Michigan v Notre Dame

ESPN Report: Golson plans to transfer


With finals nearly finished and Everett Golson on track to earn his degree in the coming weeks, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy broke the news that Irish fans had to be dreading.

Per McMurphy, Golson plans to transfer and play out his eligibility elsewhere.

The story is still developing. There’s no comment out of anyone inside Notre Dame nor in Golson’s camp.

But after sharing time with Malik Zaire this spring—and exiting the Blue-Gold game looking like the team’s No. 1 quarterback—Golson appears unwilling to compete for the starting job, or share snaps with Zaire.

There’ll be plenty more to come. But the story of the spring was Brian Kelly finding a way to keep both quarterbacks on campus. One major media outlet is reporting that it won’t happen.


Former Irish TE John Carlson retires from NFL

North Carolina Tar Heels v Notre Dame Fighting Irish

One of the branches on Notre Dame’s NFL tight end tree is retiring. Former Irish star John Carlson, a former second-round pick who spent seven seasons as a professional, is stepping away from football. Carlson played for the Irish from 2003-07 and spent time with the Seahawks, Vikings and the Cardinals.

The decision was a surprise, with Carlson working out with the team as recently as this Monday. Via the Arizona Cardinals’ official website, Carlson released this statement:

“After much thought and consideration, my wife Danielle and I know that this is the best decision for us,” Carlson said. “I was blessed to play seven seasons in the NFL for three tremendous organizations – the Cardinals, Vikings and Seahawks. I will always treasure the experiences and relationships made during that time but I’m also very excited about the next phase of my life and what’s ahead.”

Carlson was in the middle of a two-year, $4.65 million-dollar contract. Some have suspected that head injuries have played a role in the decision, with Carlson having three reported concussions during his NFL career, including one that ended his 2014 season after Week 14.

Carlson was a former Irish captain who served as a bright spot during the 2007 season, putting up a team-high 40 catches before being selected with the 38th overall pick by the Seahawks. But his early productivity in the NFL was never matched, and Carlson was cut after two seasons by the Minnesota Vikings after struggling with injuries, after his hometown team gave him a five-year, $25 million contract. (Carlson was eventually replaced in Minnesota by fellow Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph.)

Carlson followed Anthony Fasano‘s footsteps to the NFL, the second-straight second-rounder Charlie Weis produced. He was a U.S. Army All-American out of high school and an All-State performer in Minnesota in the recruiting class that produced Brady Quinn, Ryan Harris and Tom Zbikowski.

Carlson spent last season in Arizona, joining fellow Irish grad Troy Niklas at tight end. Niklas will now be asked to step up with Carlson’s unexpected departure.

“I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet,” Niklas told the Cardinals’ official website. “None of us really saw it coming. We’re just going to miss him. Personally, he’s helped me so much, learning the offense. He’s been a great teammate and mentor-like, helping me get into the NFL. I was looking forward to playing with him again this season.”


Mailbag: Now Open

New Mailbox

It’s finals week on campus.

That means nothing for us here in front of computers, but at least we aren’t cramming everything we were supposed to learn this semester into our brains late into the night.

Drop your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

Post-spring stock report: Secondary

Michigan v Notre Dame

With the majority of Notre Dame’s starting lineup returning for 2015, the Irish spent spring practice knowing what their team would look like. But for Brian VanGorder and new secondary coach Todd Lyght, getting improvement out of the returning depth chart was critical.

At safety, there is no legitimate option behind Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate, as Nicky Baratti and Drue Tranquill return from surgery. Redfield and Shumate were highly-touted recruits, and both have spent multiple years in the program. While the system change made things tough on the back end of the defense, one full year in, both players are expected to take a big jump forward.

At cornerback, the Irish await KeiVarae Russell‘s return. Paired with Cole Luke, Notre Dame has two front-line covermen who will be asked to do more than drop and play zone. Once again, behind the starters is where the concern begins.

Sophomore Nick Watkins pulled even with Devin Butler, who struggled mightily down the stretch in place of Cody Riggs. Graduate transfer Avery Sebastian joins the program this June, hoping to infusing some athleticism and earn a role like Riggs did in 2014.

While some promising freshmen get to campus this summer, let’s take a look at the secondary with spring practice in the rearview mirror.



CB: Cole Luke, Jr. (5-11, 190)
S: Max Redfield, Jr. (6-1, 198)
S: Elijah Shumate, Sr. (6-0, 213)
CB: Nick Watkins, Soph. (6-0, 200)

CB: Devin Butler, Jr. (6-.5, 195)
CB: Matthias Farley, GS (5-11, 205)
S: Nicky Baratti, Sr.* (6-1, 205)
S: Drue Tranquill, Soph. (6-1.5, 225)
S: John Turner, Sr.* (6-.5, 225)

*Denotes fifth year available



Max Redfield: That Redfield took last season’s demotion and struggles and came out the other side is a big victory. The Irish absolutely need one of their best athletes to play like one of their best defenders, and in many ways, Todd Lyght’s arrival was the perfect thing to happen to Redfield and Shumate.

A new voice will give each safety a fresh start, and early reports are that Redfield is thriving. There’s nothing stopping Redfield from being a standout player. With a year of knowledge and last season’s experience behind him, a big jump looks probable—or at least what many hope. Redfield could be the Irish’s best safety since Harrison Smith.


