Keith Arnold

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 11: Jarron Jones #94 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes against Jon Heck #71 of the North Carolina Tar Heels at Notre Dame Stadium on October 11, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jarron Jones has responded to Brian Kelly’s challenge

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Jarron Jones knows he needs to be better. Better shape. Better effort. Better leadership.

Brian Kelly made that challenge public before camp opened. And after some struggles this spring with all those critical facets, through the first week of training camp, the Irish head coach noticed that Jones has taken his challenge and run with it.

“We’ve seen more out of him,” Kelly said over the weekend. “I would tell Jarron right now if he were sitting here that he’s changed that perception of the numbers of reps because of the way he’s practiced and the way he’s handled the load.”

When Kelly tabbed Jones as a 20-to-30-snap player before camp opened, it raised eyebrows. Because as a talent, Jones is not a part-time player. He’s a guy that has the potential to be a true impact defender. That’s who we saw two seasons ago in Tallahassee, where Jones destroyed the interior of Florida State’s offensive line.

But Jones is not that same football player any more. And the challenge this August has been to put the two injuries he suffered since that game behind him, allowing him to get back to the player who looked like an All-American, not Daniel Cage’s backup.

As Jones began the final training camp of his collegiate career, he admitted that he spent the spring more worried about the multitude of injuries he suffered, not working back into form.

“I let injuries get the best of me. It was two freak accidents,” Jones said from Culver Academy. “Both of them. When you have two freak accidents, it gets to you. It gets in your head.”

But the progress Kelly spoke of on Saturday is validated not just by the eyeball test but by raw data. As Notre Dame’s sports science commitment continues, Jones has been outfitted with GPS monitoring and Catapult technology, the staff seeing in real-time the commitment he has towards pushing through the physical grind of camp and committing to the team.

“He had a little bit of a foot sprain which would have sidetracked him in years past,” With our GPS system and Catapult now, those numbers don’t lie. He’s maintained a heavy workload even with a slight foot sprain.”

Now the challenge is continuing that effort—reclaiming not just his health, but a spot in the starting lineup.

“It’s just trying to prove myself and get my role back,” Jones told Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman. “Right now Daniel is the number one at nose because I didn’t have a good spring, so I am just trying to prove myself to them.”

If Jones puts in the effort, the rest will take care of itself. CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler confirms what most Irish fans already know—that NFL scouts took notice of Jones’ big 2014 season. So if the veteran can stay healthy and work past the lingering impact of two bad injuries, Kelly and the defensive staff will find him all the snaps he can handle.

“I feel like I can be the best defensive tackle in the country,” Jones said.

 

Irish A-to-Z: Durham Smythe

Durham Smythe
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Notre Dame’s tight end depth chart is topped by Durham Smythe. And a season after suffering a hard-luck year, the senior hopes to pick up the slack Alizé Jones’ ineligibility leaves behind.

A capable blocker who also has the ability to get open down the field, Smythe’s hoping to finally put together a season where opportunity meets the senior head on. Entering his fourth year in the program, Smythe’s trajectory is similar to Torii Hunter’s, talent ahead of production thus far.

 

DURHAM SMYTHE
6’4.5″, 245 lbs.
Senior, TE, No. 80

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

An early commitment to in-state Texas, Smythe flipped to Notre Dame after getting to campus in January. He was a four-star prospect who also kicked the tires on a Stanford offer before choosing the Irish.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action, preserving a year of eligibility.

Sophomore Season (2014): Played in all 13 games for the Irish. Made one catch, a seven-yarder against Arizona State.

Junior Season (2015): Started three games, the season-opener against Texas and Virginia before suffering two injuries that ended his regular season. Returned for the Fiesta Bowl, finishing the year with three catches, including a touchdown against Virginia.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

He never had a chance to live up to these modest expectations.

If Koyack caught 30 balls last season, I think we should put the ceiling around 20 for Smythe, especially considering the variety the Irish have at the position, not to mention the other weapons that exist in the passing game.

But maybe calibrating Smythe’s season by catches isn’t exactly the fairest way to look at things. Especially when he’ll need to prove he can be a competent blocker at the point-of-attack if he’s going to be the starter at the position.

Everything we’ve heard through spring ball and the early days of fall camp have the staff believing Smythe can handle that role. But with so many new variables in the Irish offensive attack, it’ll be up to Smythe to prove he can stay on the field, and then anything else that comes of it should be gravy.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Some believe that Smythe is capable of being the type of frontline tight end the Irish seem to turn out year after year. I’m more a see-it-to-believe-it type, but there’s certainly a very productive football player here if Smythe can make it through a season.

The loss of Jones might impact Nic Weishar more than it does Smythe, who was always the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 guy as a traditional tight end even before Jones shifted outside to wide receiver in the spring. But even if this position will be an ensemble, Smythe will lead the team in snaps played.

More do-everything tight end than dynamic matchup challenge like a Tyler Eifert or Troy Niklas, it’s no slam on Smythe to not be held to the same freakish standard of that duo. He’s got a chance to be a very good player on a very capable offense.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’m sticking with similar projections to 2015 for Smythe, who may be asked to help out more in the running game, but is a rare veteran pass catcher on an offense counting on experience to keep things productive. That’ll likely mean more targets for Smythe as there are plenty of opportunities to go around. Even if he shares the load, it’ll lead to his breakout season, even if it’s a year later than expected.

If Smythe gets to 25 catches and scores a few times, it’ll be a nice year—with a fifth-year all but guaranteed. And if the Irish ground game continues to roll, it’ll be because Smythe did a great job as a versatile tight end, perhaps the most traditional of talents Scott Booker has had at the position since he took over.

