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Notre Dame defensive line adds weight as a whole

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As Notre Dame begins fall camp, its new depth chart includes some notable weight changes from the offseason conditioning program. Naturally, some of these will lead to much talk of improved fitness and increased strength only to end with no noticeable differences on the field. Others, however, may be indicative of things to come.

Remember, Irish coach Brian Kelly brought in a new “director of football performance” this offseason in Matt Balis who, in turn, brought with him a larger staff to increase the attention paid to each individual player. Based on some of the changes listed below, that focus paid off in a few particular instances.

Presumably, these changes are of the healthy variety and focused on muscle, not a sign Smashburger had a profitable summer.

Added Defensive Line Mass
In a quick glance down the roster, the modest weight added by two defensive tackles earn notice while the substantial weight gain by a defensive end will spark speculation he could be poised to move to tackle.

Senior tackle Jonathan Bonner added seven pounds to his listed spring weight, now titling the scales at 291 pounds, and junior tackle Micah Dew-Treadway added six pounds, now 305. Each of them may need that additional mass to hold the point of attack alongside junior Jerry Tillery. (Tillery was listed at 308 pounds in the spring and is now at 306.)

Meanwhile, senior ends Jay Hayes and Andrew Trumbetti added nine pounds and 11 pounds, respectively. That brings Hayes to 290 and Trumbetti to 263. This could point toward Hayes moving to the interior of the line, a needed boost to a rotation devoid of both experience and readiness. Trumbetti would then theoretically need some more strength to handle his position that much more in any given game.

Sophomore ends Ade Ogundeji and Julian Okwara each added five pounds, bringing them to 256 and 240 pounds, respectively. One of them could flip sides of the line to aid Trumbetti, as well. (more…)

Things to learn: Notre Dame’s defense filled with questions as camp begins

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In some respects, the wait is over. New football activity is here. In many other respects, competitive football is not yet imminent — Sept. 2 remains 33 days away.

The Irish will need that month to answer a number of questions. There are the obvious unknowns that will only be clarified with genuine games. Will junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush be ready to lead both in word and in action as the unquestioned starter? Will any freshmen emerge as more than special teams contributors from the outset? Will multiple bolts of lightning reduce the new video board to ash the moment it is turned on in Notre Dame Stadium with thousands watching?

Then there are the position battles, position vacuums and general ponderings which might find answers in practice. When Irish coach Brian Kelly meets with the media today (Monday) at noon ET, he will not have any of these questions solved, but he will likely allude to a few of them.

How well will the defense take to defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s aggressive scheme?
Admittedly, this will not be adequately answered until it is seen in measurable ways on a Saturday in September, but its groundwork began in the spring and will continue this month.

By now, everyone can cite last year’s pertinent numbers without much difficulty. Part of that ease is due to the symmetry. Notre Dame sacked its opponent a total of 14 times last season and created a total of 14 turnovers (eight interceptions, six fumble recoveries). If the Irish are to have even a mildly-successful 2017, both those numbers will need to increase by more than a small margin.

Kelly indicated those tendencies were taking root back in March and April. If that growth continues, it will likely be most-readily noticed by watching sophomore defensive end Daelin Hayes and sophomore cornerback Julian Love.

For that matter, will someone step forward and make an impact at defensive tackle?
Hayes’ task of sacking the quarterback will become much easier if an interior push prevents the quarterback from stepping up in the pocket to evade Hayes’ rush. Junior Jerry Tillery and senior Jonathan Bonner are the presumptive starters at the moment. Tillery has shown the talent necessary to provide the desired effect, but it has been on display inconsistently at best.

If a freshman is to jump into a role anywhere, this may be the position, despite the physicality natural to interior line play at the collegiate level. The class contains three defensive tackles in Kurt Hinish, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Darnell Ewell. If one or more of them can contribute to a defensive tackle rotation, Elko, Kelly and Hayes would all be grateful.

Who will line up alongside junior Nick Coleman at safety?
After a solid spring, it would be a surprise to see Coleman lose his position as the starter at field safety. Which sophomore, Jalen Elliott or Devin Studstill, will get first crack at boundary safety?

In all of reality, this distinction may not be that vital, but given the lack of experience Notre Dame can enjoy at safety, it would be a relief for Elko to settle on one option and focus on getting that young player ready for September’s bruising schedule.

On the other side of the ball, who will get the nod at right tackle?
Four-fifths of the Irish offensive line is all but carved into stone. Perhaps more importantly, that 80 percent is as experienced as any offensive line in the country. From left to right: fifth-year senior Mike McGlinchey, senior Quenton Nelson, senior Sam Mustipher, senior Alex Bars and then there is a question mark.

Sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg alternated first-team opportunities throughout most of the spring. Kraemer seemed to have the edge, but by no means was it definitive, and his Blue-Gold Game performance did not do anything to assuage concerns or to dissuade Eichenberg.

Unlike at safety, this decision will matter, as will its timing. Naming a starter and allowing the offensive line to work as a unit for as long as possible will lead to much better cohesion.

With any smoke seemingly dissipated, will sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson reinsert himself into the starting conversation?
Something or other limited Stepherson’s action in spring practice. That seems to have passed, but in that meantime, offensive coordinator Chip Long discovered how imposing the size of Notre Dame’s receivers could be.

To take it to the extreme, Wimbush could drop back against Temple in a two tight end set and look to a quintet of targets with the shortest being junior Miles Boykin at 6-foot-4. The slightest would be junior Equanimeous St. Brown at a listed 204 pounds. (Look for that figure, along with most weights, to be updated and raised in the fall’s depth chart.) At 6-foot and 180 pounds, Stepherson would hardly be a blip on that radar amid those two, sophomore Chase Claypool, junior tight end Alizé Mack and fifth-year senior tight end Durham Smythe. Those five average 6-foot-4 ¾ and 231 pounds.

Stepherson, though, does offer breakaway speed and exhibited big-play potential in his debut campaign. If anyone is going to break through that size to be a featured target to start the season, he seems the most likely candidate.

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 2 Dexter Williams, running back

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-11, 202 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with two years of eligibility remaining, including the 2017 season.
Depth chart: Williams is the No. 2 running back, behind junior Josh Adams, for the time being. Sophomore Tony Jones had an impressive spring and if he continues with that momentum, he could quickly take carries away from Williams.
Recruiting: From Orlando, Fla., the consensus four-star prospect’s recruitment came down to Notre Dame and Miami, with Florida, Ohio State, USC and many others on the outside looking in. Williams visited South Bend only weeks before National Signing Day, and the trip did the trick, landing the No. 12 running back in the class, per rivals.com, with the Irish. Rivals rated him the No. 21 recruit in Florida and the No. 120 overall player in the country.

CAREER TO DATE
If Williams was going to spend his freshman year preserving eligibility, the injury to then-junior Tarean Folston in the season-opener quickly scrapped those plausible plans. With that day’s gameplan changing on the fly, Williams took seven carries for 24 yards in his first collegiate action. He never saw too much more action — partly because Adams excelled — but he needed to be ready throughout 2015.

With Folston healthy last season, Williams remained third in the rotation.

2015: Seven games, 21 carries for 81 yards and one touchdown against Massachusetts.
2016: 12 games, 39 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
2017’s Blue-Gold Game: 10 carries for 98 yards and one 38-yard touchdown; four catches for 36 yards.

QUOTE(S)
Williams’ career nearly took an abrupt turn when he was among those arrested shortly before last season. By the sounds of it, the peril he put his future in was not lost on Williams.

“I think about it every day because that could have been my last chance, not just being at Notre Dame but playing football period,” he said following the Blue-Gold Game. “It’s on my mind daily, and I just continue to place myself around positive people and continue to stay positive.”

Among his many off-field changes, Williams has also improved his fitness at least in part thanks to the hiring of strength coordinator Matt Balis.

“I feel like I’m a whole ‘nother person,” Williams said. “My body has just changed, speed has changed. I can see a lot of things I didn’t do last year, I’m doing now. I feel more healthy.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
The prediction here is still hazy thanks to Williams’ part in the preseason escapades. But Williams can play — and if he’s not marooned by the University’s disciplinary arm, it appears Kelly is willing to handle this internally while the four young players stay in the mix. I expect Williams to make some big plays this season, and with those plays will come more opportunities.

“Josh Adams has been plagued by some training camp issues, namely a balky hamstring that’s limited Williams’ classmate all fall. Normally I’d view that as an open window for Williams, though if he’s sitting out more than a game or two, Adams will have his chance to get heathy and rolling first.

“All of this is a long way towards getting to a prediction. I’ll go with this one: Williams will be third on the team in attempts, but lead the Irish in yards per carry. I think he gets around 50 carries and will turn those into a half-dozen touchdowns.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Williams did not lead Notre Dame in yards per carry (Adams did at 5.9 yards), but his average of 5.1 was not to be scoffed at, though it was buoyed by a 59-yard score against Syracuse. Without that boost, Williams would have averaged only 3.71 yards per carry.

But at no point last season did Williams make a misstep that would carry over to 2017. With Folston gone, someone will need to pick up those carries. Perhaps some of them go to Adams, but the rest will be split between Williams and Jones. Even if Jones gets the majority of those reps, Williams’ total will go up, as well, bringing him to that 50-carry mark, if not higher.

