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Hood dazzles during testing at The Opening


In one of the recruiting game’s biggest (and newest) stages, Notre Dame running back prospect Elijah Hood put on a show. The five-star Irish commitment was one of the ten finalist selected for the Nike SPARQ finals, televised on ESPNU on Monday night.

Matched up with his prodigious game tape, Hood’s measureables fit the bill when you’re looking for an elite running back with both power and speed.

At six-foot, 221 pounds, Hood put up a more than impressive 4.48 40-yard dash, putting to rest any questions on his top end speed with a blazing electronically timed sprint. With a 36.3-inch vertical leap, Hood showed some explosiveness, and his strength was on display in the “Powerball” segment, where he essentially kneeling chess-passed a weighted medicine ball 42.5 feet.

The seven-on-seven portion of the combine continues today, with several Irish prospects or commitments competing. Let’s run through a few notable names.

DeShone Kizer: The Irish quarterback commitment performed in the Elite 11 competition as well as The Opening. Kizer measured in at 6-foot-4.5, 216-pounds, running a 4.96 forty.

IrishSportsDaily.com caught up with Trent Dilfer, who evaluated Kizer’s camp session, raving about the person and giving constructive criticism about the player.

“DeShone is off the charts in the subjective stuff; the competitive stuff, the trainability,” Dilfer said after Sunday’s session.

“He is struggling with some mechanics that we tried to fix in Columbus (at the Nike Football Training Camp). We have the tools to fix it, he’s just not feeling it yet.”

Dilfer is planning to sit down with Kizer and show him what he’s talking about mechanically on film. The former NFL quarterback believes the source of Kizer’s mechanical flaws is actually a positive.

“It’s because he’s an all-sport athlete, which I love by the way,” said Dilfer. “I love the fact that Notre Dame gets a guy that’s going to get so much better once he gets this cleaned up. He’d be the first to tell you that he’s been inconsistent.”

Justin Brent: It was a very good day for Brent, who was one of the top receivers at The Opening. Brent measured in at 6-1, 197 pounds, and ran a 4.52 forty. When assessing standouts from Day One, 247Sports.com said this about Brent, their No. 1 rated receiver for the day:

A rangy, wiry wide receiver, Brent flashed all afternoon on Monday with his ability to stab the football with his hands. He also showed suddenness and separating ability upfield and the size to finish over smaller defenders.

All reports from Day One have Brent as the cream of the wide receiving crop, a good sign for the very early Irish commitment and another data-point that suggests the early evaluation tools of the Irish coaching staff are on point.

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.