Avery Davis
Rivals / Yahoo! Sports

Junior Day nets commitment from Texas QB Avery Davis

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Notre Dame’s coaching staff found their quarterback for the 2017 recruiting class. Texas dual-threat signal-caller Avery Davis committed to the Irish on Saturday, making the announcement via social media after arriving in South Bend.

“After endless prayer, talking to my family and my coaches I have decided to officially verbally commit to The University of Notre Dame!” Davis wrote. “I would like to thank all for the colleges who took a chance and recruited me to play for their school & I’d also like to thank all of the colleges who chose not to. All of the glory is to God because without him I am nothing! #goirish”

Undersized but highly athletic, Davis broke onto the seen as a sophomore on the 5A state champions in Texas, moonlighting as a runner and receiver before starting at quarterback last season. He threw for over 2,000 yards with 25 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. He also ran for 13 scores and nearly 900 yards.

It’s interesting to note Davis’ comments, particularly thanking the schools thatĀ didn’t offer him. That’s mostly the major Texas programs, with many of the in-state teams targeting a different quarterback in the 2017 recruiting cycle.Ā Davis was candid about those slights when talking to 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong:

“That was a big thing that drove me,” Davis told 247Sports. “Seeing the other guys get those offers, I was saying to myself I can play too, I can do what they do, I can do it better if you ask me. It made me work harder and itā€™s working out now.”

Davis was hardly an afterthought for the Irish coaching staff and particularly Mike Sanford. Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach had long had Davis a priority, especially after Indiana native Hunter Johnson committed to Tennessee.

A high school sprinter, expect the running part of the game to come easily to Davis. His evolution as a passer continues, only one year into his starting career after playing behind LSU recruit Justin McMillan as a sophomore.

Davis is the fifth member of the 2017 recruiting class. He might be joined by another pledge as early as Monday, with another junior day visitor, defensive tackle Kurt Hinnish, set to announceĀ after school tomorrow.

Zaire ready to go back to battle

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
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Notre Dame made all three quarterbacks available to the media on Friday. And as you may have expected, DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire and Brandon Wimbush all said the right things as they begin their battle for the starting quarterback job.

But mixed among the platitudes and Nook Laloosh-level cliches (Seriously, watch Zaire almost crack a smile in his first attempt to avoid the question) was some good old fashioned honestyĀ from Zaire.

And man,Ā was it refreshing.

Zaire’s candor isn’t new. And coming off a yearĀ where he opened the season withĀ a nearly perfect statistical game against Texas only to break his angle the next weekend, Zaire’s comments felt a lot likeā€”well, years’ past, when the Ohio-nativeĀ spoke honestly about his self-belief and attitude during quarterback battles with Everett Golson.

“You just really wonder what itā€™s gonna take to finally convince people enough that Iā€™m able to do the job, but like I said, I donā€™t make the decisions, so I just gotta keep balling and do what I gotta do.Ā And thatā€™s being the best in the country every time I gotta be out there and proving that to myself.

“I know Iā€™m a championship quarterback and thatā€™s something weā€™re working on. Every day is another process for me and my growth and development, and I know I’ve got to be at the best of shape at all times to help this team win football games.”

Credit ESPN’s Matt Fortuna for finally prying the answer out of Zaire. But also credit the rising senior quarterback for telling it like it is. A big reason why I’m not willing to count out Zaire from this battle is the attitude he displayed answering the question.

No, he’s not a guy running from the battle. He’s a quarterback doing the opposite, taking it into his own hands toĀ make it impossible for his coachesĀ not to give him the job. That’s all a staff can ask for, especially in aĀ program that built competition into its DNA.

Of course, mental fortitude is a nice perk, but if you don’t have the physical goods than it really doesn’t matter. Kizer’s breakthrough season has many thinking the sky’s the limit for the rising junior. But weĀ could be saying the same thing for Zaire, who in onlyĀ 75 careerĀ passes has thrown five touchdowns and zero interceptions, completing over 62-percent of his throws while running for more than 5.5 yards-per-carry, all whileĀ beating LSU and Texas.

There’s over five months until Notre Dame heads to Austin to open 2016 against the Longhorns. Expect Zaire to battle all the way until he boards the plane.

 

Notre Dame going nationwide with Junior Day

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While most eyes are turned to Brooklyn where the Irish basketball team takes on Michigan in round one of the NCAA tournament, it’s a major weekend on campus for the football program. Notre Dame is hosting a Junior Day that’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, expected to be oneĀ of the biggest turnouts in the Kelly era, with a guest list from coast-to-coast.

