New York Post

Weekend notes: Football just around the corner

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So what did you guys plan for your summer football break? An 83-man (down to 81, thanks to Will Mahone and Nile Sykes) never-ending feature?

If you’re wondering what’s been keeping me up at night, it’s the daily fear that I’ve fallen off pace, with the goal of finishing this feature by mid-August maybe a little bit too ambitious.

But we’re dreamers here at Inside the Irish, so if you can excuse a typo or two (and if you’re still around, it’s pretty clear you can. And yes we are working on it.), it’s a really fun way to learn way more about the 2014 Irish than your buddies.

In case you aren’t caught up, here’s where we’re at. Thankfully, the Irish roster is alphabetically front loaded.

 

The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes
Matt Hegarty
Mike Heuerman
Kolin Hill
Corey Holmes
Chase Hounshell
Torii Hunter Jr.
Jarron Jones
DeShone Kizer

 

There’s still a few more big offseason features planned (gulp), so expect things to heat up around here, especially considering training camp is likely less than two weeks away from starting.

So while we’re getting ready to tackle one more A-to-Z this afternoon and a few over the weekend, let’s take a trip around the interweb, where some interesting articles have popped up this week.

***

Our friends over at Irish Illustrated have some fun features going as well, with senior editor Tim Prister just getting started on his always enjoyable 100 Hunches. Right now we’re cruising through the conference winners, but pretty soon he starts throwing out some gems about the current Irish roster that turn out more often right than wrong.

(We won’t hold picking Alex Wulfeck to win the punting job — or Notre Dame beating Pitt — against him. That’s a big reason why I don’t make predictions.)

Another fun feature from this week is a look back at a few recruits ($) that got away. For a trip down Memory Lane, Prister looks at his film reviews of Tyler Gaffney, Blake Bell, Seantrel Henderson, Anthony Barr and Cody Riggs, proverbial big fish that got away.

We’ll finally get a look at Riggs in an Irish uniform five years after just missing out on him the last go around.

***

If you’re looking for a great benefit to the new College Football Playoff — other than determining the champion actually on the field — it’s that we no longer have to start the season looking at preseason polls. Too often, a school’s reputation heading into the season keeps a team ranked over other squads more deserving.

The only poll that’ll matter won’t be released until October, when the CFP will begin releasing rankings. But the crew over at 247Sports put together an interesting look at what the “consensus” is on Notre Dame’s chances this year, tallying up the rankings from 15 different outlets to lay out the Top 25.

Notre Dame checks in at No. 16. According to 247Sports’ Steve Helwagen. Here’s the Sweet 16:

1. Florida State (14-0 in 2013; 11 first-place votes), 367 voting points
2. Alabama (11-2, 2 first-place votes), 354 points
3. Oklahoma (11-2, 1 first-place vote), 335 points
4. Ohio State (12-2, 1 first-place vote), 315 points
5. Auburn (12-2), 305 points
6. Oregon (11-2), 300 points
7. Michigan State (13-1), 276 points
8. UCLA (10-3), 249 points
9. Stanford (11-3), 230 points
10. South Carolina (11-2), 228 points
11. Baylor (11-2), 221 points
12. LSU (10-3), 217 points
13. Georgia (8-5), 194 points
14. Wisconsin (9-4), 148 points
15. USC (10-4), 146 points
16. Notre Dame (9-4), 117 points

Any worry the Irish have about climbing the polls with wins should disappear, as they are scheduled to face the preseason consensus No. 1, No. 9 and No. 15 teams. They’ll also face off with Arizona State, North Carolina, Louisville and Michigan, all teams that checked in as Top 30 squads.

Difficult schedule? Check.

***

Over at the South Bend Tribune, Tyler James takes a closer look at Notre Dame’s running back commitment Josh Adams. Halfway through his junior season, Adams tore his ACL, significantly changing his career trajectory, not to mention his recruiting ranking.

But Notre Dame was one of the programs that stuck by their offer to the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, and that matter to Adams when he gave the Irish his commitment.

