Keith Arnold

Notre Dame opener against Texas shifted to Sunday, September 4


A season-opening game against Texas is about to get even bigger. The Longhorns athletic department announced that they’ve adjusted the date of their game against Notre Dame, moving it back to Sunday, September 4, to take advantage of a national time slot on Labor Day weekend.

Texas men’s athletic director Mike Perrin released the following statement:

“When you hear Texas Longhorns and Notre Dame Fighting Irish it grabs everyone’s attention,”  Perrin said. “That’s a historic sporting event that fans worldwide want to see. This schedule provides a wonderful opportunity to play the game in an exclusive window so everyone can see it. We discussed it quite a bit and took into account all of the factors in making the decision. Now we are thrilled to take part in this showcase opportunity for both of the schools, our teams and passionate fans. In a weekend full of key college football match-ups across the country, these great institutions and storied programs will meet at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in a stand-alone spot on the college football calendar. That is tremendously exciting for all of us involved.”

The opening weekend of college football often features high-profile match-ups mixed in with some softer scheduling. Saturday already features USC and Alabama facing off at AT&T Stadium in Dallas and Wisconsin playing LSU in Lambeau Field. Other intriguing non-conference games include UCLA at Texas A&M.

With Monday night featuring Ole Miss versus Florida State in the Citrus Bowl, moving Notre Dame-Texas to Sunday gives the Longhorns and Irish center stage on Sunday.

Kickoff hasn’t been set, but Texas has announced it’ll be an evening start. The Irish blew out Texas last year to open the 2015 season, winning 38-3.

No surprise, but Kelly confirms QB battle won’t end this spring


Brian Kelly confirmed what many of us knew all along. No resolution to a spirited quarterback battle is coming soon.

On Wednesday, Kelly caught up with the media to talk about the progress made during the Irish’s first 10 spring practices. And with all eyes on the quarterback battle between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer, Kelly acknowledged that they weren’t close to deciding anything.

“I don’t think we’ll make a decision after spring,” Kelly said.

And with that, a battle that we thought might go all the way up until Texas week just essentially got extended until at least fall camp—with Kelly explaining in one sentence why the decision is a difficult one.

“The two quarterbacks are really good players,” Kelly continued. “Each one of them has different things they need to work on.”

For Zaire, it’s learning some of the many things he missed during a regular season that ended after six quarters. That’s turned spring into an installation and learning period for the veteran of the depth chart, something that wasn’t necessarily unexpected.

“I think one thing we’re realizing is we did a lot of things offensively that we did not do with Malik in camp that we did as we evolved offensively during the year. There’s a lot of things he’s doing for the first time,” Kelly said.

Pair that with returning from a significant injury and shaking off the rust—things that impact basics like footwork and balance—and it makes it very difficult to measure these quarterbacks apples to apples.

“It’s hard to evaluate strictly who’s ahead of who because we’re installing for him,” Kelly said.

Kizer’s spring has a different flavor. After putting together one of the more impressive debut seasons in recent memory, the bar has been raised by the staff as they ask Kizer to be more than just a complementary part to the offense.

“For DeShone, it’s what I’ve talked about before. It’s across the board reads, it’s red zone efficiency. It’s consistency,” Kelly said.

With two quarterbacks and one football, Kelly knows that he faces a difficult decision. Even if the flavor of this battle is much different than the one that took place last season, it’ll still leave one quarterback on the sideline serving as a backup, hardly the expectation for two competitive kids.

“They’re both No. 1s. They both probably can’t play at the same time,” Kelly acknowledged. “One’s going to have to be the starter and somebody’s going to be unhappy, but I can’t keep them all happy. We’re not going to go into the season with a team that does not have an identity. We’re going to have an identity as to who we are and that doesn’t mean we can’t play more than one quarterback. But we’ll have a quarterback and we’ll get that established.”

Notre Dame mailbag: Now Open

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 3: Members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish gather prior to the game against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)

Questions with spring practice winding down? Drop them below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

(If there’s interest, we also might hold a video mailbag at Facebook. Throw in your votes for that, too.)

