Jarron Jones, Treyvon Green

Reports: DT Jarron Jones suffers serious knee injury

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Late Friday evening, rumors started swirling about a potentially serious knee injury to starting defensive tackle Jarron Jones. The senior from Rochester, New York, who is coming off a foot injury suffered late last season that required surgery, is a key building block to the Irish’s defensive front.

 

Most are reporting that the injury is serious, with multiple outlets (usually behind paywalls) citing sources that tell them Jones tore his ACL. If that is the case, the senior’s season is over before it started. There’s been some ambiguity in other reports, leaving a slice of hope that Jones’ 2015 season can be salvaged.

(I have not been able to confirm a season-ending injury or ACL tear.)

Whatever the case, expect some clarity later today, as Brian Kelly is meeting with the media after today’s practice. We’ll dig into what’s next for the defense after Notre Dame’s head coach gives us an update.

Irish A-to-Z: Drue Tranquill

Matthias Farley, Drue Tranquill, Kyle Prater
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A surprisingly productive freshman season was cut short when Drue Tranquill tore his ACL against Louisville, another season-ending injury that derailed the Irish defense. But Tranquill’s recover has been nothing short of miraculous, and is a telling detail about the work ethic and impressive physicality of the Indiana native.

Held back during spring practice, Tranquill was ready to compete less than five months removed from major knee surgery. Now nearly nine months after the procedure, Tranquill will attack his sophomore season the same way he has rehab and his early playing experience.

Let’s take a look at Notre Dame’s jumbo safety.

 

DRUE TRANQUILL
6’1.5″, 225 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 23, S

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A tweener at the next level, Tranquill’s offer list consisted of mostly MAC and lower-tier Big Ten offers until Notre Dame came calling. Most believed that the Irish saw Tranquill as an answer at inside linebacker, with many doubting his ability to run as a pure safety in the secondary. That didn’t sit well with the Fort Wayne native, who was recruited to be a safety by Purdue.

Ultimately, Brian Kelly found room for Tranquill (the Irish were full at safety), and it didn’t take long to get the Purdue commitment to flip.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in 11 games, starting three before tearing his ACL against Louisville. Made 33 tackles, one TFL, one interception and recovered a fumble. Was named Notre Dame’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Going to tip my cap to myself. But even though I was high on Tranquill, I didn’t see him immediately finding a spot in Notre Dame’s sub packages. (And for those of you wondering, Grootegoed is former USC All-American Matt Grootegoed, a way-too-small linebacker/safety tweener.)

No, I’m not predicting Tranquill to be the next Grootegoed. But for all the umbrage that comes from Kelly and the Irish staff sticking to their convictions on a prospect that may only garner three stars, consider the fact that this staff made a living and built a reputation on finding and identifying below-the-radar athletes who can find a way to thrive on the football field.

A football program may be led by stars like Jaylon Smith and Greg Bryant, but it’s built on the backs of players like Tranquill. Physically, Tranquill looks the part of a college-ready athlete, a workout warrior that came to campus developed and ready to contribute.

That should get him some work as a gunner covering kicks, while he continues to learn the nuances of playing in space at the college level, a world of difference from Indiana high school football. Ultimately, Tranquill will get his chance to find a role in VanGorder’s sub packages. But for now, getting on the field and wreaking havoc on special teams should be enough.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

As we saw when Tranquill was thrown into the starting lineup, there’s still a lot of work to do for him to be a half-field safety. Multiple times, receivers got behind him, especially against Northwestern. And while it’s hardly fair to reach conclusions on Tranquill’s ceiling when blue-chippers like Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate struggled too, it’s fair to question Tranquill’s ability in space and if he can succeed as an every down player.

But instead of focusing on his limitations, Tranquill also presents some really intriguing options for VanGorder and the Irish defense. This is a guy who is absolutely huge—chiseled from granite and everything you want from an in-the-box safety from a size and physicality perspective.

After quickly grasping his role in dime and exotic packages, Tranquill should easily step back into the 3rd down mix, while also serving as the key backup behind Shumate. From there, he’s got all the opportunities to prove he’s Notre Dame’s next starting strong safety.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

If he’s given the opportunity, Tranquill will make plays. That’s not to say you should expect to see him flying across the back-end of the secondary and snatching footballs from center field, but rather expect to see some paint-chips flying and Tranquill doing his best heat-seeking missile impression.

A defense needs football players like Tranquill. So do Notre Dame’s special teams. After hearing Kelly rave about Tranquill’s rehabilitation (he “attacked it” like no other player he’s seen, per BK), it’s clear that the sophomore will be ready come Texas.

I’m skeptical that Tranquill can play as a back-end safety. So while his role as an every-down player won’t come unless something goes wrong, Tranquill should be a productive performer for the defense, a key to the unit on third downs.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL
Jerry Tillery, DL

 

Competition continues as camp settles in

Michigan v Notre Dame
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With the trip to Culver complete, Notre Dame enters the dog days of training camp. More than a week in, there are no restrictions on the football team, so this week featured two-a-days, full pads, and some intense competition as the depth chart begins to shake out.

