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USC under the lights, as home kickoffs are announced

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The University of Notre Dame announced home kickoff times for the upcoming 2013 season yesterday, the highlight being another prime time affair against USC. NBC will broadcast all six home games nationally, and will also handle the broadcast for the Shamrock Series game in Cowboys Stadium, where they’ll take on Arizona State.

The rest of the home slate includes traditional opponents Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State and Navy. Those opponents (minus the Midshipmen) might not be too traditional before long, as Notre Dame’s scheduling agreement with the ACC could put a halt to some of those arrangements.

Here is the 2013 schedule, updated with locked kickoff times (all times EST, home games in CAPS):

August 31 — TEMPLE — 3:30 p.m. — NBC
September 7 — at Michigan — TBD — ABC/ESPN (Night game)
September 14 — at Purdue — TBD — ABC/ESPN
September 21 — MICHIGAN STATE — 3:30 p.m. — NBC
September 28 — OKLAHOMA — 3:30 p.m. — NBC
October 5 — Arizona State — 7:30 p.m. — NBC (At Cowboys Stadium)
October 19 — USC — 7:30 p.m. — NBC
October 26 — at Air Force — TBD — CBS Sports Network
November 2 — NAVY — 3:30 p.m.  — NBC
November 9 — at Pittsburgh — TBD — ABC/ESPN
November 23 — BYU — 3:30 p.m. — NBC
November 30 — at Stanford — TBD — FOX

The biggest announcement in all of this is that it’ll be USC that plays at night at Notre Dame again while Oklahoma will play during the traditional afternoon slot.

For those hoping for a different outcome, I’d like to remind you of some comments from USC athletic director Pat Haden, who complained about this time slot the last time they played at night.

“We won’t get back until three or four in the morning,” Haden said back in April of 2011. “That could be a long week for our players.”

(Nevermind that ND-USC in Southern California has become a standing date for an evening kickoff, making the trip much harder for Notre Dame as they return west to east and flying through the night.)

Here are a few additional thoughts as the schedule comes into focus.

* Another night game at Michigan could be a really exciting early date on the schedule. It should also be looked at as Everett Golson’s chance at revenge after his horrible outing against the Wolverines last season.

The early date also likely means Michigan will be without one of its best defenders as linebacker Jake Ryan tore his ACL during spring workouts. A few weeks ago head coach Brady Hoke optimistically pegged Ryan’s return for mid-October.

* Getting out of the gates early for the Irish will be as important as its ever been. While getting Temple and new head coach Matt Rhule is a nice opener, from there it’s non-stop until a well deserved bye week after Arizona State.

Last year, the Irish struggled facing Purdue, who was breaking in new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar. They’ll have that to contend with that when Rhule makes his Temple debut in South Bend and Darrell Hazell reboots the Purdue program. Getting tape on Rhule should be quite a challenge.

* Do yourself a favor now. Check and make sure you’re getting the CBS Sports Network. That’s who’s handling the Air Force game, and while the network has a fairly wide distribution platform, it’s still not on most basic cable packages.

* Maybe it’s just me, but I’m loving the season finale in California. It’s always incredible to see how many Notre Dame fans show up in Southern California for the USC game. Having been to Stanford a few times, it’s only a matter of time before that trip becomes just as mandatory for die-hard Irish alums as well.

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

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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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.