Keith Arnold

Property of the South Bend Tribune
Property of the South Bend Tribune

UPDATED: Tyler Luatua won’t transfer from Notre Dame

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UPDATE: Notre Dame confirmed that Tyler Luatua will return to the program. Both Luatua and Kelly released statements, as you can read below.

Notre Dame’s tight end depth chart might not be losing a man after all. Rising junior Tyler Luatua is reportedly reconsidering his decision to leave the Irish football program after announcing his intentions to transfer to BYU.

Luatua sat out spring football but stayed in school to finish the semester. But multiple outlets yesterday began to catch wind that the California native was reconsidering the decision, with classmate Andrew Trumbetti throwing gas on the first with this post:

Bringing Luatua back might not be a huge boost to the stat sheet, but he will be a nice cog in the running game as an attached blocker. (Our friends at Blue and Gold went deep on Luatua’s skill-set here.) While Durham Smythe—assuming he’s healthy—should have the bulk to hang tough in the trenches, that job now relies on converted defensive lineman Jacob Matuska, with Alizé Jones taking reps mostly at boundary receiver by the end of spring and Nic Weishar not there yet physically.

Luatua played in 10 games each of the past two seasons. Notre Dame has room in their scholarship count for him still, and doesn’t have an incoming tight end until the class of 2017 when Brock Wright and Cole Kmet are pledged to join the program.

Seven home games at Notre Dame in 2017

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 11:  Members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish run onto the field before a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Notre Dame Stadium on October 11, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Shamrock Series will take a break as Notre Dame plans on showing off their new digs. After incorporating a 6-5-1 scheduling paradigm with the annual neutral site game, athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed that the series will take a year off before rebooting in 2018.

“In 2017, the first year in which we will compete in the renovated stadium, we thought it was important to maximize the opportunity for our fans to attend a home game,” Swarbrick said in a statement. “We look forward to restoring the Shamrock Series tradition in 2018 and the years beyond.”

With the Campus Crossroads project set to reveal a transformed campus with Notre Dame Stadium now the focal point, the 2017 slate is now official locked in:

Sept. 2, 2017 — TEMPLE
Sept. 9, 2017 — GEORGIA
Sept. 16, 2017 — at Boston College
Sept. 23, 2017 — at Michigan State
Sept. 30, 2017 — MIAMI (Ohio)
Oct. 7, 2017 — at North Carolina
Oct. 14, 2017 — Bye Week
Oct. 21, 2017 — USC
Oct. 28, 2017 — NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Nov. 4, 2017 — WAKE FOREST
Nov. 11, 2017 — at Miami
Nov. 18, 2017 — NAVY
Nov. 25, 2017 — at Stanford

(All home games in CAPS)

Michigan State and Stanford set for primetime at Notre Dame

Te'o Victory Stanford
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Notre Dame will host two night kickoffs in 2016, with Michigan State and Stanford pegged for primetime. Two of the country’s finest teams from last season will visit South Bend and play under the lights in a still-to-be-finished Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish will kickoff against the Spartans on September 17 at 7:30 p.m. They’ll play at the same time on October 15 against the Cardinal before taking a week off and then welcome visiting Miami. Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series game against Army in the Alamodome will kickoff at 2:30 local time in San Antonio. All three games will be televised on NBC.

The complete Notre Dame schedule for 2016 is as follows. (All home games in CAPS with day time kickoffs set for 3:30 p.m. ET.)

Sept. 4 at Texas
Sept. 10 NEVADA
Sept. 17 MICHIGAN STATE
Sept. 24 DUKE
Oct. 1 vs. Syracuse (at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
Oct. 8 at North Carolina State
Oct. 15 STANFORD
Oct. 22 Bye Week
Oct. 29 MIAMI
Nov. 5 vs. Navy (EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 12 ARMY (Alamodome, San Antonio, TX)
Nov. 19 VIRGINIA TECH
Nov. 26 at USC

Path to the Draft: Sheldon Day

Sheldon Day, John Fadule
AP
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The final part of a post-draft series. See earlier work on Ronnie StanleyWill FullerJaylon SmithNick MartinKeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

 

SHELDON DAY
No. 103 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars

It didn’t take long for Notre Dame’s coaching staff to know they found a good one with Sheldon Day. From the moment Day stepped foot onto campus as an early-enrollee freshman, the staff’s eyes were open wide as they marveled at the complete package they landed in the Indianapolis native.

“The thing we love about him is not only his personality and who he is, but incredible motor, and a great work ethic,” head coach Brian Kelly said in his Signing Day press conference. “He is already here and we have gotten comments back from our strength and conditioning staff and Coach Longo about his work volume and his work ethic and enthusiasm for what he is doing. He’s a dynamic player, one of the best defensive linemen in the country, and he will immediately.”

Kelly sounded exactly like a coach who knew what he had. And it was true—Day found his way to being a key contributor on one of the best defenses in Notre Dame history, playing in all 13 games, making 23 tackles and notching two sacks playing behind Kapron Lewis-Moore.

But the next two seasons weren’t as kind to Day. Not because he wasn’t more productive, but because he couldn’t stay healthy. He started 11 games in each of the next two years, but battled to be on the field in even those games. While his skills and ability to disrupt an offensive line were clearly evident, his ability to stay on the field and work his way through the physical demands of the position weren’t.

