BYU v Notre Dame

DaVaris Daniels done at Notre Dame


Another piece of finality has arrived in the ongoing suspensions of Notre Dame’s five football players. Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels will not return to Notre Dame.

Daniels’ father announced the news on Twitter while the wide receiver confirmed it via the same social media platform. When asked about Daniels’ fate during his Tuesday press conference, head coach Brian Kelly said he had not connected with the wide receiver, though didn’t refute the news.

JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago confirmed with a Notre Dame spokesman that Daniels remains enrolled at Notre Dame. But it appears any return to the field for the Irish will not happen, with Daniels exploring other options, likely a move to the NFL.


While the other four players have stayed mostly silent throughout the process, both Daniels and his father have been vocal on social media, with the father mostly professing his understandable frustration with the process as well as his son’s innocence while DaVaris mixed both gallows humor and the daily thinkings of a college student.

With KeiVarae Russell announcing his intent to return in 2015, the news that Daniels will be moving on from the university is noteworthy. While the fifth-year process usually includes applying to a graduate program, it’s unclear whether or not Daniels had that option.

Big test ahead for Irish offensive line

Notre Dame v Syracuse

After an early-season reshuffling, Notre Dame’s offensive line will get its biggest test of the year on Saturday. The starting five in charge of protecting Everett Golson will have to go into hostile territory and take on Florida State’s star-studded defensive line.

The offensive line play has been up and down this season. With four starters moving positions — Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty switching spots between left guard and center, and Christian Lombard taking over at right tackle while Steve Elmer shifts inside to guard — there is no better time for Harry Hiestand’s offensive line to play their best football than in Tallahassee.

After some rough moments, there’s been progress made. And while there’s still a healthy dose of skepticism surrounding this group, Brian Kelly took some time this weekend to dispel that notion.

“It seems to be the topic of conversation.  I really don’t know where that’s coming from,” Kelly said. “I mean, we were down, we had to throw quite a bit. There’s going to be some pressure.  You know, they didn’t grade out that bad. We missed a couple of protections here and there, but in my five years here, it seems like the chatter out there is that this is not a very good offensive line.  They’re doing some pretty good things, and we’re getting better.”



That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Yet a week after Ronnie Stanley was called for multiple holds and the interior struggled with some pressure schemes by a defense giving up over 42 points a game, getting right before facing a talented Seminoles front anchored by Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards is key.

Make no mistake, this isn’t the same Seminoles defensive front that was dominant during their national championship run. Timmy Jernigan is gone, a disruptive force on the inside who finished third in tackles for last year’s title team. But that doesn’t mean the Seminoles are slouches up front, with blue-chip recruits lining up all across the front seven.

In what is likely to be a very hostile environment, cleaning up any procedural issues will be vital. There can be no early snap with multiple players still shifting, like there was on Saturday. And any communication issues relaying protections won’t get any easier with 82,000 fans screaming.

You can’t blame Kelly for saying all the right things, especially when it does take some time to learn new positions. And with the running game kick-started against North Carolina behind some sold work by Tarean Folston, Saturday night is a perfect opportunity to show some progress.

“There are things that we’ve got to get better at, a couple of protection misses that didn’t get communicated across the board,” Kelly conceded. “But by and large, we’re getting better each week.”

Despite the distractions, Winston plans to play against Notre Dame

Wake Forest v Florida State

Amidst a university disciplinary hearing and two damning media reports from Fox Sports and the New York Times, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has no intention of doing anything but playing football next weekend.

The returning Heisman Trophy winner might have storm clouds surrounding him, but he says he’ll be on the field in Doak Campbell Stadium next weekend.

“Of course,” Winston responded when asked about playing in Saturday’s showdown.

That decision could fly in the face of the best legal advice, with Winston’s disciplinary hearing at the university potentially opening him back up to charges for an alleged rape. Sports Illustrated legal writer Michael McCann lays out a pretty compelling argument for Winston dropping out of FSU all together.

Winston’s participation in the university’s disciplinary process would carry great legal risk for him. A university disciplinary hearing would involve both fact-finding and testimony. Law enforcement or attorneys for Winston’s accuser could later attempt to subpoena these materials and use them against Winston. While a finding that Winston violated university rules would not mean that he broke any laws, the finding would likely be admissible evidence in a prosecution or civil litigation.

