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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 98 Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-4, 252 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with 2017 as his last year of eligibility barring injury
Depth chart: Trumbetti and classmate Jay Hayes split first-team reps at the strongside defensive end position throughout spring. By the end, it seemed Hayes had the edge with sophomore Khalid Kareem behind the two.
Recruiting: Rivals.com pegged Trumbetti as a three-star but the other recruiting services gave him a four-star profile. The Under Armour All-American enrolled a semester early as a freshman.

CAREER TO DATE
Trumbetti has played in 36 games in his Irish career, not seeing action only against Purdue his freshman year (concussion) and Georgia Tech his sophomore season (presumably due to scheme adjusting for Tech’s triple-option attack.) His 26 tackles last year were a career high, compared to 21 and 16 his first two seasons, respectively, but he did not match his playmaking stats from years before.

2014: 21 tackles including 5.5 for loss and one sack; also credited with five quarterback hurries
2015: 16 tackles including 2.5 for loss and one sack; also credited with six quarterback hurries
2016: 26 tackles including 0.5 for loss and no sacks; also credited with three quarterback hurries

QUOTE(S)

Irish coach Brian Kelly opened spring practice by describing the strongside position as it should appear in defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s approach.

“He’s going to be a guy that has got to hold the point,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be more physical at the point of attack.”

For that matter, Kelly then proceeded to point to a difference in Trumbetti’s offseason that should play into that particular role.

“We think he’s in a stronger position to handle the rigors of that position, in particular that strongside,” Kelly said. “When he was holding his weight in the manner we needed him to, that would have been more of a concern, but we feel really good about where he is right now.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO*
There is a role in this defense for Trumbetti—maybe even a starting job if Jay Hayes can’t return quickly from his injured ankle. That open window should be one Trumbetti jumps through without reservation, because young guys like Daelin Hayes are on the horizon and may have already passed him when it comes to a pure pass rusher.

“So much of this evaluation is based on opportunity and only Trumbetti can truly control that. I think Notre Dame is going to get to the quarterback much better this season than last, and if they do it’ll be Trumbetti playing a supporting role. Sign me up for four sacks and hopefully getting to a half-dozen plays behind the line of scrimmage.”

2017 OUTLOOK
To some extent, Trumbetti’s failure to meet those metrics of success Keith set a year ago should be attributed to a bigger picture than simply Trumbetti not making the plays. Assuredly, Trumbetti did not make the plays, but nobody did along Notre Dame’s defensive front. What percentage of that lackluster performance traces to the scheme and what percentage belongs at the feet of the individuals?

That question is not answerable, but it should at least be acknowledged here. The drop in Trumbetti’s plays behind the line of scrimmage from his first two seasons to his junior campaign shows regression on multiple fronts. If he could return to creating as much pressure as he did his freshman season, Elko and Kelly would probably be pleased. Five additional takedowns behind the line of scrimmage should be not scoffed at.

That would not likely push Trumbetti past Jay Hayes for that majority of snaps, though. That is where Kelly’s mention of Trumbetti’s weight is an intriguing one. Kelly volunteered that tidbit. The question was not what can Trumbetti do better or even what do the coaches expect from him. The question was about the strongside position in general, yet Kelly brought up the Irish strength and conditioning program.

If Trumbetti is more physically-prepared to hold the point of attack, that will serve as a tangible mark of progress in Notre Dame’s conditioning. At that point, perhaps Trumbetti and Hayes can spell each other, allowing for a rested rush at all times. Or, maybe the 6-foot-3 ½, 281-pound Hayes moves inside to shore up the Irish interior.

DOWN THE ROAD
This is it for Trumbetti. Now or never. If he has a strong senior season—let’s define strong as 35-plus tackles, multiple sacks and at least six tackles for loss, otherwise known as more than he recorded in his freshman season—then Trumbetti’s career at Notre Dame will be looked at fondly. He has represented the school well and would be seen as an example of growth on the field over a four-year career. Some time spent around an NFL franchise in rookie camps would not be an outlandish concept.

If Trumbetti’s downward trend continues, then he’ll be an unfortunate example of a highly-touted recruit not panning out, something the Irish defensive line cannot much afford.


*By no means is the “What Keith Arnold projected a year ago” section intended to showcase what Keith did or did not get right. It is intended to provide further context of how a player has performed compared to reasonable expectations.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-6 ½, 308 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with a total of two seasons of eligibility remaining
Depth chart: Tillery projects as a starter at defensive tackle with senior Daniel Cage behind him.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star, Tillery was recruited as an offensive tackle in large part due to his length.

CAREER TO DATE
Tillery has totaled 49 tackles in his first two seasons, including 37 last year with three for loss. He started last season’s first 11 games.