“Notre Dame was one of them that stuck with me the whole time,” Adams told James. “They didn’t give up on me. That was a big factor that they let me recover, improve and get stronger while sticking with me through the process.”

That the Irish stuck with their offer certainly says something about the certainty that’s now associated with torn ACLs, an injury that used to be a far bigger deal. And after talking to some people in the program, while the Irish staff didn’t work him out at the Irish Invasion, they’ve done more than their fair share of due diligence on the injury.

But looking back at the history of Irish running back recruits coming in with a high school injury, and it isn’t too hard to look back at James Aldridge and Armando Allen and see reason for caution.

Aldridge was a five-star prospect who never seemed to get back the elite speed and power that he had in high school before his injury. And while Armando Allen reportedly ran a 4.3 at Miami’s summer camp as a high school junior, a broken ankle when he was horse-collared as a senior robbed him of that explosiveness, never cracking five-yards a carry or a run longer than 30 yards in his Notre Dame career.

But to judge Adams by the past doesn’t make much sense. But if you do, you should likely consider he ran for 2,089 yards and 28 touchdowns as a sophomore.

***

 While four-star wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown might strike fear into writers’ hearts, he’s got one of the coolest stories (not to mention names) in college football.

SI.com’s Chris Johnson has a nice profile on the Irish receiving target from Orange County’s Servite program. St. Brown is trilingual, fluent in English, French and German. He’s also the son of world-class bodybuilder John Brown, who traveled the world pumping iron.

source:

You’ve got to love this part of the article from Johnson:

Brown instructed Equanimeous to begin lifting weights when he was 5 years old, and they currently train together four times a week, on average. Equanimeous says he can bench press 300 pounds and developed an eight pack without ever focusing on abdominal exercises. He also has extremely strong hands, thanks largely to the hundreds of balls he catches each week from the JUGS machine stationed inside his garage.

While Notre Dame’s last Servite product, Troy Niklas, earned some kudos by ripping off his shirt at a pep rally, if Brown does it, he might be lathered and oil and win a medal.

 

 

 

 

Will Wimbush, Elko and the early enrollees surprise in spring practice?

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 26: Fans congratulate Brandon Wimbush #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after he ran for a 58 yard touchdown against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Notre Dame Stadium on September 26, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Umass 62-27.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Exactly 59 days from today, the Irish will take the field at Notre Dame Stadium. Sure, they will be playing against themselves, but nonetheless, it will be somewhat-competitive football played in gold helmets.

For timing context, exactly 59 days ago, you looked beneath the Christmas tree to learn if Santa Claus left you season tickets, socks or coal. I got socks. They had some of that extra cushioning, so I considered them a suitable treat.

Whether you care about my argyles or not (you don’t), for many the Blue-Gold Game and Christmas morning hold similar excitement. That fact is apparently why Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick does not concern himself when groups of alumni publicly lament his decisions, or lack thereof.

“I never worry about that,” Swarbirck told the Indianapolis Star in an exclusive interview you really should read. Go on, click the link, it will open in a new tab. You can come right back here when you are done.

“The hardest job in athletics is trying to generate passion in your program. If that sort of stuff bothers you, you can’t be the athletic director, head coach or the quarterback at Notre Dame.”

That very passion will undoubtedly lead to frame-by-frame discussions of video snippets from spring practice, parsing of each and every word Irish coach Brian Kelly says in quick interviews after those practices, and extreme pessimism and optimism about the 2017 season.

In the Christmas spirit, what toys could bring the must excitement during the spring unwrapping? Personally, the gift I was unsure of always brought the most joy. I would rather open an unexpected book than know about a charcoal-gray suit. In other words, at least for today, let’s look past the offensive line, the running backs and the inside linebackers. Instead, let’s look forward to learning about… (more…)

How did Mike Elko fare against past Irish opponents?

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Karlos Williams #9 of the Florida State Seminoles scores the touchdown that would win the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during their game at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Former Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder took over at that position before the 2014 season. Former Wake Forest defensive coordinator, and now VanGorder’s successor at Notre Dame, Mike Elko took over in Winston-Salem at the same time. Since then, the two programs faced common opponents nine times.

