Stanford v Notre Dame

Examining the official roster (Juniors)


Let’s keep trudging through the Irish roster, digging deeper than its healthy (is it wrong that I picture a q-tip when I write that) as we examine the juniors on the Irish roster.

Again, just a few observations as I go through the official 2013 roster.

* Certainly not a new statement, but George Atkinson looks pretty impressive with 220-pounds on his frame. Sure, he’s got to learn how to run lower and continue to build the type of field vision needed to be an elite college back, but he’s certainly got the tangible traits needed to be an elite ball carrier.

I’ve got a feeling he’ll turn into the type of player that might be remembered less for what he can actually do than for what his deficiencies might be. That’d be a shame, though he’s got a chance to remedy that with a big season.

* In his always excellent chats with readers, the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen brought up the almost unfathomable stat that Amir Carlisle has practice just once healthy with the Irish football team in full pads, and he broke his collarbone during that workout.

Carlisle added five pounds to his frame and now checks in at 190 pounds. All reports and intel point to the fact that Carlisle hasn’t lost any of the burst that makes him one of the offense’s most dangerous weapons, but let’s just hope he can get to Week One first.

(I might be one of the last people to ever tag anyone as injury prone, and I’m still not willing to do it with Carlisle.)

* Davaris Daniels has gained 11 pounds according to the most recent roster update, jumping to 203 pounds. Yet while watching the practice footage we’ve seen, he looks more fit than ever.

It will be very interesting to see if Daniels turns into the No. 1 receiver many have expected. All things considered, Daniels is ultimately a sophomore and his freshman season was hampered by a few injuries that couldn’t be helped. The added bulk should help with durability issues.

* At 6-2.5, 253 pounds, Jarrett Grace looks the part of a starting inside linebacker… on paper. It isn’t often that you hear this coaching staff talk up the potential of a player they expect to slide into the rotation seamlessly and have that player fail. So it’ll be fun to see if Kelly, Diaco and company have Grace’s future pegged correctly.

* Safety Eilar Hardy also gained 11 pounds over the summer, per the official roster. After a promising freshman campaign was cut short after a serious knee injury, let’s see if Hardy can get into the mix before some young players pass him up.

* Who’d have thought? Zack Martin actually looks up to his kid brother Nick. The frontrunner for the starting center job has a half-inch on his brother at 6-4.5.

* Cam McDaniel is up to 207 pounds. That’s the right amount of bulk for a guy that might be Notre Dame’s best between the tackles option.

* Troy Niklas at 270 pounds is just ridiculous. If Niklas mixed in a carb or two, the Irish would basically have Vikings left tackle Matt Khalil starting for the Irish at tight end.

* There were years where Notre Dame would kill to have a defensive lineman weigh 280 pounds. That Tony Springmann is just a ho-hum 6-5.5, 296 pounds shows you how far this program has come since Travis Leitko, Pat Kuntz, and John Ryan.

* It’ll be interesting to monitor Stephon Tuitt throughout camp. We’ve literally only seen one snippet of him — a one-on-one battle with Zack Martin that Tuitt didn’t win. But after the news that he had a hernia surgery in the offseason and still is listed at 322, making sure the preseason All-American is fully healthy and in shape heading into the season should be a priority for the staff.

* At 6-5.25, 261 lbs., Ishaq Williams should be ready to make an impact. It might be a lot to ask for a guy still searching for his first sack, but there’s room for him to make plays in this defense, even if finding time on the field will be tough.









Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

Notre Dame v Florida State

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.

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)


Equanimeous St. Brown

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


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.*


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


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


Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, 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.