Keith Arnold

Justin Brent, Devin Butler
AP

Irish A-to-Z: Justin Brent

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Justin Brent enters the second half of his Notre Dame career, with just about everybody hoping that the Indianapolis native makes headlines these next few years for better reasons than the last two. A physically gifted and versatile offensive player, Brent’s struggled to break into the two-deep—and to break out from Brian Kelly’s doghouse.

But there’s hope for the future. Brent just completed a redshirt season, spending his sophomore year learning the craft while staying out of trouble. It’ll allow him to enter 2016 with what amounts to a fresh start, still trying to find a role in the offense, but capable of contributing on special teams and at multiple offensive positions.

 

JUSTIN BRENT
6’1.5″, 220 lbs.
Junior, No. 11 RB/WR

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star recruit, Brent didn’t have many offers, but that’s a product of committing to Notre Dame the summer before his junior season, a full calendar year before most early commitments. Brent’s performance at both The Opening and the Rivals Five-Star Challenge turned him into a borderline top prospect, understandable when you saw him workout or in non-football situations.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in nine games, mostly on special teams. Did not make a catch or record a carry.

Sophomore Season (2015): Did not see action, joining fellow sophomore Corey Holmes as a redshirt.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

I suppose this deserves some credit, if only because Brent is still on campus fighting for playing time, not transferring to a new school.

While I’ve been pretty hard on Brent, I actually think the thing that struck me the most was the celebratory hug he shared with his head coach after the Music City Bowl victory. That didn’t look like an embrace you got from an exiled freshman with one foot out the door, but rather the look of a kid who seemed ready, willing and engaged.

One thing that might actually help Brent is starting quarterback Malik Zaire. It’s unlikely that Brent caught too many passes from Everett Golson in practices last season. But Zaire? The duo’s chemistry was on display in the Blue-Gold game, and could also help Brent’s confidence come training camp.

While I mentioned physical play as a way for Miles Boykin to get on the field, Brent’s the perfect body type to mangle defensive backs as a blocker on the edge. That’s a thankless job that requires pinpoint technique and buy-in, something we’ll see if Brent possesses.

This career could go two ways—a transfer or a four-year career that puts in the rearview a bumpy debut season. Next season will go a long way towards determining that path.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

To be all-in on Brent the late bloomer feels a little bit pollyanna at this point. But it’s worth noting that in a career that feels like dog years right now, he’s still got three seasons of competition remaining.

Brent spent the spring working as a running back, showing a nice bit of playmaking in the Blue-Gold game with an improvised scramble drill that turned into a big play when Brent came back for the football and made a nice catch in traffic. He’ll likely start next season in the backfield, though he’ll be working behind Tarean Folston, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams.

If you think that stockpile at running back could turn Brent back into a wide receiver, you might be right. With the boundary position lacking bodies, perhaps Brent’s physicality could help him take a few snaps on the outside as well. (At this point, it’s not ridiculous to consider a move to the defensive side of the ball—especially as a group of young safeties get to campus and start swimming in the deep end.)

Watching Brent in person, you’re not spending your time worrying about the physique of a kid who stepped onto campus with an NFL body, but just wondering when he’s going to break through. But there’s also a lack of flexibility and limberness that stands out when you watch him, especially as he learns how to run the football as a taller back, susceptible to the big hit without the proper pad level.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Sign me up for Justin Brent on every special teams unit the Irish have, with the junior hopefully capable of making an impact as a blocker or tackler. From there, he’ll likely need to take advantage of some adversity to see the field.

If a running back goes down (and after seeing the past few years, we should be ready for one to go down), Brent will get his shot. The same goes on the outside, where redshirt preservation of a young freshman might make Brent—now three seasons into his college career—a better bet on quickly absorbing the job.

The hardest part of Brent’s career is over—making it through a redshirt season after finishing his freshman year in one of the more ridiculous off-field stories we’ve seen in a long, long time. With the tabloid fodder behind him, now all Brent has to do is find a way into the mix on offense, with hopes that taking advantage of some limited opportunities and turning them into regular playing time.

 

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

Former Notre Dame All-American Jeff Burris joins Irish coaching staff

9 NOV 1991:  NOTRE DAME DEFENSIVE BACK JEFF BURRIS  RETURNS AN INTERCEPTION DURING THE IRISH 35-34 LOSS TO THE TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
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Jeff Burris is returning to Notre Dame, joining Brian Kelly’s coaching staff. The former consensus All-American, first-round draft pick and NFL veteran becomes the latest former Notre Dame star to return to campus and work under Brian Kelly.

