Notre Dame may have closed its heralded recruiting class the first Wednesday of February, but it appears their work on next season’s Irish roster isn’t finished. Both Irish Sports Daily and Blue & Gold Illustrated report that Notre Dame will be adding former Wake Forest punter Alex Wulfeck to the roster for next season as a preferred walk-on.
Wulfeck spent the 2011 season as the Demon Deacon’s starting punter before losing the job to redshirt freshman Alexander Kinal last year, and saw time in 2010 as well. As a fifth-year graduated senior he’ll be eligible immediately.
With Ben Turk gone after four years with the Irish, Wulfeck will have an opportunity to compete with Kyle Brindza for the starting job, giving Notre Dame some much needed depth at a key special teams position. They’ll also do so without the use of a scholarship, something that wasn’t much of an option with roster numbers tight.
Both ISD and B&G got some nice quotes out of Wulfeck, who auditioned for Brian Kelly in high school when he was named the best punter at Kelly’s Cincinnati’s summer camp. And while his offseason work and recovery from an injury have Wulfeck confident he can come in and compete for a job, there’s a very real chance we never hear from Wulfeck next season, who in one measure of value isn’t even one of the 85 most important players on the roster
That said, his inclusion on the roster, and this coaching staff’s ability to supplement a thin position group is worthwhile. Under Charlie Weis, the Irish got into the habit of too often adding special teams players to the scholarship count, with multiple kickers, punters, and snappers counting against the 85 man count. Next season, the Irish will have long snapper Scott Daly and kicker/punter Kyle Brindza, with depth coming from a fleet of preferred walk-ons and other developmental prospects. That’s a vastly different version of roster management than we saw in years past.
Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.
The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.
He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:
It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.
Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.
Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.
Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.
With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.
When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.
While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.
“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.
Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.
Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”
This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.