The after Signing Day mailbag: Part One


Some great questions came through over the past 48 hours. After a busy day that started around 3:30 a.m. and didn’t end until some coaching and transfer rumors got hunted down late last night, there’s more to talk about than ever.

Let’s get to some of your questions, and space these out a bit this afternoon.


onward2victory: If there is so much unethical behavior in recruiting, why don’t more programs that are trying to do things the right way scream foul? For example (purely hypothetical), if you’re recruiting a kid, and his dad says Auburn is offering X amount of money, why wouldn’t you report Auburn to compliance for investigation?

There is no simple answer to this question, Onward. But I’d point out the flack Lane Kiffin caught when he was at Tennessee for pointing out some of the shady dealings that happen at schools in certain states, like fax machines that don’t work, etc. Nobody likes a squealer. Especially in this high-octane world.

The idea of players getting paid — and yes, it certainly does happen (including some recruits that Notre Dame unsuccessfully chased this year) — isn’t quite as overt as an assistant coaching handing a kid a stack of cash. Usually these bagmen (and here’s a wonderful article that’s worth your time) don’t even work for the school, but are merely overzealous boosters working with little connectivity to a coaching staff.

There’s no question that some schools likely put up a fight and complain, though they don’t take those complaints public via the media. But as long as there are super easy ways to contact recruits — just take a look at the Twitter and Instagram feeds of the top recruits this year — there will be issues.

This isn’t new.


grammarnazi69: Under Diaco, the Irish had a set of parameters they used to decide whether or not to recruit a guy, and would usually pass on a guy that didn’t fit. Has that philosophy carried over to Van Gorder? How does what Van Gorder looks for in a recruit vary from what Diaco looked for?

It hasn’t carried over. It’s actually one of the big changes as the team recruits defensive players. Brian VanGorder is looking for football players. Doesn’t care what size they are, because he knows better than most that there are 5’9″ cornerbacks that play elite football in the NFL and undersized defensive ends that are wreaking havoc.

That’s why Shaun Crawford signed with Notre Dame. Bob Diaco didn’t want to offer him because he thought he was too short.

The best analogy I can give you is one I’m told VanGorder uses. He compares building a defense to a chef assembling all the ingredients he needs for a kitchen. You need a large variety for your kitchen. That’s why you see the “profile” defensive linemen like Brandon Tiassum or Micah Dew-Treadway, but you also see guys like Crawford and linebacker Asmar Bilal, neither traditional fits for Diaco.

A great chef needs diversity. But most of all he needs quality ingredients.


GreenShamrock: Does Wimbush redshirt if Golson does not return? And do you see Wimbush as the QB after Zaire or do they bring in a different QB next year or in 2 years.

I don’t think Everett Golson is going to transfer. But if he does, Wimbush will likely be in the same situation as DeShone Kizer was last year. Third-stringer that the Irish really don’t want to use.

But after poking around, there’s a belief that Wimbush is an elite, elite player. So while you’re asking if Wimbush is the starter after Zaire, I’m wondering if Zaire is able to hold Wimbush off over the next three seasons.


nateprez4irish: With the shifting of positions and injuries, are you surprised at not attacking more O-Line recruits? To be able to run the offense that has worked most effectively, this is a big deal. How do you see that shaping up for this and the next say 2 classes?

Over the past few recruiting cycles, Notre Dame over-recruited the offensive line. The depth chart is as healthy as its ever been, especially because I think Kelly and the Irish staff will continue to bring back every offensive lineman that can conceivably contribute for five seasons.

No doubt, the move of Tillery to the defensive side of the ball made this group thin. But Harry Hiestand has been really rock solid on the recruiting trail, and expect another big class in 2016 that’ll make up for the light class this year.

The other point worth noting: Add an offensive lineman but subtract a what? People are already losing their minds over the fact that the Irish are only bringing in two safeties in this class. But who do you kick out of this class? A receiver? Not from that group, at least in my opinion.


padomer: With the presumption the Kerry Cooks is gonzo: 1. was his “lateral move” a money issue? relationship with staff issue? combo of things? this was a shocker and I think without the proper fill-in can be a bigggg deal.

2. Do you expect the new hire to have roots in the tex, la, southeast region seeing as Kerry has more than gotten his foot in the door down there and was one or two years away (provided with on-field success) from establishing a clear pipeline down there?

It looks like the new hire is former Pro Bowler and Notre Dame All-American Todd Lyght. So that’s not a bad hire, especially with Kelly’s ability to vet just about every coach Lyght’s ever worked with.

Back to Cooks, I think the move was in his best interest. He’s spent five seasons in South Bend and got passed up for the defensive coordinator position. Oklahoma was desperate to fix a secondary that was ranked 117th against the pass. And I’m guessing they added a significant bump to his pay check.

