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Irish report to campus for summer school, workouts

Jun 3, 2013, 1:52 PM EDT

South Florida v Notre Dame Getty Images

Summer break is over for the Irish football team.

Returning members of the football team came back to South Bend yesterday to begin preparation for the 2013 season. While all workouts are technically voluntary, every player (freshmen will show up in two weeks) is expected to begin work with strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo as the Irish look to put behind them a six month period that took a program that was near the top of the mountain and treated them like Sisyphus.

Two fairly large new questions sit unanswered — what will happen with Everett Golson during this year of academic exile, and the fate of Eddie Vanderdoes. Those two stories have all but covered up a few of the other important objectives that need accomplishing this offseason, so just as a reminder, let’s talk through a few key summer storylines for the Irish.

How to replace Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick.

Most of the recent talk is understandably focused on Golson’s departure, but this summer will go a long way towards determining which running back gets the first shot to start in the backfield. All signs point towards George Atkinson getting the first shot. But as we saw last year, Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin aren’t afraid to specialize their players to accentuate their skillsets.

That means seeing if Cam McDaniel can get some looks in the passing game / third down situations, while Amir Carlisle has the shot at being an elusive hybrid slot player. (Let’s not forget about Will Mahone, who has the chance to put himself back on the radar after a good offseason.)

The wild cards in all of this are blue-chippers Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. Bryant is the highest rated running back the Irish have signed in the Rivals era. Those type of guys are ready made for college action. What that means for a Kelly offense? Well, not much at Notre Dame yet, but maybe Bryant is the rare freshman that takes advantage of the opportunity.

Before he had a fake girlfriend, Manti Te’o was an All-World linebacker.

It bears mentioning that before the Lennay Kekua debacle, Manti Te’o put together one of the finest defensive seasons in college football history. After four years in the starting lineup, the Irish defense will need to find another player to call the shots at middle linebacker.

No, the Irish aren’t shy of big-name players, both Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix will likely hear their names called in the NFL Draft before Te’o heard his, but just assuming Jarrett Grace is just ready to step into Te’o’s hefty shoes is a bit of a stretch.

The Irish have both Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese back on the inside, but it sure sounds like Grace is a good enough player to take Te’o’s job while Fox and Calabrese will keep up their platoon. That’s high praise for Grace, who will need to play up to his reputation if we’re to expect the Irish defense won’t take a small step backwards.

How does the secondary shake out?

The Irish will need to replace both Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta at safety, two guys who will be playing on Sundays this season. It looks like Matthias Farley has filled one spot at safety, but what happens behind him will be fun to watch.

Brian Kelly has essentially rebuilt the secondary since taking over and everybody competing for the safety jobs was handpicked by this staff to play in this system. That means young guys like Elijah Shumate and Nicky Baratti will battle Austin Collinsworth and Eilar Hardy. Throw in five-star stud Max Redfield, who will be showing up in a few weeks, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to see how Bobby Elliot‘s safeties perform.

At corner, the Irish return a healthy Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell will have a year of valuable experience under his belt. But that won’t hold Lo Wood back from fighting for time whil Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown will do battle with blue-chipper Cole Luke, who is flying way under the radar for a lock down, elite corner prospect.

Will the Irish discover their own offensive identity?

Losing Everett Golson is a tough pill to swallow. But the team has rallied around Tommy Rees, who was one of the offense’s leaders and preparing like it this break even without a starting job. Can the Irish figure out how to tap the very best of Rees — the most accurate quarterback in Notre Dame history — and limit some of the mistakes that plagued the 2011 offense.

Kelly already talked about the need to cut down turnovers and he’s telling the truth when he says that whoever is playing quarterback won’t be allowed to turn the football over at the rate Rees did in 2011 (especially with this defense). But it’s not inconceivable that Rees could put together a season like Tony Pike’s senior season, thanks to a talented group of skill players and an offensive line that should give Rees plenty of time.

Sure, a 29:6 TD:INT ratio is probably asking for too much, but don’t think Rees doesn’t think it’s possible. But it’ll mean a mastery not just of the game presnap, but making those same sounds decisions once the play is live.

  1. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 3, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    I thought we were going to have a boring off season. That changed pretty quickly..

    • dudeacow - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:29 PM

      At the end of the season, I was wondering how I was going to survive until Temple. Now I’m asking the same question, just on less happy terms.

  2. ndnapa - Jun 3, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Completely agree on Cole Luke.

