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Mailbag: Weekend reading


Before we have an Irish-free Saturday, let’s get to some questions. For those of you wondering what you should do on a day usually committed to football, the world is your oyster. Or you could watch some of Notre Dame’s opponents do battle.

Navy is taking on San Jose State in the early game. Both USC and Arizona State are playing late tonight. It’s three opportunities to see three of the challenges ahead, especially with Louisville and Northwestern sitting this weekend out.

Welcome to a Justin Brent joke-free Mailbag:


@WorldBWhee: why should we think that “this” the Irish are back? Been down this road a few times in the past 12 years to no avail…

Okay, I’ll bite.

I’m not necessarily sure that this team is going 11-1, and if they do, they’ll certainly need to play a lot of good football. But if you can’t see what’s happening under Brian Kelly, and the improvement of this football team, then you’re never going to see it.

This isn’t like 2005-06, where a veteran team had a gigantic drop-off behind it when the talent graduated. It’s not like the 2002 team, getting by on defense and an offense that literally struggled to score an offensive touchdown for the first month of the season.

Even if you take into consideration 2013’s four losses — a team that was playing all season with its backup quarterback — the roll Kelly and Notre Dame are on since 2012 is pretty impressive. It’s also one that doesn’t seem close to stopping, with this program set up for success over the next few years, especially when you consider this team is led by the youth on the roster.

“Being Back” is a pretty stupid concept in general. But if it means Notre Dame’s going to compete for a spot in the playoff over the next few years (and could likely open next season as a preseason No. 1 candidate), then they’re back.


goirishgo: What’s your take (and ND’s) on the impact of the FSU and UNC academic investigations on the ACC? Wasn’t part of the attraction to the league cultural? Having to do with the perceived academic strengths of schools like Duke, Wake, UVA, and the like? Has that changed?

I think you’re absolutely right that the ACC’s culture was one of the most attractive parts of the conference membership. And while the Jameis Winston stuff and Florida State’s alleged complicity in all of it is quite distasteful I actually think the North Carolina situation is far worse.

It will be very interesting to see how Mark Emmert and the NCAA handle this, and how dramatically they plan to sanction the Tar Heels athletic department. A systemic issue that went on for 18 years is mind-boggling.  All that being said, I don’t really see it impacting Notre Dame, the conference at large, or its members. Other than the black eye in general not being good for one of the conference’s premiere athletic departments.


@waylonlc13 Can u put a grade on the #ShamrockSoldiers15? How do they compare 2 previous groups and who do u c contributing early?

I’ve learned long ago that football coaches evaluate recruits much better than sportswriters.  That said, I expect this to be one of Kelly’s best classes, especially if they close with a flourish, as I expect they will.

What’s interesting with this group is Brian VanGorder’s imprint on the defensive recruits. After focusing on the defensive front late in the last recruiting cycle, the Irish are rebuilding the back-seven of the defense, especially needed with injuries and attrition in the secondary. These guys don’t profile like earlier recruits. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with the common denominator being speed and athleticism.

Pair that with some early targets that turned into early commitments and we’re seeing the way Kelly and his staff prefer to recruit: Build your base early and stay in play for the big-time, national guys.


mediocrebob: Word’s out that Daniels will likely try to return to Notre Dame. With scholarships limited and several big names left on the board, is there a good chance of seeing DD back next year?( assuming the university will have him of course) Is there a possibility of Van Gorder’s son giving his scholarship up? Never quite understood the reasoning behind that.

If word is KeiVarae Russell’s instagram page, then that’s the word. But it’s probably pretty premature to know what DaVaris, the Daniels family, or the university are thinking, or what the readmission policy is for any of the athletes with eligibility remaining. Especially when last Kelly talked about it, he said he had yet to speak with DaVaris at all.

All that being said, I’d find it hard to believe that Kelly wouldn’t take Daniels back. He was expected to be the team’s best receiver this season. Add him to the mix next year and the Irish could go five-wide with playmakers and even the most old-fashioned Irish fans would have little to complain about.

