SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 19: Chris Finke #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a touchdown catch against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Notre Dame Stadium on November 19, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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84 & Counting: A Scholarship Chart

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After signing 21 incoming freshmen last week, Irish coach Brian Kelly quickly indicated the Notre Dame roster may not yet be done growing. In a radio interview on Weekday Sportsbeat, Kelly spoke of a possible transfer to Notre Dame, likely a graduated senior taking advantage of the NCAA’s stance on graduate student’s having immediate eligibility.

“We’ve put a scholarship aside,” Kelly said. “We think we’re in a very good position with one right now that we’ll be able to close on within the next couple of weeks.”

Before rampant speculation about just who that may be gains too much steam, it is prudent to consider where such a player may have an imminent impact. A look at the Irish roster as currently constructed—categorized by both class and position—may indeed help narrow that speculation. Hence, the below. First, some notes regarding the below:

  • All classes are listed as they will be next season. For example, quarterback Brandon Wimbush is currently a sophomore at Notre Dame, but below lists Wimbush as a junior since that will be his standing come fall.
  • Today’s best guesses at starters are listed in italics.
  • Asterisks next to seniors names indicate that player will have a fifth-year of eligibility after this season. The chart only notes seniors with that possibility, rather than marking all players who have preserved a year to-date. Predicting such for years in the future often bears little-to-no resemblance to what reality transpires once injuries and other events are factored in down the road.
Position 5th-Yr Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
QB M. VanGorder B. Wimbush I. Book A. Davis
RB J. Adams T. Jones C.J. Holmes
D. Williams
Receiver E. St. Brown K. Stepherson J. Armstrong
C. Finke J. McKinley M. Young
C.J. Sanders C. Claypool
M. Boykin D. McIntosh
Tight End D. Smythe N. Weishar* A. Jones B. Wright
T. Luatua C. Kmet

Bringing in two of the top-three tight ends in the class of 2017 presents an interesting quandary of, will one red-shirt this season? Four upperclassmen at the position only increases the likelihood of such. Since Brock Wright enrolled early and will thus take part in all of spring practice, he is the more likely of the two to see the field in 2017, though do not be surprised if Cole Kmet’s talent forces new Irish offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Chip Long to deploy him, as well.

Position 5th-Yr Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Tackle M. McGlinchey A. Bars* L. Eichenberg A. Banks
T. Kraemer J. Lugg
Guard H. Bivin Q. Nelson* T. Hoge P. Boudreaux R. Hainsey
J. Byrne* T. Ruhland D. Gibbons
Center S. Mustipher*

Spring practice will provide a better handle on offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s latest alignment. The biggest question is not who will start, but where will the back-ups cross-train. Hiestand has often relied on only three or four actual second-stringers, believing a player or two was his best secondary option at multiple positions. Barring a rash of injuries—and the offensive line is perhaps the only position group to avoid that epidemic in recent years—this strategy holds up just fine.

Position 5th-Yr Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Def. End A. Trumbetti D. Hayes K. Wardlow
J. Bonner* J. Okwara MacCollister
J. Hayes* A. Ogundeji
K. Kareem
Def. Tackle D. Cage J. Tillery K. Hinish
P. Mokwuah * E. Taylor Tagovailoa-Amosa
M. Dew-Treadway D. Ewell
B. Tiassum
“Rover” D. Tranquill* A. Bilal J. Owusu-Koromoah

Simply learning who new Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko trots out at his “rover” position (a safety-linebacker hybrid of sorts) will tell us the most about this spot’s role and future. He has also mentioned senior linebacker Greer Martini as a possibility there, but the need at linebacker may be too great to give Elko a genuine chance to try Martini at the rover.

Position 5th-Yr Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
LB N. Morgan T. Coney Jo. Jones D. Adams
G. Martini J. Barajas Ja. Jones D. White
Corner N. Watkins* S. Crawford J. Love
A. White T. Pride
S. Perry
D. Vaughn
Safety N. Coleman D. Studstill I. Robertson
N. Fertitta J. Elliott J. Genmark-Heath
D.J. Morgan
PK J. Yoon
Kickoff J. Doerer
Punter T. Newsome*
LS     J. Shannon

‘Anywhere from 5 to 15’

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and his team wait to head on to the field for the start of the game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Five of Notre Dame’s nine current assistant coaches had only weeks to recruit this cycle. Factor in quarterbacks coach Thomas Rees’s pending promotion from graduate assistant to assistant coach and that makes six new Irish coaches chasing recruits for a full year by the time National Signing Day 2018 rolls around. That is Feb. 7, 2018, for those of you already bypassing an entire football season.

