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IBG: USC edition

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Is it me, or are we all a little bit subdued about this weekend’s football game? Whether or not Lane Kiffin is still on the sidelines, there’s no bigger game this year (or at least from now until Stanford) for the Irish. The Trojans come to town for their biannual October trip to the Midwest, leaving the cozy confines of Los Angeles for a long weekend in Chicago and South Bend.

Wearing the Cardinal and Gold may not be as easy as it used to be, so the amount of Southern Cal fans trolling the Windy City might be down a bit, but there’s no doubting that Ed Orgeron’s squad will be up for their visit, embracing the role of spoiler as they have a chance to knock the Irish out of BCS relevancy by mid-October.

Joining me this week for the IBG is Mike Coffey of NDNation. If you’d like to visit the rest of the folks, check out the following blogs:

Her Loyal Sons
ND Nation
UHND
Strong and True

Play along in the comments, but here are Mike’s answers to my three questions.

1) Once again, Notre Dame will play USC under the lights. Overall, how do you assess the night game addition these past few years? Do you think it’s been a value-add from a football perspective? How about from the fan’s perspective?

I’m sure from a football perspective, everyone likes it.  NBC likes the prime-time exposure, the players like playing under the lights, the staff likes a charged atmosphere for recruiting purposes.

From a fan’s perspective, it’s going to depend on the fan.  For those of us who grew up on Saturday afternoons in Notre Dame Stadium, it may be a detraction.  Those of us driving in from Chicago have a pretty late night with few (if any) options for a post-game meal.  I can understand if other fans like it, though.

2) Brian Kelly always talks about using the off week to develop some of the younger players that need some work. Give me one offensive and defensive player that you hope takes a step forward down the home stretch?

On defense, the quicker we can get Max Redfield into play, the better off we’ll be.  We need more quickness at safety, and I believe he can provide it.

On offense, I’d have to say Ben Koyack.  While I’d like to see the TE’s in general get more involved, if Koyack is playing better, the offense will be better.

3) I suppose we’ve got to talk rivalry, right? How do you view Southern Cal, the importance of the annual game, and its place in college football?

I’ve always said Notre Dame football has one friend (Navy), one enemy (Michigan), and one rival (Southern Cal).  Even though I attended ND in the midst of the Decade of Dominance, I was raised in an ND house and taught Southern Cal was The Rivalry for us, so the fact we won a lot of games in a row didn’t change that for me.  The losses to SC since 2000 have burned under the skin … I hate losing to those people.  It’s not the same as losing to Michigan (which I also hate) – losing to SC sticks around in the psyche longer, especially the way we lost to them recently.  If ND is going to protect any games on its schedule, it should be SC and Navy and that’s it.

Regarding its place in college football, it’s lost the luster a little bit with ND being down.  However, I believe a matchup between ranked ND and SC teams will always be a draw.  It doesn’t have the casual-fan-interest that a Michigan/Ohio State or Alabama/Auburn has, but college football fans who know the game know the rivalry and what it has meant.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

echoes
@NDFootball Twitter
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DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend

 

 

Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter 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 named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.

 

Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

aaron-banks
Tom Loy, Irish 247
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Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.