NCAA Football: Purdue at Notre Dame

Tuitt, Niklas, Nix and Watt go in draft’s second day

41 Comments

Notre Dame had four former players taken on the NFL Draft’s second day, with Stephon Tuitt, Troy Niklas, Louis Nix and Chris Watt all selected. At the end of the third round, only LSU joined Notre Dame with five players selected.

The first player off the board for Notre Dame in round two was Stephon Tuitt, selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 46th pick. Tuitt, who entered the draft after his true junior season slipped down the board, falling well outside of the first round after a subpar final season in South Bend.

“If you look at him from the 2013 season and you compare him to the 2012 season, you will see a different guy,” Steelers defensive line and assistant head coach John Mitchell said. “We got a good football player tonight. If this guy had been healthy coming into his junior year, he probably would have been in the top-ten guys drafted. We feel like we got a steal in the second round with our pick.”

Surprisingly, Troy Niklas came off the board just a half dozen picks later. Taken by the Arizona Cardinals, Niklas will join Michael Floyd catching passes in Arizona, taken 52nd by the Cardinal. Niklas is the 12th tight end in Notre Dame history to be taken in the drafts first two rounds. He joins Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Anthony Fasano as recent tight ends selected early.

Interestingly, Arizona tracked Niklas carefully. They also proved Brian Kelly’s point that the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder has only just scratched the surface.

“Probably had he gone back, he would have been a top 10 pick with that skill set,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. “He was more than – in the interview – he was more than ready in his mind and mine also.”

The biggest shock of the evening was the fall of Louis Nix. After looking like a first round pick, Nix slid all the way to the 83rd pick, going to the Houston Texans, where he’ll join Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt on the defensive line. Nix will play for new head coach Bill O’Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, whose 3-4 system should be perfect for Nix.

Joining this trio in the first three rounds was veteran guard Chris Watt. Surprising some by coming off the board so early, Watt was selected by the San Diego Chargers, who see his versatility and ability to compete as a three year starter as a major plus.

“He’s tough and he’s smart and he’s played some solid, excellent football for three years in a major program, so we’re happy to get him,” Chargers general manger Tom Telesco said.

The draft concludes tomorrow with the final four rounds, where several Notre Dame prospects are in the mix to be selected.

 

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
13 Comments

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.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
11 Comments

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.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
Getty
6 Comments

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.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
5 Comments

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.