<span class="vcard">Keith Arnold</span>

North Carolina v Notre Dame

Fall camp mailbag: Moving on after bad news

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So the Irish received their first bit of bad news in the 2015 season. Defensive tackle Jarron Jones is lost for the year and the Notre Dame defense will need to collectively replace Jones’ sizable place in the middle of the Irish defense.

I’ll start this mailbag off with a question I’ve seen thrown around the web the past few days:

 

On a scale of 1-to-10, how badly does Jarron Jones’ injury hurt Notre Dame’s defense?

I’m going to put it at a six out of 10. As I look at the defense, here are the player, in order, that the Irish can’t afford to lose. And as you can see, for as good as Jones could be, I don’t think he’s at the top of the list.

  1. Jaylon Smith
  2. Joe Schmidt
  3. KeiVarae Russell
  4. Max Redfield
  5. Cole Luke
  6. Sheldon Day
  7. Jarron Jones

 

You could probably debate this list—and really, it’s one of those arbitrary lists you write just because you have to when a situation like this comes up—but the loss of Jones’ talent and experience was painful, but there’s depth around him to make up for it.

Now getting to that point…

 

mediocrebob: If you had to pick one true freshman defensive player to break out and play a big role , who would it be and why? Offensive true frosh?

Even before this injury, my answer was Jerry Tillery. I just think he’s too talented to keep off the field. Throw in Jones’ injury and Tillery is going to get as much work as he can handle.

Offensively, I think I’m going with Equanimeous St. Brown. I was tempted to list CJ Sanders here, but ultimately, I think EQ is going to take the role of designated down-field threat, following in the long line of greats like Golden Tate and Will Fuller.

 

mattymill: We are always enamored with the new freshmen. I haven’t read the questions above, but I’m sure there are some asking who the breakout frosh will be. I’m wondering who will be the breakout soph that either didn’t play or didn’t contribute much last year? 2012 we had Golson, last year was Fuller. Who fits that bill in 2015? 

Good guess, Matt.

I’ll give you one on offense and one on defense. Offensively, I’ll go with Nic Weishar. He’s lit up fall camp and he is also taking advantage of nagging injuries that have slowed down Alizé Jones and Durham Smythe. It sounds like he’s a ball hawk and it also sounds like he’s developed quite a rapport with Malik Zaire. So keep an eye on Weishar.

Defensively, I’ll say Jonathon Bonner if I’m going with someone who hasn’t seen the field and Daniel Cage if I need to pick someone who has. Both are likely moving one-step closer to the field after the injury to Jarron Jones.

 

coachtemp: Keith, are you concerned as I am with who will actually call plays? After listening to Coach Denbrock, he said all three coaches work well together but he didn’t indicate who would actually be calling the plays. 

Sorry Temp, I just can’t get too worked up about this. I know you’d like Mike Sanford to call the plays on Saturdays but right now he’s been working in Kelly’s offense for a total of nine months. That’s just not enough experience, especially when Kelly is a 20-plus year veteran offensive playcaller and Denbrock is the most experienced assistant on Kelly’s staff.

Listen, I think it’s completely fair to be skeptical as to how this whole three-headed monster is going to work out. But I also don’t think it’s much of a leap to think that a guy like Denbrock and a young coach like Sanford can get along and find common ground. I truly believe him when he says “best idea wins,” and I think that it’ll be nice to see what that looks like.

 

irishfaithful666: After watching the highlights from the magical 2012 season, one thing stood out the most to me. When it was a big third down, with the game on the line one player consistently pulled through. Theo Riddick. Who do you see as the guy this year? Folston, Prosise, or Zaire? Also some big time clutch receptions were made by one T J Jones. Do we have these go to guys that can get it done when it matters most?

I’ll agree that Riddick definitely made his share of big plays. And he was rock solid against USC down the stretch. That said, I think this team is way better equipped for guys who can step up and make a play than the 2012 team was, especially on offense.

In the running game, I think Tarean Folston is a better all-around back than anybody on the 2012 team and C.J. Prosise has speed that nobody on the 2012 offense had. And while I think you might be getting the 2013 season mixed up when you mention TJ Jones, I’d take Will Fuller over Jones already and likely would also trust someone like Corey Robinson on 3rd-and-Need It over any receiver on the 2012 team minus Tyler Eifert.

 

 

 

 

sblxdoc: Why is it so difficult to get an elite pass rusher to Notre Dame? I ask this with complete sincerity, do you think there is a correlation with that position and academics/intelligence? It is so bizarre that we haven’t had this for years.

I’ll challenge the “we haven’t had this for years,” comment, considering in 2012 Stephon Tuitt was near the nation’s lead for sacks and nearly broke Justin Tuck’s single-season record. But I get your point in general, though I’ll point out that not every team—not even elite teams—have a speed demon coming off the edge.