Ronnie Stanley signs first-ever NFL endorsement deal with Zappos

Notre Dame v Syracuse
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Ronnie Stanley has signed a major endorsement deal with a shoe company. But unlike most professional athletes, the brand he chooses won’t matter.

That’s because Stanley’s signing with Zappos, one of the internet’s top-selling shoe and apparel retailers. ESPN’s Darren Rovell broke the news, getting this money quote from Stanley.

“Most guys do a shoe deal and they don’t have any flexibility because they are tied to who paid them,” Stanley said. “I can do whatever I want.”

The deal came from Stanley’s representatives at Roc Nation, the agency founded by Jay Z, who also represent C.J. Prosise and former ND hoops star Skylar Diggins. It’s a deal that seems like a product of the unique personality Stanley possesses, and the shared roots the potential top-10 pick has with the billion-dollar company headquartered in his hometown of Las Vegas.

From Rovell’s report:

“It was originally just about getting Ronnie in front of guys who are at the top of their game in terms of tech, which he is interested in, and to start a relationship founded on leadership, motivation and community,” Roc Nation president Michael Yormark said. “But, at the end, we talked about the traditional way athletes are marketed with their shoe and apparel deals and felt it made sense to work together to try something different.”

Jeff Espersen, general manager of merchandising for Zappos, said the deal with Stanley represents the first time they’ve had an endorser for the site.

“This is very much unknown territory for us,” Espersen said. “But as people who are deeply involved with Las Vegas, we’ve followed Ronnie’s amazing career to where he is today. He’s a good person, and like us, he wants to be very involved in the community.”

Stanley was Notre Dame’s offensive player of the year and earned consensus All-American honors. He’ll graduate this May, leaving a season of eligibility behind.



Injury in the clear, Alex Bars finding home at right tackle

Notre Dame offensive line

After putting together one of the school’s most productive offensive lines, Notre Dame needs to find three new starters to step in for Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Steve Elmer. Spring has already revealed Brian Kelly and Harry Hiestand’s intentions of playing rising junior Sam Mustipher at center. And after a time-consuming recovery from a broken ankle suffered last season, it appears that rising junior Alex Bars is looking like the answer at right tackle.

Bars landing on the edge is likely the type of decision that solves any remaining calculus up front for the Irish. Especially as a new-look left side of the offensive line featuring the monstrous duo of Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson takes hold.

Kelly raised more than a few eyebrows when he mentioned that Nelson weighed 346 pounds—a number dialed back by Hiestand and Notre Dame’s sports information department. But whatever the number may be, any reservations Kelly has about the transition of McGlinchey from right tackle to the left side have been eliminated.

“The left side is crystal clear,” Kelly said. “Those two players are really good. Mike’s been our most efficient blocker and Quenton is in the best physical shape that he’s been in. He’s a rare football player.”

The opposite side still needs clarifying, though Bars fitting in at tackle helps this group come into focus. It also allows us to better understand what this line will look like come an early-September business trip to Austin.

Bars has always had the ability to play tackle, catching Kelly’s eye as a true freshman on the scout team. But with limited depth on the outside, the 6-foot-6, 320-pounder can also solidify a rare roster deficiency that’ll be patched up once promising freshman Tommy Kraemer gets to campus.

“He needs to play tackle,” Hiestand acknowledged on Monday. “We have to have guys that can protect on the edge at tackle when the game comes down to that…Alex has to be able to do that for us. It’s been a process to get Alex back off that broken ankle. We’re kind of progressing in and not overloading him too soon.”

With Bars settling in, that moves the focus to right guard. Seniors Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin seem to have separated themselves from rising sophomore Tristen Hoge. McGovern has gotten healthy after a concussion forced him out of practice. Bivin will have cross-over ability, capable of serving as a back-up at tackle and giving the Irish “three guys for two spots” with both veterans set to see their first substantial playing time in their career.

“If they’re even, they’re both going to play because they’re both good enough to help us,” Hiestand said.