USC v Notre Dame

Williams has a home at Notre Dame, even if football future is unclear

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The curious case of Ishaq Williams has become clearer. But only slightly.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly spoke about his exiled defensive end, who returned to campus this summer and is reenrolled in the university after serving a two-semester suspension for honor code violations. And while his role on the team—and his place among the 85 football scholarship roster spots—isn’t fully explainable (we’ll try later), Kelly did make it clear that Williams will be a part of the football program, will be on scholarship at Notre Dame, and will earn his degree.

“Every time I use my words it spins it differently,” Kelly said Monday to a group of assembled media at the Kelly Cares Football 101 event. “I want to be clear.  He’s back in school. We’re really excited about that part of it. And I know he’s back in school because he told me. He’s in workouts because I’ve seen him. Those two things I know for sure.

“All the other stuff is NCAA eligibility stuff that is a lot more complicated. It has to do with missed terms and hours and appeals and things like that. A lot more complicated. We’re gonna go through that process. He knows there’s a hill to climb there.”

Williams’ eligibility clock expires after the 2015 season. And after listening to Kelly’s latest comments, the tea leaves lead us to believe that the issue isn’t with Notre Dame, but rather with eligibility requirements set by the NCAA. Taking a step farther out on the branch—and again, this is pure speculation—one could make the slightly-more-than-educated-guess that Williams’ GPA, after being adjusted to reflect the courses where academic violations took place, might have slid below 2.0, the threshold for playing.

Regardless of Williams’ status with the NCAA,  the veteran defensive end will be a part of the football program. He could be a full-time member of the scout team, or he could be in the rotation at a seemingly healthy position, paired with Isaac Rochell at strong side defensive end. This detour in Williams’ career certainly won’t end his hopes of playing on Sundays.

“He still has a want and a desire to play in the NFL. He’s huge, he’s big and looks great,” Kelly said. “We’re going to work him out and he could practice with us, and keep himself in a position where he could go through a Senior Day and do all those things as well.”

While Williams hasn’t played up to his 5-star pedigree, there’s no doubt he’d be a nice piece of veteran depth to add to the front seven. But as the various parts of this process grind through the wheels of bureaucracy in Indianapolis, Kelly made it clear that Williams would achieve the ultimate goal of earning his degree from Notre Dame, something Williams never waved from during his suspension.

“He’ll be on scholarship,” Kelly said. “I’m not here to paint any pictures whether it’s this chance or that chance. All I know is he’s gonna be back in school and he’s going to get his degree from Notre Dame. If he plays football, we’ll be ecstatic for him. But the bottom line is he’s going to get his degree from Notre Dame.”

 

Irish A-to-Z: Josh Adams

Property of the Trentonian
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Even with Notre Dame’s running back depth chart precariously thin, the addition of incoming freshman Josh Adams didn’t necessarily look like a no-brainer. The Pennsylvania native was in the middle of rehabbing an ACL tear when the commitment took place, eliminating a season of game tape for the Irish staff while adding in a very large question mark.

But Notre Dame’s staff saw what it wanted when Adams was on campus for a summer camp after running for over 2,000 yards as a sophomore. And that early commitment to Adams paid off when he rebounded with a solid senior season, and probably just as importantly, the Irish swung and missed on top national target Soso Jamabo.

A long, lean athlete who has a physical build similar to George Atkinson coming out of high school, Adams joins Dexter Williams as youngsters in a backfield filled with veterans. Let’s kick off our A-to-Z series with a look at one of the incoming freshmen getting their first taste of college football.

 

JOSH ADAMS
6’2″, 210 lbs.
Freshman, No. 33, RB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star running back on 247Sports’ composite ranking. Adams was an All-State AAAA on Pennsylvania Football Writers’ team. His bounce-back 1,600-yard campaign was only 10 games, with an ankle injury ending his year early.

Adams had offers from Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers and Stanford, though never visited Palo Alto after deciding on Notre Dame in late June.