(Go look at the Alabama team that knocked ND out in the opening minutes of the BCS title game.)

Sure, there’s been some bad luck at the position. (Lynch transferred, the slew of unproven kids that just took off, too.) But I think if Notre Dame’s defense plays like it’s capable of this season, there’s going to be a defensive end that jumps off the stat sheet for the Irish this season, and I also think Notre Dame is going to flip a big name pass rusher as we get closer to Signing Day.

This defensive scheme should help recruit better edge rushers. But Kelly has mentioned it more than once: Most teams don’t get to the quarterback with just a great pass rusher at defensive end. So expect the Irish to manufacture some of their pressure until they’re able to find the right guy.

 

ndrocks2: Keith is the next ND player on our roster who will get 10 sacks in a season?

If VanGorder wants to turn Jaylon Smith into a 10-sack player, he can be it this season. Otherwise, I could see someone like Okwara exploding during his senior season or possible Sheldon Day, who’ll get some chances to rush the passer from the edge.

Andrew Trumbetti should have that ability come 2016, and I also think we need to see how someone like Jon Bonner does now that he’s activated.

 

@JMSet3: When back on campus do you use Eddy St Bookstore or keep it old school and stick to campus store?

If it’s a game weekend, I’m staying out of both of them. I tried finding gloves during the freezing rain against Stanford and both were complete zoos.

But I’ll be on campus Monday evening and Tuesday for media day, and I’ll probably hit up the book store, just because it’s “more authentic.” But I would point out that the true “old school” bookstore is long gone…

 

padomer: Not entirely training camp related however a suggestion/request…I know you’re probably stretched thin, but have you ever considered a podcast? ISD and BnG are the only ND podcasts I’ve found (and thoroughly enjoy them) but this is probably my first click when it comes to ND news, I think a podcast would be a lot of fun and something the rest of your followers (as well as yourself) may enjoy. Thoughts?

I love podcasts. I’ve thought long and hard about doing one, but more often than not, I’m mostly just a guest on them.

I think the podcasts you mentioned are good ones. I was also just a guest on Irish Sports Radio and I think the guys at One Foot Down and Her Loyal Sons do them, too. But do yourself a favor and check out Irish Illustrated’s podcast. Pete, Tim (and now Tim O.) do a great job and drop a lot of insider knowledge.

 

Jones lost for season with knee injury

Notre Dame v Syracuse
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Notre Dame has lost defensive tackle Jarron Jones for the season. The senior defensive tackle suffered an MCL injury that’ll require surgery, Irish head coach Brian Kelly confirmed on Saturday.

Jones has a fifth year of eligibility remaining and can return to the Irish in 2016, something he pointed to on a recent Instagram post. Then, he’ll be joined on campus by his younger brother Jamir, who will be a freshman next season after committing to the Irish a few months ago.

The loss of Jones forces Brian VanGorder’s defense to make a significant adjustment to its defensive line. One option could be starting true freshman Jerry Tillery in Jones’ spot, where the young standout impressed this spring. Another could be sliding Isaac Rochell inside, then putting Andrew Trumbetti and Romeo Okwara at the two defensive end spots.

Regardless of how the Irish plan to fill Jones’ sizeable shoes, the loss is a difficult one to a front four that was planning on pairing Jones with fellow senior Sheldon Day. But after Jones and Day both suffered injuries last season, the Irish were forced to develop depth, and this injury will trigger larger contributors from players like Daniel CageJay Hayes, and Pete Mokwuah.

Jones took to Instagram to write the following:

“Next year. Pick up where we left off and get back at it. Still our year. Notre Dame’s new biggest cheerleader! We still outchea and I’m gonna enjoy this ride with my brothers! #Team127”

 

Irish receive commitment from 2017 OL Joshua Lugg

Rivals.com
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Harry Hiestand has all but completed his 2016 recruiting work, landing the trio of Tommy Kraemer, Parker Boudreaux and Liam Eichenberg. Now he’s nearly halfway done with his work for the 2017 class as well.

Pennsylvania offensive lineman Joshua Lugg is the latest blue-chipper to pledge to Hiestand and Notre Dame, with the six-foot-seven, 280-pounder making the decision yesterday. He chose Notre Dame over Penn State, Michigan State, Tennessee, Wisconsin and UCLA.

Lugg took to Twitter to shut down his recruitment, picking Notre Dame nearly 18 months before Signing Day in February, 2017.

***

Lugg joins Florida offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons and Texas tight end Brock Wright in the 2017 class, a group that’s looking to add Indiana quarterback Hunter Johnson to the mix. Brian Kelly confirmed Lugg’s commitment with his #WeAreND tweet while offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mike Sanford send a pretty overt message to Johnson as well.

***

Lugg is a four-star recruit with the 247 composite listing him as a Top 200 prospect. He camped this summer in South Bend, earning his offer after working out at Notre Dame’s lineman camp.

