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Memorial Weekend notes: Martin, recruiting, scheduling and more

May 23, 2014, 2:06 PM EDT

Matt Cashore - USA Today Sports Matt Cashore - USA Today Sports

Here’s hoping everybody has great plans for Memorial Day weekend. Consider this a guess (or hope) that it’ll be a less dramatic weekend than last year, when the Irish’s 2013 season was thrown into permanent disarray.

With the Irish assistant coaching staff out recruiting, and the unofficial start of summer kicking off on this long weekend, let’s share a few stories that I found interesting.

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For those looking for a stadium update, check this out:

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Over at Irish Illustrated, Tim Prister sat down for a long chat with former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, now the head coach at Miami (Ohio). One of the more honest, candid and entertaining guys in college football, Martin didn’t disappoint.

Prister posted chunks of his interview in three parts, and while they’re protected by a paywall, they’re worth every bit of the $9.99 a month to read.

Here’s just a few snippets to give you a feel:

On Andrew Hendrix, now the unquestioned starting quarterback at Miami:

“The biggest thing with Andrew was he was close to being the guy at Notre Dame but never the guy. The confidence that comes with getting over the hump and becoming the guy…Not that he wasn’t confident, but he never got the confidence of really, truly being the guy at Notre Dame.

“Here, his game has really elevated. He’s having tons of success and he’s clearly the guy. There’s something to be said of when you have that comfort of being the guy, then you play better. When you’re always battling to get to the top of the depth chart, it’s hard with the stress of always falling a bit short. He is an unbelievable kid.”

And on Martin’s unequivocal love for Notre Dame:

“Brian Kelly could have gotten the Texas job and I wasn’t going to Texas. Brian Kelly could have gotten the Alabama job and I wasn’t going to Alabama. I wasn’t going to be an assistant coach, but any chance to coach at Notre Dame, I wasn’t going to pass it up.

“It’s Notre Dame. I’m Irish-Catholic from the south side of Chicago. It’s my school. It’s a place I believe in more than any place in the world. How they do their business. The quintessential student-athlete. To me, it wasn’t even a decision.

“When Brian asked, it was not a long conversation. We didn’t talk salary. I didn’t even know what position I was coaching. He said, ‘I’m bringing my coordinators from Cincinnati,’ and I said, ‘Okay, gotcha.'”

And on his desire to take over at Notre Dame when Kelly is finished:

“That would probably be the only goal I have in coaching. Other than that, I’ve never really chased jobs. I’m happy where I am today and during my previous stops in coaching. I always like where I’m at. I’ve never really had a bad job. I love where I’m at now. I don’t concern myself with jobs other than the one I have.

“But if you ask me if there’s one job I’d like to have, it would be Notre Dame.”

As someone who got to know Martin fairly well over the past four years, I can’t give a bigger recommendation to this interview. Part one, part two and part three all deliver the goods. There’s much better stuff from Martin in the articles, so head over and pony up.

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As college coaching staffs spend parts of May evaluating prospects, the heart of “recruiting season” begins to take off in June. Colleges will hold their camps, with Notre Dame’s “Irish Invasion” trying to establish itself on the prospect map, hoping to get on par with top-flight camps at schools like Florida and Ohio State.

In advance of other industry events like the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and Nike’s The Opening, Rivals updated their recruiting rankings, and quarterback Blake Barnett has moved up the most. Barnett’s now the No. 55 player in the country, and classified as a “dual-threat” quarterback, with the 6-foot-4, 193-pounder having the quicks to be a wide receiver if he wasn’t such a promising signal caller.

Joining Barnett in the Rivals250 are offensive linemen Jerry Tillery (#132) and Tristen Hoge (#159), and safety Prentice McKinney (#250), who came out of nowhere to make the list.

Right now Rivals has the Irish recruiting class ranked No. 15 in the country, though it’s the second-highest school with less than 10 commitments, trailing just USC.

Notre Dame is also after some of the top prospects on this list, still chasing blue-chippers DT Kahlil McKenzie, WR George Campbell, RB Soso Jamabo, LB Justin Hilliard, DE Jashon Cornell, WR Miles Boykin, WR Cordell Broadus, WR Equanimeous St. Brown, RB Malik Lovette, WR K.J. Hill and plenty more.

(Quick reminder: These rankings are as subjective as they come right now, especially before any of these players have a chance to get out to camps this summer. Deep breaths. Lot of time left.)

For another look at Irish recruiting, check out the conversation I had with Steve Wiltfong, 247’s director of recruiting about the evolution of Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts.