As noted above, Winston could still face criminal charges until 2017. Winston was only investigated for criminal conduct and not tried, meaning the Double Jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment does not protect him from being charged and tried. Winston thus has an incentive to prevent any new facts or testimony from emerging that might persuade a prosecutor or a grand jury to take a second look at what happened.

Winston played the entire 2013 season with the accusation pending, though the state attorney’s office deciding not to press charges. State Attorney Willie Meggs talked about the broken legal process with Fox Sports, a damning critique of the Tallahassee Police Department as well as Florida State’s administration and police department, who seemingly prioritized protecting Winston more than the truth.

That’s not all that seems to be trailing Winston. Just days after Todd Gurley was taken off the field for allegedly accepting money and other improper benefits for signatures, the same memorabilia collector that had hundreds of Gurley items on sale also had over 100 on sale from Winston.



Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher defended Winston when asked about the memorabilia in question.

“Kids sign things all the time,” Fisher told ESPN. “So what do you want them to do, stop signing stuff? We could make them not have any fans from that standpoint and not sign for anybody. That’s what it’s going to come to, and that’s a shame for college football that we can’t take a kid, somebody exploits a kid. Now, if they’re getting paid for it, then I don’t have any knowledge of that. I don’t believe Jameis did.”

That Fisher takes such a pollyanna approach to the behavior of his star quarterback is hardly surprising. It was Fisher who decided to suspend Winston for a half of football after the quarterback shouted an obscene, sexual profanity from a table top inside the student union, only to have the university extend the suspension to a full game. Add that to the heisted crab legs and multiple legal tussles after pellet-gun incidents and Fisher has backed himself into a corner with his star quarterback.

Through half a season, Winston hasn’t played like a Heisman Trophy winner. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is still a dangerous weapon with both his arm and legs, but after completing nearly 67 percent of his passes for 40 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, Winston has thrown just 11 touchdowns so far this season with five interceptions, though he is completing 70 percent of his attempts.

But even as chaos envelopes Winston, he’s hitting his stride on the field. He completed 30 of 36 passes for 317 yards against Syracuse, throwing for three touchdowns in a 38-20 victory. All that leading to the biggest game on the Seminoles’ calendar.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Winston said. “It’s finally here. You can’t say that we’re taking it day-by-day, so it’s finally here. Notre Dame has a great football team, but we’re still Florida State, we’re not looking to lose.”






The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. North Carolina

North Carolina v Notre Dame

That the Irish took the Tar Heels’ best shot and still ended up victorious is worth something. Just what that something is might be defined as the games roll on.

If the Irish continue to win, the victory over North Carolina will be one of the speed bumps on the road to a special season. If Notre Dame struggles this weekend against Florida State and stumbles again, it’ll serve as a harbinger of things to come.

But that’s life in football. You’re only as good as your next game, and every datapoint will be used for or against you, depending on the argument.

With a date in Tallahassee set for Saturday, there’s little time to look back and dwell on a closer-than-necessary victory. But let’s do it anyway.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Notre Dame’s 50-43 victory.




Tarean Folston. It sure was nice seeing a running back take over a football game. Folston was just what the doctor ordered, especially considering Golson’s not-so-steady presence with the football.

That Folston was able to get the ground game going when everybody in the stadium knew it was coming is a good sign. While I was less than impressed early by the work the offensive line did, Folston meshed well with the front five when crunch time came around, and when the ground game needed it they came through.

My favorite part of Saturday? Check the play-by-play for Folston’s impressive work icing the game after the questionable roughing the snapper penalty.

Drive One: Three carries for 21 yards. Two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown.
Drive Two: Seven carries for 43 yards and a touchdown.

With 71 yards in the air and 98 on the ground, Folston was well deserving of the game ball.


Will Fuller. Against a defense that’s one of the worst statistical units in the country, you had to expect a big day from Notre Dame’s big-play receiver. And Fuller delivered, making seven catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

With the sophomore the team’s No. 1 receiver without DaVaris Daniels, Fuller even paid tribute to his missing teammate with Daniels’ three-fingered salute, straight from The Hunger Games.

