Keith Arnold

Campus Insiders: Key Fiesta Bowl Matchups

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Fiesta Bowl game week is finally here.

To give us an early look at some of the key matchups as Notre Dame and Ohio State prepare to face off, Cris and Austin Collinsworth hop into the PFF Studio and talk about some of the serious star power that’ll be on the field in Phoenix.

 

 

ND receives commitment from CB Troy Pride Jr.

Troy Pride Jr
Rivals
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Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew to 21 on Christmas Eve, as South Carolina defensive back Troy Pride Jr. committed to the Irish on Thursday afternoon. Picking Notre Dame over offers from South Carolina, North Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee, Ole Miss and a previous commitment to Virginia Tech, Pride Jr. is the seventh defensive back in the class, closing up a position group that was a point of emphasis in this cycle.

Pride took to Twitter today to make the move official.

The six-foot, 170-pound coverman visited Notre Dame in mid-October, taking his official visit to watch the Irish beat USC. After walking away from his commitment to the Hokies, Pride kicked the tires on multiple schools—with a late offer by Clemson piquing Pride’s interest—before ultimately deciding to take the last defensive back spot in the class. He has no plans to make any other visits.

“That was why I took my time with the process,” Pride told Tom Loy of Irish 247. “I wanted to end it when I made my commitment. I took my time, thought about everything, and realized that my future is at the University of Notre Dame.”

Pride will take part in the Shrine Bowl before signing with the Irish in February.

 

Prosise on track for Fiesta Bowl return

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Running back C.J. Prosise is on pace to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Brian Kelly updated the local media on Wednesday and revealed that the team’s leading rusher was a non-contact participant in the team’s final two practices in South Bend.

“He is getting better. I think he’s probably at the point where I think when we get to Arizona, we will be able to pick him up and accelerate him to contact situations,” Kelly said.

Notre Dame’s players and coaches will take a break for the Christmas holiday before reuniting in Scottsdale for Fiesta Bowl preparations. Having Prosise available would add another versatile weapon to the Irish’s offensive attack. Yet while Kelly’s updates from head trainer Rob Hunt appear as if everything is on track for Prosise’s return, it isn’t hard to figure out that there are still some lingering issues for Notre Dame’s 1,000-yard rusher.

 

“I think we will have to push him into a threshold of feeling confident in cutting and things of that nature,” Kelly explained. “He’s had enough time to be where we need him to be and we just have to get him over that hump of feeling like structurally he could do something. I think by the time we get into next week, we should have a really good feel of where he is.”

Confidence is a key to Prosise’s game. After getting off to a fast start, the second half of Prosise’s season was derailed by injuries. Held to a season-low of just 25 yards on 14 carries against Temple, Prosise suffered a concussion and a shoulder injury against Pittsburgh that kept him off the field against Wake Forest.

While Prosise returned against Boston College and was averaging over seven yards a carry in the first half (most came on a 31-yard gain), he looked tentative running against the Eagles even before he wrenched his ankle. He was held out of the Stanford game, where freshman Josh Adams ran for 168 yards and DeShone Kizer added 128 on 16 carries.

 

 

 

Both Irish and Buckeyes see similarities in offensive styles

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As Notre Dame’s defense prepares to take on Ohio State, Brian Kelly has talked about the similarities between the Irish’s offense and the system Urban Meyer deploys. Turns out, the Buckeyes coaching staff thinks the same thing.

More than a few Irish fans raised an eyebrow when Kelly made the comments last week. Whether that’s because of what Meyer’s done over the past decade at Florida and now at Ohio State or the fact that the coaches’ preferred modes of matriculation differ between ground and air.

On paper, nobody will confuse the two outfits. The Buckeyes currently have the 104th best passing offense in America, powered by a running game that rumbles for 242 yards a game and an impressive 5.66 yards per carry. The Irish have thrown for over 3,000 yards this season, one of just eight offenses to break that threshold and still run for 2,500 yards.

