When the Notre Dame visit happens will be the interesting part. The weekend of January 25th has been a date circled in various media reports, but that would make it difficult for Vanderdoes to give USC his final visit, a commitment he still seems intent on honoring. But with Signing Day the first Wednesday in February, the calendar looks like an enemy not a friend to the Trojans.

As it’s been happening for much of the fall, it’s remarkable to look at how Notre Dame’s success on the field has helped with recruiting down the stretch. The Irish have taken dead aim at elite players like Vanderdoes and Max Redfield, two long-time Trojan locks, and inserted themselves in the thick of it for two of the nation’s top 50 players.

While it’s hard to call the race for the Irish when Vanderdoes hasn’t been to campus yet, Notre Dame finds itself in a really good spot entering All-Star week. Not only will the Irish be playing in the national championship game, featuring a star defensive tackle like Louis Nix who Vanderdoes can watch closely, the Irish will have prospects Greg Bryant, Steve Elmer, Torii Hunter Jr., John Montelus, Jaylon Smith, Doug Randolph and Corey Robinson in attendance in San Antonio, with guys like AQ Muhammad also heavy Irish leans. With the Irish looking to fill three, and potentially four more spots, recruiting could shake out perfectly for the Irish in the 40-odd days until faxes start rolling in.

All in all, just another reminder of the spoils that come with a 12-0 season.

Irish prepared to take on the best Navy team in years


Brian Kelly opens every Tuesday press conference with compliments for an opponent. But this week, it was easy to see that his kind words for Navy were hardly lip service.

Ken Niumatalolo will bring his most veteran—and probably his most talented—group of Midshipmen into Notre Dame Stadium, looking to hand the Irish their first loss in the series since Kelly’s debut season in South Bend.

“Ken Niumatalolo has done an incredible job in developing his program and currently carrying an eight-game winning streak,” Kelly said. “I voted for them in USA Today Top 25 as a top-25 team. I think they’ve earned that. But their defense as well has developed. It’s played the kind of defense that I think a top 25 team plays.”

With nine months of option preparation, Notre Dame needs to feel confident about their efforts against Georgia Tech. Then again, the Midshipmen saw that game plan and likely have a few tricks in store.

As much as the Irish have focused their efforts on stopping Keenan Reynolds and the triple-option, Navy’s much-improved defense is still looking for a way to slow down a team that’s averaged a shade over 48 points a game against them the last four seasons.

Niumatalolo talked about that when asked about slowing down Will Fuller and Notre Dame’s skill players, an offense that’s averaged over 48 points a game during this four-game win streak.

“We’ve got to try our best to keep [Fuller] in front of us, that’s easier said than done,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to play as close as we can without their guys running past us. I’ve been here a long time and we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.”


Navy heads to South Bend unbeaten, defeating former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco‘s team just two Saturdays ago. And while Diaco raised a few eyebrows when he said Navy would be the team’s toughest test of the year (they already played a ranked Missouri team), the head of the UConn program couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise.

“I have been competing against Navy for some time and this is the best Navy team I have seen for, let’s say the last half-dozen years,” UConn coach Bob Diaco told the New Haven Register. “I could click on footage from three years ago and see a lion’s share of players who are playing right now in the game as freshmen and sophomores. They have a veteran group, a strong group, a talented group and they look like the stiffest competition among our first four opponents.”

As usual, there will be those who look at this game as the breather between Clemson and USC. That won’t be anybody inside The Gug. So as the Irish try to get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd, a complete team effort is needed.

“I’ll take a win by one,” Kelly said Tuesday. “That would be fine with me.”


Kelly confident Robinson will rebound

Notre Dame v Florida State

Corey Robinson‘s season was already off to a slow start. And that was before a difficult night at Clemson. The junior receiver came into last weekend with only four catches, held out against UMass after a pregame tweak of his knee put a scare into the Irish.

Robinson’s knee checked out fine. But mentally, it appears that the sure-handed junior is struggling.

Just before halftime against the Tigers, Robinson failed to reel in a long catch that would’ve given the Irish a much-needed touchdown heading into half. Early in the fourth quarter, a high throw from DeShone Kizer on the Irish’s first failed two-point conversion play slid through Robinson’s hands. Made worse was a mental mistake by Robinson, the Irish needing to use one of their second half timeouts when the junior wasn’t on the field.

Coached hard on the sideline by Brian Kelly and coached up by his position coach Mike Denbrock (as we saw on both Showtime and Fighting Irish Media’s ICON), the staff is doing it’s best to get Robinson’s confidence back.

With some wondering if Robinson’s struggles should open the door for talented freshman Equanimeous St. Brown, Kelly talked about their belief that the junior will return to form.

“Corey Robinson is going to get the job done. I had a very lengthy conversation with him yesterday,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I believe in Corey. Corey’s got to believe in himself, and he will. He’s got to go attack the football. He’s letting the football come to him. He’s letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.”

There’s no better place to showcase that belief than against Navy. The Midshipmen don’t have a defender physically capable of matching up with the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who will likely face his share of single coverage with Will Fuller likely demanding safety help.

Then it’s just a matter of Robinson showing the hands and confidence that made him one of last year’s most consistent performers.

“Once he starts attacking the football, I think we’re going to see somebody that can make the plays that we expect him to make,” Kelly said. “So I’m optimistic that we’re going to see the guy that we need to see on Saturday.”