Brian Kelly caught up with the media after practice on Thursday, and from his comments, it sounds like we can start to make some assumptions.

 

C.J. Prosise and Tarean Folston are legitimately battling for No. 1 reps. 

All that flowery talk about C.J. Prosise this spring? Sounds like it’s legit. Notre Dame’s converted wide receiver is giving incumbent Tarean Folston a run for his money, taking first-team reps and making it appear that there’s a legit competition for the starting job. So much so that Kelly has all but thrown out the depth chart.

“I think we’re going to keep that as a very competitive situation and keep pushing them both. There’s no depth chart there right now,” Kelly explained. “You get a good practice on you and you’ve worked hard, you’re taking first-team reps. If you have a subpar practice based on the standards we’ve set, you’re not taking first-team reps.

“It’s a very competitive situation, very fluid in that sense. It’s going to be competitive each and every week.”

For those who are skeptical that Kelly would be willing to make a move like that so quickly into Prosise’s tenure at running back, just look back to 2012. Converted wide receiver Theo Riddick usurped Cierre Wood as the team’s go-to tailback, even if statistically it didn’t make a ton of sense.

Of course, there’s a lot of time between now and Texas. And with just two legitimate options at tailback, both guys are going to play. So while I still think this is Folston’s job, it appears that Prosise is every bit as good as advertised.

 

So far, so good for Justin Yoon. 

Wondering how freshman kicker Justin Yoon is acclimating to life in college football? Perfectly. Literally, the young kicker hasn’t missed a field goal attempt yet.

“Charting right now he’s 18-for-18 on kicks. He’s 9-for-9 between the 30-and 39- (yard line). We’re going to stretch him out a little bit tomorrow. He’s 4-for-4 from  40 to 49. He hasn’t missed a kick yet. His operation is outstanding.”

Of course, none of that will matter when he jogs onto the field against Texas needing to put points on the board. But Kelly praised two very important pieces of the puzzle when talking about his young kicker. First, his operation speed. Yoon gets to the ball quickly, very important when you’re dealing with block attempts. Second, he praised his technique—Yoon’s got a relatively simple stroke that allows him to still make a kick, even if he slightly mishits it.

Both Yoon and redshirt freshman Tyler Newsome have been kicking the ball “off the charts” so far in camp. It doesn’t mean anything when it comes to success on Saturday, but you’d certainly rather have positive data points with your young specialists than balls shanking left and right.

 

Greg Bryant? Kelly has no idea what’s happening either. 

The bad news? Greg Bryant hasn’t talked with his head coach about the decision to head to junior college and play football this fall. The good news? Kelly hasn’t closed any door on Bryant returning to South Bend, even if he spends a year in Florida attending junior college.

“I want Greg back here if he wants a Notre Dame degree and if he is committed to a Notre Dame education,” Kelly said. “Obviously from what I’m hearing, that’s not what he’s interested. I think he’s interested in playing football. At Notre Dame you have to do both and you have to be committed to an education and playing football.”

That alone sounds pretty declarative, but then again—Kelly hasn’t spoken with Bryant. (Per an Irish Illustrated tweet from Pete Sampson, his father had no clue Greg was going to junior college until an ESPN reporter called him.)

But the current decision-making that Bryant is displaying doesn’t necessarily mean his former head coach has given up on him.

“I love Greg. He’s a great kid. It seems like from what I’m hearing is that he’s choosing to go,” Kelly said. “But I have not spoken to Greg. It’s purely the speculative version of it.”

 

The arrow is pointing up for Nic Weishar. 

Another day, another glowing report for rising sophomore tight end Nic Weishar. With Durham Smythe nursing a hamstring injury and Alize Jones slowed for a day or two more, Weishar was the beneficiary of extra reps, and the 6-foot-4, 241-pounder showed some of the ball skills that made him a record-setting pass catcher in high school.

Kelly talked about the improvements Weishar made over the past calendar year, and what’s changed since his redshirt season.

“We knew he was a pass catcher. He was prolific in high school. He caught everything. I think in the state championship game he had a breakout, record-setting performance. We knew his ability to catch the football was there,” Kelly explained. “It was in-line blocking that was going to be the question and whether he could put on the weight necessary to compete right away.  He had a terrific offseason and putting on weight and getting stronger in the weight room. He’s still got a ways to go, but that coupled with the toughness and resolve, he’s put himself right in the mix there to play a lot of snaps.”

Weishar looks like a viable red zone target, and that’s where he showed best, according to multiple reports from practice. Kelly even mentioned holding Weishar back on a few drills, if only to protect him from doing too much with the depth chart down to just two guys right now.

 

Jaylon Smith isn’t bad, either. 

