Notre Dame head coach Kelly walks the sideline in the fourth quarter against Alabama during their NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Miami

Reports: Kelly talked with Eagles about head coaching job

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Talk about a good way to forget about a 28-point loss in the National Championship game.

Fresh off Notre Dame’s 42-14 loss to Alabama, multiple reports swirled Wednesday night that Brian Kelly discussed the Eagles head coaching vacancy with Philadelphia brass on Tuesday.

ESPN reporters Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported that Kelly interviewed with the Eagles on Tuesday, while Philly.com and Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported similar tidbits. The news follows rumors from before the BCS title game that suggested multiple teams had Kelly on their shortlist of candidates.

While there’s been no word out of Notre Dame officially, Kelly is said to be spending a few days on vacation with his family before returning to South Bend before the recruiting dead period ends.

Dozens of reporters have spent the past few hours pursing through Kelly’s comments about the NFL in the days leading up to the title game. Kelly didn’t dismiss anything, but merely said he’s completely focused on the job at hand. But with the Irish now finished with the season and a 12-1 season putting Notre Dame back on the map, the timing is perfect for Kelly to leap to a high paying NFL gig or secure a handsome extension from Notre Dame and athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

Talking to a few people in and around the program, there was a feeling that those contract discussions had already begun, with an announced extension sooner than later. That’s what makes the timing of these NFL reports a bit worrisome for Irish fans. If there ever was a reminder that Kelly had climbed from his last two jobs after three seasons, this was certainly it.

That said, it bears mentioning that the last time a Notre Dame coach saw even a sniff of NFL interest, he received a ten-year contract extension that’ll continue to be paid out for the next half-decade. And with Kelly gone from his perch at Notre Dame and unreachable for the next few days, never was there a better time for the popular coach’s representative to float a rumor to NFL reporters, adding some urgency to Swarbrick’s timetable. One senior level NFL executive told me that’s exactly what he thinks is currently happening.

An extension could also come in handy if Kelly was hoping to get his assistants paid. With Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin’s names floating across a few team’s wish lists, contract extensions and pay bumps could help keep Kelly’s staff intact after replacing three coaches last season.

With Signing Day less than a month away, Kelly’s situation will likely be resolved by January 12, when a recruiting dead period ends. From there, it’ll be a sprint to the finish line for the Irish staff, who will go to work locking down a class that’s already ranked No. 1 by Rivals.

Still, seeing Kelly’s name linked to an NFL franchise, and seeing the head coach reportedly listen to the team, is an eye-opening experience for Notre Dame fans, a group that had some clamoring to get rid of Kelly after ten losses in his first two seasons.

In a season that was filled with several twists and turns nobody saw coming, it turns out that even after the final whistle blows, the ride continues.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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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
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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
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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)
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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.