The news had been rumored for a few months, but finally confirmed by the football program on Friday. Burris joins former Irish players Todd Lyght and Autry Denson in the coaching ranks, while Ron Powlus works in player development and David Grimes is an assistant strength and conditioning coach.

Burris is a South Carolina native who spent 10 years in the NFL after his Notre Dame career. He’s climbed the coaching ladder in his time after playing, spending the last three years working in the Miami Dolphins organization. He has a year of collegiate experience, coaching cornerbacks at UMass under former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar.

Burris was Notre Dame’s MVP in 1993, one of the school’s most talented teams in history. He intercepted 10 passes in his career, was one of the country’s best punt returners and also served as the team’s goal line running back, scoring 10 touchdowns on 29 career carries.

 

Irish A-to-Z: Miles Boykin

Boykin Rivals
Rivals - Yahoo!
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With a redshirt season complete and a wide-open receiving depth chart in front of him, Miles Boykin enters his sophomore season with a road to the field. One of Illinois’ top recruits and a physically gifted athlete, the offseason months will be vital in providing Boykin with the time to impress Mike Denbrock and the rest of the offensive brain trust.

A prototype for what Brian Kelly and company want in a boundary wide receiver, Boykin still needs some polish. But on a team with young, unproven talent, Boykin could serve as one of the standard-bearers.

 

MILES BOYKIN
6’3.5″, 225 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 81, WR

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

The Chicago Tribune’s Athlete of the Year, Boykin was a Semper Fidelis All-American with offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Florida and many others. He was a consensus four-star recruit. A first-team, All-State player. The Champaign News-Gazette’s Illinois Player of the Year.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2015): Did not see action.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Not too far off. It was better to save a year of eligibility than be used as a blocking wide receiver.

Physicality will likely dictate if Boykin sees the field this season, as it’s hard to see too many balls coming his way. But thinking back to how James Onwualu got on the field and how Daniel Smith was utilized, Boykin might not be the receiver with the biggest recruiting profile, but if the Irish plan on running with Malik Zaire and a talented offensive line and Boykin shows himself willing, he could be taking those snaps.

But to pin Boykin’s future as a blocker doesn’t do much service to his athletic traits. On Signing Day, Brian Kelly talked about the mismatches Boykin can creates. While it might take a season or two for the Irish to need Boykin to provide the offensive boost, it looks like Notre Dame has a good one in the Illinois native.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

I’m stepping back from the lofty comparison I made from last year (Michael Floyd) and appreciating the other one that I made—Maurice Stovall. Ultimately, that type of big-bodied receiver is more in line with what I think Boykin will do in South Bend.

That’s not to say Boykin won’t be a productive college player. (Stovall’s senior season is one of the more under appreciated in Irish history.) But with a lot of uncertainty at the outside receiver positions, we didn’t hear much from Boykin this spring. That’s certainly not a death blow to any future potential, but it’s an indicator nonetheless.

With Corey Robinson‘s future still cloudy and the Irish entertaining the move of Alizé Jones to the boundary wide receiver spot, Boykin is playing a position where there’s opportunity. He’s also got the type that’s perfect for the position, a big, strong, physical kid that Kelly has already complimented after seeing him as a raw freshman in training camp.

That’s a good definition for upside. And at a position that’s been very productive during Kelly’s tenure in South Bend, that’s all you can ask for.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’ve got Boykin pegged for the 10 to 15 catch range, with outliers on either side being possible. The optimist in me sees the depth chart and his physical traits. The pessimist in me sees the other guys who have been given shots in front of him and the challenge of leaping someone like Jones or Robinson if he’s healthy and playing.

Ultimately, someone is going to step in and be a surprise at the position next year. We’ve assumed Torii Hunter Jr. will be the leading man. Kevin Stepherson was the freshman spring sensation. And Jones feels like the answer if Robinson isn’t going to be able to play after a series of concussions.

It’s easy to be a fan of Boykin if you watched him as a high schooler and saw his recruiting profile. Now it’ll be up to him to fight for a role at a position that’s one of the most unsettled on the roster.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux

Crable, Ismail and Taylor all on College Football Hall of Fame ballot

Rocket Getty
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Three former Notre Dame greats have the chance to be immortalized with college football’s highest honor. Linebacker Bob Grable, receiver-kick returner Raghib Ismail and offensive lineman Aaron Taylor are all on the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame ballot.  They’ll be among 75 former players and six former coaches.

