Brian Kelly

Fall Camp video: Full pads practice breakdown


We’re still playing catchup from the weekend, but the most recent practice report from our friends at had some good footage that we thought needed over-analyzing.

Let’s get down to it.


0:30 — Speakers must be pumping pretty loud as Jack Nolan has his pipes working at midseason form here in his intro.

0:36 — A good look at Sheldon Day (91) against Conor Hanratty (65). Day’s quickness is apparent, but Hanratty does a nice job of competing during the one-on-one drill.

0:41 — While he hasn’t been talked about much, sophomore Isaac Rochell (90) is taking a ton of second-team reps. He’s going to be a key piece to the puzzle up front, especially if he can play up to the 287 pounds he checked in at for fall camp.

0:46 — This is a great rep for Cody Riggs (2), who gets Will Fuller (7) off his route from the beginning and does a nice job of staying on the legal side of physical before he breaks up the pass.

0:52 — Nice rep by Nick Martin (72) who does a great job holding up against the bulk and power of Jarron Jones (94).

1:01 — Another impressive rep by C.J. Prosise (20), who continues to run with the 2s, but looking really explosive.

1:05 — That’s freshman Jay Hayes (93) doing a nice job against Ronnie Stanley (78), who looks a little wobbly before the snap. It was interesting to hear Brian Kelly’s confidence in Stanley as a left tackle (or at any position) over the weekend, a sign that Kelly expects Stanley to be another very good one.

1:10 — That’s physical coverage by KeiVarae Russell (6) who takes Chris Brown (2) out of his route from almost the start. This type of work will be very beneficial for the Irish receivers when the regular season gets started.

1:15 — Day gets underneath Christian Lombard here, with Lombard doing a good job keeping his hands out of Day’s facemask for an easy penalty.

1:20 — More video of Cam McDaniel split out wide, catching a slant underneath some soft coverage.

1:25 — That’s a promising rep by Rochell, who pushes the pocket and center Nick Martin backwards nicely.

1:30 — Interestingly, that’s Ishaq Williams (11) taking a rep on the inside against Hanratty. Perhaps Williams will shift inside on pass rushing downs, letting a young edge player come in and chase down the quarterback?

1:33 — Corey Robinson just can’t shake cornerback Cole Luke (perhaps still wearing the No. 36 jersey he wore last year when he shared the field with Amir Carlisle.

1:35 — Stanley gets great depth as he takes on Romeo Okwara (45), but the young defensive end does a decent job of recovering and getting absorbed on the initial hit.

1:42 — Austin Collinsworth (28) loses his jock strap on a double move by Prosise, who twists around the safety for a big play. It’s just one rep, but it does nothing to help the knock on Collinsworth’s coverage skills. (I prefer to look at this as a good play by Prosise more than an indictment of Collinsworth).

1:49 — If you want to win the starting tackle job Mike McGlinchey (68), you can’t wear rollerskates. A very impressive rep by Andrew Trumbetti (98) who nullified McGlinchey’s size advantage with quickness and power.

1:55 — Amir Carlisle (3) looks good.

2:01 — So does Fuller, who beats Josh Atkinson (24) on an inside route after getting a clean release. It’s worth noting that Atkinson earned a ton of rave reviews from the local media who saw bits of Saturday’s practice.

2:15 — Another victory of Rochell, this time beating out Hunter Bivin (70).

2: 18 — A good battle between Russell and Brown, with the back-shoulder throw a little low, and Russell’s coverage pretty good. Right now, when the yellow flag is in the pocket of the practice ref, everything looks gravy for the DBs. But come a Saturday with a neutral conference officiating crew? Let’s see how this all shakes out.

2:22 — Another rep where Ishaq is playing inside.

2:26 — Walk-on veteran Connor Cavalaris beats freshman Justin Brent (11) on the inside route, with Brent never getting Cavalaris off his mark. The young freshman needs to push the DB, and Cavalaris looked like he was squatting on the route.

2:33 — An interesting rep between freshman Jon Bonner (55) and guard Colin McGovern (62). I’m starting to think McGovern is a really good football player, and I’m already convinced that’s the case with Bonner.

2:39 — Nice craftsmanship by Brown, getting separation from Nick Watkins (19) and making the catch for a touchdown. Leverage lost by Watkins after a good start.

2:43 — Heckuva toss by DeShone Kizer (14), floating a touchdown pass over the top of coverage to Prosise. Matthias Farley tries to pick a spot and get to the ball, but Kizer made a great throw.

2:51 — 11-on-11 reps start, with Everett Golson working the play-fake before trying to connect with Fuller. A very good breakup by Cody Riggs. Looks like a snap from the pistol. Also like the way that Joe Schmidt (38) and John Turner (31) are flying to the ball.

3:00 — A big hole opens up for Tarean Folston (25), who bursts through the second-string defense. Nice work on the zone read by Malik Zaire. The fake froze Michael Deeb (42) in the slop, and allowed the big run.

