Brian Kelly

Opening depth chart released

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With the opening game around the corner, Notre Dame released it’s two-deep depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against Temple. There were a few surprises, so let’s go over each unit and give some thoughts:

OFFENSE

WR
TJ Jones
Corey Robinson

WR
DaVaris Daniels
Daniel Smith

LT
Zack Martin
Hunter Bivin

LG
Chris Watt
Mark Harrell

C
Nick Martin
Matt Hegarty

RG
Christian Lombard
Conor Hanratty

RT
Ronnie Stanley
Steve Elmer

TE
Troy Niklas
Ben Koyack
Alex Welch

WR
Chris Brown
James Onwualu

QB
Tommy Rees
Andrew Hendrix

RB
George Atkinson
Amir Carlisle
or Cam McDaniel
or Greg Bryant

Thoughts: If you’re looking for early returns on the freshman recruiting class, the offensive two-deep is a good place to start. Seeing Corey Robinson, Hunter Bivin, Steve Elmer, James Onwualu and Greg Bryant all get mentioned on here is pretty astounding.

While a guy like Hunter Bivin probably isn’t the next guy in at tackle, Kelly did say that he expected Steve Elmer to play early and often.

“We have great confidence that Steve Elmer could go in there and start for us if we needed him to,” Kelly said. “It’s not out of the question that he could be playing there at some time on Saturday, as well.”

Seeing the tight end position go three-deep in the two-deep gives you an idea that Troy Niklas, Ben Koyack and Alex Welch are all going to play quite a bit, often packaged together. Seeing a bunch of “or” listings at running back also let you know that all four of those guys are probably going to get a chance to get some carries on Saturday as well.

DEFENSE

DL
Sheldon Day
Isaac Rochelle

DL
Louis Nix
Kona Schwenke

DL
Stephon Tuitt
Jarron Jones

OLB
Prince Shembo
Ishaq Williams

ILB
Dan Fox
Jarrett Grace

ILB
Carlo Calabrese
Kendall Moore

OLB
Jaylon Smith
Ben Councell

CB
KeiVarae Russell
Lo Wood

S
Austin Collinsworth
Elijah Shumate

S
Matthias Farley
Eilar Hardy

CB
Bennett Jackson
Cole Luke

Thoughts: Perhaps the two biggest notes on here are the starting jobs won by Jaylon Smith and Austin Collinsworth, who must be fully recovered from the physical maladies that robbed him of the ’12 season. We’ll likely see a lot of Ben Councell and Elijah Shumate, but it’s a big deal for both players to have gone into camp and won a starting job.

Kelly talked a little bit about the platoon between Collinsworth and Shumate, and the reality of the situation being that both safeties will spend a lot of time on the field.

“I think it’s a 1A, 1B situation,” Kelly said. “Depending on where we are in the game, down and distance, a lot of those factors will be involved.  I think you’ve got to look at both of those guys playing an equal amount of football.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK
Nick Tausch
or Kyle Brindza

P
Kyle Brindza
or Alex Wulfeck

LS
Scott Daly

HLD
Luke Massa

PR
TJ Jones
Amir Carlisle

KR
George Atkinson
Cam McDaniel

KO
Kyle Brindza

Thoughts: One person we haven’t talked about much is redshirt freshman Scott Daly, Notre Dame’s new long-snapper. You’ve got to imagine quite a few butterflies will be churning for Daly in his first start with Jordan Cowart now graduated.

As Kelly discussed earlier at Media Day, the placekicking job is still up in the air, with Tausch and Brindza likely spending Saturday competing for the gig. On paper, this seems fine. But when there’s 100,000 screaming fans at the Big House next weekend, it’ll be interesting to see who Kelly calls on to kick.

It’d be great to see Luke Massa get a chance to use his sneaky athleticism and his throwing arm as the holder on a fake field goal. I’m not sure Notre Dame has attempted one since a Lane Clelland holding call erased a successful fake.

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half 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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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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