It was with this increased time—and theoretically the chance for stronger relationships with fickle high school personalities—in mind a reporter asked Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly about a potential shift in recruiting strategy. Kelly’s response began by focusing on 15 of the 21 recruits the Irish had signed earlier that day. Quickly, though, Kelly pivoted to discussing recruiting rankings.

“Since I’ve been here, if you look at the average rankings, we’re anywhere from 5 to 15,” he said Wednesday. “We’re going to fall somewhere in that range because there’s a line there we can’t get over based upon what our distinctions are here. That line is going to keep us between 5 and 15.

“We know where we’re going to fall. We’re going to continue to recruit the right kind of kids here.”

Kelly then returned to the line of questioning, regarding the value of long-term relationships in recruiting compared to making offers late in the cycle. Versions of the latter strategy bolstered Notre Dame’s class this year, but it innately comes with a high risk :: reward ratio.

His comments regarding “anywhere from 5 to 15” could be considered as an attempt to temper future expectations. More likely, Kelly was acknowledging realities he has come to know intimately after seven full recruiting cycles as the head of Irish program (and an eighth abridged cycle when he had only 55 days to recruit between accepting the job and National Signing Day in 2010).

Are those comments accurate? In Kelly’s time, largely.

For this exercise, let’s rely on the subsidiary of an NBC Sports partner: rivals.com. Yes, some recruiting services rank Notre Dame higher some years than other services do. The same goes for individual recruits. Over an eight-year stretch, that should trend toward evening out. If nothing else, this allows for something of a standard of comparison.

2012: No. 20
In Kelly’s time, Notre Dame has fallen below that range only once, the class of 2012. Rivals ranked that class of 17 recruits No. 20 in the country. Part of that low ranking undoubtedly ties to the size of the class, the smallest of Kelly’s tenure, as Rivals focuses its rankings on a class’s top 20 commitments. (This year’s 21 is the next smallest.)

Five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel and four-star defensive back Tee Shepard never took a snap for the Irish, and four-star athlete DaVonte’ Neal transferred after his freshman season. Neal played in 13 games, finishing with one rush for seven yards, one reception for a loss of five and 21 punt returns for a total of 46 yards.

Removing those players from that class would have dropped Notre Dame to somewhere around No. 32 in the rankings*. This revisionist history, however, fails to account for the exceeded expectations of:
– Four-star offensive lineman, first-round draft pick and current NFL starter Ronnie Stanley
– Four-star defensive lineman and current Jacksonville Jaguar Sheldon Day
– Three-star defensive lineman and current New York Giant Romeo Okwara
– Three-star defensive back, eventual Notre Dame running back and current Seattle Seahawk C.J. Prosise
– Four-star defensive lineman Jarron Jones
– Three-star receiver and current Dallas Cowboy Chris Brown

A thorough retroactive recruiting rankings would also need to include these disappointments and surprises at other schools.

2013: No. 3
The Irish rode the momentum of appearing in the BCS National Championship Game following an undefeated regular season to the peak of Kelly’s recruiting in South Bend. Four five-star recruits highlighted the 24 signees, though defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes never made it to Notre Dame Stadium. Even factoring in Vanderdoes’s departure, the Irish class would have ranked fourth according to rivals, with Florida advancing a position by a slim margin.

Again, if accounting for an abrupt, premature departure, one must look at the other end of the spectrum and acknowledge those who possibly outperformed recruiting expectations:
– Four-star defensive lineman Isaac Rochell
– Four-star running back Tarean Folston
– Four star athlete, eventual Notre Dame linebacker James Onwualu
– Four-star offensive lineman and 2017 captain Mike McGlinchey

Only Eight Average Better
Over Kelly’s eight years signing recruits at Notre Dame, only eight schools have averaged a better finish than his 11.875, per rivals.com. The list includes five SEC programs, alongside traditional powers Florida State, USC and Ohio State.

Alabama: 1.625 (with six No. 1 finishes)
Florida State: 5.25
USC: 6.875 (with one No. 1 finish)
LSU: 7.375
Ohio State: 7.5
Auburn: 8.625
Georgia: 9
Florida: 9.375

Perhaps Kelly’s Signing Day range projections do not sit well with some. They do appear to be consistent with results, though.

*Rivals changed its recruiting points formula heading into the class of 2013. The previous formula was more obscure than the current version, thus this altered ranking is only an estimate.