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Interestingly enough, the podcast Brian Kelly did with Bruce Feldman is picking up traction. While we pointed out some other segments that were interesting to us, Kelly’s talk of the difficulties getting traditional opponents like Michigan and Michigan State back on the schedule has some college football pundits accusing Kelly of complaining.

Here’s the section that’s got so many people up in arms:

“All I can do is voice my … you know, as a football coach, especially one that’s been in the Midwest, I love the ability to play Michigan and Michigan State and the tradition of it. But the reality of it is, you know, for our athletic department to enter into the agreement with the ACC, we have to give up a little bit from a football perspective relative to scheduling. To make our athletic department whole relative to soccer and lacrosse and basketball, that ACC agreement was absolutely crucial for our athletic teams.

“Football had to give up a little bit relative to flexibility and scheduling by taking on a commitment with the ACC. Therefore it’s put us in a very difficult situation scheduling and unfortunately, it’s taken some of those schools like a Michigan or Michigan State off our schedule. Because we’re gonna keep Navy. We’re gonna keep Stanford, and we’re gonna keep USC. Those three schools are not coming off and those are etched in stone. So now, add your ACC schools with those three schools and you’re really limited to where you can go.”

Talk about a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation for Kelly. If he downplays the rivalry with Michigan, he takes a week of crap for not calling the game with the Wolverines a rivalry. If he says that the team isn’t trying to get Michigan back on the schedule, he’s ducking Michigan, especially with Wolverines AD Dave Brandon still milking the cancellation letter he received from Jack Swarbrick.

From the perspective of Notre Dame’s football coach, Kelly has a point, but as the USA Today’s Dan Wolken points out, he also has an advantage.

But from the perspective of Notre Dame athletics as a whole, the move to the ACC is such an unqualified upgrade from the conference that used to be the Big East that Swarbrick’s decisive move is looking better and better each day.

***

Lastly, because so many people have sent me this article, I thought it was important to comment on it. The Big Ten Network’s Tom Dienhart thinks the Big Ten should stop scheduling football games with Notre Dame.

Yep. That’s what he actually thinks.

It doesn’t take much googling to figure out Dienhart’s opinion of Notre Dame football, but for a conference that openly brags about its revenue stream while the quality of play — and attendance at football games — continues to decay, removing an opponent that actually fills seats isn’t the wisest move in the world.

Dienhart suggests the Big Ten play a 10-game conference schedule and remove Notre Dame from every schedule. The move to nine games was painful enough for schools that routinely feast on non-conference opponents from the MAC or I-AA, but 10 games? (How would Northwestern get to eight wins every year?)

What next, adding a team from New Jersey because they’ll get cable TV subscriptions in New York City? 

Anyway, read the article and judge it for yourself. I grew up a Big Ten fan and still enjoy watching the conference, but this feels more than a little off base.

***

Hope everyone has a great weekend with friends and family. (And that no big news breaks out of South Bend, I’ll be without my computer.)

 

  1. mediocrebob - May 23, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Dienhart is a perfect representative for the big ten. Not real intelligent.

    “What next, adding a team from New Jersey because they’ll get cable TV subscriptions in New York City”. You mean adding Rutgers and Maryland wasn’t to strengthen the conference on the gridiron ? Haha

    Thanks for the updates and the video , Keith.

  2. nudeman - May 23, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    1) Hendrix: If he couldn’t beat out Tommy Rees, despite an immense edge physically, then he’s not going to be very good. Ever. I wish him well. Wish things had worked out differently at ND. But “Ron Powlus Disease” (where someone gets a little worse every year until they’re unwatchable) has been renamed “Andrew Hendrix Disease” for a reason.

    2) Love Martin. Hope he kills it at Miami and comes back, seen as a liberator like our troops in Iraq were. Oh, wait … never mind

    3) That’s some great footage of the bulldozer. Had never seen one before.

    • bernhtp - May 23, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      Re: #3. Ouch!

      I actually enjoyed the video. I gave the grass a fond farewell this past Sunday at graduation. Like so many that stood on it, it completed its mission and was time to go.

      Completely agree about Martin and hope to disagree about Hendrix.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - May 23, 2014 at 10:09 PM

      Jeez nude Tommy obsess much?

    • onward2victory - May 24, 2014 at 12:30 AM

      Will Hendrix be an NFL starter? No way. But I bet he’s better than what we saw. Confidence goes a long way, and clearly Hendrix lost more confidence each time he saw game action. Martin seems to be building up Hendrix to try to give the kid that mental edge he needs.

