Doug Randolph

Freshman Focus: Doug Randolph

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Brian Kelly and his coaching staff seem to be collecting “Big Skill” athletes, a player profile that targets athletes that stand 6-foot-3 or taller, and head to college at a well put together 230-plus pounds. In Virginia’s Doug Randolph, Kelly has plucked another recruit in that mold, with the multi-sport athlete a perfect fit for the program.

Randolph begins his college career as an outside linebacker, an edge player that can provide a pass rush threat, but also with a frame that’ll add weight and stand up to the rigors of playing at the line of scrimmage. A former teammate of CJ Prosise at Woodberry Forest in Virginia, Randolph brings another impressive athlete into the fold.

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

Randolph was a Stanford commitment until September, when he backed away from his commitment to the Cardinal and pledged to the Irish just a few days later. A US Army All-American, Randolph is in Rivals’ top 150, and profiles out as a top 250 guy and a four star recruit.

Randolph’s offer list isn’t the longest, but it did include Maryland, Boston College, Virginia, and West Virginia to go along with Stanford.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

There seems to be a bit of a logjam at the Cat linebacker position, where Prince Shembo sits in front of Ishaq Williams and rising sophomore Romeo Okwara, who was too good to keep off the field last season as a 17-year-old. But that doesn’t mean that Randolph won’t find his way onto the field, at least on special teams.

Looking into the future to ’14, the outside linebacker position will need to replace both Shembo and Danny Spond, with guys like Ben Councell and Anthony Rabasa not yet making an impact. Whether that means Randolph works his way into that rotation, or perhaps slides inside where the depth chart is even thinner remains to be seen.

Randolph seems like one of the prospects in this class that Irish fans seem to know the least about. We’ll get a feel very early in camp whether or not he’s a guy that caught the eye of this coaching staff. If he’s got the size and athleticism to help a defense that’s very talented on the edges, that bodes very well for the future.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

One of the things that this coaching staff likes the most about Randolph is his versatility. Whether it’s as a pass rusher or linebacker in space, Randolph’s clearly a guy that excites this staff with the multiple things he can do.

“Dual athlete, excellent lacrosse player, played basketball, can do a number of different things,” Kelly said back on Signing Day. “He’s somebody that’s long at 6’3″, very versatile, can stand up or put his hand down, he gives us that kind of flexibility at that position. Great student, great family.”

The great student, great family quote wasn’t just lip service. One thing to expect out of Randolph is a cerebral nature on the football field. Both his parents and two siblings are doctors, giving you an idea of the communal IQ level sitting around the dinner table at the Randolph household. Those kind of smarts will do Randolph well on the football field, learning the intricacies of the outside linebacker position, one of the more challenging spots in the Irish scheme.

(This is a complete hunch, but if we’re looking for athletes that might be able to play inside linebacker, Randolph wouldn’t be the worst candidate. He can run, he’s got the ability to add bulk, and if he can play with his hands, he’ll have a chance to transition if the staff feels the depth chart needs some inside linebackers.)

Whatever the position, Randolph will have to battle it out with some high profile players to find his way into the starting lineup. His first opportunity will be in ’14, where Ishaq Williams will be starting his final season and very well may have the heft to be shifted down to defensive end. Expect the versatility that Randolph brought to the lacrosse field, basketball court, and both sides of the football (he was an excellent tight end as well) to come in handy.

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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