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Sheldon Day looks like a star in the making


The Dynamic Duo of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt might just become a power trio. That’s because of the emergence of sophomore defensive end Sheldon Day, who has opened more than a few eyes with his work over the summer and in fall camp. After playing limited snaps as a true freshman, Day has stepped in for Kapron Lewis-Moore and is quickly looking like a start in the making.

Don’t believe the hype? Well, it sounds like head coach Brian Kelly does.

“I mean, I know all the talk is about Nix and Tuitt, but I can tell you, Sheldon Day is… just watch the film,” Kelly said. “His first step quickness, he’s an impressive football player. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody on our football team right now. He’s as impressive of a football player that we have on our defense.”

Considering Notre Dame has two guys up front that might be top 15 picks in the NFL Draft, Day’s trade value, even if it is in a strict hypothetical, is really impressive.

One of the things that’s probably most interesting about Day is the fact that he’s not cut from the traditional mold you’d expect in Kelly and Bob Diaco’s defense. While Day had the type of elite offers that made him a recruit that was targeted on the national level (LSU and Florida don’t come after too many kids from Indianapolis), at 6-foot-2, 280-pounds, he was a bit of a tweener on the Irish defense, especially when he was being pursued as a defensive end.

Perhaps it was because he lacked the star-power of other big names like Tuitt, Aaron Lynch or Ishaq Williams, but Day flew under the radar heading into South Bend, even though he was doing things early in his career that clearly showed a capacity for excellence. Consider how quickly Day has moved into the role of an every snap player.

“Right now if there’s an eight-play drive, he does not come out of the game,” Kelly said Monday. “He’s the one that does not come out of the game. His work volume, his ability to go. His pass rush ability. He’s an outstanding football player.”

Just about every coach has raved about Day. Defensive line coach Mike Elston speaks highly of Day, reportedly raving about his skills at the coaches clinic. Kelly has called Day one of the most difficult blocking assignments along the defensive line, and a year in the weight room will only enhance that skillset.

If anything, Day is a nice reminder that while this staff recruits to a profile, it’s more art than science when they look at film and project a player. Last year, Prince Shembo was one of the team’s most productive players, all while looking like a player that Notre Dame wouldn’t have even recruited on paper because of his physical profile alone.

With offensive line coaches committing plenty of bodies to blocking preseason All-Americans Nix and Tuitt, Day could find himself in quite a few spots to take advantage of one-on-one match-ups. That could mean Day receives star billing sooner than later.

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.