Brian Kelly
AP

Brian Kelly extends Notre Dame contract through 2021

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Brian Kelly isn’t going anywhere.

After having his name thrown into the pot with every NFL vacancy, Notre Dame and its head football coach have agreed to a long-term contract extension, keeping Kelly atop the program through the 2021 season.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced the news via press release Friday afternoon.

“In the classroom, in the community and on the playing field, Brian has built the foundation of a great Notre Dame football program–one that reflects this University’s values and its unique relationship to the game of football,” Swarbrick said in the release. “I could not be more excited about the future of our football program under Brian’s leadership, and I am especially thankful that our student-athletes will continue to have the benefit of that leadership in the years to come.”

Kelly recently completed his sixth season as head coach of the Irish, his 25th season atop a program since his days at Grand Valley State in the D-II ranks. His record in South Bend is 55-23, with his teams bowl eligible in every season, along with a 12-win campaign (and berth in BCS title game) and 10-win 2015. Only Lou Holtz and Ara Parseghian had two double-digit win seasons at Notre Dame. Kelly’s contract would make 12 seasons as head coach at Notre Dame, one more than Lou Holtz and one less than the 13 Knute Rockne spent running the program.

Kelly has routinely stated over the past few years that he has no interest in heading to the NFL. That belief has been challenged, mostly because he spoke with the Philadelphia Eagles in the days following his team’s loss in the BCS title game against Alabama. Those rumors will likely end with this extension—another stabilizing factor for a once wobbly program now on solid ground.

“I want to thank Father Jenkins and the leadership of Notre Dame for their confidence in me,” Kelly said in the same statement. “I coach football because I believe there are few better avenues for impacting the lives of young men, and I am certain that there is no better place to do that than the University of Notre Dame. During the next six years I look forward to continuing to lead a championship caliber program, but more importantly I look forward to continuing to help the student-athletes I coach to achieve greatness as football players, as students and as men who will make a difference in families, communities and organizations they will someday lead.”

 

Irish state their case to 5-star LB Ben Davis

Ben Davis
Rivals / Yahoo Sports
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Some thought even getting 5-star linebacker Ben Davis onto campus was the recruiting victory. But after Brian Kelly went in-home with the top prospect in the state of Alabama—and a Crimson Tide legacy, no less—the head coach’s impact wasn’t lost on the Under Armour All-American.

Notre Dame’s visit with Davis went well. How well? It sounds like Davis is hitting reboot on his decision, telling Blue & Gold’s Andrew Ivins that he has “no leader” after welcoming Kelly and four assistants into his home.

This, from the surprising report from our friends at B&G:

“It’s going to be interesting,” Davis said. “The visit was unbelievable. I have never had that many coaches from one school come … I named Alabama my leader because I had a great visit, but right now I don’t have a leader because my eyes have opened up.”

Kelly was joined by Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, linebackers coach Mike Elston, running backs coach Autry Denson and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght.

Davis said the head man made his final face-to-face pitch simple.

“He said there’s plenty of playing time. If I come up there, I’m going to have to play and contribute early. He said there’s a great support staff there and that I would have not only for the four years that I’m there, but also when I graduate,” Davis said.

Notre Dame’s final week has been one of the more impressive recruiting pushes I can remember. These visits are a long way from the Ty-Willingham-Won’t-Leave-Brian-Toal’s-Living-Room era. While we won’t find out if the efforts net Davis, or fellow 5-stars Caleb Kelly and Demetris Robertson, long gone are the days when Notre Dame’s coaching staff rested on the laurels of their blue-chip brand.

Credit first-year assistant Autry Denson for making the in-roads with Davis. The blue-chip linebacker told Irish 247’s Tom Loy that he views Denson as a brother and that they’ll “maintain a friendship for life.” That’s the type of recruiter Notre Dame needed when they replaced Tony Alford, and Denson did a heckuva job with his young position group, too.

Kelly’s sales pitch to Davis is probably more true than even Irish fans want to acknowledge. While Nyles Morgan is the heir apparent to Joe Schmidt in the middle of the Irish defense, to think there isn’t room for a prospect like Davis in a linebacking corps that returns only James Onwualu (10th on the defense in total snaps) to the starting lineup would be under-appreciating Davis’ talent.

The Alabama native is visiting Auburn this weekend on an official visit. He’ll make his decision live on ESPNU on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

 

Irish back up the semi-truck (literally) for Demetris Robertson

Demetris Robertson
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Recruitin’.

With less than a week until National Signing Day, Notre Dame is locked in a very tight battle for 5-star wide receiver Demetris Robertson. With several teams, including new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, putting on a full-court press, several rumors are swirling about an extended recruitment of Robertson that could go past next Wednesday, with news changing by the day on the pursuit of one of the nation’s top athletes.