With the lone exception of Army, all these games featured ACC opponents. When it comes to talent, Wake Forest tends to be outmatched in the ACC. Recruits from 2011 to 2016 suited up for the Deacons in the 2014-16 seasons. During those six recruiting cycles, Wake Forest never finished higher than No. 10 in the conference according to rivals.com’s rankings. In 2012 and 2014, the Deacons finished at the bottom of the conference in recruiting.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, finished behind an ACC team a total of 10 times over those six years. Florida State outpaced the Irish five times, the exception being Notre Dame’s No. 3-ranked class in 2013 following its national championship game appearance. Clemson finished ahead of the Irish four times (2014 joining 2013 as the outliers), and Miami rounds the listing off with its No. 9-finish in 2012, compared to Notre Dame’s No. 20.

The point being, VanGorder and the Irish could anticipate having a stronger and deeper roster in at least six of the games discussed below. Elko and Wake Forest may have been able to make that argument—and it would be a debatable one—just once, when they faced Duke this past September.

Before comparing the two units’ successes and failures in those nine—actually, 18—contests, let’s establish two points of clarification. Notre Dame and North Carolina State played in a literal hurricane this past October. Comparing that game to any other will accomplish nothing. Furthermore, before anyone starts griping about that afternoon’s play-calling, this is an exercise discussing defensive performances, not offensive. The run:pass distribution of Oct. 1, 2016, bears no significance here.

Secondly, the other two games the Irish played fitting this criteria but after VanGorder’s dismissal—Syracuse and Army—are included below. Only so much of the scheme changed mid-season, and the personnel did not.

If you are busy catching up from a long weekend and do not have the time to look at the numbers below, a quick summary for you: In five of the eight instances, Elko’s unit fared distinctly better than VanGorder’s in multiple notable statistical categories. However, the Deacons struggled with Army’s triple-option attack, and both 2014 Florida State and 2015 Clemson blew right through the aggressive defense far easier than they did against Notre Dame.

Presented in something resembling reverse chronological order: (more…)

Four-star WR Micah Jones chooses Irish; Rees may need to wait; Other late-week reading

jones
rivals.com
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A day may come when Notre Dame suffers a recruiting disappointment in the 2018 cycle, when a high school star spurns the Irish coaching staff for a foe, but it is not this day.

Rivals.com four-star receiver Micah Jones (Warren Township High School; Gurnee, Ill.) committed to Notre Dame on Friday, joining a class of now 10 recruits, including four who committed just this week.

Jones chose the Irish over offers from the likes of Iowa, Michigan State and Ole Miss, among others.

He is the first receiver among the 10 commitments and the seventh considered a four-star prospect. At 6-foot-5, 196 pounds, Jones should present a large target for whomever the Notre Dame quarterback is in the fall of 2018, most likely then-senior Brandon Wimbush.

Tom, Tommy or Thomas; Assistant Coach or Graduate Assistant?
Thomas Rees may need to wait a season before officially being a coach at Notre Dame. The legislation to approve a 10th assistant coach was expected to be voted on, passed and effective in April. A newly-added amendment may push the effective date to following the 2017 season. The amendment will be voted on immediately before the legislation itself is.

The delay makes sense. Most coaching hirings and firings occur in December and January. In theory, creating a one-timing hiring frenzy following spring football could leave many programs in the lurch. In practice, however, this is not anticipated.

“The majority of the FBS guys that I’ve talked with currently believe that 10th coach is going to come from within their own organization,” Todd Berry told the Associated Press. Berry is the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and former coach at Army and Louisiana-Monroe. “Quality control, graduate assistants, analysts, or they’re planning on hiring somebody that’s out of work.”

A majority is not a unanimity, though, and that carousel will innately work to the disadvantage of the Group of 5 schools.