Daniels likely sees a draft grade that would have him lucky to be taken this year, with only an injury-plagued two seasons for scouts to work from. But a big 2015 season he could catapult him up draft boards, earn Daniels a diploma and be a win-win for everyone.

As for the VanGorder scholarship, I’m not sure if it’s a year-to-year proposition with walk-ons being awarded scholarships. And while most make the moderately valid point that dad could and probably does get some tuition reciprocity, the likely reason VanGorder was put on scholarship was so he could take part in all the prep meetings and travel with the team, considering in an emergency, VanGorder is likely the No. 3 quarterback, with the staff desperately wanting to save a year of Deshone Kizer’s eligibility.


@michaelmartin78: CDH Raider James Onawalu doesn’t seem to make a lot of plays, is he under performing or just hard for novice eyes to notice?

Good question. Not really sure, although the staff likes what he’s doing. And the Irish are really playing a 4-2-5 a lot of the time, with a nickelback on the field and Onwualu on the sidelines.

For a guy making a transition to defense, that Onwualu is already in the starting lineup certainly says something. But the fact that he’s got eight total tackles likely says something, too. We’ll see how much this staff likes their situation at Sam linebacker when the new recruits come in. I expect Onwualu to keep getting better this season as it goes on, but right now, it’s all but a two-man linebacking corps.


irishdog80: Schmidt has been playing great. Many thought, myself included, that Nyles Morgan would be making a bigger impact by now. What’s the story on Nyles Morgan and his development? Is he this year’s Max Redfield?

Last fall, Nyles Morgan was playing high school linebacker, one of the least complex jobs in all of football: Search and Destroy. This year, he’s being asked to learn a defense that has more scheme and inventory than most NFL defenses. Whose head wouldn’t be swimming?

VanGorder talked about Morgan’s development earlier in the week, having nothing but good things to say about him. But this is Schmidt’s defense and Morgan is spending his freshman year learning and playing special teams. Let’s see if VanGorder can get him some snaps in garbage time this month.


dudeacow: How has VanGorder’s decided schematic advantage helped overcome the youth and inferior physicality of some of the defense’s players so well?

I see what you’re doing there… But I’m not sure your analysis is helping you, because as I mentioned earlier this week in the special edition of the Good, Bad and Ugly, this isn’t a physically inferior football team. Just ask Florida State.

VanGorder is proving a few things: 1) He’s a great Xs and Os coach. 2) He’s got physically talented young kids. and 3) They’re smart enough to learn his system.

That this is all happening so quickly is the best surprise of the season.


ylilbnosredna: Keith, how much do you think Folston’s performance against FSU helped ND’s chances with Jamabo? Before that game, I really didn’t think Kelly and co. were doing much to convince RB’s that this was an offense where they could thrive. However, I think Folston’s performance demonstrated that if a RB can really take over in this offense, Kelly will be a lot more hesitant to take him off the field and give him a chance to dominate like we saw Sat night. Do you think Jamabo truly believes he can thrive in this offense and will ND get him? If so, when’s the last time ND could boast signing a trio of blue-chip backs like Folston, Bryant, and possibly Jamabo in a 2 year period?

I see where you’re going, but this would be a three-year period, not two. And I don’t think Soso Jamabo, or any elite running back, needs to see Tarean Folston’s performance against the Seminoles to decide to come to Notre Dame.

The Irish will only look better on the ground as the weeks continue. And with just Folston, Greg Bryant and incoming freshman Josh Adams (don’t sleep on him) on the scholarship roster, the depth chart is as good as you could ask for.


johngaltisspeaking: my question is how are we going to defend Arizona State when they play more like a spread team. Florida State played a very similar style of football to ND but since UNC took it to us in a tight loss I see Arizona State being a team that could take us out of the playoffs.

I’m willing to answer good questions, especially if you’re done being a troll. The ASU game is the next “game of the year.” They play fast, they’re explosive on offense and it’s going to be a hostile atmosphere in Sun Devil Stadium. And Taylor Kelly has pronounced himself 100 percent healthy.

