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Waller adds Irish to finalists as QB carousel keeps spinning

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Notre Dame spent almost seven months sitting on the sidelines of quarterback recruiting. But Blake Barnett‘s departure from the Irish 2015 signing class has put Notre Dame in the middle of everything — and it looks like the Irish might be the ones to trigger the national dominoes to start falling.

Barnett’s surprise departure from the headliner of the Irish 2015 class may have come as a shock to fans and fellow recruits, but Notre Dame’s coaching staff moved quickly and confidently as they reopened their board.

In a matter of 48 hours, Notre Dame identified and targeted three elite prospects to replace Barnett:

Deondre Francois 
Jarrett Stidham 

Travis Waller

All three are top 10 targets at their position, as viewed by Rivals.com. And all three seem interested in hearing more from Notre Dame in the very near future.

For Francois, the offer was welcome news. The IMG Academy quarterback who just came off an MVP performance at the Rivals 5-Star challenge, has pushed back his planned commitment from The Opening to the beginning of his season. That’ll let him get to South Bend and take in what Notre Dame has to offer.

“It will shake up my recruitment a lot because having Notre Dame, an independent school, an up an coming program and me coming in after Everett Golson having a chance to compete for the job would mean a lot,” Francois told 247Sports.com’s Tom Loy. “I feel like I fit well in that offense.”

Stidham is a Texas Tech commit that’s arguably the top dual-threat quarterback in the country. The Notre Dame offer has caught his interest and turned Texas Tech fans into the same group that chastised Barnett for stepping away from his lengthy commitment. (FYI, that never helps.)

Stidham hasn’t scheduled any visit to South Bend, nor stepped away from his commitment, but the Irish’s pursuit has certainly opened his eyes to the possibility of a new college.

Perhaps the biggest mover of the past week has been Waller. With Notre Dame after the Servite quarterback, the Irish are back in Orange County chasing a signal-caller that’s at a higher profile school than Barnett and a place where the Irish already have in-roads.

It didn’t take long for Waller to put the Irish in his top four, with Notre Dame now battling Northwestern, Ohio State and Alabama. (Those offers don’t sound like a consolation prize.) Noted quarterback guru Steve Clarkson caught up with Bob Wieneke of the South Bend Tribune and had this to say about his most recent pupil.

One of the things that Clarkson pointed out is how Waller has played against big-time competition, listing national powers Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman as teams Servite has tangled with.

“And he’s been a dominant player in those games,” Clarkson said.” He’ll fit in at any system. He’s what I like to call a pro-style athlete. He can operate out of a pro system but also is your new-wave spread quarterback. He’s very gifted athletically. he’s extremely accurate as a passer.”

Clarkson said Waller is hopeful to make a visit to ND soon and expects a decision within weeks. A top four or five could be announced this weekend.

“He’s a great kid, he’s an outstanding football player,” Clarkson said. “If Notre Dame is fortunate enough to get him, they’re not going to be … they’re not going backwards that’s for sure. The kid’s one heck of a football player.”

Clarkson has worked with Barnett in the past, so that last comment should raise an eyebrow or two.

While the loss of Barnett had Irish fans reeling, it certainly didn’t take long for Notre Dame’s staff to get back on their feet and chase after some targets that some recruiting services like even better than Barnett.

That says quite a bit about the machine that Brian Kelly’s built, and the positive response from all three targets should be seen as a positive as well.

 

 

 

 

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

echoes
@NDFootball Twitter
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DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend

 

 

Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

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)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.

 

Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

aaron-banks
Tom Loy, Irish 247
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Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.