Cooks is moving closer to home and family for both he and his wife. There is nothing but mutual respect from both sides and he’ll certainly be missed, especially on the recruiting trail in Texas and Louisiana.

That’s probably the bigger piece of it — and something that Kelly will look to remedy. But the ground work laid by Cooks in those states doesn’t evaporate because he’s gone. But it’s certainly the biggest part of the move, and something that’ll be seriously considered as Kelly restocks the staff.


@EricRuethling: With immediate playing time available, why is ND having such a hard time landing a remaining high profile safety or RB?

This was written before Dexter Williams committed, so I’m going to take RB off the complaint list. And Notre Dame had three safeties until January, when it became clear that Prentice McKinney’s grades were going to be a serious problem.

The problem with landing high profile players is that everybody wants them. And Notre Dame’s recruiting techniques are usually much different than the rest of the power players in the hunt. It’s a life decision to choose Notre Dame, not necessarily just a football one. Not many blue-chippers just jump to ND on Signing Day.

Kelly was fairly candid about this, talking about the priority changes and shifts during the cycle. And if we’re really most disappointed about not landing a third safety in this group, I feel like Notre Dame did a great job with this group.

Reports: Todd Lyght to join Notre Dame coaching staff

Todd Lyght

As soon as word surfaced that Kerry Cooks was leaving Notre Dame for Oklahoma, people began pointing to former Irish All-American Todd Lyght as a possible replacement.  Cooks’ move was confirmed yesterday by SI. And it looks like Lyght’s homecoming is now in motion.

Multiple reports have Lyght leaving Vanderbilt to join Brian Kelly’s coaching staff. He only joined Derek Mason in Nashville last month, after working with Chip Kelly the past two seasons in Philadelphia.

The former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl winner was the No. 5 pick in the NFL draft after being named a two-time consensus All-American at Notre Dame. He’ll likely slide into Cooks spot coaching the secondary, though Kelly has often split up responsibilities, with both a safeties coach and a cornerback coach working with the different positions.

While the hire hasn’t been made official and is likely pending the university’s lengthy background process, Irish 247 reports it’s a “done deal,” and anecdotal evidence like this seems to prove that point.

Kelly was unwilling to talk about any coaching changes yesterday, though it appears the movement isn’t over. After a brief — and bizarre — report linking Brady Hoke to the Irish staff, Matt LaFleur’s name also became connected with a job on the Atlanta Falcons’ staff, where his brother was just hired as an offensive assistant and he’d be reunited with Kyle Shanahan.

Lyght is relatively new to coaching, working first at Bishop Gorman High School before connecting with Chip Kelly in the NFL. Known as a cerebral player, Lyght brings an excellent pedigree to the staff, and likely came with sterling references.

Before the hire, Brian Kelly likely leaned on Lyght’s former college coach, Lou Holtz. He also probably called his first employer, former Bishop Gorman and now UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez. He could’ve also checked in with Chip Kelly, a colleague who has visited South Bend for coaching camps and remains close with Kelly.

Digging into the archives, here’s a highlight reel of Lyght’s work back with the Irish, compiled a few years back by Blue & Gold Illustrated.




Faxes in: Equanimeous St. Brown

247 Sports

Anaheim, CA

Measurables: 6’5″, 205 lbs.

Accolades: Under Armour All-American, consensus 4-star recruit, No. 63 on ESPN Top 300, No. 160 on 247 Composite

Other Impressive Offers: USC, UCLA, Stanford, LSU, Utah

Projected Position: Wide Receiver


Quick Take: Notre Dame adds another wide receiver who was long at the top of their recruiting board, adding speed and length to a group that can always use more. One of the West Coast’s top prospects, St. Brown battled through an up-and-down, injury plagued season, but should immediately bring a unique skill set with him to South Bend.

Notre Dame felt confident enough in St. Brown’s commitment to delay a visit from Miami-bound Lawrence Cager, another elite receiving recruit. That confidence was rewarded by St. Brown’s decision — and could be compounded as the Irish offered younger brother Osiris, a talented 2017 recruit.


What he means to the Irish: Any chance to win a recruiting battle in Orange County, California is a good one. And pulling St. Brown out of Servite is a big win, especially considering his options of hometown favorites USC and UCLA.

St. Brown almost immediately becomes the most interesting man in the recruiting class. The son of body builders, St. Brown speaks German to his mother at home — her native tongue — and mixed in French to his commitment press conference. His siblings also are named after Greek gods.

He’s still a bit of a lanky football player, giving the Irish the option of patience as he develops. With a stacked depth chart in 2015, St. Brown’s brightest days might be a few years from now.


Obligatory YouTube clip: Here’s St. Brown’s official UND.com Signing Day video: