Andrew Hendrix Stanford

Given the chance, Hendrix finally ready for opportunity

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For Notre Dame fans, Andrew Hendrix has felt like an enigma. With the tangible skill-set of a star quarterback, Irish fans have watched and waited patiently for the Cincinnati native to work his way into the starting lineup, where he’d surely be able to utilize his strong throwing arm, powerful running style, and intellect that’ll one day make him a successful M.D. Yet even with a blueprint that looked destined for success, Hendrix only seemed to move farther and farther away from the playing field as his tenure in South Bend continued.

If it weren’t for the spring’s quarterback exodus, Hendrix would likely only be remembered for a two game stretch where he was given a shot to win the quarterbacking job late in 2011. Against Stanford and Florida State, Hendrix completed just 14 of 32 passes for 216 yards, throwing two really bad interceptions in back-to-back losses to close out a disappointing season. Heading into fall camp, Hendrix looked like a fourth string quarterback, another blue-chip quarterback recruit that struggled to pan out.

But all that changed when Gunner Kiel and Everett Golson left school. And to Hendrix’s credit, he was ready to take advantage of the opportunities that finally presented themselves. Now just one play away from running the Irish offense, Brian Kelly talked about the difference between the quarterback who played against Stanford and the one that now sits at No. 2 on the depth chart.

“The difference is, as it related to Hendrix, is that he was a niche quarterback for us,” Kelly explained. “He’s no longer a niche quarterback. I mean, he can run our offense. Last year, the year before, we had to run special packages for him.”

Playing quarterback is one of the most difficult jobs in sports. It isn’t just Notre Dame (Zach Frazer, Demetrius Jones, Dayne Crist, Hendrix) that have struggled with high profile recruits. Just take a look at the entire 2010 QB class. And while Hendrix committed to studying his playbook along with his chemistry and biology workloads, he acknowledged that it was a difficult slog for him, especially not growing up surrounded by football.

“There were a lot of intricacies of the game that I didn’t know,” Hendrix said last week. “And I didn’t know that I didn’t know them.”

But Hendrix’s love of Notre Dame was a big reason why he didn’t fret when things didn’t look to be going his way on the field. And while he seemed like more of a candidate to transfer than anybody else on the depth chart, Hendrix was incredibly candid for his reasons to stick it out in South Bend.

“You would probably have to be out of your mind to leave here, in all honesty,” Hendrix said. “At all times, you’re a number of plays away from being the guy on the field. And if you have confidence in yourself, then it’s not hard to stay here. Plus, the school is unbelievable, the people are unbelievable, this organization’s great. It really was never an option in my mind.”

That loyalty is paying off. What looked in all likelihood to be Hendrix’s last season in South Bend could turn into a return in ’14, where he’ll add veteran depth to support Everett Golson. And while Tommy Rees enters the season as the clear-cut number one quarterback, Kelly seemed to fulfill one of football’s funny paradoxes. Now that Hendrix isn’t a niche quarterback, the team will try to make sure he has one on the playing field.

“We’re going to take advantage of some of the things he can do,” Kelly said. “He can run. He’s a physical runner. So we may have some more quarterback runs, but it’s not going to turn into an option game with him in there. He can run our offense. So we don’t have to turn the playbook inside out to put Andrew Hendrix into the game.

“He can do much, much more, and we’re very confident, if he has to go in the game, that he can run our offense.”

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.