VanGorder said he didn’t do a good job against North Carolina. We’ll see if the Irish have a new way to attack a hurry-up team, but I also think the speed wasn’t as difficult to deal with as Marquise Williams, who played the game of his life.


tracyjordansminifridge: Is Hunter Jr. Healthy enough to play? He has looked extremely athletic in the glimpses we have had of him. He also appears to be a much stronger runner than carlisle who goes down at the thought of contact

He’s healthy. And he’s learning. But right now, Hunter is in the John Goodman-Dayne Crist-Washington State-Sample Size category. He’s been good, but it’s been three or four plays, not exactly a complete body of work.

Carlisle has been very good this season, though let’s hope the fumble against FSU doesn’t send him into a tailspin, like it did against Purdue last year. He’s got a knee brace on that could be limiting him, so we’ll see if he stays in the rotation with C.J. Prosise, or if Hunter can cut into those snaps.

VanGorder finds perfect fit at Notre Dame

Brian Kelly, Brian VanGorder

When Brian VanGorder‘s name surfaced as Notre Dame looked for a new defensive coordinator, there wasn’t necessarily a lot of buzz behind the hire. While VanGorder fit many of the criteria that went along with a Brian Kelly hire, the big-picture reaction wasn’t one of universal support.

“Seemed to disappear after being a hot name a decade ago,” one expert on the national beat told me.

Well VanGorder’s back and made his presence felt quickly at Notre Dame. And in addition to melting social media, he’s transformed the Irish defense into one of the most unlikely dominant units in college football.

The veteran assistant’s journey the past few years has been just as unlikely, part of a coaching career that’s followed a unique path. But his reunion with Brian Kelly after starting their careers together at Grand Valley has paid immediate dividends, producing a defense that’s become sneaky good, even as the majority of the group sees the starting lineup (and for some, the football field) for the first time.

VanGorder met with the local media on Tuesday, where he was candid about how well his defense has played so far this season.

“We’re ahead of schedule. Ahead of schedule,” VanGorder said. “Having said that, there’s a lot of work still ahead, both in our scheme and in development of some good young players.”

Those good young players have been nothing short of amazing this year. True freshmen cover the defensive line, with Andrew Trumbetti, Grant Blankenship, Kolin Hill and Daniel Cage playing significant snaps, usually a kiss of death for a defensive front. But Mike Elston and VanGorder have reshaped a depth chart without Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, teaching new techniques, new schemes, and getting new players ready to contribute.

The ability to get productive snaps out of young and old (after-thoughts Justin Utupo and Anthony Rabasa have played key snaps) has helped created a front four that’s even tougher than the one anchored by Tuitt and Nix in 2013.

After watching Notre Dame play a disciplined and structured defense under Bob Diaco for four seasons, watching this group turn into a heavily schemed, incredibly attacking unit this season has been a testament to the buy-in by both players and coaches. Forced to scheme to help prop up a pass rush still looking for a dominant edge rusher, every week presents a new game plan that needs installation and preparation, not to mention a collectively high IQ for the players executing it.

VanGorder talked about the fine work his players have done, capable of learning quickly and putting together a variety of game plans that confuse and befuddle opponents.

“Credit to our guys. They take in a very large inventory to every game. There are reasons for some of the things that we do beyond just our players and their physical traits,” VanGorder explained. “Part of what we do is we try to cause confusion for an offensive line and quarterback, not only with the pressure, but with pressure in behind it. That’s a big part of our strategy. It’s not just based on pass rush abilities. We’ll always do that.

“That’s just kind of who we are and how we want to be. We’ve got intelligent players that can take on a large inventory and do a lot of things. And it’s been amazing. It’s been amazing what they’ve taken on. It’s a real credit to them.”

Coming to Notre Dame after a season with Rex Ryan as the New York Jets linebackers coach, his hire wasn’t necessarily a sure thing. (After all, Charlie Weis brought Corwin Brown in from the Jets assistant staff to coordinate his defense and things didn’t work out.) But after last coaching in college in a single, chaos-filled season at Auburn under Gene Chizik, VanGorder has a different feel for this opportunity at Notre Dame, one he seems to cherish.