Through six games, Fuller has 504 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. It doesn’t take a math major to see that he’s just on pace for a 1,000 yard regular season with prolific touchdown numbers as well. When asked if Fuller has what it takes to be the team’s No. 1 receiver, Brian Kelly explained that he’s capable of being dynamic, though still a work in progress.

“I think right now he’s kind of emerging as that big play guy,” Kelly said. “I think we’re looking toward him a lot more. But we have other pieces that really complement him as well. I don’t think he can stand out there by himself, you know what I mean?  I don’t think you could say that’s just one guy, but he definitely possesses the skills that have put him in the position that he is right now.”


Cole Luke. Just a few days after KeiVarae Russell made it official that he wouldn’t play a down with this football team, Cole Luke went out and made another huge play. His critical interception flipped the momentum of the game and was the one bad play North Carolina quarterback Marquis Williams seemed to make.


Notre Dame’s Special Teams. With one of college football’s most dangerous return men on the docket, the Irish shut Ryan Switzer down, holding him to -13 yards on three returns. Add to that six touchbacks on eight kickoffs for Kyle Brindza, a gigantic blocked extra point by Jarron Jones and a great two-point conversion play to Ben Koyack and it was a heckuva day.


The Red Zone. Want to know why Notre Dame came away with a victory? It’s because it cashed in every scoring opportunity for a touchdown. After struggling the past couple weeks in the red zone, the Irish were lethal. A six for six afternoon was needed, and it’s the big reason why Notre Dame was capable of closing the early gap.

It’s nice to see some balance in the red zone, with Greg Bryant, Cam McDaniel and Folston getting rushing touchdowns while the Irish also cashed in with Fuller and Folston in the air as well. A prolific afternoon inside the 20 helped the Irish escape 6-0.


Quick Hits: 

* How fun is it to see the Jet Sweep start to get some love in the Notre Dame playbook? After watching C.J. Prosise break a big one against Stanford, Prosise and Amir Carlisle both picked up a dozen yards an attempt. It’s good to see the slot receiver continue to make plays of importance.

* Let’s give credit to Marquise Williams here. After splitting series with highly-touted youngster Mitch Trubisky, Williams took every snap — and will likely keep it that way — after lighting up the Irish both on the ground and through the air. How good was Williams? He threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass as well.

Heckuva day in a losing effort.

* Max Redfield & Elijah Shumate combined for 18 tackles on the afternoon. That’s a productive day for two guys who will have a lot of attention heaped on them with Austin Collinsworth likely lost for quite some time.

* Sheldon Day showed up in the stat sheet as only having one assisted tackle. But he was an absolute maniac in the trenches, getting held at least a half-dozen times on plays that should’ve drawn flags.

* A big forced fumble to go along with Joe Schmidt‘s career-high 11 tackles. He might have missed a few uncharacteristically, but that’s because Schmidt should’ve been on a ventilator after playing nearly 90 plays.



Up-tempo defense. The Irish looked lost at times against North Carolina’s up-tempo attack. It was a matchup that worried Brian Kelly and it didn’t take long for us to figure out why.

Kelly spoke quite candidly about the challenges that were presented and what went wrong.

“We’re inexperienced in a number of areas, and if the circumstances played out, we could be put into that kind of situation,” Kelly said, when asked about the defensive struggles after being so stout for the season’s first five games. “Here are the ingredients for that. A team that runs an up‑tempo offense that can run up to 100 plays. I think they had 91. We’re very thin on the back end, as evidenced late in the game. We were tired and tackled poorly. That’s something that concerns us.

“Playing very fast with some young kids, not being able to get off the field on third down with our base personnel. We weren’t able to situational substitute, so we weren’t as good on third down, another key ingredient with playing a team like North Carolina.”


Tackling defense. This comes with being on the football field for over 80 plays (Brian Kelly charted 91, the official books have it as 84). Either way, Notre Dame was sloppy tackling, missed more than its fair share of tackles-for-loss, and failed to contain a quarterback that everybody knew was going to be a runner just as much as a passer.

