Louis Nix

Friday notes: Additions, Bowls, Coaches and Departures

70 Comments

Welcome to our first non-game / pre-bowl weekend. While conference championship games play on and bowl assignments will be coming soon, let’s throw some headlines out to get you to the weekend.

* Members of the Irish coaching staff stayed on the West Coast to recruit after the Stanford game. We’ll see if it has a positive influence on a recruiting class that still needs to add a few pieces, but one name that’s been on the Irish’s radar since the beginning of this cycle is tight end Tyler Luatua.

Things have been fairly quiet with Luatua’s recruitment since he took an official visit to Alabama, where his brother Isaac plays. But after watching the Irish’s success at tight end, and with the news that Alex Welch is likely moving on to explore other opportunities, the longer the Under-Armour All-American waits to make a choice the better.

It sounds like Luatua is expected to make a college decision mid-December. Most in the know expect that decision to make Irish fans very happy.

***

Speaking of additions, expect official word to come from Notre Dame very soon on stadium renovations. Over at NDNation, Mike Coffey speculated that the renovation/remodel plans could cost as much as $375 million, a staggering number for a building that was expanded and redone before the 1997 season.

But as we’ve detailed more than a few times here, the purpose of this stadium renovation is more than just adding seats, a videoboard, or luxury boxes. It’s filling a larger purpose,with the university hoping to take its most valuable landmark and use it more than six or seven times a year.

Having heard Jack Swarbrick talk about the purpose of the stadium expansion multiple times, one of the more interesting thoughts he’s expressed is that with the expansion of campus over to Eddy Street, the new center point of the university is Notre Dame Stadium. By building classrooms, meeting space and other all-seasons facilities into the stadium, it turns the landmark into more than just a football field, it’s a building the entire community can use.

Thinking back to an old Father Sorin adage, the only mistake Notre Dame made in their last expansion of the stadium was not building it big enough.

Swarbrick hasn’t revealed whether or not the stadium’s surface will be natural grass or artificial yet. But connecting the dots, it’s hard to expect anything other than FieldTurf being installed if the stadium will be under significant change over the next few years.

***

Moving on to the bowl game situation, expect to hear something very soon about an Irish bowl game. As I’ve hinted and heard over the past week or two, I still think the Irish will end up in San Diego, with a good game against a Chris Petersen-less Boise State team in the Poinsettia Bowl.

One source told me that former Irish All-American and current San Diego Charger Manti Te’o has already been talking with the program about potential events in the area. It sounds like the Irish and the Hawaii Bowl wouldn’t be a bad fit either, with Te’o obviously having some experience there as well, with Charlie Weis using the Irish’s appearance in the 2008 bowl game to help solidify their spot with the once heralded recruit.

UPDATE — Just when it looked as if San Diego was a lock, I’m hearing that the Pinstripe Bowl is a serious consideration again. The payout to play in New York is much better, and the draw of heading to Yankee Stadium and the Big Apple isn’t too bad of a consolation prize.

***

Moving on to coaches, there’s been lots of talk about finding Chuck Martin’s replacement as offensive coordinator. Right now, I peg Mike Denbrock as the guy most likely to move up the ladder and take the job. But if we’re looking at outside candidates, Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com put together this early list:

Among the names that could have interest or emerge are UConn interim head coach TJ Weist, Illinois offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coachBill Cubit, Cincinnati quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw, former San Diego State head coach Chuck Long, Indiana quarterbacks / wide receivers coach Kevin Johns, Wake Forest offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke, and former Penn State quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher.

Kelly revealed to CSN Chicago that Denbrock would take the reins of the offense for the bowl game, a nice trial period for the duo that’s already very comfortable working together. But I expect Ernest Jones to slide in at running backs coach, Tony Alford to continue as recruiting coordinator, but to take over wide receivers, and Denbrock to coordinate the unit.

***

Lastly, while Louis Nix has made nothing official about his decision to return for a fifth year, the Irish defensive lineman posted a photo on Instagram that might be worth 1,000 words.

If that’s goodbye, it’s certainly a really good one.

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
Getty Images
5 Comments

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

Notre Dame v Florida State
3 Comments

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)
Getty Images
9 Comments

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?)