“I’ve learned it’s the people you work with that make it great. It’s been fantastic. Brian is a high standard and expectation guy. He hires you and expects you to do your job. He trusts that you’re good enough to do so. My working relationship with Brian has been fantastic. Couldn’t be better. Then the kids. I knew they’d be good kids but I didn’t anticipate how much I really respect who they are and what they represent so the people that I’m working with and these kids every day, it just couldn’t be better.

“I still want to learn everything about Notre Dame because I certainly appreciate its history and how it really represented football for a long, long time. Notre Dame was everything, long before the NFL was what people know it has today, they carried football. I’m looking forward to really diving into all that. It’s been awesome. I can’t imaging missing this experience and hopefully I can be a part of it a long, long time.”



The good, the bad, the ugly: Bye week

Stanford v Notre Dame

There is no football game this weekend. For a Notre Dame football team that just played three-straight tight games, that’s a good thing. (For Irish fans, it’s a victory as well. Go buy a pumpkin and get outside in the fall weather.)

As promised, let’s look back at the first eight weeks of the season. Notre Dame sits at 6-1, with a place in the College Football Playoff still very much in play.



Everett Golson. For all the grumbling about Golson’s turnovers the past few weeks, it might help to take a step or two back and evaluate what Notre Dame’s quarterback is doing from distance.

He’s thrown for nearly 2,000 yards. He’s tossed 19 touchdown passes against six* interceptions. He leads Notre Dame in rushing touchdowns. And he’s doing it with a receiving corps led by two true sophomores, an entire pass-catching unit that had exactly one total catch from Golson before this season.

While nobody wants to see Golson cough up another football while running with it, he displayed a really solid grasp of how best to run in this offense against Florida State, squirting away from pressure, moving the chains and getting down on the ground before he needed to get hit, understanding the best play is the one where you’re not crunched by a 250-pounder.

One more thing to consider: Golson is CLUTCH. (All-Caps Necessary.)

It’s shown itself in two-minute drills, with the Irish deadly on their final drive heading into halftime. And obviously, it’s made plays like Ben Koyack on 4th down for the win against Stanford possible. And Corey Robinson on 4th-and-18 possible. And Corey Robinson on 4th-and-3 for the win against Florida State possible.

In his second full season as a starter, Golson is playing at the level of an All-American candidate. While he hasn’t been perfect, let’s not forget that he’s the engine of this offense.


The Kids on the Defense. Looking over the two-deep depth chart in August, there were a lot of people scratching their heads. Who is this kid? We’re gonna do what with that kid? 

But credit Brian Kelly for knowing exactly what he had. And while most of us probably thought he was being optimistic about a situation that didn’t have a solution, the head coach’s comments from August sound pretty spot-on:

“I’m watching them every day. I’m going against them every day. I’m liking it. I know when you have holes. I’ve been around long enough. I know when you look at them and go, ‘That’s not very good.’ Now they’re young. We might cut a gap loose. We may be in the wrong gap. But it’s not because we’re not ripping and roaring up the field. It’ll be fun but they’re gonna cause a few moments of coach VanGorder throwing his hat on the ground. I’m sure of that. But the thing is, it’s a physical group. It’s a physical group.”

That Notre Dame’s defense is getting key contributions from true freshmen Andrew Trumbetti, Daniel Cage, Kolin Hill and Grant Blankenship up front is pretty amazing. That Drue Tranquill, a recruit some Irish fans didn’t even want as part of this class (or only wanted if he was willing to play linebacker), is playing major snaps as a key piece of the secondary is incredible.

Down to a man, this defense is performing at a really impressive level. But the fact that kids who were playing last season on Friday nights are now such a critical part of the defense is one of the great surprises of the season.