***

 

 

Reports: DT Jarron Jones suffers serious knee injury

Jarron Jones, Treyvon Green
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Late Friday evening, rumors started swirling about a potentially serious knee injury to starting defensive tackle Jarron Jones. The senior from Rochester, New York, who is coming off a foot injury suffered late last season that required surgery, is a key building block to the Irish’s defensive front.

 

Most are reporting that the injury is serious, with multiple outlets (usually behind paywalls) citing sources that tell them Jones tore his ACL. If that is the case, the senior’s season is over before it started. There’s been some ambiguity in other reports, leaving a slice of hope that Jones’ 2015 season can be salvaged.

(I have not been able to confirm a season-ending injury or ACL tear.)

Whatever the case, expect some clarity later today, as Brian Kelly is meeting with the media after today’s practice. We’ll dig into what’s next for the defense after Notre Dame’s head coach gives us an update.

Irish A-to-Z: Drue Tranquill

Matthias Farley, Drue Tranquill, Kyle Prater
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A surprisingly productive freshman season was cut short when Drue Tranquill tore his ACL against Louisville, another season-ending injury that derailed the Irish defense. But Tranquill’s recover has been nothing short of miraculous, and is a telling detail about the work ethic and impressive physicality of the Indiana native.

Held back during spring practice, Tranquill was ready to compete less than five months removed from major knee surgery. Now nearly nine months after the procedure, Tranquill will attack his sophomore season the same way he has rehab and his early playing experience.

Let’s take a look at Notre Dame’s jumbo safety.

 

DRUE TRANQUILL
6’1.5″, 225 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 23, S

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A tweener at the next level, Tranquill’s offer list consisted of mostly MAC and lower-tier Big Ten offers until Notre Dame came calling. Most believed that the Irish saw Tranquill as an answer at inside linebacker, with many doubting his ability to run as a pure safety in the secondary. That didn’t sit well with the Fort Wayne native, who was recruited to be a safety by Purdue.

Ultimately, Brian Kelly found room for Tranquill (the Irish were full at safety), and it didn’t take long to get the Purdue commitment to flip.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in 11 games, starting three before tearing his ACL against Louisville. Made 33 tackles, one TFL, one interception and recovered a fumble. Was named Notre Dame’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Going to tip my cap to myself. But even though I was high on Tranquill, I didn’t see him immediately finding a spot in Notre Dame’s sub packages. (And for those of you wondering, Grootegoed is former USC All-American Matt Grootegoed, a way-too-small linebacker/safety tweener.)

No, I’m not predicting Tranquill to be the next Grootegoed. But for all the umbrage that comes from Kelly and the Irish staff sticking to their convictions on a prospect that may only garner three stars, consider the fact that this staff made a living and built a reputation on finding and identifying below-the-radar athletes who can find a way to thrive on the football field.

A football program may be led by stars like Jaylon Smith and Greg Bryant, but it’s built on the backs of players like Tranquill. Physically, Tranquill looks the part of a college-ready athlete, a workout warrior that came to campus developed and ready to contribute.

That should get him some work as a gunner covering kicks, while he continues to learn the nuances of playing in space at the college level, a world of difference from Indiana high school football. Ultimately, Tranquill will get his chance to find a role in VanGorder’s sub packages. But for now, getting on the field and wreaking havoc on special teams should be enough.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

As we saw when Tranquill was thrown into the starting lineup, there’s still a lot of work to do for him to be a half-field safety. Multiple times, receivers got behind him, especially against Northwestern. And while it’s hardly fair to reach conclusions on Tranquill’s ceiling when blue-chippers like Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate struggled too, it’s fair to question Tranquill’s ability in space and if he can succeed as an every down player.

But instead of focusing on his limitations, Tranquill also presents some really intriguing options for VanGorder and the Irish defense. This is a guy who is absolutely huge—chiseled from granite and everything you want from an in-the-box safety from a size and physicality perspective.

After quickly grasping his role in dime and exotic packages, Tranquill should easily step back into the 3rd down mix, while also serving as the key backup behind Shumate. From there, he’s got all the opportunities to prove he’s Notre Dame’s next starting strong safety.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

If he’s given the opportunity, Tranquill will make plays. That’s not to say you should expect to see him flying across the back-end of the secondary and snatching footballs from center field, but rather expect to see some paint-chips flying and Tranquill doing his best heat-seeking missile impression.

A defense needs football players like Tranquill. So do Notre Dame’s special teams. After hearing Kelly rave about Tranquill’s rehabilitation (he “attacked it” like no other player he’s seen, per BK), it’s clear that the sophomore will be ready come Texas.

I’m skeptical that Tranquill can play as a back-end safety. So while his role as an every-down player won’t come unless something goes wrong, Tranquill should be a productive performer for the defense, a key to the unit on third downs.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL
Jerry Tillery, DL