3:05 — Great job on the mesh by Golson, who rides the handoff with Greg Bryant until Ishaq commits to Golson. That gives Bryant the chance to get around the edge, and from there he blows around the corner, picking up about 15 explosive yards against the No. 1 defense.

3:15 — That’s another big play by Bryant, who starts off the right side, bounces it back to avoid a few tackles, and ends up with a 20+ yard carry against the No. 1 defense. It looked like half-a-dozen defenders had a chance at Bryant, but he cut on a dime and made a big play at the second level.

3:25 — Nice pitch and catch between Golson and Brown, who had one-on-one coverage on the outside hash against Cole Luke. Brown made Luke miss and made Max Redfield (10) had to come over and clean up.

3:36 — Pretty much the typical Cam McDaniel run. Not much there, but McDaniel shows patience before falling forward for a modest gain. Nice backside work for Ishaq and Collinsworth, who comes crashing down in the box.

3:40 — It wasn’t pretty, but Bryant fights his way into the end zone. That’s Tyler Luatua (13) motioning into the backfield, given the not-so-fun assignment of blocking Jaylon Smith. He gets just enough of Smith to help spring Bryant.




Bye Week Mailbag: Now Open

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: DeShone Kizer #14 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs the ball during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

It’s been too long. Or maybe it hasn’t.

Against my better judgment, I’m opening up the mailbag. Drop your questions below or at Twitter @KeithArnold.

How we got here: The Defense

05 September 2015:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder stands with his players in action during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Texas Longhorns at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

The first of a multi-part series as we look at the 2-5 Irish at the bye week. 


Notre Dame’s season was sunk by Brian VanGorder’s defense. That sentence is much easier to write after seeing the unit without its former coordinator. But it was just as clear after watching the Irish play their first four games of 2016 that Brian Kelly needed to make a change. The Irish gave up a combined 124 points in their three September defeats, a season-high for either yards or points (against FBS competition) for Texas, Michigan State and Duke.

For many VanGorder detractors, the move came four games too late. The Irish were plagued by big plays and schematic breakdowns throughout 2015 (and before), a fatal flaw of a defense filled with talented personnel that too often underperformed.

How did the Irish get here? Any why did Kelly make the decision to hire VanGorder—a decision that has already impacted his legacy in South Bend?

Let’s look back.



When Brian Kelly tapped VanGorder to replace Bob Diaco, he was hiring a coach who seemed like an evolutionary next step. While Diaco’s 3-4 base and point prevention philosophies were the perfect tonic for improving a team that was wrecked by the Tenuta era, Alabama undressed the Irish at the end of the 2012 season, a simplicity in Notre Dame’s scheme that received a few comments from Alabama players in the postgame glow that likely had Kelly wondering if they’d hit their ceiling.

That’s an important factor to remember when Kelly was hiring Diaco’s replacement. Because the foundation of the defense was well established. Kelly needed someone to build on top of it.

That likely made VanGorder’s pitch music to Kelly’s ears. Because while Diaco relied heavily on his base set, VanGorder’s DNA included sub-packages, complementary parts, Rex Ryan-inspired blitzes, and a philosophy that no throw would be conceded— underneath or otherwise.

Add to that Kelly’s personal relationship with VanGorder. Kelly had watched his former Grand Valley State colleague from the beginning of his career. He had seen him work with young players and believed in him as a teacher (something he referenced multiple times when he introduced VanGorder to the local media) before blazing his own trail, earning a head coaching opportunity at Wayne State, a high-profile coordinator position at Georgia and eventually making his way to the NFL—for a long time, farther up the food chain than Kelly.

Perhaps that was enough to dismiss his chaotic year at Auburn, when the Tigers season—and defense—went up in smoke as Gene Chizik was fired and VanGorder’s defense gave up 63 to No. 20 Texas A&M, 38 to No. 5 Georgia, and were blown out 49-0 to Alabama—after after mid-October.

But for a variety of reasons, likely his success turning to coaches with a personal connection, Kelly once again did so, hiring an NFL position coach who was a few years removed from being an elite-level coaching target for a vacancy that was a high-profile national opening.



The challenge with VanGorder’s struggles always seemed to be the caveats. Injuries decimated his first defense, a group that shutout Michigan and stymied Stanford, but crumbled by the end of the season, with USC naming a number and the Irish tumbling after giving up big, ugly scores to Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC.

The 2015 defense had strong moments—dominating Texas, holding Clemson to 24 points and nice wins over option opponents Georgia Tech and Navy—but obviously imploded late against Stanford and never stood a chance against Ohio State, with injuries once again leveling the depth chart.

But there were improvements. Between 2014 and 2015 VanGorder’s unit got a better handle on up-tempo attacks. An offseason committed to stopping the option saw those goals achieved with successful defensive performances against Georgia Tech and Navy. And even if VanGorder’s veteran-heavy 2015 unit was mostly moving on (the talent exodus is staggering now that you look at it), most had talked themselves into believing that Year Three would have better institutional knowledge for all, a depth chart ready to step in and perform.

