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Weekend notes: Assistants, Sharks, Rees talk (and more!)

Jul 26, 2013, 3:03 PM EDT

tj-jones

With breaking news and information at a minimum with the Irish a little more than a week out before training camp, it’s been a while since we took a stroll through the links and kept you guys updated on things I found interesting. (Take that for what it’s worth…)

One great thing about the past week has been the slew of media days for college football and the opening of NFL training camps. Turning on your favorite sports channel has never been better with football taking center stage and the dog days of baseball season getting temporarily put on the back burner.

Taking a quick run through the NFL, let’s check in on a few former Irish players now playing on Sundays.

* Manti Te’o now has the most popular rookie jersey in the NFL, seemingly a good sign that Chargers fans are more interested in putting Catfishing behind them and the team’s linebacking crew in front of them.

In Te’o’s case, he’s been a model rookie teammate, as just about everyone that followed Te’o for the past four years would expect. He’s taken to teammate and fellow inside linebacker Donald Butler, a former Washington Husky, and the duo could form one of the best, young combos in the NFL.

All-pro teammate Eric Weddle had this to say about Te’o’s early days with the Chargers.

“He’s eager to learn, extremely talented, instincts are off the charts, obviously, that’s why we brought him in,” Weddle told the AP. “Reminds me of myself in a lot of ways, in the way he recognizes plays and is in the right spot. Biggest thing for him is just consistency, continuing to learn, take what the coaches tell him, along with us as players, give him little tidbits as we see, and just take it, embrace it, have fun with it.”

* Meanwhile, Te’o’s best buddy Robby Toma signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals and will fight for a roster spot as a slot receiver in a depth chart that includes former Irish star Michael Floyd.

After a quiet rookie season, Floyd looks like a candidate to breakout in his second season in the NFL. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com points to Floyd as one of the most improved players for 2013 in Bruce Arians’ new offensive system.

For Floyd, the shift to a vertical passing game will accentuate his strengths as a big-bodied receiver with strong hands. He excels at shielding defenders away from the ball and high-pointing passes in traffic. Given those traits, Palmer should throw plenty of passes in Floyd’s direction to take advantage of his huge catch radius. The video clip to your right, from Floyd’s brilliant Week 17 outing against the San Francisco 49ers (eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown), illustrates how the receiver uses his size and strength to come down with 50-50 balls.

* Last update is on former Irish center John Sullivan, who has quietly become one of the top centers in the NFL. After a harrowing senior season in South Bend saw Sullivan struggle with shotgun snaps as he teamed with one of the least experienced offensive lines in recent memory, Sullivan took over for Matt Birk as the Vikings center and is now viewed by many as the top center in the game.

Grantland’s Robert Mays did a nice job writing up Sullivan for Grantland’s All-22 All-Star team and got this quote from Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, echoing the sentiments of the staff that had Sullivan during his Notre Dame days.

“He’s really smart, I’m talking exceptionally smart,” Davidson told Grantland. “By the time we get to Sundays, he knows what all 11 guys are doing on every play. I don’t think there are many guys you can say that about, except the quarterback. I think that’s what truly sets him apart.”

Now, on to some stories about the current Irish roster:

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While Irish fans still wait for an official announcement of a contract extension for head coach Brian Kelly, Blue & Gold Illustrated continues to release tidbits from a sit down with athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

And while Swarbrick continues to stress that a Kelly contract will get done sooner than later, it does appear that the Irish assistant coaches got a much deserved bump in their contracts as well as some other perks that kept the coaching staff in tact.

This from BGI’s conversation with Swarbrick:

One common complaint among former head coaches at Notre Dame is that they didn’t have the money to hang on to high quality assistants. Despite interest from several other teams, the Irish were able to keep its full 10-man staff intact this offseason. Swarbrick said that was an important focus for him and Kelly.

To get there Swarbrick said he loosened the purse strings to stay competitive with other top tier programs. He also said the assistants have more opportunities to add responsibilities and prepare for a future head coaching career than they have in the past.

“Certainly you have to respond to the market, and that’s an element of it, but it’s broader than that,” he said. “It’s about the level of engagement and responsibility you give them. Reinforcing the message that you are prepared to do whatever you can to help them achieve career objectives. Those are all pieces of it.”

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With the Irish football team in South Bend for much of the summer attending summer school, senior TJ Jones managed to sneak out for a few days and prepare for life after football. For Jones, that meant swimming with sharks. Literally.

While some have talked about Jones and a future in TV, film or radio (another form of swimming with sharks), Jones took a trip to Tampa and the Florida Aquarium for a chance to shadow a group of marine biologists and get a closer look at what a career like that would be like.