Active tonight or not, Floyd ready for both it and future

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01:  Michael Floyd #14 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Michael Floyd played a pivotal role in the Patriots’ home field-clinching victory over the Dolphins to close the regular season. In their playoff opener, Floyd was less of a factor. In the AFC Championship, the former Notre Dame star receiver was not even on the active roster. Wherever tonight’s Super Bowl lands on that spectrum for Floyd, he will be in line for a ring with a New England victory.

After that, even more questions abound.

At Super Bowl Media Day on Monday, Floyd fielded questions both about his future and his Arizona departure following a DUI arrest the day after the Cardinals lost to Miami and Floyd caught two passes for 18 yards. Even before authorities determined his blood-alcohol level to b .217, the Cardinals released Floyd and the Patriots subsequently picked him up off waivers.

“It was tough,” Floyd told the Pioneer Press. “[The Cardinals] didn’t say nothing. They knew what the deal was. I knew what the deal was, and we parted.”

In his second game with the Patriots, Floyd faced those Dolphins again, this time catching three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown, providing two of the definitive New England highlights of the season.

Yet, as the Patriots clinched their Super Bowl berth, Floyd wore street clothes. The return of receiver Malcolm Mitchell from a knee injury gave the Patriots four receivers who knew their system in-and-out, rather than Floyd’s month-long crash course tutorial. Not expecting to need a fifth receiver, the Patriots coaches used that roster spot for other positional needs.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “I think circumstances decide [who is inactive]. There’s other factors in all that. But Michael’s been great. I’m really happy to have him, and we’re going to work hard and get him ready for Sunday.”

Floyd will be a free agent following the Super Bowl. His landing may have been soft in New England, but that does not mean he will be there come next season, though that warm reception may make it his preference.

In case you rely on this site for every piece of your sporting news, tonight’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Falcons kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Notre Dame Stadium ticket costs and capacity fall

SOUTH BEND, IN - AUGUST 31:  A general view of Notre Dame Stadium as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Temple Owls on August 31, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Temple 28-6.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Skip the dinner for two at your favorite restaurant this weekend and you just might save enough to pay for the most economically-efficient ticket in Notre Dame’s new tiered system. Granted, you will need to skip another date night to afford a ticket for your significant other, but you have nearly six full months to find the suitable weekend for that.

Notre Dame announced a new ticketing operation with eight publicly-available price points beginning at $45 and topping out at $250. The prices may vary depending on seat location and opponent.

Theoretically, the University will net as much income from this system in each of 2017 and 2018 as it did in 2016. Logic would indicate every dollar some tickets are cheaper is a dollar other tickets will be more expensive.

Season tickets will not see a price increase between 2017 and 2018, and the student season ticket package will decrease by $5, per the Saturday morning release.

Further Crossroads Improvements
Notre Dame and visiting teams will no longer share the same tunnel, with a new one installed in the northeast corner for the Irish opponents.

“To improve player and spectator safety,” all field seating will be removed. This includes the band. Let’s just call this the Golden Tate Adjustment. Notre Dame’s band will now sit in the student section.

The added tunnel and removal of field seating—combined with a widening of lower bowl seats by two inches up to 18 inches—will reduce Notre Dame Stadium’s total capacity to approximately 78,000. Previously, it fit 80,795 diehards.


More affordable ticket prices may be great and all—especially with families with young children wondering if the six-year-old’s first Irish memory is really worth that exorbitant figure—but the most-important improvements to Notre Dame Stadium may be the improved cell service and WiFi internet throughout the Stadium.


The announcement of the new ticketing system included one familiar line: “There will be no advertising” on the 96-by-54 foot video board being installed within Campus Crossroads.

Jaylon Smith provides proof of physical progress

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Linebacker Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish walks off the field after an injury during the first quarter of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Actions speak louder than words. A photo is worth a thousand words. And so go the old tropes.

If they are accurate at all, former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith spoke loudly Friday with thousands of words.

The encouraging video comes a month after the former Irish All-American and Butkus Award winner told The Dallas Morning News he could have competed in the playoffs “at an elite level.” While that may have been written off as mere optimism, the training video provides a bit more concrete proof Smith very well may be able to aid the Cowboys’ defense in 2017.

The second-round pick is now 13 months removed from tearing both his ACL and MCL against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, an injury that also caused nerve damage. The severity of the nerve damage scared off many NFL teams before the Draft.

Dallas returns all its 2016 starting linebackers—Kyle Wilber, Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee—but only Lee has entrenched himself into a future starting spot. Whereas Smith is signed through 2019, both Wilber and Hitchens have only one more year remaining on their contracts. If healthy, Smith would most likely challenge Hitchens for the middle linebacker role.