Video Recap: The Echoes ’15

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Notre Dame’s season-ending awards show took place last week, with the star-studded festivities airing over the weekend on NBCSN. Hosted by NBC Sports’ Dan Hicks and ESPN’s Hannah Storm, this year’s Echoes took a gigantic step forward, the type of production you’ll see over the next few months with movies and television celebrating their year-end achievements—only this was the 2015 Fighting Irish.

If you missed the show, we’ve got a selection of videos that’ll get you up to speed, including the opening monologue that’s definitely worth watching. (Apologies to Chase Hounshell for being the butt of the joke.) Hicks and Storm are taking on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler next…

 

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: DeShone Kizer

 

Sheldon Day wins the Moose Krause Lineman of the Year Award

 

Joe Schmidt wins Irish Around the Bend Award

 

Ronnie Stanley wins the Offensive Player of the Year Award

 

 

Jaylon Smith wins Defensive Player of the Year Award

 

C.J. Prosise wins Next Man In Award

 

Will Fuller wins the Team MVP

Mailbag: Looking ahead at the QB position in 2016

Malik Zaire
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Round two of the mailbag brings another great question—and one that we’ll probably spend a few months talking about after the Fiesta Bowl.

 

coachtemp:

Keith, do you see a “crisis” at the QB position next year? By crisis I mean the difficult decision faced by Coach Kelly as to which QB he names as the starter for 2016? Does Zaire, an injured starting QB lose his job to Kizer, his replacement, who led his team to 10 regular season wins? And, what about the 3rd string QB Winbush who saw very little game action this year. Some people subscribe to the theory that an injury should not cause the loss of your position upon return while others feel if the replacement player plays well, then he remains as the starter.
What say you?

I think this is probably the most fascinating question of the offseason, and in many ways more interesting than last year’s quarterback contest. Last spring, it was always a questions of whether or not Everett Golson was going to buy in to the program. That doesn’t exist with Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer, two of the most high-character quarterbacks we’ve seen in recent years.

First, the elephant in the room: I don’t think anybody is transferring. It wouldn’t make sense. Zaire can’t afford to sit another year, and if he loses the job in 2016 he’ll have graduate transfer options by the bushel. Kizer should prepare and expect to be a starter. And Brandon Wimbush could just as easily use his redshirt in 2016, a move that could be really beneficial especially after earning reps in 2015 that helped teach a few lessons you just don’t learn in practice.

To your point about a player losing his job because of injury, I think that’s something fans and media members talk about, not necessarily something that exists in a competitive program and culture like the one Brian Kelly has built over the past six seasons. Competition in the ranks is critical. So is earning a job. Nobody is going to be given the starting job, they’re going to have to earn it. And there’s likely a very good reason that Zaire is out there taking seven-on-seven reps during bowl practices—he believes he’s going to win the starting job back and he wants to catch up for lost time.

I don’t think this should be looked at as a crisis. I think Kelly views it as a very good problem to have. The coaching staff and the players will learn something from last spring’s timeshare. The battle will also be treated differently because the quarterback position is more unified and both Zaire and Kizer are so well respected.

Who wins the job? I may be one of the few to think that it’s still Zaire’s to lose, a crazy statement considering the impressive debut season that Kizer just completed. But while the staff learned a ton about Kizer and his impressive ceiling, I think they still believe Malik has special abilities in this offense. Funny enough, I also think a time share with this duo would be really difficult to stop as well, especially if the staff wants to treat Zaire as a true option-read quarterback… who just so has the ability to throw the ball deep with great accuracy.

This will be a very good problem to have. It’ll also be a decision that likely won’t be made until August.

 

WR Jalen Guyton suspended for bowl, likely leaving ND

247 Sports
247 Sports
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Multiple reports have freshman wide receiver Jalen Guyton‘s time at Notre Dame coming to a close.

The Allen, Texas product has reportedly been suspended from the program and will not travel with the team to Arizona. The university confirmed the news, telling Irish Illustrated that Guyton “has been suspended from all football-related activities pending the resolution of a private University process.”