As for Rees, a graduate assistant can still work extensively with players. The most-pertinent difference between a graduate assistant and an assistant coach is the former cannot recruit. Given Notre Dame’s recent success on the recruiting trail—and the early commitment of class of 2018 consensus four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec (Pine-Richland H.S.; Gibsonia, Pa.)—Rees may not be an absolute necessity in that regard this cycle.

A Kizer Appraisal
Former NFL scout Greg Gabriel took a look at former Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer this week, largely paying the draft prospect compliments.

In calling Kizer “the most talented quarterback in this draft class,” Gabriel set a high ceiling for Kizer’s spring. Part of Gabriel’s positive assessment comes from acknowledging Kizer’s responsibilities as the Irish signal-caller.

“The spread offense that Kizer played in at Notre Dame is more sophisticated than many of the spread offenses we see elsewhere at the collegiate level. The Notre Dame offense is a whole-field read scheme in which the quarterback has to go through a progression that encompasses both sides of the field. He also can change the play and/or protections at the line of scrimmage. Given all that, Kizer was asked to do more than many spread quarterbacks are asked to do.”

Gabriel also reflected on the dynamic differences for Kizer in 2015 and 2016 and what may have elicited some of his seeming stagnation.

“There was the unnecessary quarterback controversy at Notre Dame, and the offensive line wasn’t as experienced or as talented and the receivers were mostly first-year starters.”

As much as Gabriel raves about Kizer, he would be the first to tell you anything beyond individual player evaluation is a waste of air this early in the draft process. Mock drafts may be fun, but they are not much beyond that.

Take the fates of Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo, for example. Few, if any, in the NFL expect them to dress for the Cowboys and Patriots, respectively, again. Where they end up could directly impact Kizer’s draft placement.

Jaylon Smith May Be Back to Form
Former Notre Dame and current Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith posted yet another encouraging video to Twitter. This one shows Smith really might be game-ready right now and, if not, almost certainly will be by the fall. Should there be any difficulty with the embedded video below, here is a link straight to it.

OL Mabry makes third commitment this week; WR Jones may follow Friday

mabry
rivals.com
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Two weeks ago, Irish coach Brian Kelly gave a non-answer of an answer to a question about a likely early signing period this coming December. Avoiding specifics, he indicated he thinks the effects of such a change will be seen on a case-by-case basis entirely dependent on the recruits.

“Some will, some won’t,” Kelly said. “…Each kid is going to have to react to it based upon also how their school is going to be dealing with it. Some will come off the board at the time.

“We’re expecting some to sign early, but I think our mindset is we’re going into it business as usual. We’re all going to have to fight until February.”

After this week, Notre Dame is going to have more year-long fights than anticipated. Consensus three-star offensive lineman recruit Cole Mabry (Brentwood High School; Brentwood, Tenn.) became the third prospect to offer a verbal commitment to the Irish coaching staff in less than 36 hours with his Wednesday decision. Mabry received the offer over the weekend, but waited a few days before making his decision public, lest emotions be dictating his thought process.

At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Mabry will have time to add muscle to his frame, with four or five offensive tackles greeting him on the Notre Dame roster in the summer of 2018. That ability to mold his style and growth may have played a part in the Irish interest.

“They love my height and athleticism and how I play,” Mabry told rivals.com. “We got to break down film and go through things that they do that pair up with how I play now. They think I’ll be a great fit in their offense.”

Mabry is the ninth Notre Dame commitment in the class of 2018, though the first offensive lineman.

Judging by new Notre Dame director of football performance Matt Balis’s agenda for the Irish roster’s Valentine’s Day morning, Mabry will have much to look forward to in terms of strength and conditioning.

Rivals.com four-star receiver Micah Jones (Warren Township H.S.; Gurnee, Ill.) is scheduled to announce his verbal commitment this Friday at 4 p.m. ET. Along with Notre Dame, Jones is considering Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Illinois and Northwestern. He would be the first receiver in Notre Dame’s 2018 class. Naturally, whomever Jones commits to, the recruiting fight will last until at least December, and perhaps all the way to February.