 

UPSIDE POTENTIAL

It’s not viewed as a compliment any more, but calling Adams a George Atkinson clone is supposed to be one, assuming that Adams has functional hands and a better head on his shoulders. At 6-1 or 6-2, Adams is a lanky back, and while he might not have the elite speed Atkinson did, he’ll likely play faster, something that plagued GA3 throughout his three seasons in South Bend.

Back when he pledged to Notre Dame—and still during his recovery from an ACL tear—his then high school coach Dan Rackovan had this to say about Adams’ upside potential.

“His potential, both size and athletically are off the charts,” Rackovan told Irish Illustrated. “He’s a very explosive kid, a finisher. And above all else, he’s a great kid. He’s a really good student, a leader in the school, all the things you’d want to be a part of your football team.”

Here’s what Brian Kelly said about Adams on Signing Day, probably a more glowing review than his prep coach.

“(He) has not even tapped what he can do at the position. He has not played a lot of football, and at 6 2, 210 pounds, we think he can be with the speed that he possesses, we think he can be whatever he wants to be,” Kelly said. “We can’t wait to develop him. Great speed, great size, and has the ability with our weight training to be that kind of big, physical back that we are looking for.”

 

 

 

CRYSTAL BALL

There doesn’t seem to be any snaps for a young ball carrier on this roster, unless one of these guys does something mighty special during fall camp. And while the Irish staff feels like they found a special football player in Adams, there’s no hurry to get him on the field.

While Tony Alford was the one who recruited Adams, it’s worth noting that it’ll be Autry Denson who’ll develop him. And Denson’s career at Notre Dame, not to mention his DNA as a player who maxed out his ability, will serve Adams well, especially as the lesser heralded prospect of the two backs in the 2015 recruiting class.

By all reports, Adams fits the bill of an “RKG.” Here’s what his coach Tom Hetrick said after Signing Day.

“This is a special day because Josh is a special kind of kid,” Hetrick said. “He always does the right thing. He’s a great ambassador for our program.”

 

With the depth chart at running back a veteran group, that mental makeup will pay dividends if it takes a few years to see the field. But with size and speed, Adams could find his way onto the field via special teams, and sure shares the profile of a safety if we’re looking at position switch candidates.

 

 

Irish A-to-Z: Another deep dive into the Irish roster

William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge
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Summer is here. And that means another big project here at Inside the Irish: The return of Irish A-to-Z.

Last year, we were dumb bold enough to tackle a complete roster breakdown digging into every player on the scholarship roster. While our friends over at Irish Illustrated have taken on a similar endeavor, even though we’re not the only game in town anymore, we’re still back at it with another edition of Irish A-to-Z. 

With the 85-man roster still coming into focus, there’s a lot of typing to be done between now and late August. So get ready (cold sweats beginning) for a daily staple that should get you up to speed on everybody from freshman running back Josh Adams to new starting quarterback Malik Zaire.

As the Irish get started on their “OTAs” and building their team in preparations for a 2015 season with great expectations, we’ll be doing the same from Inside the Irish HQ. That means checking out our Crystal Ball readings from last year, and projecting the impact of every player heading into the season.

So feel free to look back at the spot-on analysis on players like Joe Schmidt, Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise. (I’ll leave my swing and misses for you guys to unearth…) Even if football is more than 90 days away, it’s going to be a busy three months here at Inside the Irish.

Lack of depth at QB won’t change game plan with Zaire

150608_MalikZaire
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On Monday, the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen tracked down Brian Kelly, the head coach making his first public comments since the departure of Everett Golson and the ascent of Malik Zaire into the starting lineup. So while the focus of the day was Kelly’s charity golf tournament for the Kelly Cares foundation, the spotlight—as always—was on the state of the Irish.

Since Kelly arrived in South Bend, Notre Dame has struggled to keep a competitive depth chart at quarterback. Kelly inherited a deficiency at the position, with the only scholarship quarterback on his roster Dayne Crist, who was recovering from an ACL injury. Add to that the transfer of Gunner Kiel and the suspension and eventual transfer of Everett Golson, and you find the Irish right back to where they started.