Both of Tillery’s freshman and sophomore seasons ended prematurely, neither due to injury. A violation of team rules led to Tillery being suspended for the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day 2016, and Irish coach Brian Kelly removed Tillery from the fourth quarter in the 2016 season finale against USC after Tillery received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for seemingly-intentionally stepping on the foot of a Trojan offensive lineman after a play. Earlier replays also showed Tillery making contact with a USC running back’s head after the back took a hit from Notre Dame safety Nicco Fertitta. Some would call Tillery’s contact with his foot a kick, others a nudge. Either way, that action went unnoticed by the officials.

QUOTE(S)
As it pertains to the USC incidents, after the loss Kelly told the media he did not see the plays, but did speak with Tillery.

“Accountability is built within any program,” Kelly said. “Jerry has to be accountable for his actions every single day. Jerry is a good kid, and if he made a mistake, we’ll hold him accountable for that mistake.”

More recently, Kelly complemented Tillery’s spring practice performance.

“We’re developing some consistency along the defensive line across the board where we’re seeing consistent play with Jerry Tillery. This spring was a good one for Jerry. We saw much more consistency from him.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO*
I’m expecting a big step forward this season from Tillery, who won’t explode like Tuitt, but should get into the high single-digits for TFLs and find a way to impact the game more as a three-technique rather than a nose tackle. With the opportunity for a high snap count as the team’s only legitimate option to replace Sheldon Day, Tillery needs to learn how to play fast and wreak havoc, as it’s no longer enough to just hold up at the point of attack.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Tillery did not meet Keith’s description of success last year. In fact, Tillery fell far short by most any metric. If anyone filled the void left by Day, it was Isaac Rochell. Now Rochell is gone, and so is Jarron Jones. For Notre Dame to have success this season, Tillery will need to fill those voids both on and off the field.

Of the remaining Irish defensive linemen, Tillery is considered a veteran. Both seniors Andrew Trumbetti and Daniel Cage have logged more games, but Tillery might actually have a higher snap count. (No, no one needs to go review three years of games and count. The point is, it’s possible. Tillery has as much experience, if not more, than those two elders.)

However, Tillery does not have a track record of acting like a leader needs to. More than increasing his tackles for loss tally, Notre Dame will need Tillery to show a young positional group how to proceed.

Then, obviously, an increase in tackles for loss and overall tackles would be much appreciated by defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Frankly, both should come just from sheer opportunity available in the middle. For context, Jones finished the 2016 season with 45 tackles including 11 for loss. If there is any archetype for Tillery, it was the 6-foot-5 ½, 315-pound Jones. Admittedly, Tillery does not have the arm length of Jones, but very few do. Most of them end up on the hardwood, not the gridiron.

By the end of his Notre Dame career, Jones went from a fun-loving definition of potential to a leader who excelled individually in concentrated bursts.

DOWN THE ROAD
Why bring up the end of Jones’ Irish career like that time could be coming for the junior Tillery? Because it could be. Mock drafts already indicate he could be an NFL Draft pick next spring. If Tillery does seriously consider entering the draft with a year of eligibility remaining, it is a good sign for this coming season’s prospects. Those mock drafts project Tillery’s potential. NFL front offices will want to see some of that potential fulfilled before investing in an interior lineman.


*By no means is the “What Keith Arnold projected a year ago” section intended to showcase what Keith did or did not get right. It is intended to provide further context of how a player has performed compared to reasonable expectations.

Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2

Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, Hello 99-to-2

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If he didn’t start it, the Associated Press’s Ralph Russo certainly furthered the “It’s always football season” ethos this offseason. Wait, that’s the whole point. There is no football offseason. It’s always football season.

Russo has used this line to convey news, such as when Northern Illinois hired Jordan Lynch, the former Heisman Trophy finalist, as its running backs coach March 8. It’s always football season.

He has also used it to relay some wit, even if at Notre Dame’s expense. It should be noted: The wit was accurate.

Russo is right, literally. Two days before the 2016 football season actually ended, some had already begun organized practices for 2017.

It’s always football season.

If not truly always, there is hardly an offseason. From tomorrow (Saturday, the 13th), there are 85 days to August 6. Why is Aug. 6 of note? Notre Dame commenced fall practice that day each of the last two years. Why is 85 of note? That is also how many scholarships a FBS team is allotted.

If you discussed one scholarship player a day, you would run out exactly when the Irish took the field to begin official preparations for Temple. Convenient how that works out, isn’t it?

This sounds familiar. It sounds like something Keith Arnold worked on for a number of years. If memory serves correctly, he was even concerned about its future when he left this space.

Keith: So what’s the plan with the blog? … Keep the A-to-Z series rolling?

Douglas: I do not intend to outright abandon any institution or established series you have devoted years to. Thus, I would expect A-to-Z to continue in some form.

Indeed, A-to-Z will live on in spirit, but its name and structure shall change. Beginning tomorrow, a player (or players, but we’ll get to that) a day in the order of 99-to-2, otherwise known as Tillery-to-Williams. (more…)

Dexter Williams aims to impact Notre Dame’s younger players with lessons of his mistakes

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Dexter Williams knows he almost lost his chance to genuinely contribute at Notre Dame only two weeks before that opportunity would finally arrive. Only a fortnight before the 2016 Irish season-opener, Williams and four teammates were arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession; Williams and two of the others were also initially charged with possession of a handgun without a license. The latter charge was dropped and Williams accepted a plea deal regarding the former.

The greater decision would come from the Notre Dame coaches.

“I think about it every day because that could have been my last chance, not just being at Notre Dame but playing football period,” the rising junior running back 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.”

A full academic year later, Williams has worked his way back into good graces across the board. By no means did 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns on only 39 carries last season hurt that cause, but Williams’ path back to the standing of a good teammate took more than a few flashes of his speed.

“I had to grow up a lot,” he said. “I had to gain respect of my coaches, my teammates and also just begin to work even harder. I knew I let a lot of people down. I let my family down my coaches down, my teammates down. I just wanted to let them know it won’t happen again.

“I would make the right decisions from here on out.”

If he didn’t, he would be letting down his mother. When acknowledging that pressure, Williams quickly added another name. Former Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant played a pivotal role in Williams’ recruitment. Both from Florida, Bryant could undoubtedly relate to some of the hesitations an Orlando high schooler might have about moving to northwestern Indiana. Bryant was murdered May 7, 2016.

“Everything that I do is for my mother,” Williams said. “Whatever I’m doing, I make sure is for her, and also for Greg Bryant. He is one of my motivations, as well. Me and Greg had a great relationship.

“For those two, I’m willing to do anything, put my body through anything.”

Williams has done more than go through offseason conditioning—which he said has changed his speed, presumably he meant for the better. He has also taken an interest in his younger teammates. For starters, sophomore running back Tony Jones, Jr., is nearly always within earshot. After moving from receiver back to running back this spring, so was sophomore Deon McIntosh. McIntosh’s move was sparked in part by the shoulder injury suffered by early enrollee freshman C.J. Holmes.

“Those younger guys that come in, those are my brothers, and I don’t want to see them go through the same [mistakes] I went through,” Williams said. “I continue to stay on them as much as my coaches and my teammates stay on me, because I don’t want to see them go down that road. I want to see them do great and be successful.”

For his part, Williams finished spring on a successful note. Much of the conversation during the 15 practices focused on Jones’ emergence, but Williams made sure to end with a notable impression. He took nine carries for 96 yards and a score. The touchdown came on a 38-yard carry, three yards shorter than his longest of the spring finale. Williams added four catches for 36 yards.

Admittedly, some of his success may have had to do with who was in the stands.

“It felt great just having a big game, being on the field with my mom here,” Williams said. “Having my coaches behind me and just having the coaches put me in, having them trust me with the ball, let me go out there and have fun. It was a great feeling.”

Suffice it to say, that is a better feeling than the one Williams had less than nine months ago. At this point, though, he is glad that August mishap occurred.

“I’m looking at it in a positive way, because if something like that didn’t happen, who knows where I could have been,” he said. “I just feel like it was a great eye-opener and it helped me maintain focus, continue on with this process and work harder.”

ACC announces Notre Dame’s five ACC opponents up to 2037

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If you are expecting a child this fall, and you are convinced your offspring is bound for Notre Dame, here is some good news.

Actually, first of all, congratulations and all that, both on the pending birth and the presumed acceptance by admissions in the Class of 2040.

Now then, that good news. In your son’s or daughter’s freshman season, he or she will get to see Florida State play at Notre Dame Stadium.

The ACC announced the five ACC opponents the Irish will face each year from the years 2026 to 2037 on Thursday. The matchups up to 2026 had been previously announced, but are also listed below today’s revelations underneath this post.

“The ACC’s football partnership with Notre Dame has been extremely successful throughout our first four seasons,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “As we look to the future, these games will continue to enhance the experience for our players, schools and fans.”

Per the agreement between Notre Dame and the ACC, which began in 2014, the Irish face five ACC opponents each year. With 14 ACC football schools, Notre Dame faces each one about once every three years.

Only two dates were announced among the decade-plus-away games. The Irish will play at Clemson on Labor Day, 2031, and at Virginia Tech on Labor Day, 2036.

Just typing the year 2036 in a factual sentence feels odd. This is obviously an inane exercise. Nonetheless, should you be curious who your eight-year-old might see in his or her four years of college, should he or she be so fortunate as to gain admittance to Notre Dame, the breakdown: (more…)