Dealing with adversity. If there’s anything that should have you feeling optimistic about this Irish team putting their difficult loss to Florida State behind them, it’s the fact that this group has ignored the noise surrounding them since August, when news of an academic scandal exploded.

With five teammates hanging in limbo for two months as the university dug into a thorough investigation, it would’ve been easy for a young team missing some key leaders to be distracted. But that didn’t happen.

And with KeiVarae Russell pledging to return to Notre Dame in the summer and Ishaq Williams likely right behind him, the players who made their mistakes have moved on, even if they disagree with their punishment. That allows the team to do the same thing.


Joe Schmidt, Linebacker. I’m making the clarification here because Joe Schmidt, the underdog story, has already been beaten to a pulp. Yes, we all love the story. And it’s been told wonderfully multiple times. But I’m more interested in the middle linebacker that won a starting job and is the unquestionable leader of the defense.

After Jarrett Grace suffered a devastating leg injury that still threatens his career, many hoped blue-chip freshman Nyles Morgan would be able to step in and contribute early. But Schmidt has quieted any and all doubters, putting together a tremendous season that has him on pace for triple-digit tackles to go along with multiple interceptions and forced fumbles.

At this point, Schmidt’s a lock not just to return for a fifth year, but to have a ‘C’ on his jersey. He’s the type of player that’s so incredibly valuable not just because he’s the nerve center asked to relay Brian VanGorder’s signals to the defense, but also because he’s a walking testimonial to hard work and achievement every step he takes inside the Gug.

If you’re a scholarship player feeling buried on the depth chart, just take a look at Schmidt. It took until his senior season, but he’s the guy getting his opportunity on the field, leading the team and playing at a high level. Schmidt did that through hard work, and his example will no doubt be used every time the Irish coaching staff is pursuing a preferred walk-on or a five-star recruit.

The best player will play. And that’s why Schmidt is on the field, recruiting ranking be damned.


Will Fuller & Corey Robinson, future stars: It’s hard to talk about one sophomore wide receiver without the other. But with a depth chart with little in front of them, both Fuller and Robinson have shown themselves to be stars-in-the-making, with Fuller nearly there and Robinson making his bid last Saturday.

The duo are unlikely game-breakers. Nobody wanted Robinson on their roster until Notre Dame became the first program to offer the raw San Antonio athlete with good very good bloodlines. Fuller was an anonymous three-star prospect who had an offer from Penn State, but came to Notre Dame after a sneaky senior season in the Philadelphia Catholic League helped his profile rise.

Fuller is third in the NCAA with eight touchdown catches this season. After serving as a deep threat specialist last year, Fuller has shown himself to be electric with the football in his hands. His work on screen passes has turned three yard gains into 30, making the quick game a crucial component of the offense. He’s also drawn his share of pass interference penalties, earning 15 yards by beating defensive backs and forcing a penalty.

Robinson’s breakout against Florida State was a long time coming. We’ve seen his skills since spring practice videos after his early enrollment, helping Irish fans understand the term “catch radius” after looking at his gumby arms stretch and stick to just about every football thrown his way.

Even with a fractured thumb, Robinson has been an efficient pass catcher. He’s gotten his high-point opportunities lately, posterizing a Florida State defensive back and rendering a Syracuse defender helpless in one-on-one coverage on a fade route for a touchdown.

For as good as these two have been, a look into the near future should have Irish fans salivating. The juniors will likely pair with Golson again in 2015 in an offense that should be even better.


Brian Kelly, Program Builder. Another year, another data point that shows Jack Swarbrick hired the right guy to take over the Notre Dame football program in 2010. While two consecutive eight-win seasons weren’t the type of immediate success people hoped for, that Kelly has won 27 of his last 33 games — and is doing it now with an insanely young team — has the Irish on the verge of another golden era.

When you look at a head coach, wins and losses are important. But so are the decisions that go into building a program. As Kelly has had to adjust his coaching staff, we’ve seen those decisions play out wonderfully. After two seasons, Kelly had to replace Charley Molnar, Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton. He did that by making the unorthodox decision to move Chuck Martin to offensive coordinator, shifting Mike Denbrock and Tony Alford to allow the promotion of Scott Booker, and bringing in Harry Hiestand from Tennessee. All three of those moves have paid large dividends.

