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Freshman Focus: Hunter Bivin

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When Hunter Bivin gave a verbal commitment to Notre Dame, most fans thought the Irish were getting a prototype offensive tackle that had the chance to compete for the job of Zack Martin’s replacement. It turns out the Irish were getting much, much more, with the versatile Bivin being a veritable Swiss Army Knife for Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand

“Here is a young man with great versatility on the offensive line,” Kelly said of Bivin on Signing Day. “He played tackle, he moved to center in the all‑star game, played flawlessly at that position.

“Here’s a young man that comes in with the size and strength and the versatility on the offensive line.”

Kelly might be selling Bivin’s versatility short, as the 6-foot-6, 290-pounder has been busy post football season. A credit to his athleticism, Bivin was the starting center for his high school basketball team and first-team All-State in Track & Field, winning both the shot put and discus state titles — defending his shot put crown.

Bivin heads into summer school committed to football only for the first time in his athletic career, and should see leaps and gains in the weight room. Let’s look into the future and see what’s in store for the Kentucky native.

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

Just about every recruiting service liked Bivin, with 247 Sports rating him the top player in Kentucky and the 43rd best prospect in the country, and had a composite rating just outside the top 100. Bivin had elite offers from plenty of SEC schools, but only ended up visiting Notre Dame, a school where he was a life long fan.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

If Bivin does start out on the interior of the offensive line, he’ll enter a depth chart at center that has Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty entering their junior years with sophomore eligibility. The depth chart on the outside is thinner, with only Zack Martin and Christian Lombard with significant experience, with Ronnie Stanley getting some emergency playing time before an elbow injury and Steve Elmer with a jump start semester.

Bivin has said publicly that he is expected to redshirt the 2013 season. That makes plenty of sense from both a developmental and depth chart point of view.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

With an athletic pedigree like the one Bivin has and size you can’t teach, it’s hard to see a world where Bivin doesn’t end up making a dent in the starting lineup. In 2014, there will be just four returning bodies for two tackle positions, so if Bivin projects to the outside he can slide out there. If he stays on the inside, he’ll be among a fairly crowded depth chart, with Mark Harrell, Matt Hegarty, Conor Hanratty and Nick Martin ahead of him from an experience factor.

Still, of this group Bivin is probably the most highly touted recruit in the group, with Hegarty a close second. It may seem a ways out, but even if it’s 2016 when Bivin cracks the starting lineup, he’ll have the opportunity to be a two-year starter, one of the ultimate signs of health along the offensive line.

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.