Still, Day had put himself in a position to decide if he wanted to stay for his senior year or gamble on the NFL after just three seasons. And while draft analysts saw limited value in an undersized defensive tackle who couldn’t stay on the field, it didn’t take long for Kelly, athletic director Jack Swarbrick and strength coach Paul Longo to understand that Day was one of the key “six-star recruits” that the program needed to have in 2015.

A summit with Day and his mother took place. An analysis of Day’s skill-set and production accompanied a plan for Day to put together not just a monster final season in South Bend, but to make sure NFL teams saw what they saw in the undersized defensive tackle.

It worked.

“After talking with my family, friends and coaches at Notre Dame, I’ve decided to return for my senior year with the Irish,” Day announced in a written statement in January of 2015. “While the process leading up to this decision was difficult, ultimately my decision to return was easy. I love this school, my teammates and this coaching staff. I just felt it was in my best interest to play another year for Notre Dame.

“I believe we’ve got an opportunity to have a special season in 2015 and I wanted to be a part of that success. I was blessed to play in the national championship game as a freshman in 2012, and I want to do everything in my power to reach that stage again with my guys.”

Day’s ultimate goal of playing for a championship died when Stanford kicked a last-second field goal in the regular season finale. But there might not have been a player in the draft who did more for his stock than Day did his senior season.

A dominant force in the trenches, Day’s productivity was nearly unmatched in the country. PFF College charted plays of every game played last season, and Day graded out as the nation’s best defensive tackle. Just as important, he played in every game—gutting out a Fiesta Bowl week foot injury that had many worried he had suffered a major injury. It didn’t matter, Day gutted out 41 snaps on a bum wheel and was as productive as ever.

While he slid into the fourth round—the product of one of the deepest classes of defensive linemen in recent memory—Day’s selection at pick No. 103 couldn’t have happened without mutual buy in from the player and a coaching staff that had Mike Elston build Day’s technique from the start and Keith Gilmore finish it with new 4-3 techniques. Playing both three and four-man fronts was the perfect experience for Day, who’ll now have the chance to display his versatility in a system that’s know for just that.

A two-time captain and the lynchpin for Notre Dame’s reemergence as a recruiting force in Indianapolis, Day’s impact on the field was impressive, but his role off of it was profound. Whether it was mentoring Jerry Tillery (as seen so often on Showtime) or learning to lead from the front, Day’s development and success won’t soon be forgotten in South Bend.

Notre Dame may have had six players drafted ahead of Day. But none were more important to the program.

Path to the Draft: C.J. Prosise

Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise (20) runs past Georgia Tech defensive back Jamal Golden (4) for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. Notre Dame defeated Georgia Tech 30-22. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
AP
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Part six of the series. See earlier work on Ronnie StanleyWill FullerJaylon SmithNick Martin and KeiVarae Russell

C.J. Prosise
No. 90 overall to Seattle Seahawks

There are traditional paths to college football stardom. And then there’s C.J. Prosise’s.

Notre Dame’s third-rounder, now a key piece to the Seattle Seahawks’ reshuffled offensive puzzle, spent a long time trying to find the right fit in the Irish football program.

But Prosise’s athleticism was never in question. That’s what ultimately led Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly to pursuing the prep school athlete, a three-star prospect with modest offers.

“It was him dunking a basketball, I saw this athlete,” Kelly said last September. “And I said, ‘I don’t know where he’s going to play, but we’ve got to take him. We’ve just got to find a place for him to play.'”

Finding that place took some time. It was a journey that started at safety, a redshirt season spent learning Bob Diaco’s defense. Then there was the transition to receiver, and a quiet sophomore season where his biggest impact came on special teams.

Prosise showed hints of being a game-changing player as a junior. He earned Notre Dame’s special teams player of the year award, earned mostly for his impressive coverage work. But his 29 catches for 516 yards averaged more per play than even Will Fuller. After Prosise took a jet sweep to the house against LSU, it was likely all anybody on staff needed to see when they decided that Prosise would spend time in the spring cross-training at running back, just in case Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant needed a break in 2015.

A break turned into a breakthrough for both the Irish and Prosise. Notre Dame got three carries from Folston and Bryant last season, proving the move of Prosise to the backfield a brilliant one.

And after slowly finding his fit in the defensive backfield or at receiver, Prosise took to running back immediately, showcasing his game-breaking skills with the ball in his hands and a quick comfort at the position, even as he was learning on the fly.

The jump to the NFL robs Kelly and his staff from finishing their job developing Prosise as a player. And make no mistake, there’s work to be done. Prosise still needs work on his pad level. His short-yardage success left much to be desired. But those things can be taught. The ability to turn five yards into fifty? Not so much.

That’s also what makes him such an intriguing prospect. With Seattle needing to replace Marshawn Lynch, the lack of wear on Prosise, not to mention the versatility in his game, add new dynamics to an offense that needs to surround Russell Wilson with playmakers. And with a degree already in hand and Folston back along with Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, Prosise thought it was the right time to jump on the chance to head to the NFL.

Is he ready? Pete Carroll sure thinks so.

“He has a tremendous range of ability,” Carroll said during rookie camp. “Going into this draft I was hoping we were going to get this guy so that we can do the things that we can do with him. I don’t mind saying this because it’s not going to take us very long to show it—he is a guy that you can line up out of the backfield as a wide receiver, and he can line up in the backfield and run the football and beat you there too.”

 

It took three seasons for C.J. Prosise to find his footing and one to become a star. It’s another success story for Notre Dame’s coaching staff.