Jaylon Smith missed his share of stops. So did Joe Schmidt. Matthias Farley, after looking very locked in this season, reverted back to some sloppy habits.

Let’s not make this into something bigger than it is, but heading into a game against an elite athletic unit, the Irish are going to need to sharpen up.


Losing third down on defense. At this point it feels a little bit like we’re dragging the defense through the mud, but the failure for the Irish to win third down after putting the Tar Heels into third-and-long situations was what kept North Carolina in the football game.

Without having the time to bring sub-packages in, the Irish were forced to use their base defense to play on third down. It was likely a big reason why North Carolina’s mediocre offensive line was able to keep Notre Dame from getting a single sack on Williams.


Everett Golson’s turnovers. He knows it. We know it. The coaches know it. Golson just cannot keep this pace of inconsistency up, and the three turnovers turned into 21 North Carolina points.

When asked if this was a trend, Kelly talked about the specifics of how the team deals with mistakes like these.

“Let’s look at each one of them,” Kelly said. “The first one he’s stepping up in the pocket and it’s a little bit of everything. The route is too deep.  The route should be broke at 12, it broke at 15, so he has to hitch again.  He hitches again, he gets the ball batted, it’s a fumble, turnover.

“The second one, the box is emptied out, it’s probably a mistake that Everett doesn’t normally make, pick six. Third one he’s going down, ball gets batted out, hand on the ball.

“Every single one of them is analyzed, overanalyzed, and we look at them and we go back to work and find ways to secure the football and do a better job.  We don’t take any of them for granted.  We look at ways to improve each time and look at each one of them as opportunities to eradicate them.”

There were some fans online that seemed ready to give Malik Zaire an opportunity to show what he can do. That’s ridiculous. Golson is the school’s most prolific winner, has thrown 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions, and is still the Irish’s best offensive player.

But he needs to stop making critical mistakes and get back to being himself.


Austin Collinsworth’s injury. The veteran safety will get an MRI, but is likely lost for an extended amount of time, leaving the safety position in a difficult spot. Already pronounced out for Saturday in Tallahassee, there’s a chance Collinsworth has played his last snap in South Bend.

(Though there’s also a chance he could be eligible for a sixth-year of competition.)

We tackled what the safety position will look like without Collinsworth during Saturday’s Five Things, but the depth at safety is very thin and it’s going to be on the shoulders of Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield to get it done.



Winning bad. The 43-points Notre Dame gave up are the most in a victory in school history, passing the 42 Lou Holtz’s 1991 squad gave up to Hawaii. But for as frustrating as it seemed to be, five years into the program, the Irish were able to right the ship and come out with a win.

“I think where we’re at right now is that we’ve won 35 of our last 43 games,” Kelly said. “I think that just says it right there.  I mean, these guys believe they’re going to win. When you have that built into your program, guys believe they’re going to find ways to win. We were down 14 points, there’s no panic. We’re down late.  I think these last two games we were down in the fourth quarter, and we won the football game. We don’t want that to happen, but I think the difference is they believe they’re going to win, and that’s something that you build into your program.”

Well said, coach.

Now get it done in Tallahassee, and nobody will remember you struggled with North Carolina.

Irish get commitment from pass-rusher Bo Wallace

On a Saturday where Notre Dame failed to get any sacks, the Irish landed a pass-rusher for the future. New Orleans’ Bo Wallace committed to the Irish on Sunday, announcing the decision on Twitter. Wallace and his parents were in South Bend this weekend for his official visit, taking in the North Carolina game and campus.

The 6-foot-3.5, 215-pounder is expected to play defensive end for Notre Dame, adding a much needed edge-rush presence to the 2015 recruiting class. While he’s an undersized prospect that only carries a three-star ranking, Wallace stars for the powerhouse John Curtis program, and had offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida State.

Wallace’s commitment is a surprise, considering John Curtis prospects rarely take official visits before their season is over. But with a weekend off, Wallace and his family were able to get to Notre Dame to meet with the coaches and take in campus, and that was all that it took to close the deal.

Wallace is commitment No. 19 for the Irish, filling another need as the class gets closer and closer to capacity. Wallace joins Jerry Tillery as a Louisiana-based recruit and is the first defensive end in the class.