The loss has little impact on the immediate for Notre Dame and might allow the Irish to add another recruit to their signing class that’ll close in February. But Guyton was a well thought of recruit, a late-riser on the national scene who paired with five-star quarterback Kyler Murray for a dominant senior season at Allen High School. Murray shook up the SEC this week when he announced he would be the second former blue-chip recruit to transfer from Texas A&M this December.

While the cryptic confirmation of the suspension leads you to believe his departure will stem from a disciplinary or academic matter, Guyton’s road to the field looked crowded even if he stayed in the program. While Will Fuller could still change his mind and head to the NFL, Guyton faced a backlog at the position, courtesy of some stellar recruiting and positional depth.

Friday is the final day of the fall semester. If Guyton plans to transfer, he’ll likely be making those decisions in the coming days. Notre Dame has receivers Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson in the 2016 recruiting class and are a few other elite targets at the position.

 

Mailbag: What impact will Jones and Smythe have in Fiesta Bowl?

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Too many good questions, not enough space. So I figured we should spread some of these questions out and take some time with it.

Let’s start off with a good one from good ol’ Bern, who is wondering what a slightly healthier Notre Dame roster will look like against Ohio State.

(question shortened and clarified, so I actually have something to answer.)

 

bernhtp: What is the likely impact of the return of (Durham) Smythe and (Jarron) Jones?

How about this for an answer—both incredibly significant, yet maybe not all that statistically impactful.

I’ll start with the most important part: Both of these guys are practicing and preparing for a game. That’s just so critical when you think about a season that would’ve been essentially lost to injury with no football even practiced until spring. Now Smythe is back on the field for the first time since Virginia and Jones gets his first chance to play in 2015—in one of the best matchups of the bowl season. If Jones is capable of getting his fitness level up, he can all but announce his presence for 2016 as he likely profiles as Notre Dame’s next defensive All-American candidate.

With limited updates from Brian Kelly over the past week, we haven’t heard much more on the return of these two veterans after season-ending injuries. But Smythe was ahead of Jones progress wise and I don’t think that’ll change any time soon. I expect to see Smythe in the starting lineup and Jones at least making an impact in the trenches as the Irish try to slow down Ezekiel Elliott.

I didn’t get wrapped up in Smythe’s emergence this preseason—I kept expectations fairly modest, hoping Smythe would end up with 20 catches. That obviously didn’t happen, but while the offense absorbed the throws intended for him, they struggled blocking in the trenches with Tyler Luatua, Nic Weishar, Chase Hounshell and Alizé Jones. Trusting a tight end in the red zone is also important, and when you’re look for reasons why the red zone offense sometimes sputtered, it’s fair to wonder if Smythe would’ve helped the execution (I put more of that on first-time quarterbacks.)

Expecting anything major from Jones might be pushing it. While Taylor Decker gets most of the acclaim, guard Pat Elflein graded out as the Buckeyes highest-graded offensive lineman. Teamed with center Jacoby Boren, both are undersized but veteran players who’ll challenge the interior of Notre Dame’s defensive front. Getting Jones 15 to 20 snaps will be a great accomplishment, and from there you just have to think that the 320-pounder will find a way to push the point of attack.

 

 

Smith, Stanley named consensus All-Americans

Notre Dame v Syracuse
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Junior linebacker Jaylon Smith and senior offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley were named consensus All-Americans for 2015. They became the first set of Irish teammates to receive the honor since Jeff Burris and Aaron Taylor did so in 1993.

The duo become Notre Dame’s 82nd and 83rd consensus All-Americans. Those 83 players have been awarded consensus All-American kudos 99 separate times, with both numbers being the highest total of any school in the FBS.

Smith also won the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker. He was very nearly a unanimous All-American, missing out on first-team kudos from ESPN and FWAA.

Stanley was a semi-finalist for the Outland and Lombardi Trophies. He was named a first-team All-American by the FWAA, AFCA,ESPN, USA Today, CBS Sports, The Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Smith joins Manti Te’o, Michael Stonebreaker, Bob Crable, Bob Golic and Bob Lynch among consensus All-American linebackers. Stanley is the first offensive lineman to earn the kudos since Taylor, and is the 23rd offensive lineman to be named a consensus All-American in the program’s history.