But it appears that Kelly has learned something from the experience. And while there’s absolutely no experience behind Zaire—who himself has only played in one game where the final score was still in question—don’t expect Kelly to protect Zaire from himself, just because there’s no safety net behind him.

Here’s a snippet from Hansen’s report where Kelly talks about playing to Zaire’s strengths and not worrying about what’s behind him.

“I think we have to play him to what his strengths are,” Kelly said Monday at Lost Dunes Golf Club, where his charity golf event, the Kelly Cares Invitational, was taking place.

“We’re just going to have to get a second quarterback ready. But we’re not going to play scared. We’re not going to play tentative. We have too many good pieces around our football team to take the quarterback position and wrap him in bubble wrap.”

Zaire rushed for 187 yards on 33 carries (5.7 per carry average) and two touchdowns in six quarters of meaningful downs, against USC and LSU, and a handful of mop-up cameos last season. He redshirted as a freshman in 2013.

Golson, who joins his new teammates at Florida State this month, totaled 283 yards for the 2014 season on 114 carries (2.5 per carry) and eight TDs.

But he fumbled 12 times, losing eight of those, some of which came on read option plays. Zaire has yet to commit his first college turnover of any kind.

If you’re looking for an intriguing position battle, the backup quarterback job certainly has the looks of it. Brandon Wimbush isn’t just any freshman stepping foot on campus, especially considering he ran a 10.8 100m dash this spring for the St. Peter’s Prep track team. (To put that into context, C.J. Prosise ran a 10.9 100m as a high school senior.) And while he certainly didn’t have a great Blue-Gold game, DeShone Kizer isn’t someone to give up on after one year in the program.

So while it’s safe to say that Wimbush won’t wear the redshirt that was all but assumed anymore, Kelly hopes that Zaire’s durability—we saw it on display as he pinballed his way through LSU’s defense for 22 carries—will carry the day for the offense.

“Injuries are part of the game, and we’re going to hope that he’s physically strong,” Kelly told Hansen. “He’s done a great job in weight training and putting himself in position that he can take what’s necessary to run the ball. But we’re not going to change what we think are his strengths and what he can do for our offense.

“We’ve worked too hard to this point to change now.”

$35 million gift from Richard Corbett helps endow head coaching position

UND.com
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Brian Kelly is now the Corbett Family Head Football Coach. That comes after alumnus Richard Corbett gifted Notre Dame $35 million, including $10 million that’ll serve as an endowment of the head football coaching position.

The majority of Corbett’s gift—$25 million—will go to underwrite the construction of the 280,000-square-foot building that’ll be along the east side of Notre Dame Stadium. The Corbett Family Hall will house the Anthropology and Psychology Departments, along with a digital media center.

“For many generations of Notre Dame faculty and students to come, Corbett Family Hall will represent a full integration of teaching, research and advanced technology on our campus,” Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins said in a statement. “Likewise, the endowment of the head football coaching position will underwrite salary, provide stability and resources for the long term and create funds for use within the department and across campus.

“We are humbled by and tremendously grateful for these extraordinary gifts from Dick.”

The top three levels of the Corbett Family Hall will serve as additional viewing locations for Notre Dame Stadium. They’ll including club and premium seating options, open-air terraces, additional concessions stands and the top level will be the new media press box.

Corbett’s endowment for the football coaching job is the third at Notre Dame, following women’s basketball and men’s lacrosse. The move is part of a growing trend at major football programs to endow the head coaching position, following universities like Stanford and Michigan.

Corbett graduated from Notre Dame in 1960, serving as class president. He worked on John F. Kennedy’s presidential election campaign and then served in the White House. He earned a master’s degree from Harvard, served as a financial manager for the Kennedy family and as the business manager for Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. He’s currently the CEO and president of Concorde Companies, a real estate venture in Florida.

“My father, brother and I have proudly and boldly worn our blue and gold in all that we have done,” Corbett said in the release. “We have sought to support the tradition of excellence in academic, athletic, personal and professional performance. We are very pleased to help further build Notre Dame’s commitment to the dynamic blend of academic and athletic enrichment that continues to be a beacon of this nation’s values and sustainability.”