This seems to be a good sign that Jaylon Smith is taking things to the next level during fall camp.

“Jaylon Smith is remarkable in terms of what he’s doing on the field. He is on his game,” Kelly said. “It’s just remarkable the things he’s doing right now.”

Kelly described in detail Smith’s superior athleticism, talking about Smith’s ability to play close to the line of scrimmage, then diagnose a bootleg pass. Smith went from being aggressive in run support to getting underneath a wide receiver nearly 20 yards down field, taking away a key pass route.

Those are some of the things that make NFL scouts drool. And you’ve got to think Smith is benefitting from the return of Joe Schmidt, but also the relentless competitive energy that KeiVarae Russell shows.

 

Isaac Rochell going into Beast Mode. 

We heard Brian Kelly call Isaac Rochell a beast last training camp, seemingly the only guy who wasn’t worried about the young player’s ability to step in for Ishaq Williams at defensive end. Kelly doubled down on those comments yesterday, and it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of Rochell doing even more in 2015.

“Isaac Rochell is a beast. He is a beast. If he continues to play at this level, he’s virtually unblockable on a 1-on-1 situation,” Kelly said. “Our guys have a very difficult time blocking him. He’s faster, stronger. He’s just an outstanding player.”

Walk-on Josh Anderson awarded scholarship for 2015 season

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Heading into fall camp, it looked like Notre Dame was still looking for a way to get under the 85-man limit. But after transfers and departures, the Irish football program managed to find itself was a scholarship to spare. The beneficiary? Walk-on running back Josh Anderson.

On Thursday morning, Anderson was awarded a scholarship by head coach Brian Kelly, putting the 5-foot-9 senior’s tuition tab on the program.

Already used as the team’s runway model to show-off the Shamrock Series uniform, Kelly took the opportunity to also share with the team that he’d be awarding Anderson for his hard work.

Take a look at the moment it happened:

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Anderson has been with the team since 2012. He was a two-year letter winner at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, where freshman CJ Sanders and former quarterback Dayne Crist graduated.

Irish A-to-Z: Jerry Tillery

Tom Loy, 247 Sports
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Few freshmen in recent memory have earned as much advanced buzz as defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. The early-enrollee wowed during spring football, benefitting greatly from downtime taken by the starting duo of Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones. Even as Notre Dame’s staff has worked to restock the front four depth chart, Tillery quickly moved to the front of the line, an anomaly for a first year player, especially one that should’ve been in high school during his first 15 practices.

But Tillery’s not your average freshman. At nearly six-foot-seven and already over 300-well-sculpted pounds, he’s got the body of an upperclassman and the skill set of a guy playing football on Sundays. As a student, Tillery already ventured to South Africa on a study-abroad program and started a yoga group in his dorm.

With great expectations on his shoulders, let’s take a look at Notre Dame’s treasured freshman.

 

JERRY TILLERY
6’6.5″, 305 lbs.
Freshman, No. 99, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A U.S. Army All-American, Tillery was a blue-chip left tackle prospect, who profiled as a Top 100-150 player depending on the service. Even though he committed to Notre Dame very early in the process (a full summer ahead of time), Tillery was heavily courted by LSU and Les Miles, and took his recruiting visits, checking out Texas A&M, LSU… and Dartmouth.

Tillery stuck with Notre Dame and enrolled early, a recruiting battle that never came to be.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Not often does Brian Kelly rave about a freshman. And his comments this spring praising Tillery and talking about his singular talent and knowledge base had Irish fans thinking they have the next great defensive lineman on campus.

That’s a far cry from those who thought Notre Dame’s staff was merely entertaining their prized recruit by letting him try things along the defensive line before shifting back to offensive tackle. Tillery essentially spent spring working with the No. 1 defense, winning just as many battles as he lost, a rarity for a first-year competitor and early enrollee.

At this point, sky high probably doesn’t cover Tillery’s potential. And while I’m fully aware that his stock might be artificially high right now, let’s just say it: Irish fans should expect to get three seasons out of Tillery before the NFL Watch begins.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

At this point, I expect Tillery to play from day one, and to be the first defensive tackle on the field after Day and Jones. From there, who knows? What’s a baseline productivity for a first-year player who isn’t an edge pass rusher? Especially considering Stephon Tuitt had a mostly anonymous freshman season and Tillery is a different beast than Aaron Lynch, Notre Dame’s last freshman phenom. (That’s a very good thing, it turns out.)

The head on Tillery’s shoulders is perhaps the biggest asset the freshman has. And that’s saying quite a bit when you’re already built like Albert Haynesworth.

It’s hard not to go over the top when discussing Tillery, especially when we haven’t had an on-field reminder that he’s a true freshman. But I’m setting the expectations for Tillery high—call it 6.0 TFLs—knowing that he’s playing behind an established duo and that number should earn him freshman All-American honors.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL