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Kiel’s departure part of QB position’s evolution


While Notre Dame will inevitably put out a press release announcing Gunner Kiel‘s departure from the football program, head coach Brian Kelly‘s words — spoken to the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen before  Kiel decided to transfer —  said all we needed to hear about Kiel’s reported decision to leave campus and look to play football at another school.

“I don’t know what happened before we got here,” Kelly told Hansen, when speaking about the potential for a quarterback to leave school instead of take part in a five-man position race. “I know what I laid down within the program about expectations and the parameters for all positions, not just quarterback.I’m going to recruit somebody to beat you out.”

It’s not, “Get used to it.” But it’s close.

For the Irish football program, now in a new stratosphere after a Cinderella 12-1 season, competition only rises with elevated expectations. Those expectations allowed the Irish to land another blue-chip quarterback, Malik Zaire, who chose to jump into the fray knowing full well that the nation’s top QB recruit from a year earlier was there, and Everett Golson was in place to be a potential four year starter.

After years of coddling signal callers — CJ Leak holding a recruiting class ransom, Jimmy Clausen getting a quarterback coach replaced — it’s a new era at quarterback, and Kelly makes no apologies.

“If you’re a quarterback and you don’t think I’m going to bring in Malik Zaire to beat you out, then you need to transfer,” Kelly continued to Hansen. “I do it in the right way. I’m not saying it’s a callous, cold way of doing it, but my job is to continue to bring in the best fits for Notre Dame, both on and off the field. So if you’re a bit uneasy about the situation, then I welcome your transfer.

“I’ve done it since I’ve been at Grand Valley (State) that way. Try to continue that competition within the ranks, because the guys that crack are the ones you want to crack. I can tell you if the program’s humming and it’s doing it the right way, you’re going to have some transfers, because you’re building competition within the ranks.

“And it’s always going to be that way.”

Quarterbacks transferring to other schools for playing time isn’t anything new. The list at Notre Dame alone since the Holtz era, as Hansen notes, features just as many signal-callers that came and left than stayed in South Bend, and only three played their entire career at the position.

For Kiel, there’s every reason to believe he’s still got a bright future — just look at the NFL’s highest paid quarterback Joe Flacco, who left Pitt to get out from behind Tyler Palko and ended up at Delaware before making a pretty good living with the Baltimore Ravens.

But if you expect this to change Kelly and his offensive staff’s plan for recruiting quarterbacks, think again.

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

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.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


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.