Dan Fox

Former Irish players get their shot at NFL Pro Day


The NFL descended upon South Bend Thursday, with 14 former Notre Dame football players working out for NFL brass. The Irish’s draft eligible prospects went through a day of drills and testing in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams. Also working out with the current crop of Irish players were Robby Toma and Mike Golic, members of the 2012 Irish looking to get picked up in free agency.

While nine Irish players were invited to workout at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, veterans Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, Tommy Rees, Kona Schwenke and Nick Tausch had their first chance to show their abilities to prospective employers. It appears that for the most part that opportunity was captured.

If there was a winner in today’s proceedings, it’d have to be Dan Fox. In his first appearance for scouts, Fox ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, a number that would’ve ranked third best among linebackers at the Combine. Measuring in at 6’2-5/8″ and 233 pounds, Fox ran a 4.31 shuttle time, a number that bested George Atkinson’s time and was just a fraction of a second off of TJ Jones’ 4.27 from the combine. Fox is the type of sideline to sideline athlete that could temp defenses looking to upgrade the athleticism against the pass and also find a special teams contributor.

Carlo Calabrese also showed off better than expected athleticism. Weighing in at a sleek 236 pounds, Calabrese ran a 4.86 40-yard dash, a number that had to surprise more than a few Irish fans. Expect to see Calabrese in an NFL training camp.

Kona Schwenke solidified his case as the sleeper of the group, running a 4.88 40-yard dash at 285 pounds. Schwenke looked athletic in every testing event, the type of versatility on a big-bodied player that will give him a chance to catch on with a franchise.

Several Irish players that participated at the combine didn’t re-test. TJ Jones stood pat with his 4.48 electronic 40 time. Troy Niklas didn’t test either. Stephon Tuitt was in South Bend, but had a boot on his foot after an injury was revealed at the Combine.

Louis Nix was active in drills and also ran the 40. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin kept a close eye on Nix, a potential anchor for the interior of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense. Helping his stock was Bennett Jackson, who improved his 40 time with a blazing 4.40, improving from a 4.51 in Indianapolis.

Last but not least, Tommy Rees stated his case to make an NFL roster. While Rees didn’t break the five-second barrier in the 40 (he ran a 5.08), he completed 32 of 34 passes to receivers, with one drop. Rees’ 31-inch vertical leap would’ve bested Teddy Bridgewater, Taj Boyd, Stephen Morris and Jordan Lynch.

(Who saw that one coming?)

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.