Crable was a two-time, first-team, consensus All-American, earning the distinction in both 1980 and 1981, when he served as an Irish captain. He’s Notre Dame’s all-time leading tackler and his 26 tackles in a single game is still tied for an FBS record. This is Crable’s sixth appearance.

Ismail’s place in college football lore is well established. The two-time, first-team All-American won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award as well as The Sporting News’ College Football Player of the Year. He was the runner up for the Heisman Trophy in 1990 and set college football records by twice returning two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. He was the MVP of the 1990 Orange Bowl and helped the Irish to an 1988 national championship and had six career kick returns for touchdown. This is Ismail’s fifth ballot.

Taylor was a unanimous first-team All-American selection in 1993 as a tackle a year after earning consensus All-American honors as a junior at offensive guard. He won the Lombardi Award as a senior and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy that same year, and was a Lombardi finalist as a junior as well. He started 30 straight games to finish his career, serving as a captain in 1993 before being selected in the first round. This is the second time Taylor has been on the ballot.

Notre Dame has 45 former players and six former coaches enshrined in the Hall of Fame, more than any other school.

Irish A-to-Z: Parker Boudreaux

Parker Boudreaux BR
Bleacher Report (via Twitter)
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David Robinson. Jon Bon Jovi. Torii Hunter. Another celebrity is set to hit the Notre Dame sidelines this fall as incoming freshman—and social media phenomenon—Parker Boudreaux begins his college football career.

“You don’t know P-Money?” Brian Kelly cracked on Signing Day.

Boudreaux’s 56,000 Twitter followers come from a recruitment that had the hulking interior lineman unofficially amass more scholarship offers than any other player in the country (tough to prove, but a fun tidbit nonetheless). It saw him pick Notre Dame by pulling a school bus in a video produced by Bleacher Report.

Now he gets to be a freshman on an offensive line coached by Harry Hiestand.

Let’s take a look at what’s to come for the Florida native as he begins life as a college football player.

 

PARKER BOUDREAUX
6’3″, 300 lbs.
Freshman, OL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Boudreaux was a 4-star recruit per 247Sports with 70 offers before picking Notre Dame. He was a 5A state champion in Florida. Boudreaux was selected a MaxPreps first-team All-American, AP first-team All-State Florida, 5A Florida Athletic Coaches Association Player of the Year. Tom Lemming ranked him the No. 45 player nationally. He played in the Blue Grey All-American Bowl.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

It’s hard to see a scenario where Boudreaux doesn’t wear a redshirt this season. While he certainly looks to have the strength needed to survive as a freshman along the offensive line, it appears the Irish will be just fine with him watching and learning—maybe even taking a few lessons from Quenton Nelson, another confident, brawling offensive guard who was cherry picked by Hiestand from a national list of suitors.

But Boudreaux isn’t as long or large as Nelson, and he profiles closer to Tristen Hoge than any of the tackles that transitioned inside under Hiestand. That makes him a candidate to play center as well, simply because there’s always a need to find interior linemen who can snap the football.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Ultimately, you’ve got to see an offensive lineman at work before you make a determination on his future. Some guys have a knack for playing beyond their physical means (Zack Martin) while others can have all the physical tools but struggle to put it all together. There’s a reason that Boudreaux had scholarship offers from just about every major program in the country. And it wasn’t because of his online persona.

Jokes aside, Boudreaux’s personality is one that’ll serve him well as a college football player. That confidence should pay dividends as he tries fighting his way through a depth chart filled with linemen that all had impressive offers and four stars next to their names. But humility will be important for Boudreaux to embrace as well. A freshman on the scout team is a long way from being one of the most followed high school football players on the internet. That’s a transition worth watching.

While I’m predicting a redshirt, the short-term future for Boudreaux is exciting nonetheless. He’ll be on an offensive line that’ll have two standout NFL prospects (Nelson and Mike McGlinchey) and if he’s able to impress this summer, he might even have a chance to find his way into a depth chart fight at a still uncertain right guard spot.

With Nelson, McGlinchey, Alex Bars, Hunter Bivin and Sam Mustipher all veterans, there’s opportunity sooner than later up front. Don’t be surprised if P-Money already knows that and has plans for big things sooner than later.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book