Some Irish fans have already waved the white flag. Notre Dame’s coaching staff? Well, they’ve gone all in.

Thursday morning, the Irish brought ND One—the team’s equipment truck—to Savannah, Georgia, parking the 18-wheeler outside of Robertson’s house, and then driving it to his high school. The 5-star recruit took to Twitter to share the impressive sight:

It was a move hinted at by offensive coordinator Mike Sanford on Twitter, who was joined by associate head coach Mike Denbrock in Savannah for the visit to Robertson (and a Waffle House). For those who have forgotten, Denbrock was in Fresno late Tuesday night visiting Caleb Kelly, only to fly across the country to be in Savannah a little more than 24 hours later.

Will the Irish land Robertson? We won’t know until the talented all-purpose athlete sends his letter-of-intent to the school of his choice. But with less than a week until recruits can formalize their scholarships and schools can announce their signing classes, Notre Dame is pulling out all the stops to land a difference maker who could potentially fill Will Fuller‘s shoes.

Irish staff go in-home with 5-star LB Caleb Kelly

Caleb Kelly
Rivals / Yahoo Sports
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With just one week until Signing Day, Notre Dame’s coaching staff is covering the country in pursuit of some final key pieces to their 2016 recruiting class. Last night, that brought Brian Kelly, Mike Denbrock and Mike Elston to Fresno, California, where the staff went in-home with 5-star recruit and high school Butkus Award winner Caleb Kelly.

While some quotes are already trickling in from Kelly, who spoke with Irish 247 after Notre Dame’s staff left the family house, Twitter provided some nice updates as well (including some recruiting from some Irish commits):

At this point, discussing the on-field piece of the puzzle is finished. Kelly profiles as an outside linebacker in Notre Dame’s system, with the possibility to grow and put a hand on the ground and rush the passer as his career continues. With a linebacking corps that needs rebuilding after 2015, Kelly has an opportunity to step in and play a variety of spots—something Blue & Gold’s Bryan Driskell broke down earlier this week.

With the football out of the way, Kelly and his mom hosted Notre Dame’s staff, the final in-home visit from the Irish coaching staff before Kelly announces his intentions at 5:30 p.m. local time next Wednesday.

“It was fun,” Kelly told Tom Loy of Irish 247. “It was great hanging out with everyone, just relaxing, talking about everything. It was pretty casual and just laid back.”

Once again, it looks like Notre Dame will be battling Oklahoma for Kelly’s commitment, with Bob Stoops and company already well established in California’s Central Valley. But the Irish staff feels good about their chances with one of the top players in the country, and this recruitment will likely last until a fax rolls into a football office Wednesday evening.

 

 

All eyes on Day at Senior Bowl

Sheldon Day, John Fadule
AP
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When Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick headed to Indianapolis and sold Sheldon Day on returning for his senior season, they did so knowing that Day’s NFL career would hinge on a few key details. First, an impressive senior season. And second, Day’s ability to put up eye-opening numbers during the postseason meat market leading up to the NFL Draft.

Day’s first objective is complete—Notre Dame’s lineman of the year had one of the most impressive seasons in the country for an interior defensive lineman. His second? That journey begins today, as Day begins his work at the Senior Bowl, where a slew of NFL scouts will see if he’s worthy of an early round selection.

 

Everybody in South Bend knew that Day wasn’t going to win the eyeball test. That was confirmed Tuesday when heights and weights were taken, with Day measuring a shade under 6-foot-1 and weighing in at 286 pounds with a 32-and-7/8th-inch wingspan. Those numbers might turn certain teams away as Day struggles to fit in some schemes. Then again, Notre Dame’s last undersized star at the senior Bowl, All-Pro guard Zack Martin, took less than a season to let his play dispel any worries teams might have had.

 

Day’s stellar game-tape has gotten him this far, and allows him to be in the discussion of defenders capable of a first-round grade. Notre Dame’s staff is also confident that the speed and strength numbers Day puts up with have teams seeing an explosive and versatile defensive lineman. Here’s PFF’s breakdown of Day heading into Senior Bowl week, reminding all of us that Day was one of the country’s most productive defensive tackles, along with Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins.

 

Rankins is similar to Notre Dame’s Sheldon Day from a size standpoint, and both players went head to head all season in our grading. Day finished strong to grade at +59.0, second-best among all interior defensive linemen. He can shoot gaps or win with his hands, equally proficient as a pass rusher (+31.4) as he was against the run (+28.7). He has a chance to solidify his status as a potential first round pick this week.

Joined by fellow captain Nick Martin (who measured in at 6-foot-4, 296 pounds) in Alabama, both Day and Martin will have a week of full workouts to let teams evaluate them before their next stop at the NFL Scouting Combine. That’ll go a long way towards silencing or fortifying the questions about their size, giving both the chance to climb up draft boards with teams capable of potentially plugging both in as future starters as soon as next year.