Nick Watkins: While he saw the field and played a role on special teams in 2014, Watkins didn’t find much playing time in the secondary. After Brian VanGorder acknowledged Watkins’ struggles fitting into the defense, Watkins took a step forward this spring when he began taking first-team reps across from Luke, continuing in that spot through the Blue-Gold game.

Sure, Watkins got beat long by Will Fuller for a 70-yard touchdown. But outside of that mistake (and Fuller can do it to anyone), he looked competitive and challenged opponents on every rep.

KeiVarae Russell will be back in the starting lineup soon enough. But a third corner is a key role, and Watkins proved himself capable for the job before a freshman like Shaun Crawford comes on campus to battle for it.


Drue Tranquill: After tearing his ACL against Louisville, that Tranquill was participating in spring practice and running and cutting on his surgically repaired knee was miraculous. Even more impressive? If the Blue-Gold game was against Texas, Brian Kelly said Tranquill would’ve been on the field and playing.

As a key piece of Notre Dame’s sub-packages, Tranquill fits into the defense perfectly. While he struggled as a half-field safety after Redfield and Shumate were relegated to the dog house, Tranquill’s speedy recovery is critical to the Irish defense, allowing VanGorder to mix and match on the back end.



Elijah Shumate: It was a quiet spring for the rising senior, who all of a sudden is out of eligibility after 2015. After serving as a key nickel cornerback during 2012 and struggling through injuries in 2013, Shumate needs to step forward as the Irish’s strong safety in 2015.

A physical freak and one of the team’s hardest hitters, Shumate has potential to play at the next level. But his game tape needs to match up with his skill set, and we’ll see if that happens come September.


Matthias Farley: The Irish’s best playmaker on the backend last year, Farley enters next season with no job carved out for him. And while he cross-trained at safety to help with depth issues, we’d be foolish to think that just because the lineup doesn’t have a spot for him that Farley won’t make one.

Farley’s best served in the slot, playing close to the line of scrimmage and using his physicality. And as we watch the Irish offense work to get the best 11 players on the field, at this point, Farley’s made a convincing argument that he fits in that group on defense.



Devin Butler: Late last season, Butler struggled with what golfers call a two-way miss. Only instead of missing the fairway both left and right, Butler was letting receivers beat him short and also over the top. (That ain’t good.)

While Butler has shown some playmaking ability in limited action, finding a role in this secondary after sliding behind Watkins could be tough, provided everybody stays healthy.

Entering his junior season, Butler has played in 25 of 26 games the past two seasons. So thinking he’ll be relegated to the bench is rather stupid. But if this spring was an opportunity for Butler to shine, it appears that Watkins pulled even and past him, putting Butler’s place in the two-deep in trouble, as he’ll likely be behind Russell this fall—who won’t be coming off the field.


John Turner: What a difference a spring makes. After pushing his way into the starting lineup at outside linebacker last spring, Turner shifted back to safety to provide depth. While the veteran will likely play a key role on special teams, Turner doesn’t look like he’ll be in the mix for playing time in the secondary, as long as everybody stays healthy.



Sanford ready for the national spotlight

USA Today Sports

When Brian Kelly hired Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, Notre Dame added a young coach who was among the hottest rising stars in the country. A year after flirting with Lincoln Riley and eventually deciding on staying in-house as Mike Denbrock took over the offense, Kelly went outside his coaching circle, adding Sanford to the staff, an assistant who could “turn the room upside down.”

Sanford landed in South Bend on the run, taking over the quarterbacks during a spring practice among the most important of the past decade. And with little time to get to know Everett Golson, Malik Zaire or the other coaches and players he’d be working with, Sanford just buried himself in work.

While we’re still five months away from kickoff against Texas, Sanford is already prepared for the scrutiny and life as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator. And even if Kelly and Denbrock haven’t exactly figured out how the offensive staff will function, a profile of the young offensive coordinator by Dan Wolken of the USA Today gives you a unique look at the assistant who turned down other offers to take on the challenge of Notre Dame.

Here’s a snippet from Wolken’s profile:

He could have gone to Vanderbilt with full autonomy over the offense on Derek Mason’s staff, giving him the opportunity to look like a genius if he had engineered a turnaround. He could have gone to reigning national champion Ohio State, where he would have inherited a wealth of talent and worked under Urban Meyer, whose offensive coordinators have a strong track record of becoming head coaches. He certainly could have stayed at Boise State and continued to roll up big numbers andMountain West Conference titles.

Instead, Sanford chose perhaps the most intriguing fit of all. On Sept. 5, he will make his debut as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame.

“I’ve watched him — he’s ready,” said Sanford Sr., who is the head coach at Indiana State. “I don’t have any doubt he’s ready. He’s mature as a football coach way beyond his years, and his personality, his ability, his charisma and ability to communicate with people, I’m very proud of him. I think he’s going to continue to grow, and this is a great spot for him.”

The entire article is worth a read, as Sanford talks about Jim Harbaugh’s influence on his career, who he hunted down after Harbaugh landed the Stanford job.

Also, for some skeptics who thought Kelly’s inclusion in the offense was a hinderance to finding a top-flight coordinator, it’s worth looking at the surprising rationale for Sanford choosing Notre Dame (he likes the fact that the head coach is still going to be involved with the offense) over opportunities to run the offense at Vanderbilt or work with Urban Meyer.