  3. gtizzo - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    You know Keith the defense could be just as good as last years unit…how? One of the knocks on Manti (I don’t agree with it, just using it as part of my point) was he couldn’t shed blockers. That his tackle total was so high because the defensive line was just that good. Grace will be in middle where Louis Nix will occupy some space…ok a lot of space. Defensive line should have another solid season, and should keep Grace blocker free. Grace can be a solid tackler there is no reason he shouldn’t be productive.

  4. irishpuma - Jun 3, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    Jaylon, Redfield, Ev4????? Could be far superior D than last year!

  5. mtflsmitty - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    Ahhhhhh….Article mostly about ND football players who are actually enrolled and want to play for the Fightin’ Irish.

    Refreshing, indeed.

    I remember last year at this time the sky was falling and no one saw 12-1 and birth in NC game coming. To expect so many stars to align this year would be the stuff of Fatima, so I’m not going to bank on it. But 11-1 or 10-2 and a BCS birth is well within our grasp.

    Sooo much fun ahead of us over the next 90 days as we gear up for the season. Wish all the players, those who want to be at ND and those who don’t, nothing but the best of luck.

    A prediction: Prosise (big, strong, fast) is going to have a monster year. Absolutely HUGE!!!

    Hell yeah! GO IRISH!

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      we need more prosise talk. this kid is going to be tough to defend. he is big, strong, fast and is a ballhawk. he also has some serious deceptive speed. i’m not ready to annoint him the next “jump ball” target, mostly because i loathe the jump ball as an offensive tool. i think we’ll see him beating defenders this year just with ability, but watch out once this kid develops his technique, starts understanding coverages and finding the holes/seems in the zones.

  6. rdw71 - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    One quibble with that story – Tommy Rees is only the most accurate ND QB in statistical terms, and even that depends on which statistics you choose (i.e., completion rate). If he’s not asked to stretch the field much, he won’t throw the high-risk high-reward passes, but just because he’s good at dinking and dunking doesn’t make him the most accurate. Jimmy Clausen for one was much more accurate, if that means “threading the needle” on middle and deep patterns.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:26 PM

      Consider also that Clausen was running for his life when he made a lot of those throws.

      • bernhtp - Jun 3, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        Clausen running doesn’t say much. He would have been run down not only by the cop and cabby, but the meter maid could have taken him down solo. His lack of mobility is hurting him in the NFL

        Clausen, however, had way more arm and way more accuracy, especially on deeper throws.

  7. dudeacow - Jun 3, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    My goodness, with all the storylines playing out, the disrespect from the media, and the ‘us against world’ mindset… this year is going to be one wild, fun ride.

    Go Irish.

  8. sullyp18 - Jun 4, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    Kyle Allen chooses A&M

    • bernhtp - Jun 4, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      I guess the pictures of Manziel with his babes at various sporting events appeal to Allen more than Golson’s humiliating expulsion. Having your ass kicked academically at an elite institution doesn’t appeal to everyone. He probably also likes the fact that he would be playing at “Kyle Field.”

  9. idratherbeinsouthbend - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    I can’t be the only guy that read the last line of the first paragraph as “…and treated them like syphilis.”

    • bernhtp - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:41 AM

      Just you and Dick.

  10. 25kgold - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:22 AM

    Only difference this year is our defense will be way better and the offense will be just a wee (and I mean weeee) better with Tommy Rees under center. This is a pretty accurate depiction into the future:

  11. 25kgold - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:29 AM

    In my opinion, you have to roll the dice on Zaire while our defense is this good!! You can bounce back easier from mistakes with a really good defense. Use Rees as the Safety-net (like last year), and groom the future!

  12. 25kgold - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:39 AM

    Starting Zaire this year, worst case scenario, will be like Golson was last year (taking Zaire’s higher football IQ into consideration, he’ll be ahead of the curve) –we turned out just fine in ’12! With this defense and Rees as relief pitcher, we really won’t miss a beat.

    • domerboyirish - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Whoa! I totally disagree! This would not be ‘like Golson was last year.’ There is a huge difference between being a true freshman and a red shirt freshman. Golson had an entire year within the program to take in practice routine, learn the playbook, settle into college life, etc. Thusting the starting role on a kid that has only been through a spring with the team is totally different.

      As much as I despise saying it, Rees has to be the guy to start the year. He is the best option available. We can spend part of the season grooming MK and if he is ready, and we are willing to burn a potential red shirt year, then great. If TR can simply manage games and let the defense dominate we will win games. That theory always seems to work for SEC team and worked well for us last year. If TR can utilize his O-line and talented stable of running backs, and cut back on turnovers, it might be enough to excel in this system. A dynamic QB makes us more difficult to defend but doesn’t guarentee championships.