Still, Kelly’s comparison is one being made by Ohio State’s defensive coaches. And a group that’s transitioning out co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash—on his way to Rutgers to be head coach with former Scarlett Knights head man Greg Schiano joining the Buckeyes staff after the bowl game—sees a familiarity that both teams think can help them prepare for the challenge awaiting on New Year’s Day.

“For us, this is one of the more similar games to what our offense does,” co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “They still run the ball and run it very well. They will also run the quarterback. But they might line up in empty a little more and drop-back pass a little bit more.”

Ohio State’s defense has been one of the best units in the country this season, allowing just 14 points a game. But they also have Ash working double-time, building his Rutgers staff and a recruiting class as he prepares for Notre Dame’s offense.

As the Irish look for areas to attack, they might see a front four that’s a bit undermanned. With All-Big Ten defensive tackle Adolphus Washington suspended and fifth-year journeyman starter Tommy Schutt likely out with an injury, a front four that’s already been susceptible to a good running game might show some weakness against the Irish offensive line.

While Harry Hiestand’s group (or Ronnie Stanley, more appropriately) needs to find a way to slow down All-American Joey Bosa, they’ll face off against a talented front, but one that’s still young and learning on the go.

 

 

 

Jarron Jones ready to (finally) make his impact

Notre Dame v Syracuse
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Earlier this week we speculated about the role senior nose guard Jarron Jones would play against Ohio State. After meeting with the local media on Monday, it might be time to adjust those predictions.

The 315-pound defensive lineman missed the entire regular season because of a knee injury suffered in August. But Jones declared himself ready to play against Ohio State, hoping to give the team 30 snaps after a month of conditioning and practice with his teammates. It’d be a nice finish to a frustrating season for Jones. And according to the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen, Jones was kicking himself that he wasn’t back in time to play Stanford.

“I blame myself a lot for that game,” Jones told Hansen on Monday. “Even though I didn’t play, I blame myself for that game. … What happened was I ended up not traveling, because I was late to practice. And I actually had the intent of suiting up that game.”

Jones blamed a marathon session of videogame Call of Duty for the tardiness, the type of fall-asleep-with-the-controller-in-your-hands move that can only be understood by college students (or those of us that played videogames back in their dorm days). While it’s questionable (and probably far-fetched) that the Irish coaching staff would’ve risked putting Jones in a game when he hadn’t even fully re-engaged in the team’s practice regimen, Jones’ return for the Fiesta Bowl will be coming just in time.

Last week, I might have pegged Jones for 15 to 20 snaps late last week. But Brian Kelly thinks Jones will have the chance to do much more—as much as his conditioning level allows.

“Where he’s really going to help us is on first and second down,” Kelly said, pointing to the challenge of slowing down Buckeyes star Ezekiel Elliott. “But he can help us on third down. His push inside is undervalued in terms of what he can do internally in his physical push to the pocket.”

While it certainly won’t be all game, seeing Jones paired with classmate Sheldon Day will be bittersweet not just for Irish fans, but for Jones himself. Expected to form one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the country, Jones can only wonder what this season would’ve been like had he not suffered an MCL injury just weeks before the Irish were slated to play Texas.

When talking to Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister, Jones asked a question that pained just about every person who cheered for the blue and gold this season.

“If I had played, what kind of season would we have had defensively?” Jones wondered. “If we had everybody, what kind of team would we have had then? That’s the ‘what if’ we’ll have to live with the rest of our lives.”

The consolation prize is a 2016 season spent on the same team as his brother, incoming freshman Jamir Jones. Not to mention another fully-loaded roster that might have to replace some key contributors, but looks every bit as talented as the team that won 10 regular season games.

But before that, Jones finally gets his chance to do more than rehabilitate a balky foot and a torn-up knee in 2015. And if the Irish can beat Ohio State, Notre Dame’s 127th team may not have accomplished their overall mission, but they will have done something mighty impressive.