[A necessary footnote: Luck certainly wasn’t on VanGorder’s side. Injuries, transfers and suspensions certainly didn’t do him any favors, either. Whether it was the disappearance of edge rushers—Kolin Hill, Jhonny Williams, Bo Wallace—or the loss of KeiVarae Russell and Max Redfield, injuries to Jarron Jones, Shaun Crawford, Nick Watkins and Drue Tranquill, there was always the defense VanGorder hoped to put on the field… and then the one that he actually did.]



Austin, Texas. Opening night, 2016.

The Irish defense was exposed against the Longhorns, shredded by both the power running attack and freshman Shane Buechele’s passing. It was an all-systems failure: Scheme, blown assignments, questionable personnel decisions—all pointing back to a game plan that required a bunch of assumptions (new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert was difficult to scout), but nonetheless was a disastrous start.



Even if Kelly gave the staff’s performance a passing grade, by noon after the loss to Duke, the decision was made to relieve VanGorder of his duties.

“This is a difficult decision,” Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t it where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”



While Kelly won’t likely go any deeper into the decision to make the change than he’s done in a few media sessions, it’s telling just how different the defense is organized with VanGorder out the door.

Full-unit meetings have been turned into position group teaching sessions. Depth chart’s have been reshuffled, resulting in major personnel changes. A base three-man front has taken over as the status quo. And the defense has stopped giving up points and big plays, especially after they found their footing against Syracuse.

Where Kelly goes from here is anyone’s guess—especially considering he’s still trying his best to get this season under control. But after tapping into his personal coaching network to fill a premium vacancy, don’t expect Kelly to settle on the familiar—or for Swarbrick to allow it—when his roster is loaded with young talent and in need of a fundamentally sound plan.

CB Elijah Hicks commits to Notre Dame

Irish 247

Just hours after one member of Notre Dame’s 2017 class stepped away, another took his place. Southern California defensive back Elijah Hicks committed to the Irish. The four-star prospect, an all-purpose defender who can play safety, cornerback and contribute in special teams, pulled the trigger just days after taking his official visit to South Bend.

He made the news official via Twitter and recorded a commitment video with Irish 247’s Tom Loy. And even as Notre Dame’s season continues in the wrong direction, Hicks bought in to the message being sold by the Irish coaching staff, picking Notre Dame over programs like UCLA, USC, Michigan and Washington.

A year after stocking up the secondary—Hicks gives the Irish a nice piece to pair with Paulson Adebo and all-purpose athlete Isaiah Robertson. And as we watch Troy Pride, Julian Love, Donte Vaughn and Devin Studstill might a quick impact on the back end, Hicks compares favorably to that quartet, another prospect with elite offers who will come into South Bend ready to fight for a spot in the two-deep.

Hicks told why he pulled the trigger now:

“I chose Notre Dame because on my official visit I felt comfortable and it felt like home,” said Hicks. “One of my favorite quotes about Notre Dame is, ‘Other teams play college football, Notre Dame is college football.’ Coach Lyght, I feel like he could give me the tools that’s necessary to make it to the NFL and have a long career. Also, they have a rich tradition and great academic support.”

Hicks plays for La Mirada High School, the same program that produced reserve Irish tight end Tyler Luatua. He returns Notre Dame’s 2017 class to 18, a Top 10 group by any evaluation.


Irish suffer first recruiting defection with Donovan Jeter


After five losses, Notre Dame suffered their first consequence of a poor season in recruiting. Donovan Jeter, a four-star defensive lineman, has stepped away from his verbal commitment.

Jeter made the news public on Tuesday, taking to Twitter to send Irish fans into a tailspin.

The sky isn’t quite falling. Jeter called the Irish his top school, likely just getting ahead of the news that he’ll start taking official visits to other schools, something Notre Dame’s recruiting staff has worked well to slow down the past few cycles. Also helping the Irish’s cause is his proximity and connection to fellow Western Pennsylvania prospects David Adams, Kurt Hinish and Josh Lugg.

Still, after making it through last recruiting cycle without a defection, finding a way to win back Jeter is priority No. 1, a versatile defensive lineman who had an elite offer list and picked Notre Dame after basically dismissing them over the summer. The Irish have done it before, getting Stephon Tuitt back in the fold after Georgia Tech sold him on staying home. They won a battle with current defensive coordinator Greg Hudson when he was at Florida State for Aaron Lynch, though Lynch only lasted a season in South Bend.

Usually a decommitment—especially this time of year—isn’t ground for a news story. But as all eyes focus on Brian Kelly and his grasp on the Irish program, this serves as ammo for those looking for cracks in the foundation.


Jeter posted a Tweet that essentially confirmed my speculation. And also should serve as a reminder—DO. NOT. TWEET. AT. RECRUITS.