  13. yaketyyacc - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:51 AM

    Keith, are you softening us up for the reality of Rees as the starting quarterback? From your article, it seems that this is the decision already carved in stone. Well, the stone is just hardened sand, and won’t hold against the slightest Zaire wind.
    I know that the coaches are subjectively involved, and we, are objectively involved; still, being able to stand back and view the scene with a better vantage point, our judgment, ok our guess, is to start Malik Zaire. simply put, we don’t want 10-2 or 11-1. 13-0 is the only acceptable result, and it will require Zaire to do it.

  14. irishdog80 - Jun 4, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    One of the big X factors for this season is how well our offensive line will perform this year. I always felt that Golic started due to a lack of options and respect for a 5th year senior with Golic’s family pedigree. Cave was strong and dependable, but lacked mobility. Am I wrong to believe the line can be a lot stronger than last year. We have better depth, and better athletes blended with solid experience. Rees can be successful if the o-line is better and our run game gets it going. That said, I still believe that Zaire is the best option for this year and beyond… what will we do next year if Zaire does not play a lot and Golson does not return?

    • papadec - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      dog80 – same thing we did last year, but with Zaire instead of Golson + a more seasoned OLine.

      • irishdog80 - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        We might have a more seasoned O-line next year due to the depth we are building, but we will lose Martin and Watt; however, I agree that it will be similar to the Golson experience this past year.

  15. stedward - Jun 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Looks like Vanderdoes is officially going to UCLA and word is we released him from his LOI.

    • stedward - Jun 4, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Scratch that. Now word is we did not release him. One of those options is true. (If not released he sits a year at UCLA)

    • bernhtp - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      Allowed the transfer, but is held to the LOI. He sits this fall.

      Exactly what I expected.

  16. mmanor01 - Jun 4, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Hendrix starting is the worst case senario. It means Zaire is not ready and Rees is not good enough.

    • bernhtp - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      Strange statement. Hendrix starting may be the best case scenario, assuming the start was earned on the basis of performance. We know what Rees is and isn’t at this point, and there is little hope for significant progress. His ceiling is well known and below that of the other guys. If Hendrix has his epiphany, beats Rees out, and ND can again have an athletic, run-threat, strong-armed, field-expanding QB, that’s a very good thing. If Hendrix stays healthy and allows Zaire to keep his red shirt, develop and have another year, that’s also a good thing.

  17. 1historian - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    Vanderdoes was a happy surprise on LOI day – virtually everyone expected him to pick UCLA. If he and his family got their knickers in a twist because the announcement was screwed up at ND’s end that doesn’t say a lot about the depth of his commitment to ND.

    He’s not gone – he was never really here.

    We should not let him off the hook about his signature on the LOI. Not my call, obviously, but my opinion.

    Golson? Good kid, was getting better @ QB but IMO he’ll never start here again at ND.

    Next guy in.

    We’ll be fine.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 5, 2013 at 12:04 AM

      Histy, I love the attitude.

  18. 1historian - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    I just read his statement. He cited personal reasons and wanted to be closer to his family.

    Best of luck to him.

    • danirish - Jun 4, 2013 at 9:03 PM

      Were his personal reasons the sister not getting a scholarship?

  19. 4horsemenrideagain - Jun 5, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    when this first came out, i defended EV and his dad taking to twitter and using this sac bee writer as their proxy as just a kid and his dad looking out for their best interests like anyone would do. but now that he cites his “very personal reasons” for switching, after taking the initiative to make the affair entirely public and hinting around that there was some big revelation coming (obviously to enhance his bargaining position with ND to be released from his LOI). taken as a whole their conduct strikes me as at best not just little bit hypocritical and at worst, pretty . then the report that ND would release him from his LOI, which quickly turns out to be false. it all looks too coordinated and manipulative to be coincidental. i’m not saying i would do anything differently for my own son if in the same situation, i just haven’t seen anything out there telling it like it is, and the soap opera and the motives behind it deserve some scrutiny.

    anyway, the sky isn’t falling and the sun will come up tomorrow. maybe bobby d. convinces nix and tuitt to stick around for another year and cement their legacies as the most gruesome twosome in ND D-line history, leaving EV and Lynch muttering the lyrics to that old Tiffany song: “Could’ve been so beautiful / Could’ve been so right….”

  20. rheffero - Jun 9, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Any conversation leaving out Jaylon Smith is an oversight.

    When was the lasttime ND had lb run a 4.4 from the edge.
    This guy could be a game changer.

    Speaking of smith, check out the nfl combine no SEC LB. Has ran a 4.4 in a long long time

    Eddie V loss will be felt next year more than this.

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