FIDM had video on their Watch ND channel:

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Lastly, our friend the Subway Domer has a few good interview transcripts up on his website from Steve Herring and his TNNDN podcast. Herring caught up with former Irish quarterbacks Evan Sharpley and Matt Mulvey about what to expect from Tommy Rees‘ senior season.

You can hear the interviews or read them here (Mulvey) and here (Sharpley), but I’ve clipped two excerpts that I found interesting.

First from Mulvey, who spent time as Everett Golson’s road roommate during his final season on the roster, and had this to say about Golson’s future with the Irish:

“He’s a warrior, he’s gonna battle and do whatever it takes to come back,” Mulvey told Herring. “I do believe he’s going to come back and finish his eligibility at Notre Dame. They’re not gonna hand him the starting role … he’s going to pick up where he was advancing from this spring, retake over this offense and make great strides.”

And this on the offensive game plan with Rees at the helm.

“Chuck Martin will have to show his versatility. With Tommy (before) we saw a lot of formations, motions, and actions in the backfield that gives 1-on-1 advantages that Tommy is so good at reading … I think they’ll be more precise plays and clear guys we want to go to with a favorable matchup … I think Chuck’s mind and creativity with formations will be key in where we put guys like George Atkinson and other skill positions on the field.”

Now, from Sharpley’s comments:

“You’ve seen him come in last year in key situations – and being a former quarterback I know when he’s changing a play based on the look he’s getting – that he helps the receivers and backs … you need to trust a guy like Tommy is gonna put you in the best situation.

“I really feel that with a guy like Tommy at the helm he’s gonna put you in the best play possible to have a winning opportunity.”

 

 

125 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. knuterocknesghost - Jul 30, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    The most intoxicating and overrated trait that fans, especially the geniuses here, think is THE single most important trait necessary for a team’s success on the field is speed and athletic ability in the quarterback. While these can become the traits that separate above average players from average players, no smart coach forgets the critical importance of a player’s intelligence for his or her sport. Doc Rivers once said: “Knowledge is speed. If you can outthink your opponent, you know what your opponent is going to do before he does it. That makes you faster than the guys who have the athleticism.” And his statement was in reference to basketball, a 5 player sport where individual athleticism might be expected to dominate a game more so than football with 11 players being fielded by a team at one time. Was Doc Rivers delusional?

  2. knuterocknesghost - Jul 30, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    A football player can make up a lot of ground even if he doesn’t run the 40 in 4.5 or 4.6. Mental discipline and decision making is what made Manti Teo perform like a 4.6 player instead of the 4.7 or 4.8 player we later learned that he is – his devotion to film study and mental preparation made him play faster like Doc Rivers had said.

  3. knuterocknesghost - Jul 30, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    A quarterback’s mental toughness and discipline, his decision making under game pressure are likely more critical, That has been my point all along. And nobody here, including any of you geniuses, should outright dismiss this aspect of playing quarterback football, nor do you know whether or not Tommy Rees lacks those qualities just as I can’t say whether he possesses them. And a quick release (this can be taught) that is not telegraphed to a defense can make up ground for a quarterback who doesn’t have an strong arm like Brett Farve (nor would he be tempted like Farve who’s favorite thing to do was to force throws into double coverage to make the highlight film).

  4. knuterocknesghost - Jul 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    My reference to Brady and Montana AGAIN, were relative to their own abilities at their level of the sport of football and made a comparison of their success at their level with what success we might expect from Tommy Rees at his level in college football given BK’s ability to fit his offensive scheme around his quarterback, be it Everett Golson or Tommy Rees. Again, I said I am not predicting any Super Bowl rings for Tommy. This is the favorite tactic of my critics here, which is the conflation of my remarks so that they become distorted and more readily attacked, which shows either a glaring blind spot or a fondness for high school debate team tactics.

    • wisner74 - Jul 30, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      A couple of things. First, I think I’m mostly agreeing with you, and I’m happy to find another person here who isn’t reflexively critical of TR. I thought I was lining up with you a couple days ago, but maybe it didn’t read that way. Rees has done a lot of good things, and an optimist can hope for significant improvement in many areas, mostly subtle areas, now that he’s THE MAN. But, he also has delivered a number of major screw-ups at critical times in games in the past.

      Second, I think that overall the point your trying to make is quite nuanced. As you may have noticed, lots of folks here are not into nuance. So talking about Brady, Montana, etc. in the same sentence, paragraph, post, essay, book, library, world, solar system, galaxy or universe as Rees is bound to elicit a fairly rabid response.

      Finally, I don’t think anyone’s reading this conversation anymore. Time to move on, and I’ll look for you in the future!

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