      • nudeman - May 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM

        He’ll be modestly better because their competition is less daunting. But confidence can be a fleeting thing with a guy who seems as nervous and high strung as Hendrix. He never showed an ounce of poise in the pocket despite 4 years of Kelly and Martin begging him to settle down. Practice, film study, more practice, occasional game appearances … 4 years. Nothing worked. He even looked lousy in his last Blue/Gold game.

        I would love to be wrong about him. But expecting him to be a star or even just good over the course of a season is unrealistic. He’ll have flashes but I wouldn’t be shocked if he loses his job by the end of the year.

      • mtflsmitty - May 24, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        AH was in the wrong position at ND. Not sure what would have fit better. But QB was wrong.

    • viktory2013 - May 24, 2014 at 10:57 PM

      Hendrix was a bit like Crist; started out promisingly then gradually fizzled. (Like Powlus and Rees for that matter). He just didn’t have the intangibles required…and even his arm was only soso beyond 15 yards. Martin is likable and knowledgeable, but seems ND assistants lately haven’t done too well when they step up to head coaching jobs. Same applies to Diaco. These dormant programs are difficult to revive as your first job.

  3. bernhtp - May 23, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    Martin has always been a great guy and interview. He has the love and enthusiasm of Diaco, but without some of the goofiness. I wish him well and would certainly welcome him back if the football gods decree it.

    I’m also rooting for Hendrix. I hope he finally breaks through as Martin implies. I had hoped he was able to do it last year because he’s not only a great kid, but we knew what the alternative was. Oh, well.

    Judging by the bulldozer video, it appears that few took Notre Dame up on its deal of the century – 2×5′ turf sections for $150. I guess people figured out that not only wasn’t it very good grass, but the fact that it’s been replaced four full times in the last year alone hardly gets one nostalgic about it being the grass that Knute walked on.

  4. mediocrebob - May 23, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    I hope Hendrix does well. Having said that, I’m sure the game has slowed down considerably going against an 0-11 defense in the MAC everyday in practice coming from facing a much faster, more athletic and much larger defense in South Bend.

  5. ndrocks2 - May 23, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    I’m glad Martin and Hendrix are getting the chance to turn Miami around together. As the offensive coordinator Martin should be very aware of Andrew’s strengths and weaknesses and really be able to maximize the offensive potential of the RedHawks.

    Saturday, September 20 it will be Hendrix vs. Cincinnati (Kiel), maybe that’s why we have an open date that weekend.

  6. shaunodame - May 23, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    Has anyone else seen the recruiting class Martin brought in this year at Miami (OH)?

    1. Recruits are listed only as Skill, Big Skill (tho there are none) and Power. Terms we are very familiar with here at ND. I wonder how many of us would freak out if one of our classes were listed only with these distinctions. Spoiler: a lot of us lol

    2. You may notice there are about 76 Tight Ends (depending if you view the schools official release vs recruiting sites). I’ve seen it mentioned that many if these players will be redshirted, bulk up and project as Tackles or O-Linemen in general. This is a real sign of how much of an uphill battle Martin is facing when trying to recruit quality athletes to Miami, especially compared to the classes we landed in his time here. It also reminds me how spoiled we are in terms of recruiting here at Notre Dame. I firmly believe that Kelly and Co. could take a full year off and we would still land a Top 20 recruiting class. To a very large extent, Notre Dame recruits itself.

    Just a little food for thought in this dreadfully dragging offseason. If anyone wants to see the class here’s a link…

    http://www.hustlebelt.com/football-recruiting/2014/2/5/5383764/national-signing-day-2014-miami-redhawks-football-recruiting-results-recap-news

    • jommy995 - May 23, 2014 at 11:18 PM

      I’m thinking he made it work at Grand Valley, so . . . .

      • shaunodame - May 24, 2014 at 6:40 PM

        That’s would make a great argument piece… Is it harder to recruit at a Powerhouse DII program or a bottom feeder DI program? I’ll reserve my thoughts for now

      • nudeman - May 25, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        Your points are all good, shaun. If I’m correct that Miami of O was winless last year, then it would be reasonable to say that just getting a better coach and staff with an idea how to build a winner and a program should be worth a couple wins. I’d say that 2-3 wins would be a decent starting season, then upward from there.I’d love to see him kill it at Miami.

