Alize Jones getty

Mailbag: Adios Alizé, Return of the Max, and more

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Our unusually quiet offseason came to a screeching halt yesterday as Notre Dame announced the loss of Alizé Jones for the season due to academics.

With that warm and fuzzy note, let’s get to the mailbag:

I’m of two minds on this one. The loss of Jones is a big one, no doubt. But I don’t think it’s up there with the Frozen Five or Golson.

For as talented as Jones could be, he had 13 catches for 190 yards last season. That’s not All-American stuff right there, but he certainly isn’t some irreplaceable piece of the puzzle—frankly, I think he’s only an incremental loss, considering some of the young talent like Javon McKinley, Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin.

Of course, a week earlier I ranked him the 13th best player on my roster. I did that begrudgingly, trying to project someone to step forward as a pass catcher other than Torii Hunter. (I didn’t feel safe ranking a freshman there.) So yeah, it stinks. But I’m already on the “Next Man In” train.

 

cfarri84: Who do you think is the most under the radar member of each position group? …Just wanted to know which individual in each position group you think will be that kind of an under the radar talent that we don’t see as being a big deal now, but will probably wow us by seasons end.

I love terms like this because I essentially get to make up the rules of what they mean. Here goes nothing:

QB: There isn’t an under the radar QB at ND, but I think we’ll hear more from Malik Zaire than we expected. (Not sure how that’ll happen yet, but that’s my hunch.)

RB: Tarean Folston. You’ll remember why he was No. 1 last year.

TE: Durham Smythe, come on down!

OL: First-year starter… (flipping coin) …Sam Mustipher!

DL: Daelin or Jay Hayes. (No relation)

LB: Greer Martini

DB: Cole Luke — he’s going to have a big year.

 

mattymill: Rarely do we see a player who didn’t contribute at all in their 1st 2 yrs actually turn into an impact player in yrs 3-5. Best example would be Jeff Samardzija. Do you have anyone in mind on current roster who you feel could be a big contributor starting this year — could be RS Soph or true Jr.

Here are the true juniors or redshirt sophomores that I have ranked in my Top 25:

Alex Bars, Daniel Cage, DeShone Kizer, Greer Martini, Nyles Morgan, Quenton Nelson, Tyler Newsome, Drue Tranquill and  Nick Watkins.

I legitimately think everyone of those guys could have a very big season—and they’d all be considered “breakouts” minus Kizer. We’re not going to have another Samardzija—a guy who goes from a bench warmer to an All-American, at least not without another regime change. But those are the guys I think you can peg as candidates. (And maybe throw Corey Holmes in there, too, especially if he becomes deep threat guy with that breakaway speed.)

 

danirish: Do we finally see the “Real” Max Redfield?

What makes you think that we haven’t seen him yet? I’m just hoping we see the “Best” Max Redfield this season. That’d make me happy.

 

Don’t think it’ll matter, but I’ve seen weirder things. I still think he’s a depth chart piece, but that’s a solid prediction. Tell you after we hear from BK.

 

jmset3: If we could personify beer, which beer would you marry? Which beer would you kill? Finally, which beer would you spend a crazy night in Vegas with, then hope you never have to talk about that beer again, it’s memory stashed away in the deepest darkest depths of your brain?

This game isn’t for the kiddies, but I did think it was fun enough to answer. If I’m looking to marry a beer, I’ll go with Budweiser. Criminally underrated from a taste/price perspective. Give the ol’ America a shot again if you haven’t done so lately. You won’t be disappointed.

If I’m killing a beer, I’d like to erase Miller Lite from the planet. Unless it’s in a tailgate/binge situation, there’s really no good reason to drink this stuff.

A crazy night in Vegas? (Those don’t exist for me anymore.) If I’m treating myself to something a little nutty, I’ll go with a Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin.

 

newmexicoirish: it was revealed last year that offensive play calling was done through a coaching triumvirate. Do you see that being reduced to a single coach this season, or do you think there is even a need for it? 

Why change something that clearly worked?

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For more on Alizé Jones’ suspension, Notre Dame’s new media agreement with Bleacher Report, and a whole bunch of other stuff, give our latest episode of Blown Coverage a listen. 

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.