***

 

Restocking the roster: Offensive Line

Notre Dame offensive line
8 Comments

When Notre Dame takes the field this spring, there’ll be two very large holes in the offensive line that need filling. All-American left tackle Ronnie Stanley is gone. As is captain Nick Martin at center. Both three-year starters leave Harry Hiestand with some big decisions to make in the coming months as the Irish look to fill those key positions and still field a unit with the ability to dominate in the trenches.

The Irish have had incredible stability at left tackle, with Stanley sliding in seamlessly after four seasons of Zack Martin. Perhaps the best six-year run in the program’s storied history at the position, Stanley will likely join Martin as a first-rounder, back-to-back starters at a key spot that often dictates the play of one of the most important units on the field.

Replacing Nick Martin could prove equally tricky. Rising junior Sam Mustipher served as Martin’s backup in 2015, filing in capably for Martin after an ankle sprain took him off the field briefly against UMass. But Mustipher will face a challenge this spring from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge, the first true center recruited by Hiestand and Brian Kelly since they arrived in South Bend.

Kelly talked about 2017 being a big cycle on the recruiting trail for restocking the offensive line. You can see why when you look at the depth, particularly at tackle. Let’s look at the work that’s been done the previous two classes as Notre Dame continues to be one of the premier programs recruiting in the trenches.

 

DEPARTURES
Ronnie Stanley
, Sr. (39 starts)
Nick Martin, Grad Student (37 starts)

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Tristen Hoge
, C
Trevor Ruhland
, G
Jerry Tillery
, T
Parker Boudreaux
, G
Tommy Kraemer
, T
Liam Eichenberg
, T

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Hunter Bivin, T
Quenton Nelson, LG
Sam Mustipher, C
Steve Elmer, RG
Mike McGlinchey, RT

Alex Bars*, T
Colin McGovern*, G/T
Mark Harrell*, C/G
Tristen Hoge*, C
John Montelus*, G
Jimmy Byrne*, G
Trevor Ruhland*, G

*Has an additional year of eligibility remaining. 

ANALYSIS:
It’ll be a fascinating spring up front for the offensive line. We’ll get our first look at potential replacements and see if the Irish staff values a veteran presence (as it has done in the past) or puts former blue-chip recruits in position to become multi-year starters.

For now, I’m putting last season’s backups in line to ascend to starting spots. That’s not to say I think that’s what’ll happen. Hunter Bivin may have been Stanley’s backup last season, but as long as Alex Bars is fully recovered from his broken ankle, I think he’s the best bet to step into that job. Sharing reps at guard—not a natural spot for Bars to begin with—was more about getting him some experience, with the aim to move him into the lineup in 2016. That allows Bivin to be a key swing reserve, capable of playing on either the right or left side.

At center, the decision is less clear cut—especially since we’ve yet to see Tristen Hoge play a snap of football. Size and strength is a genuine concern at the point of attack for Hoge, not necessarily the biggest guy hitting campus. But it sounds like he’s had a nice first season from a developmental standpoint, and if he’s a true technician at the position, he could be a rare four-year starter at center if he’s able to pull ahead of Mustipher this spring.

On paper, the other three starting jobs don’t seem to be in question. Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are ready to step to the forefront. Concerns about Steve Elmer’s buy-in will certainly be answered by spring, there’s little chance he’ll be on the field in March if he’s not going to be around in August. I’m of the mind that Elmer’s too good of a character guy to leave the program, even if his life doesn’t revolve around football 24/7. Now it’s time for him to clean up some of the flaws in his game, the only starter from last season who held back the Irish from being a truly elite group.

Depth isn’t necessarily a concern, but there isn’t a ton of it at tackle. That happens when you move a guy like Jerry Tillery to defensive line and lose a player like Stanley with a year of eligibility remaining. That could force the Irish to cross-train someone like Colin McGovern, a veteran who can swing inside or out if needed. McGovern seems to be a guy who would start in a lot of other programs, but has struggled to crack a two-deep that’s now filled with former blue-chip recruits, all of them essentially handpicked by Hiestand and Kelly.