alford

The road to 85

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It’s a dead sprint for Brian Kelly and his staff. Two years of hard work identifying, evaluating and developing relationships with recruits hits the home stretch, with the Notre Dame staff doing its best to finalize a recruiting class that’s expected to be one of the best in the nation.

Finishing off that class is the first key part of roster management for the 2013 season. With 22 commitments in the ’13 class, including five student-athletes already enrolled, any additional recruits joining the 2013 class will likely determine how many fifth-year players the Irish welcome back for next season.

Some early answers will likely come this weekend, when the Irish host one of their biggest late season recruiting weekends of recent memory. Difference makers like defensive end Kyle Fitts, linebacker Deon Hollins, wide receiver Sebastian LaRue, tight end Durham Smythe, and five-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes will all be on campus. So will five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith, who reportedly is coming to down to help with the sales pitch. Add in an impending visit from linebacker Torrodney Prevot the weekend before Signing Day, and how the Irish fill their 25 man allotment will be incredibly interesting.

Reading the tea leaves, we can start to get a handle on the fifth-year candidates that might return. Let’s roll through the roster and look at all the options:

Cierre Wood, RB — Declared for NFL Draft.
Tyler Eifert, TE — Declared for NFL Draft.
Jake Golic, TE — Not expected to return.
Chris Watt, LG — Expected to return.
Zack Martin, LT — Announced return for fifth year.
Tyler Stockton, DT — Not expected to return.
Dan Fox, LB — Expected to return.
Carlo Calabrese, LB — Expected to return.
Nick Tausch, K — Not expected to return.
Jamoris Slaughter, S — Appealing NCAA for a sixth year.

It’s worth noting that last year, surprising defections like Ronald Darby and Deontay Greenberry likely effected the decision making on the fifth year candidates, with a guy like Dan McCarthy the recipient of a bonus season of football because of it, and Chris Salvi earning a scholarship as well. The official announcement for fifth years came in late March, when the Irish were set to kickoff spring practice.

While some wonder if the Irish can afford to bring back five players — with Slaughter’s appeal seeming less than likely after news that his original request was denied — any decision will be made after the faxes are in on Signing Day. There are log jams at positions (quarterback, safety) that might create a transfer situation. There are lingering health concerns (Tate Nichols, Matt Hegarty) that contributed to some roster uncertainty as well.

It’s all part of the high wire act elite programs walk as they maximize their 85 scholarships, something Notre Dame is finally in a position to do after replenishing a roster that had holes and deficiencies dating back to the Willingham era. The Irish will never be a program that oversigns, a strategy that’s led to dominance by the SEC over the past few years. But Notre Dame has until fall camp to get down to the number, so it’ll be worth watching as the roster numbers take shape.

 

 

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.