2013 Pro Bowl

Rudolph’s Pro Bowl performance hints at what could have been


After putting together a regular season where he caught nine touchdowns in an anemic Vikings passing attack, former Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph was named the MVP of the Pro Bowl yesterday, catching five balls for 122 yards and a touchdown yesterday in Hawaii.It’s a tremendous achievement for the second-year pro, who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round after leaving Notre Dame after his junior season.

Rudolph’s college career for the Irish was one filled with promise, but never of potential realized. As one of the blue-chip pieces of Charlie Weis’ 2008 recruiting class, Rudolph walked into South Bend and immediately onto the field, in the starting lineup for all 13 games as a freshman, the first tight end to do that in Notre Dame history. Rudolph’s rookie season had a few high notes — five catches for 70 yards in a 28-21 victory over Stanford, and a nice performance against Hawaii in the bowl game, catching four balls for 78 yards and a touchdown in the Irish’s 49-21 blowout win.

Rudolph’s production that freshman season was in line with what he did the next two seasons, both of which were marred with injuries. In Rudolph’s sophomore season, he missed the final two games of the year with a shoulder injury. His junior season was all but stopped before it got started, with lingering hamstring issues that started in preseason camp ending his season in early October, when he underwent major surgery and six months of rehab after the hamstring gave out.

The transition to Brian Kelly’s spread offense was one that put Rudolph in a foreign system, but also one that gave us the first look at what Kelly planned on doing with elite tight ends, often flexing Rudolph out as a receiver and working to find one-on-one matchups, lining Rudolph up on one side of the field while Michael Floyd played on the other. That experiment never could get off the ground completely, with the Irish struggling at quarterback with Dayne Crist learning on the job before Rudolph’s injury ended his Irish career.

Rudolph decided to skip his senior season and head to the NFL, a decision that made sense considering he was the top tight end on most NFL draft boards. Yet there was also some disconnect between the Rudolph family and the Irish coaching and training staff, with some reported dissatisfaction about the way the injury was handled.

It’s interesting to think of what Rudolph’s return in 2011 would have meant to the Irish offense. With Tyler Eifert allowed to emerge after Rudolph’s injury, the Irish offense would have been stacked at skill positions, with Michael Floyd anchoring the receivers while Eifert and Rudolph would have made a tight end duo envied by just about every NFL team short of New England.

Whether it was Tommy Rees or Dayne Crist playing, that added weapon would have given defenses fits as they tried to game plan schematically for an Irish offense that was efficient running the football, an adding another All-American to an attack that was explosive when it wasn’t turning the football over.

Yet Rudolph’s decision to leave Notre Dame almost crystallized the Weis era — so many promising pieces that just couldn’t fulfill expectations. There was never any doubt Rudolph had the skills and size to be a successful player, as we saw this season for the Vikings and yesterday in the Pro Bowl.

But like Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate, two other three-and-out talents that used Notre Dame more as a stepping stone than a destination, Rudolph’s Irish career leaves most of us wanting more and wondering what could have been.


Even with heavy rain in forecast, kickoff stays in primetime

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Post & Courier (via Twitter)

With rain falling and the forecast expecting much more, Notre Dame and Clemson are kicking off in primetime anyway.

College GameDay was on campus this morning, showcasing the soggy conditions and the mud-covered campus. And while some wondered whether or not the kickoff would move up to earlier in the day to take advantage of a slight lull in the conditions, kickoff is remaining at 8:22 p.m.

“We’ve been in constant communication with state and local law enforcement and have monitored weather throughout the week and today,” director of athletics Dan Radakovich said in a statement Friday night. “I’ve spoken with campus leaders, State Highway Patrol, and Governor Nikki Haley, and feel confident we can play the game as scheduled. We ask our fans to be conscientious arriving and departing from our campus as we will have some limitations due to this ongoing weather event.”

Ball security will be key this evening, and during an interview with Tom Rinaldi this morning Kelly mentioned the punting and kick game as concerns in these conditions. The Irish came to Clemson prepared for miserable conditions and if the forecast holds, they’ll get just that.

Irish get commitment from 2017 TE Cole Kmet

Cole Kmet

Notre Dame’s tight end recruiting keeps rolling. The Irish received a commitment from Illinois tight end Cole Kmet, who adds a third piece to Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class.

Kmet is a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder, joining fellow blue-chipper 2017 tight end Brock Wright in next year’s recruiting class (they won’t sign until February 2017). He had early offers from plenty of the top programs around the country, but picked Notre Dame over finalist Ohio State, a nice recruiting victory for Scott Booker and Brian Kelly.

Kmet talked about the decision with Irish 247 who broke the news:

“I think it was just a gut feeling knowing it was Notre Dame,” Kmet to Irish 247. “I didn’t want to pass on playing for that program and attending that university. It’s always been the school I wanted an offer from and Ohio State made it really close, but I just couldn’t pass on Notre Dame.”