Rashad Kinlaw

Freshman Focus: Rashad Kinlaw

16 Comments

There’s so much we don’t know about Rashad Kinlaw. A prospect that missed a large portion of his final two seasons of high school football, Kinlaw nonetheless caught the eye of the Irish coaching staff, who offered the New Jersey product a scholarship early in the recruiting process.

What Kinlaw will bring to campus should be interesting. With a highlight reel that consists mostly of quarterback scrambles, Kinlaw has only a sophomore season that gives you a clue he has some aptitude for the cornerback position — his six interceptions that year came on just 32 defensive snaps.

Numbers like that — seemingly illogical production — makes Kinlaw one of the most exciting sleeper prospects in the class. Outside of that and some YouTube clips, we’ll have to wait until Kindlaw shows up on campus to know more about him, down to even the simplest things like his actual height and weight. (Depending on the recruiting website, Kinlaw is anywhere from 6-foot-2 to 5-foot-11.)

Let’s take a closer look at the promising athlete that the Irish project at the cornerback position:

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

It’s hard to get much respect on the national recruiting scene when two broken legs eat up most of your junior and senior seasons, but Kinlaw still had a nice, albeit regional, offer list, with Boston College, Penn State, Rutgers and Temple offering from the Northeast, with offers from Iowa, N.C. State, and Nebraska sprinkled in as well.

Somebody must have seen Kinlaw play from USA Football, as the multi-threat athlete played at wide receiver during summer exhibitions before breaking his leg again, costing him most of his senior season.

Viewed as one of the elite athletes in New Jersey, Kinlaw was nonetheless a three-star prospect by most recruiting services, though he has the opportunity to be one of the underappreciated players in the ’13 recruiting class.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

There’ll likely be a significant learning curve for Kinlaw as he transitions to cornerback for the first time in his career. That change could take some time, and with a trio of veterans locking down the top three spots on the depth chart, there’s no need for Kinlaw to come in and immediately contribute.

That said, if the Irish are looking for recruits that can step in at wide receiver, Kinlaw seems like a good candidate because he’s so explosive with the ball in his hands. A compact athlete with all sorts of athleticism (his high school coach said he ran two low-4.4 forty-yard dashes for former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano at a Rutgers camp), Kinlaw could be a guy similar to Matthias Farley and CJ Prosise where they get him to campus and see where he fits then.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

Kinlaw’s inexperience at cornerback is one of the things the Irish coaching staff thinks he has going for him. Just like KeiVarae Russell, there are no bad habits the Irish staff will need to break Kinlaw of, and Kerry Cooks and Bob Elliott are getting a mold-able athlete.

“We love his size, his length, his athleticism,” Brian Kelly said on Signing Day. “We think it’s an untapped resource for us in that we’re only going to get him better and better physically, and he has the speed, he has the ability to play the ball. We think he’s going to fit well at the cornerback position for us.  He was somebody that we identified early in this process and felt like he would be a great addition to this class.”

While he’s a life long Notre Dame fan, Kinlaw is far from a profile recruit for the Irish, coming out of a Absegami program that doesn’t have much of a relationship with Notre Dame. Combine that with a fairly serious ankle injury that required two surgeries to properly repair, and Kinlaw’s one of the great mystery prospects in this recruiting class.

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

Notre Dame v Florida State
Getty
12 Comments

Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

DEPARTURES
Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*

 

ANALYSIS
Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more

BVG
28 Comments

We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.

***

Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention

os-notre-dame-ad-pleased-acc-move-20140513-001
Getty
11 Comments

Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, UND.com ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.