Irish coach Brian Kelly has often used two running backs. He has, at points, dabbled in using three. Furthermore, offensive coordinator Chip Long has a history of involving multiple running backs, keeping the ballcarriers fresh in his up-tempo scheme. There will certainly be opportunities for both Williams and Jones.

If insisting on a prediction, let’s ballpark Williams’ junior year at 50 carries and 400 yards with five touchdowns. The more important item will be staying in the mix despite Jones’ rise. Injuries happen, particularly at running back. Having proven depth will be vital both for Notre Dame and for those making up the reserves.

DOWN THE ROAD
It is within the realm of possibility Adams runs his way into the NFL Draft this season. It is not likely, but it could happen. In that instance, suddenly Williams would be featured far more in 2018.

It is more probable Adams sticks around for a record-setting senior season and Williams remains the change-of-pace speed option supplementing Adams and Jones.

Long’s recruiting efforts have focused on larger, more physical running backs, but every offense will find opportunities for a home-run threat. Williams presents that option.


With those 88 entries, so ends the 2017 series of “99-to-2.” Hopefully its differences from Keith’s annual “A-to-Z” did not disrupt its intended purposes too much.

Tomorrow at noon ET, Brian Kelly will open training camp by addressing the media, a day before the Irish first take the practice field at Culver Academies about an hour south of campus.


2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, cornerback
No. 19: Justin Yoon, kicker
No. 18: Troy Pride, cornerback
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, safety
No. 16: Cameron Smith, receiver
No. 15: C.J. Holmes, running back
No. 14: Devin Studstill, safety
No. 13: Avery Davis, quarterback
No. 13: Jordan Genmark Heath, safety
No. 12: Ian Book, quarterback
No. 12: Alohi Gilman, safety
No. 11: Freddy Canteen, receiver
No. 10: Chris Finke, receiver
No. 9: Daelin Hayes, defensive end
No. 8: Donte Vaughn, cornerback
No. 7: Brandon Wimbush, quarterback
No. 7: Nick Watkins, cornerback
No. 6: Equanimeous St. Brown, receiver
No. 5: Nyles Morgan, linebacker
No. 4: Te’von Coney, linebacker
No. 4: Montgomery VanGorder, quarterback
No. 3: C.J. Sanders, receiver and returner

TRANSFERS
No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

INJURIES
No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 3 C.J. Sanders, receiver and returner

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-8, 185 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
Depth chart: Sanders will presumably lead the way at both kick and punt return while also backing up sophomore Chase Claypool at the Z, or slot, receiver position.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Sanders’ speed gave him the pick of many of the country’s top-flight programs, including Tennessee, UCLA and Stanford. Obviously the rivals.com No. 37 receiver chose Notre Dame, though it should be noted his father’s alma mater, Ohio State, did not come calling until too late in the process.

CAREER TO DATE
There are two aspects to Sanders’ stats. As a receiver, he hardly saw the field as a freshman before getting off to a great start last year. Then, his momentum came to an abrupt halt, catching only seven passes for 39 yards in the final seven games despite starting four of them. He started seven games total, spread throughout the season.

As a returner, Sanders has been a dynamic force from day one. His success with punt returns earned him kick return duties about halfway through his freshman season, and he has not turned back since.

2015 receiving: One catch, no yards.
2016 receiving: 24 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns.

2015 punt returns: 25 returns for 182 yards, an average of 7.3 yards per return, and one touchdown, a 50-yard score against Massachusetts.
2016 punt returns: 10 returns for 125 yards, an average of 12.5 yards per return.

2015 kick returns: 28 returns for 640 yards, an average of 22.9 yards per return, and one touchdown, a 93-yard score against Stanford.
2016 kick returns: 29 returns for 725 yards, an average of 25.0 yards per return, and two touchdowns, a 93-yard score against Syracuse and a 92-yard return to open the game versus Army.

QUOTE(S)
Irish coach Brian Kelly’s only mention of Sanders this spring came in highlighting the difference between Sanders and most of the rest of Notre Dame’s receivers, big and tall targets such as the 6-foot-4 ½, 224-pound Claypool.

“[Sanders] and [junior Chris] Finke would be certainly the exception to the rule of the receivers we have,” Kelly said at the end of March. “But they have a place in our offense and they’ll be used accordingly. The offensive structure is such that we can use those guys. They have a place, they can be effective players.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
Last year’s slot receivers, Amir Carlisle and Torii Hunter, combined for 10 rushing attempts and 60 catches for just over 700 yards and three touchdowns. I think it’s safe to say that Sanders will surpass those 10 rushes, but won’t touch that catch count.

“Still, there’s an explosive receiver waiting to be unleashed in Sanders, who won’t benefit from having Will Fuller pull a safety to the sideline, but should have plenty of room to operate. If he can sneak up the seam and work with the Irish quarterbacks, he’ll have chances to make big plays.

