Brian Kelly

Official: Brian Kelly staying put at Notre Dame

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After nearly 72 hours of radio silence from South Bend, Notre Dame has announced that their head football coach isn’t going anywhere. Brian Kelly will remain at Notre Dame for a fourth season, ending an agonizing wait for Irish fans waiting to hear from either the university or its coach.

Word broke earlier this week that Kelly had discussed the Philadelphia Eagles vacancy with club leadership. From there, the rumor mill took over, with anonymous sources leading the media and thousands following on Twitter in a variety of directions. All while Notre Dame and its head coach stayed remarkably quiet.

“This week, I had an incredible opportunity to speak with one of the premier organizations in sports about becoming their head coach,” Kelly said in a statement released by the university. “Like every kid who has ever put on a pair of football cleats, I have had thoughts about being a part of the NFL. However, after much reflection and conversation with those closest to me, I have decided to remain at Notre Dame.”

How that decision came to be remains to be seen. Multiple reports, including one made here, have said representatives of Kelly have been negotiating with the university on a contract extension for the past few days, something athletic director Jack Swarbrick has said was forthcoming. Yet the battle may also have included altruistic motives, with some reporting that Kelly was also pushing for a wage increase for his coaching staff as well.

No financial terms or contract extension were announced. And while some reports have said staff members were staying in touch with their head coach while he was spending a few days with his wife and family before returning for the home stretch of recruiting, two members of Kelly’s staff have told me they found out their bosses plans via Twitter, just like the rest of those waiting for news.

“This decision was motivated purely by my love for Notre Dame and the entire Fighting Irish community, the young men I have the great fortune to coach, and my desire to continue to build the best football program in the country,” Kelly continued in the statement. “We still have a lot of work to do and my staff and I are excited about the challenges ahead.”

Coming off a 12-1 season, there were rumors that Kelly’s name would be on the short list of NFL teams looking to fill their vacancies. And while nothing came out of the Irish athletic department throughout this quiet spell, Swarbrick said he was in communication with his head coach as well as the Eagles, who asked for permission to speak with Kelly.

“I was always confident that Brian would continue to lead our football program, I am very happy to have that confirmed and share Brian’s excitement about what lies ahead for our program,” Swarbrick said.

“I appreciate the Eagles reaching out to request permission to speak with Brian, and I also appreciate Brian keeping me fully informed throughout this process.”

That process was one of pure uncertainty, and a vacuum surrounding the athletic department led to a lot of guessing. As Swarbrick showed during his decision to fire Charlie Weis and the coaching search that led to the hiring of Kelly, the athletic department was leak-proof, a far cry from the group-think efforts of the past.

With Kelly returning to meet with the team on Monday, there’s work to be done for the head coach. First, he’ll have to address a staff that was largely kept in the dark these past five days. While many assumed this was a leverage play from the start, that didn’t keep staffers from worrying about finding new jobs when nearly every vacancy at the college level has been filled. Kelly will also have to get back to work closing out his recruiting class. Whether or not it was directly influenced by Kelly’s discussion with the Eagles, the Irish lost the commitment of touted linebacker Alex Anzalone during this period of uncertainty, a tough blow to the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, but one that gives the Irish another scholarship to work with in these final weeks.

Kelly is currently in Connecticut at the Walter Camp Awards, where he’s receiving the Coach of the Year award. He’ll return to South Bend and welcome five new early enrolling freshman as the semester starts Tuesday.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

echoes
@NDFootball Twitter
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DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend

 

 

Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

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)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.

 

Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

aaron-banks
Tom Loy, Irish 247
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Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.