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Irish A-to-Z: Jacob Matuska

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After being buried on the defensive line depth chart, Jacob Matuska spent the spring transitioning to tight end, hopeful that he can replicate the impact fellow defensive lineman Chase Hounshell had in his transition across the line of scrimmage. There’s reason for optimism. Matuska was an All-State performer at the position in his high school days. He’s also a 275-pounder who won’t look out of place lined up next to an offensive tackle.

Finding a role with Tyler Luatua back on the roster might be tough. But Luatua’s inconsistency last season will make this an open battle. While 15 practices aren’t enough to master a spot, expect a training camp battle for specialty snaps in an Irish offense that should want to pound the football.


6’4.5″, 275 lbs.
Senior, No. 89, TE



Recruited to play 3-4 defensive end, Matuska committed to Notre Dame early on, a three-star prospect with offers from Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Ohio State didn’t offer, but he profiled quite nicely as a big skill and power recruit, with Brian Kelly noting his positional versatility on Signing Day.



Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action.

Sophomore Season (2014): Played in seven games, starting his first against USC. Saw the majority of his snaps in the season’s final three games, forced into action after injuries to Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage. Had five tackles against Louisville including a sack. Had six total tackles on the season.

Junior Season (2015): Made one appearance, making a single tackle against UMass.



Pretty close, though I didn’t see a single appearance in the cards.

Matuska still feels like an emergency option to me, though he’ll hardly be as green as the guy we saw learning on the fly last season. Give him credit for a nice performance against Louisville, though a stinger in his shoulder robbed him of performing better moving forward, not exactly great luck considering he was still drinking from the fire hydrant.

But if you’re looking for a datapoint that shows how far this program has come since the Weis era, Matuska certainly can be one. Notre Dame didn’t have 295-pound defensive tackles on their third string back then, they were starting.

That doesn’t look like a reality for Matuska unless things go haywire. And even then, he’ll have to compete with Jerry Tillery, Jay Hayes, Daniel Cage and Peter Mokwuah to get on the field.



The move to tight end pretty much solidified the belief that Matuska wasn’t going to crack the two-deep on a defensive line that is unproven but talented. So after watching Chase Hounshell find a niche on last year’s team, the fact that Matuska gets a shot to do the same thing—after being a very accomplished high school tight end—means there’s hope for some more position change magic for Brian Kelly.

That said, the ceiling for success should be modest. With Tyler Luatua’s return and the fact that most of the opportunities will be doing the dirty work, don’t expect to see Matuska’s conversion be more than some work in the trenches or in garbage time.



Pegging Matuska’s snap count to what Hounshell did last year might be a solid barometer. Of course, that required a season-ending injury to Durham Smythe and players like Nic Weishar and Alizé Jones taking their first snaps as college football players.

Matuska isn’t the only veteran in a new job. Swapping John Montelus to the defensive line and Matuska to the offense are attempts to find roles for big, strong veteran players on a team that’s young. I think Matuska has a better chance of finding a role than Montelus, but expecting more than specialty work might be asking too much.

This gives Matuska the best chance for a fifth year at Notre Dame, something that didn’t seem possible as a defensive lineman. Add in the fact that he was a quick study this spring and it’s a nice second life for the Ohio native.


2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer
Julian Love
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Greer Martini

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

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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

Tom Loy, Irish 247

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)

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

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.