Having to replace both Martin and Bob Diaco after last season, Kelly once again hit a home run. The decision to bring Brian VanGorder in from the NFL has been an immediate program-changer. And the move to turn the offense over the Mike Denbrock while going back to calling plays has been an incredibly smooth transition, with Kelly still in control of the football game as a head coach while also scripting the offensive game plan beautifully.

Adding to his prowess as a football coach, Kelly was forced to serve as the voice of the university during the academic investigation, while six-figure administrators sat quietly to let the head coach do their work. We’ve seen how that’s gone at other programs.

For as long as he’s at Notre Dame, Kelly’s name will always be in the conversation when NFL job openings arise. But with an elite team set to take the field in 2015 and a foundation for beyond them already soundly in place, there’s nothing but good times ahead inside Notre Dame Stadium.


Quick Hits:

* Comeback player of the year candidates: Offensively, it’s easily Golson. But on defense, look closely at Matthias Farley. The move to cornerback during spring practice had many thinking it meant Farley was going to be buried on the depth chart. Instead, he’s been one of the key playmakers on the defense.

* Not many coaching staffs would take an off week and reshuffle their offensive line, moving four starters into new jobs. But credit goes to Kelly, Denbrock and Harry Hiestand for knowing they had a problem and addressing it immediately.

* There isn’t free agency in college football, but how important has Cody Riggs been to Notre Dame? While the Gators go down the toilet, the Florida transfer is at Notre Dame playing major snaps at cornerback, building his NFL resume and getting a graduate degree that’ll help him with life after football. That sure sounds like a win-win scenario to me.

* Nobody likes a three-man platoon at running back. Thank god Tarean Folston did his best to end it last weekend. Expect the sophomore to get the lions share of opportunities, though Greg Bryant will have his chances against a Navy defense that’s giving up over 180 rushing yards a game.

* Brian VanGorder. From anonymous NFL assistant to social media hero to Broyles Award front-runner.



Attrition in the secondary. A position group that looked to be one of the strongest on the roster all of a sudden is nearing red-line, emergency status. Captain Austin Collinsworth’s career at Notre Dame might be over, a fifth-year all but washed away after a knee injury and shoulder dislocation crushed his final season. While many wanted to see what a pairing of Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate looked like, nobody wanted to see it happen this way.

Backup safety Nicky Baratti might have to call it a career after his shoulder gave out again, this time on a relatively mild collision on his first play into the game against Purdue. Without Eilar Hardy because of the academic probe, the Irish are down to Drue Tranquill at safety, a position group that went from overflowing to vacant in a matter of months.

Cornerback is not much better. Losing No. 1 coverman KeiVarae Russell hurt the Irish, but Cole Luke and Cody Riggs have done a great job filling in. But behind them, Matthias Farley has been forced into a somewhat difficult fit at nickelback, as we saw Florida State take advantage of a few athletic mismatches for the converted safety.

Behind them is sophomore Devin Butler and freshman Nick Watkins. While it hasn’t been announced, the absence of seniors Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown likely is a courtesy to allow the duo a chance to play out their eligibility at another program next season. That means if anything happens to Luke or Riggs, this secondary is only getting younger.


The Academic Investigation. Nothing about this was good. That the Irish would have another season self-sabotaged because of academic issues was painful enough. But to lose three key starters among the five players? That’s attrition that at the time looked like a season-changer.

While the particulars of the investigation are still confidential, the timeline that it took to come to a conclusion put a very bright light on an Honor Code process that’s supposed to both protect the students involved and also be transparent. The length of the process turned five football players into Scarlet Letter wearing members of the Notre Dame community, harm that this administration seemed obtuse about until it was too late.

While the revelations at North Carolina serve as a reminder that these type of problems — and the investigations that follow them — are critical to get right (even if it does take a lot of time), there are lessons to be learned here for all parties involved.