“A good season for Sanders is: A) staying healthy B) catching 40 footballs and C) getting another return touchdown (or two). I think that’s where he ends up this season.”

2017 OUTLOOK
With a plethora of seemingly-dangerous receivers, one of Notre Dame’s pass-catchers is going to be left on the outside looking in at opportunities within a high-scoring offense. Sanders seems a likely candidate, given offensive coordinator Chip Long’s apparent penchant for size. Between using Claypool at slot and frequently opting for two tight ends, Long does not leave many openings for a 5-foot-8 speedster. For that matter, as much as Long’s tendencies may suggest Sanders’ role in the passing game may be minimal, the last half of his 2016 did not do the junior any favors, either.

At the same time, though, perhaps Sanders’ speed can be utilized as an unexpected change of pace. Slip him in among the giants and let him cut loose. In that scenario, seven catches over seven games could net much more than 39 yards.

Until he has an increased role in the passing game, there is no reason to think Sanders will not continue returning punts and kicks. Suddenly he could find himself in school-record company. The Irish record for career kickoffs returned for touchdowns is five held by, obviously, Raghib Ismail (1988-90). George Atkinson III (2011-13) holds both the record for kickoff return yards and returns with 2,136 yards off 88 returns.

To date, Sanders has returned 57 kickoffs for 1,365 yards and three touchdowns in only two seasons.

DOWN THE ROAD
As long as Sanders gets chances to make plays on returns, he will have chances to impress the coaching staff with his playmaking abilities. At some point, that should yield consistent offensive playing time. Granted, he is halfway through his collegiate career, but he has also produced more overall in the past two seasons than many players do in four years.

There is also the possibility Long opts for a more traditional slot receiver either this season or next. Sanders would have competition for that honor — namely Finke and Michigan graduate transfer Freddy Canteen, who has two years of eligibility remaining including this season — but he would be in the mix and likely the front-runner.


2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, cornerback
No. 19: Justin Yoon, kicker
No. 18: Troy Pride, cornerback
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, safety
No. 16: Cameron Smith, receiver
No. 15: C.J. Holmes, running back
No. 14: Devin Studstill, safety
No. 13: Avery Davis, quarterback
No. 13: Jordan Genmark Heath, safety
No. 12: Ian Book, quarterback
No. 12: Alohi Gilman, safety
No. 11: Freddy Canteen, receiver
No. 10: Chris Finke, receiver
No. 9: Daelin Hayes, defensive end
No. 8: Donte Vaughn, cornerback
No. 7: Brandon Wimbush, quarterback
No. 7: Nick Watkins, cornerback
No. 6: Equanimeous St. Brown, receiver
No. 5: Nyles Morgan, linebacker
No. 4: Te’von Coney, linebacker
No. 4: Montgomery VanGorder, quarterback

TRANSFERS
No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

INJURIES
No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship

Friday at 4: If and when in Lambeau …

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I have told my high school friends for years, if Notre Dame ever plays Wisconsin, I will host the tailgate. It has always seemed a safe bet. The Irish schedule is already littered with more geographically-centric Big Ten foes. Why add the Badgers?

Then the whispers began anew this week. The two schools may or may not be discussing a combination of games at Lambeau Field and Soldier Field. Or perhaps schedules will allow for only one tilt. Either way, my bold cafeteria promises of a grandiose tailgate could come back to cost me.

At least I can take comfort in knowing they will not for a few years, if not more. Without getting too deep into the intricacies of scheduling, Notre Dame and Wisconsin will not meet until the next decade, possibly a ways into the next decade.

Whenever it occurs, if ever it occurs, some portion of each fan base will belittle the exercise. Why play at a neutral site, are the campus venues not unique enough? Why add a Midwestern opponent to the schedule rather than a more successful program in the south? If insisting on avoiding the SEC, why not add a cupcake to an already difficult schedule?

Why not?

A four-year player at Notre Dame will already play between 24 and 28 games at Notre Dame Stadium. Moving one of those to a unique venue seems harmless. If nothing else, it increases those players’ experience. Sure, in this hypothetical a class of 2020 recruit (about to be a high school sophomore) will miss out on playing at Camp Randall. Unless from Wisconsin, those players will hardly lament not seeing another college stadium when they will already see Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium and Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium in 2021, Ohio State’s Horseshoe in 2022 and Clemson’s Death Valley in 2023.

No disrespect to Camp Randall — it is a worthwhile place to see a game and Madison as a whole is a tough college town to outdo — but each of those four should rate higher on any college football player’s or fan’s bucket list. If insistent on getting to Camp Randall and upset a Lambeau-and-Soldier arrangement would rob you of that opportunity, here is a news flash: Wisconsin hosts games at least six times a year. You can see Camp Randall without Notre Dame going there. (more…)