ND Yankee Stadium

Pinstripe bowl ends up as best fit for Irish

51 Comments

The Irish practiced yesterday, with Brian Kelly meeting with the local media to discuss preparation for the Pinstripe Bowl. Notre Dame will practice ten times between now and the 28th, with the Irish spending Christmas in New York, leaving South Bend on the 23rd.

While other bowls were discussed, and for a time the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego looked like the probable destination for Notre Dame, Brian Kelly talked about why New York and the Pinstripe Bowl was the best fit.

Logistical challenges played a key role. Beyond working around the conference tie-ins that made the Poinsettia Bowl and Hawaii Bowl a tough fit, Kelly talked about the difficulties making things work with the Irish’s academic calendar.

While Kelly talked about giving the seniors a vote in the process and hopefully playing in a sunny locale, the Irish head coach walked the media through the university’s thought process and why the Pinstripe Bowl ended up making the most sense.

“There were three or four bowls that were certainly vying for Notre Dame as we were going through this process.  The Poinsettia Bowl was certainly one those we were interested in.  One of the things is we were going to be tied into some of these bowls, particularly the Pinstripe, once we entered our new agreement.

“We were trying to look to getting into a bowl that we wouldn’t have any alliances moving forward.  San Diego, being in the west, let’s take a shot at that one.  Once Northern Illinois lost that football game, that kind of evaporated any opportunity for us in that game.

“The other one was the Hawaii Bowl.  But because of our exam schedule, which took us through the 20th, we would have had to have gone out there on 21, 22, 23.  It would have been practice, practice, practice, play the game.  They don’t hold the hotel rooms after the game for you.  You have to leave or find other accommodations, right?

“The guys go for three days, practice, play the game, then it’s like, All right, you got to go home.  Didn’t make a lot of sense to go there three days, practice, play the game, then, Sorry guys. If we could have stayed for two, three days after, have some things organized, maybe we could have done something with the Hawaii Bowl.  It didn’t make sense for us to do that.”

All that being said, the Pinstripe Bowl was far from a consolation prize. As you’d expect from a bowl game that’s managed by the New York Yankees, Kelly talked about the sales pitch he got from bowl executive director John Mosley, a former Irish football player.

“John Mosley would not leave me alone,” Kelly said with a laugh. “Quite honestly, I think I told him to get out of my office a couple of times.  He was here for the weekend against BYU.  I know John very well.  My relationship goes back to Culver Academy with him.  John is a great guy.

“But they were here, and he wouldn’t leave.  He wouldn’t take no for an answer. We’re excited about it.  It’s fresh in our memory about how we were treated by the Yankees, and they’re going to make sure that happens again.”

That game in 2010 was a wonderful experience for both the football team and Notre Dame fans. Domers flocked to Manhattan, over-running Time Square to hear the marching band, with Manhattan and Yankee Stadium filled with Notre Dame fans as the Irish clinched their first bowl bid under Brian Kelly beating Army 27-3.

So while there’ll be no sunscreen needed this bowl season, the Irish get a chance to take on a Rutgers team that’ll join the Big Ten next season.

“It’s New York. It’s New York at Christmastime,” Kelly said. “Just the ability to do a lot of things. A lot of these guys haven’t been to New York at that time.  They were pretty excited about it.”

 

 

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
5 Comments

Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

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)
Getty
13 Comments

Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
17 Comments

Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
22 Comments

Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.