Quick Hits:

* It’s hard to put the offensive line or the running game in the bad category, but without last week’s game in Tallahassee, they were in there.

* For as good as Kyle Brindza has been this year, he’s had a habit of snap-hooking a few kickoffs out of bounds. That’s a mistake that’s put opponents on the 35-yard line three times this year. This is pretty nit-picky, but for a game trying to earn the nickname of “Unreturnable,” the standards go up.

* The offensive line play continues to get better. But the big, ugly, hide-your-head misses that we’ve seen the past few weeks have to be eliminated.

* The defense against North Carolina’s tempo attack. Get ready for Arizona State to try the exact same thing.

* Yes, we can put Everett Golson’s fumble issues here. That’s probably appropriate.



Pick Plays and Conference Clarifications. While most “objective” observers continue to stress that the correct call was made on Notre Dame’s 4th-and-3 touchdown against Florida State, it’s still slightly comical for me to take those people seriously.

Would you have been happy with Michael Jordan getting called for a push-off against Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz? Or how about an umpire ending a classic playoff baseball game on a balk call? Or you must still a big fan of the ref that threw the controversial pass interference call that gifted Ohio State a title against Miami. After all, the letter of the rulebook states very clearly that…

Regardless, the play is over with. But that doesn’t make someone a conspiracy theorist for digging into the play, breaking down the situation and wondering aloud about the controversial call. Epic football games shouldn’t be decided by ticky-tack calls, especially when it wasn’t as clear-cut of a judgment call after watching multiple angles and understanding what Florida State’s defensive backs were doing. And that’s what this looks like. Especially now that the ACC has flip-flopped on the actual offender and acknowledged missing another clear-cut, letter of the law unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that should have kept Notre Dame’s offense on the field with a fresh set of downs.

Don’t expect Brian Kelly to send ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads a Christmas card, especially after his clarification video. Nor should we expect to see crew chief David Epperley or back judge Pat Ryan on the field for a Notre Dame game again this season. (Not unless you really want to see BK turn purple.)




Linebacker Tevon Coney commits to Notre Dame

For the second time in a week, Notre Dame’s recruiting class landed a playmaking linebacker. During a press conference streamed live on, Florida’s Tevon Coney pledged his commitment to the Irish, picking Notre Dame over finalists Miami and Florida.

“For the next four years, I’ll be playing at the University of Notre Dame,” Coney said during his announcement at Palm Beach Gardens High School.

The 6-foot-1, 222-pounder is a four-star recruit with other offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and other top programs. Coney first visited campus during the Irish Invasion in June, with recruiting coordinator Tony Alford working hard to get the Palm Beach native and his father to campus over the summer.

Coney returned for an official visit on Michigan weekend, there to see the Irish defense shutout the Wolverines for the first time in history. After taking official visits to Florida and Miami, Coney plans on early enrolling in January, joining the team in time for spring practice.

Most believed the battle for Coney came down to Florida and Notre Dame. With the Gators looking in a bit of disarray with Will Muschamp likely nearing the end of his tenure as head coach, Coney acknowledged the push-and-pull between staying in Florida and playing for a team he long saw himself playing for and Notre Dame.

“One day, I feel like I should go to this school and one day, I feel like I should go to that school,” Coney told the Sun-Sentinel. “I’m still trying to decide where I want to go and what school I should feel comfortable with and where I want to get my degree. I want to make the right decision.”

The decision to pick Notre Dame closes the linebacker group with a very good playmaker. Joining Asmar Bilal and Josh Barajas, Brian VanGorder’s first recruiting cycle at Notre Dame gives you an idea of the type of athlete the Irish are targeting at linebacker, with all three very early targets for the coaching staff.

A look at Coney’s highlight reel shows you an aggressive linebacker who loves to blitz. He’s viewed as the top player in Palm Beach County, a talent-rich part of the country for high school football.

Coney is the 21st member of Notre Dame’s recruiting class, a group that’s now a top-ten class in both Rivals and 247’s estimations.