The program’s official Twitter account pointed out that prospects from 16 different states will be on campus to watch Saturday’s practice and take a closer look at campus.

Multiple reports have up to 30 prospects setting foot on campus, aĀ gigantic number that’s essentially turning the middle of March into a flagship weekend. With over two-thirds of those prospects already holding Irish offers, and a few more likely to earnĀ them this weekend, this could be a jumpstart to a recruiting class that already counts four commitments in the class of 2017.

If you’re looking at a headliner for the class, you might want to consider Texas quarterback Avery Davis. The second high-profile signal-caller to visit this week (Hendon Hooker of North Carolina was in South Bend on Sunday and Monday), Davis and blue-chip teammate Charleston Rambo are in town, with many thinking that Davis could be the centerpiece of a class that has the potential for a highly-touted group.

There’s also a slew of talented defenders set to arrive. Four-star linebacker Davis Adams of Pittsburgh returns, and commits to other major programsā€”cornerback and USC verbal Thomas Graham as well as Ohio State commit DT Haskell Garrettā€”are giving Notre Dame a look as well.

We’ll keep you updated on any news breaking over the weekend.

 

Spring Mailbag: Now Open

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Have a question about spring practice? Drop it below or find me on Twitter @KeithArnold.

Irish plans for rebuilt offensive line coming along nicely

McGlinchey
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Brian Kelly may not have made any official decision on the move of Mike McGlinchey to left tackle. But if Harry Hiestand’s rebuilt front five looks the way the Irish staff wants, it’ll likely feature McGlinchey on the left side with Quenton Nelson and three new starters lined up next to each other.

With only one practice in the books, Kelly discussed what he thinks will be his starting five come September, and it appears that junior center Sam Mustipher is going to get first crack at the job. After serving as Nick Martin’s backup in 2015, Mustipher was all but penciled into the lineup, a potential building block as the search for the right side comes into focus.

“I think youā€™re going see at least with McGlinchey, Nelson and Mustipher, thatā€™s going be a pretty consistent thing,ā€ Kelly said Wednesday. “Then on the right side thereā€™s really three guys that are competing for two positions, so weā€™re going to have some really good consistency there. So I think weā€™re going to come out of this with really a good rotation.”

Those three guys are senior Colin McGovern, senior Hunter Bivin and junior Alex Bars, with Bars still not all the way back from an ankle injury that ended his 2015 season in OctoberĀ against USC. That silver lining of that injury is that it hasĀ allowed the Irish staff to take a closer look at McGovern and Bivin, two seniors getting their first legitimate chance at playing time after three seasons as backups.

Bivin’sĀ best home is tackle. After bouncing around the line heĀ served as the primary backup to Ronnie Stanley last season and could be capable of moving into the starting lineup in McGlinchey’s old job. But Bars has the talent to play outsideĀ as well, though he might beginĀ his springĀ at guard, where he started two games last seasonĀ in place of Nelson. McGovern is another program body who has paid his dues and shown some versatility. He now has a chance to see the field, Steve Elmer’s retirement opening up a window.

It’s not just a veteran presence Kelly and Hiestand are looking for. Expect incoming freshman Tommy Kraemer to get a long look. Tristen Hoge, who impressed Kelly withĀ a 30-inchĀ vertical leapā€”the best Kelly has seen from an offensive lineman since former star Joe Staley. While Hoge doesn’t look like he’ll be the team’s center (the only natural center recruited by this staff), he’s getting plenty of repsĀ at guard as well.

“I think youā€™re throwing Hoge in the mix there where heā€™s the new guy, but heā€™s not that new to the group,ā€ Kelly said, acknowledging that this is the second spring in the rising sophomore’s career. “I feel pretty good that three out of the five guys know each other really well.”

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Kelly also discussed the move of former guard John Montelus to the defensive line, talking through some of the logic behind putting the rising senior in the trenches.

“He’s one of our most powerful players, and there wasn’t really light at the end of the tunnel for him on theĀ offensive line,” Kelly said.Ā “We just felt like he could be a guy who at least could play a shade and give us some strong play inside, he’s a matureĀ kid. Just more depth for us as we continue to develop the younger players. An older guy who is mature, who we can count on to do some things for us, Ā specific thingsā€”we’re not going to ask him to do a lotā€”butĀ we know the job can get done.”

Montelus’ move might be a direct response to some of the struggles Notre Dame had in the run game, specifically in short yardage and goal line situations. He could also be some nice protection to some undersized but athletic linebackers, much more capable of running down a ball carrier with a 310-pound boulder eating up blockers.