Eddie Vanderdoes

Vanderdoes adds another chapter to No. 3 jersey

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Walk-on safety Connor Cavalaris might have done something that most offensive lineman will struggle with. He stopped blue-chip recruit Eddie Vanderdoes in his tracks.

Sure, it didn’t happen on the field. But when Vanderdoes was looking at jersey numbers, he scrolled down the roster and saw that his long-worn high school number — No. 47 — was taken by the sophomore safety from Lake Forest, Illinois. So Vanderdoes called an audible, and in doing so almost arbitrarily joined the prestigious Irish fraternity that has donned the No. 3 jersey.

“They have somebody at #47,” Vanderdoes told Sure West Sports’ Mike Finnerty. “But talking to Louie Nix, and Louie is going to be No. 1 this year and Stephon is No. 7. He goes, ‘Bro, you’ve got to get a single-digit number.’ And it was either three or five, and I took three.”

So it’s not exactly the story traditionalists will want to think of when they look back at greats like Lamonica, Montana, Mirer Floyd and Vanderdoes, but any incoming freshman that calls a 340-pound behemoth like Nix “Louie,” should be alright with Irish fans.

That kind of attitude is probably what’s most refreshing about Vanderdoes. While he’s got the elite reputation of one of the best defensive linemen in the country, Vanderdoes seems remarkably absent of ego, merely a really big kid looking to fit in and play football on one of the nation’s most promising teams.

In an interview he did after Signing Day, listening to Vanderdoes showed you the true personality of a kid that seemed genuinely excited to go back to being a football player, already tired of the celebrity status that came with being one of the final undecided top recruits in the country. Even though the process was a grind, Vanderdoes talked about what made the opportunity so special.

“Only so many people in the whole world get to go through that,” Vanderdoes told Finnerty. “The people you get to meet throughout the process. Meeting the other recruits, picking their brains, going on visits. Getting to ride Nick Saban’s golf cart around. How many people get to do that?”

Yet for all the cache that comes along with big personalities like Saban, what drew Vanderdoes to Notre Dame was the intimate feel that came with the school. For a small town guy that clings proudly to his Auburn, California roots, that was a selling point.

“It’s my foundation. Having all of these people backing me up and making sure I’m doing the right thing,” Vanderdoes said. “They truly care about me here and they’re always looking out for me. That’s the thing in South Bend that stuck out to me, it’s a lot like Auburn. A tight knit community, everybody is looking out for you.”

That community included the dorm life at Notre Dame, where scholarship athletes live wall-to-wall with regular students, something Vanderdoes was originally skeptical about, but learned to embrace.

“At first it was a little bit iffy. I’m rooming with students and I’m a football player, that’s going to be weird,” Vanderdoes said. “But going down there, the students are great. You really get to network with everybody there, it’s not just with the football team. You’re talking to future CEOs, with students and all that.”

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

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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.