247 Sports

Weekend notes: Recruiting, position battles, and more


It’s not all that surprising that a little snippet from Chuck Martin on the state of the quarterback depth chart would get the comments section churning. There’s no question that Tommy Rees is one of the more polarizing players we’ve ever discussed on this site. Love him, hate him, he’s the guy that’s going to start for the Irish. Call me a Rees apologist, and it’s certainly something I’ve been called in the past, but I don’t think there’s any question that a veteran quarterback with a ton of experience can get better — and play smarter — during his senior season.

Criticism for the way Rees has played in certain big games and against certain defenses is completely valid, though you get the feeling that a Chuck Martin led offense will be a bit different than the one that Charley Molnar implemented. Needless to say, we’ve got around 50 days to beat that topic into the ground, and then we’ll see what happens when things start counting for real.


Onward to a few notes of interest, and the first one being some moves up the board for some Notre Dame recruits that did some damage on the camp circuit. 247Sports.com updated their big board and it’s filled with Irish recruits who had impressive summer seasons.

Two of the biggest movers were offensive lineman Quenton Nelson and wide receiver Justin Brent. Nelson’s rating shot up over 100 spots, catapulting him into the nation’s elite, with a ranking of 74th overall and the 6th highest rated offensive lineman in the country.

Nelson did plenty of impressing while at both the Rivals series camps and at The Opening in Oregon, and while he’s not going to get confused for a guy that’ll run past you (he clocked a 5.6 forty), he’s getting rave reviews for his physical nature and athletic ability.

Probably more impressive than Nelson’s jump was the coming out party for long-time Irish commitment Justin Brent. After impressing everywhere he went this summer, Brent is now the 63rd ranked player in the country according to 247. To put that into context, that’s a higher ranking than high profile targets like Sony Michel, Michiah Quick, and Allen Lazard, skill players coveted by Irish fans everywhere.

Lastly, while Rivals has always seen him as one of the elite players in the recruiting class, 247 has now seen the light on Elijah Hood as well. After blazing a 4.48 in the 40 at The Opening, and weighing a stout 222 pounds, it’s pretty clear that the Irish have a physical specimen coming in at running back next year. Passing camps and 7-on-7 tournaments aren’t the best place for a runner like Hood to impress, but matching his prodigious highlight tape with that type of speed answers some questions.

Quarterback DeShone Kizer, offensive tackle Alex Bars and tight end Nic Weishar are also listed in the Top 247.


ESPN’s Mark Schlabach took a look at some of the most high profile position battles in college football and focused on the running back race in South Bend.

Here’s his take:

Running back: George Atkinson III vs. Amir Carlisle vs. Cam McDaniel vs. Will Mahone vs. Greg Bryant vs. Tarean Folston

Notre Dame’s running game took a lot of pressure off quarterback Everett Golson last season, but now the Irish will have to play without Golson, who is ineligible for the 2013 season, and leading rushers Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, who have departed. Atkinson, who ran for 361 yards and five touchdowns last season, seems to be next in line to start. He has good speed, but struggled with blocking and patience last season. Carlisle, a USC transfer, can’t stay healthy; he missed last season with an ankle injury and then broke his collarbone in the spring. Bryant, an incoming freshman, was ranked the No. 2 running back in the country by ESPN Recruiting Nation and had scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Georgia and dozens of other schools.

Obviously, we’ve spent a few thousand more words talking about this, so we can understand the simplification of the scenario by Schlabach, one of the better guys out there covering the national beat.

That said, seeing patience and blocking being tagged to George Atkinson‘s name and injury concerns following a now healthy Amir Carlisle shouldn’t be surprising, especially when you’re looking at the program from afar. A breakout year for both players — and both doing a lot to prove the skeptics wrong — would be a huge step forward for this offense.

(Not mentioning Cam McDaniel should be some additional fuel for the Texas junior, who I think might be the best natural running back on the roster.)


If you were to read the tea leaves, the Irish might be close to getting another verbal commitment in the ’14 recruiting class. Fort Lauderdale wide receiver Corey Holmes has already visited South Bend four times and just got back from a trip to Los Angeles where he took a look at UCLA.

Just about every major recruiting service expects Notre Dame to be the pick when Holmes announces next week. If he does pick the Irish, they’ll be getting a long and lean wideout with good speed and the ability to go catch the football.

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.