 

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
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer
Julian Love
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Deon McIntosh
Javon McKinley
Pete Mokwuqh
John Montelus
D.J. Morgan
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Julian Okwara
James Onwualu
Spencer Perry
Troy Pride Jr.
Max Redfield
Isaac Rochell
Trevor Ruhland
CJ Sanders
Avery Sebastian
John Shannon

 

Irish A-to-Z: John Shannon

John Shannon247
Irish 247
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Notre Dame’s newest specialist is long snapper John Shannon. Brought in to replace Scott Daly after his eligibility is complete, Shannon is another recruited specialist at a job that often times is filled by walk-ons.

That hasn’t been Brian Kelly’s way of managing the roster, though. Joining a young unit led by Justin Yoon and Tyler Newsome, Shannon will spend the season added some bulk to his frame as he gets ready to replace one of the more overlooked players on the team.

 

JOHN SHANNON
6’1.5″, 220 lbs.
Freshman, No. 54, LS

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Shannon was ranked as 247’s number-one long snapper in the country. He was an Army All-American and had scholarship offers from West Virginia and Army before picking Notre Dame. Shannon is an Irish legacy, his grandfather Dan was a four-year starter in the 1950s.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

We’ve learned that Brian Kelly doesn’t mind using scholarships on special teams players, or snappers. We’ve also learned that when he takes aim and offers that specialist a scholarship, it’s usually well spent.

That’ll likely be the case for Shannon, who gets a season under his belt before sliding into the lineup. Notre Dame identified him as a recruit two years before Signing Day, getting a look at him on campus in a camp environment before offering him.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Unless Scott Daly’s injured, Shannon is redshirting. Saving that year of eligibility sets the Irish up perfectly for four seasons of Shannon after Daly came through the program perfectly as well, replacing scholarship snapper Jordan Cowart. It also allows Shannon more time to recover from a torn labrum, an injury he had repaired in January after playing in the Army Bowl.

With all the pedigree you want at the position, Shannon will be at his best when he’s not heard from. That’s easier said than done for long snappers.

 

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
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer
Julian Love
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Deon McIntosh
Javon McKinley
Pete Mokwuqh
John Montelus
D.J. Morgan
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Julian Okwara
James Onwualu
Spencer Perry
Troy Pride Jr.
Max Redfield
Isaac Rochell
Trevor Ruhland
CJ Sanders
Avery Sebastian

 

Redfield earns the praise of his head coach

Redfield 247
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The arrow is pointing up for Max Redfield. Notre Dame’s senior safety, a mercurial performer if there ever was one, has impressed his head coach this camp.

“I’ve been very pleased with Max Redfield. He has elevated to that level of consistent performer,” Brian Kelly said Thursday. “I hate to throw  kind of cliches around, but he’s been that guy that everybody was hoping for out of high school.”

Redfield, for those that have been under a rock the last four years, was a five-star recruit, pulled away from USC after playing in the Under Armour All-American game. With physical gifts that made him a prototype free safety from the moment he stepped onto campus, getting the physical and mental demands of the game to match his talent has been an ongoing challenge.

After bottoming out and being sent home from the Fiesta Bowl, then struggling to separate himself from true freshman Devin Studstill in spring drills, Redfield has taken the challenge given to him by Kelly and the defensive staff and run with it. And while Kelly wasn’t willing to comment on Redfield’s improved attitude and effort after day one of camp, he went to great lengths to talk about the consistency and effort that’s now coming through.

“He’s playing at that level. He’s at an elite level, the way he’s practicing, the way his volume has increased where he can go all day and play at a high level,” Kelly said.

Elite production from a safety would be a huge step for this defense. Not since Harrison Smith roamed centerfield in Kelly’s first two seasons in South Bend have the Irish had that type of weapon.

Redfield doesn’t need to be Smith for the Irish to be a good defense. But he does need to be a reliable player at a position where a mistake often turns into six points. In his final season at the college level, the light appears to have come on at the right time.

“He just matured,” Kelly explained, when asked about the change in attitude. “He went through a couple of rough spots and decided that being a leader, being in this last year, I’ve seen it over 26 years sometimes, it’s just, time. He’s been impressive.”

Dew-Treadway, Watkins to miss extended time

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Wide receiver Michael Thomas #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs with the ball as Nick Watkins #21 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish attempts to make a tackle during the first quarter of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. Buckeyes won 44-28. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s defensive depth took a hit this week as Micah Dew-Treadway and Nick Watkins both underwent surgical procedures. Dew-Treadway fractured his foot and is expected to miss eight weeks while Watkins had another surgery to help speed up his recovery from a broken arm.

Head coach Brian Kelly gave the injury updates after Thursday’s practice, Notre Dame’s first day back in South Bend after opening in Culver, Indiana.

Dew-Treadway wasn’t projected as part of the two-deep as he begins his second season in the program. But the additional surgery for Watkins is a setback for a player who was expected to compete for a starting job across from Cole Luke.

“Nick Watkins had a procedure to stimulate bone growth,” Kelly explained. “We’re hopeful that this procedure, which is you know a bit of an aggressive procedure, does the trick. We’re very hopeful that it will.”

With a timetable of four weeks, the Dallas native doesn’t appear to be on schedule to face off against Texas. But this staff clearly believes he’ll be a contributor on this defense, capable of winning the starting job when he’s back healthy.

Until then, young players will step into the role. Shaun Crawford and Nick Coleman appear to be the first candidates, with Crawford sliding inside to nickel. Ashton White also is having a strong camp after redshirting last season. True freshman Donte Vaughn will also likely be activated, a 6-foot-2 cover cornerback with a skill-set that’s unique on the roster.

“We feel we’re in pretty good shape,” Kelly said. “We feel like the depth that we’ve got there, it just means some freshmen will be elevated into a more prominent role.”