  7. onward2victory - May 24, 2014 at 12:40 AM

    The hatred for Notre Dame baffles me. I just don’t get it. They do things the right way. Graduate their players without dumbing down classes. They clearly haven’t been at any sort of competitive edge (see the last 20 years). As Keith said, it really is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. People will always hate the Irish I suppose, I just don’t get it though.

    And that Big 10 writer is an idiot. He probably was in support of the Leaders and Legends division names.

    • c4evr - May 24, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      Hatred of most any collegiate institution can usually be traced back to the fan bases.

    • c4evr - May 24, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      And keep in mind, it’s a fine line between love and hate. So be thankful, it keeps ND relevant.

  8. yaketyyacc - May 24, 2014 at 5:33 AM

    the bulldozer was ok, but that tandem dump leaving the stadium looked as if it had begun the additions to be made to the “House that Rockne Built”.
    Good Luck coach Martin and Hendrix. And Keith enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.

  9. ndgoldandblue - May 24, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    Good stuff, Keith. I especially liked the sarcastic bit about adding Rutgers simply for getting Big Ten Network subscriptions from New Yorkers. As an FYI, I live upstate, but a guy from the City once told me that anything north of Yonkers is considered Canada to those living in NYC. So…no offense taken here.

    I also like the little potshot you took at Northwestern. It reminds me a bit of the Golden Gophers. Having grown up in Minnesota, I always want to see the Gophers succeed, but since Jerry Kill took over, they have deliberately scheduled cream puffs in order to inflate their record. I mean, come on. UNLV? Western Illinois? Kill canceled a future contest with North Carolina because this reason. If you’re afraid to schedule a non-conference game with North Carolina, you’ve got issues.

    Only one question, though, Keith. What’s with the hard sell on Tim Prister’s article at Irish Illustrated? “Part one, part two and part three all deliver the goods. There’s much better stuff from Martin in the articles, so head over and pony up.” Who are you? Gil Gunderson from the Simpsons?

  10. irishdodger - May 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    I’ll be shocked if Tillery doesn’t flip to LSU.

    • shaunodame - May 24, 2014 at 6:42 PM

      I was shocked he signed with us and not LSU in the first place. Holding onto him until February 2015 would be a mini miracle in itself

      • mtflsmitty - May 26, 2014 at 7:37 PM

        IMO, you guys are forgetting why players (and their families) say “yes” to ND. I’m not saying its a cake walk. LSU will keep poking and prodding, trying to find a soft spot. But he’s probably been on their radar for a long time. He’s probably already received cash offers for family members, promises of jobs for parents, etc.

        I suspect he comes from a very good family, perhaps with a very strong maternal leader (think KLM, Nix, Tuitt). I bet he doesn’t flip.

  11. mikes1160 - May 24, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Why is Stanford etched in stone? Not a traditional rival in any sense….

    • mediocrebob - May 24, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      To continue making a west coast trip every year. One year to SC and the next to Stanford. Big for recruiting.

  12. golfboy66 - May 24, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    Forgive me this one time ,guys, but I’m just testing to see if my message actually appears in the comment section. I’ve never done this before. That being said, get ready to enrich your lives as the beneficiaries of some truly insightful stuff. Just kidding—hope I’m worthy of adding my thoughts and/or opinions to the (mostly) great commentary I read here every day. Go Irish!!

    • papadec - May 24, 2014 at 1:13 PM

      OK rookie – stand up on a chair & sing the ND Fight Song, then drop down and give us 20. Run to the fridge & grab a cold one. Don’t take most of what you read hear too seriously & welcome aboard.

      • 1historian - May 26, 2014 at 1:40 PM

        Sorry to do this papadec and thanks for the suggestion on the tri-state spree,

        BUT

        you misspelled ‘hear’. It’s supposed to be ‘here’.

        Have a nice day.

        95 & a wakeup!!

      • papadec - May 26, 2014 at 9:44 PM

        hist – I noticed it right after I hit the post key – I knew you or bern would catch it, sooner-or-later. It was a great day, thank you. I went to the Mariner game with a Marine Corps buddy from ’66 & the mother of a more recent active duty Marine. A beautiful day in Seattle. Got home in time to see the last two innings of the Yankees win @ St Louis. The only downer was ND losing to Duke in the Lacrosse Championship game today. I suffered through the first 3 quarters before heading to the ballgame. Even getting up, and going to Mass, this morning, couldn’t overcome the Blue Devils. Life goes on. Today is a good day for us all to remember that it is GOD, Country, Notre Dame. I hope everyone was able to enjoy the day with family & friends, and remember the sacrifices of those who have served, are serving, and will do so in the future.

