As the ACC scheduling pact begins next season, news of new conference opponents starts trickling out. One team that’s set to start playing the Irish is Louisville, who will visit South Bend next season. While Notre Dame rarely comments on their upcoming schedules until they are set, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich confirmed the three games, while also letting an interesting tidbit out of the bag.
The Cardinals are new members of the reconstituted ACC, and they’ll travel to South Bend next season before welcoming Notre Dame to Louisville in 2017 with a return trip to Notre Dame booked for 2020. (If you’re wondering why there’s going to be a significant gap in rebooting the Notre Dame-Michigan series, Jack Swarbrick is juggling puzzle pieces well into the next decade.)
The official match-up between is set for every three years on a rotating home and home basis. That the Irish and Cardinal play each other now isn’t for a lack of effort on Louisville’s behalf, with the Courier Journal reporting that Jurich has been trying to get the Irish on their schedule since Kevin White was in charge of Irish athletics. You’ll never guess who got in the way of that match-up, at least according to Jurich:
A game against the Irish has been years in the making, dating to former coach Bobby Petrino’s time at U of L.
“It wasn’t lack of effort,” Jurich said. “We’ve been begging Notre Dame to play for many, many years in the past.”
Jurich brokered a deal with then-Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White — someone he calls a “good friend” who’s now working in the same position Duke — and the two sides agreed to play a three-game series: once in South Bend, once in Louisville and again at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis from 2007-2009.
It was all in place, except for final approval.
“It had to be passed by their coach, and their coach vetoed it,” Jurich said. “It was in his contract he was able to do that. It was Charlie Weis. That’s understandable. The coaches want to play the teams they pick and choose. We were on a great high at that time.”
Would Weis have had the juice to dictate scheduling? Maybe. If the negotiations were to set games for the 2007-09 seasons, the then Irish head coach would’ve been in the honeymoon period of his tenure in South Bend, fresh off back-to-back BCS seasons and at the beginning of a 10-year contract extension. Playing Bobby Petrino and a program on the ascent might have been a tough go for the Irish.
That could certainly be the case next year with Charlie Strong building his program into another BCS contender. Though it might hinge on Teddy Bridgewater’s decision to return for his senior season.
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.
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.
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.
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.