Stanford v Notre Dame

Tuitt recovering well from sports hernia surgery


Last season, Stephon Tuitt put himself on the map with a breakout sophomore season. While his numbers tailed off down the stretch, Tuitt was near the top of the NCAA leaders in sacks halfway through the season, en route to a still mighty impressive team leading 12 quarterback take-downs. For a 3-4 defensive end that was one of the best run stuffers in the country, there’s not much to complain about considering it was Tuitt’s first season as an every-down contributor.

While most of us just assumed the slow down in production was a combination of defenses adjusting and Tuitt wearing down, Brian Kelly revealed earlier this spring that it was a sports hernia that hampered Tuitt, an injury the rising junior had surgery on to help correct this offseason.

“He’s already moving really well,” Kelly said a few weeks ago, when updating the media on his recovery. “He feels so much better. He had some restriction in that groin-hip flexor area where he was really restricted and really running out. So we said, ‘You know what? Let’s get it done. Let’s not wait on it.’ It’s something we may have managed, but we want to get him 100 percent.”

Tuitt is back contributing in practice, getting developmental reps while gingerly working back from the procedure. But the break in training also gave Tuitt a chance to add some bulk, a number that might actually be under-reported at 322 pounds.

“With the surgery, he wasn’t working out and he put on a little weight,” Kelly explained, pegging the defensive end at a number closer to Louis Nixian 330 pounds. “Coach Longo will get him down to what we believe is a better number, and he knows that too. He’s practiced really well, and I’m pleased with the way he’s moving. He’s been able to cut loose and really do the things that kind of encumbered him last year with that hernia.”

It’s amazing to consider that Tuitt played “encumbered” last season. While he didn’t pass former Irish great Justin Tuck’s sack record after being shut out in the season’s last two ball games, he still performed at a remarkably high level, especially in the scheme Bob Diaco employs.

But as we get an idea of what the 2013 defense has in store for opposing offenses, it’s amazing to think that Tuitt will likely be playing at least a full 20 pounds heavier than he did last season. That’s downright scary.

“I think he’s going to be a natural 315,” Kelly said, up from the 295 he was listed at last season. “He’s just a big fella. He’s a little heavy right now, but we’ll get him down.”

That combination of size and speed is likely to produce another All-American caliber season. While Jadeveon Clowney has already started to cement his legendary status with his helmet-popping hit against Michigan running back Vincent Smith, Tuitt might actually be flying under the radar.

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.