  13. mikes1160 - May 24, 2014 at 7:45 PM

    Barnett looks like a stud. But then, I remember looking at Powlus’ HS tape in ’92….

  14. 76michael - May 25, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Concerning the B10 Network’s writer’s article (linked above with quotes noted) advocating black-balling Notre Dame from all sports:

    Notre Dame has scheduled its three Big Ten teams in its first four games since 1978. The Irish just cannot continuing to accommodate those type of demands with its ACC commitments. Should they wish to play in October or November – like Northwestern will this year – ND would have more of a chance to continue those long-standing series. Purdue has been playing ND for over 100 years, starting the year it joined the “Western Conference”. Michigan State has paid ND yearly – except for one two year span – for the last sixty-six years. (The Spartans joined the Big Ten three years after beginning this rivalry with ND.) MSU has been playing ND in athletics longer than four of its Big Ten members. Those relationships go beyond football or athletics. Those relationships have survived the vitriol, sarcasm, and elitist attitude that have accompanied similar attempts at blackballing Notre Dame.

    Flexibility in scheduling is becoming more important in this era of nine game conference schedules and strength of schedule factor for the football playoff. As an AD, I would prefer scheduling someone who could fill my 100,000 seat stadium three times over with ticket requests. But Michigan State has filled ND’s place with Oregon, which should be a good game. Next year, Michigan has scheduled Oregon State in place of ND. Michigan should follow ND’s lead and schedule teams like Oklahoma, Florida State, Texas, Clemson, USC, Stanford, etc. Still, some scheduling is just done for convenience. The alternatives are to schedule directional state schools or lesser regional conference teams.

    “Big Ten teams don’t need the money that a game with Notre Dame would provide. Big Ten teams don’t need the exposure that a game with Notre Dame would provide.”

    The SEC and ACC will be coming to an agreement on non-conference games against each other. That will create more interest and competition in those games. I agree with the writer that the Big Ten should move to a ten game conference schedule – an “easy deal”, less “headaches” than playing national powerhouses, and in moving outside their comfort zone to play games that will appeal to national or even regional audiences. With the loss of ND games, the B10 will soon have the lowest strength of schedule of the five power conferences.

    The article decries the loss of ND games due to the Irish affiliation agreement with the ACC, pointing out the SEC, Pac-12 and B10 would never accept the school on those terms. He should have mentioned the B10 affiliated with Johns Hopkins only for lacrosse.

    We regret the losses of the annual MSU and Purdue series. The writer also says that tradition is “the worst reason to do anything in life”. By the way, why do we still call it the Big Ten? Oh, yeah, tradition.

    Respectfully, we disagree.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - May 25, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Very well stated.

    • bernhtp - May 25, 2014 at 10:51 PM

      The writer is an embittered Purdue graduate. He states that the BT schools don’t need Notre Dame, but Purdue’s own AD admits the financial and recruiting benefit of having at least one national TV broadcast annually provided by ND.

      More significant than being wrong, his perspective is fundamentally dishonest and his advocacy of a blackball will do about as well as that of Michigan’s Yost most of a century ago.

      • 76michael - May 26, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        The B10 network’s writer’s latest:

        How about a 10-game Big Ten football schedule? (http://btn.com/2014/05/19/how-about-a-10-game-big-ten-schedule/)

        He says:
        “If it wants, the Big Ten could drop its mandate to schedule a marquee non-league foe from another “power five” conference to accommodate for the 10th Big Ten game. Better to keep as much money “in the family” as possible. Plus, a 10th Big Ten foe in many instances would be on par from a strength-of-schedule standpoint with a non-league “power five” foe.”

        While in this article from May, 2012 – Big Ten wants to stress strength of schedule in college football playoff (http://www.annarbor.com/sports/um-football/michigan-tougher-schedule-playoff-big-ten-football/):

        “Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. ‘I think we need to come up with a system that motivates schools to want to play tougher non-conference games during the season.

        “One of the reasons we’re looking at the Pac-12 coalition is to kind of instill that in our schedule and force it in. But I think nationally, we have to have that in play, both for bowl eligibility and for championship qualification.”

        For 2014, the NCAA has ranked SoS based on last year’s opponents’ W-L. Notre Dame’s SoS is fourth. Outside of new member Rutgers (9th), the toughest B10 SoS is Illinois (21st):
        “How the NCAA ranks the 2014 college football strength of schedule” http://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/2014/2014-college-football-strength-of-schedule/

        Seems like Michigan State is out of step with the change in philosophy

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