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.

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter 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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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

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UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.