Tag: Aaron Lynch


Lynch prepares for football (finally) after Notre Dame


It’s been a long time since we’ve seen defensive end Aaron Lynch on the football field. After a freshman All-American season for the Irish, Lynch left South Bend in the middle of spring practice and headed home to South Florida.

The soap opera surrounding the decision to transfer, which included social media pleas to stay by his mother, New York Giants All-Pro Justin Tuck, a young fiance in South Florida, and a firm line held by Irish head coach Brian Kelly, ended with Lynch enrolling at South Florida after finishing his spring semester at Notre Dame.

Lynch expected to play for USF head coach Skip Holtz. But after a disappointing 2012 season where the Bulls staggered to a 3-9 record, Holtz was relieved of his duties and South Florida hired Willie Taggart to run the program.

After a nice run at Western Kentucky, Taggart has energized the Bulls program. And while the media has raved about the work Taggart has done since taking over, the best recruit Taggert landed was the transfer student he inherited.

CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman caught up with Taggart, who had some interesting things to say about Lynch’s maturation and preparation while discussing the state of his football team. The whole interview is worth a read, but here’s a snippet that really caught my attention.

Q: (Aaron Lynch) was this five-star recruit and a freshman All-American at Notre Dame. How was he compared to what your expectations of him were once you get him out on the field?

Taggart: He was even more. Some of things he does. He just has a natural feel for the game. He plays with fanatical effort. He just goes. I know if he continues to play with that fanatical effort, the sky is the limit for him.

He is really good with his hands. He’s quick and really long. And the other thing that was impressive was he was doing things with knee braces on. I make all of our linemen practice with knee braces, and he was still getting it done.

Q: I noticed you guys list him at 244 (pounds). Did he lose a lot of weight when he got there?

Taggart. Yes, he did. He played at 270 at ND. In the year that he had off, he wasn’t really motivated to do anything, from what I was told and heard from everyone. He’d tell you that he wasn’t really locked in, knowing that he couldn’t play. Now, doing what he’s doing and hearing some of that noise about how he can be this or be that, he’s really taking pride in trying to be the best football player he can be.

Q: Do you want to see him back up in the 260s?

Taggart: I’d like him in the 250-260 range. He’s well put together. When he walked in the door the first time I saw him, I was like, ‘Wow!’ Without even watching him on film, you could see what everybody’s talking about. Then you watch him on film — Jeez!

He’s built like Jevon Kearse. He’s long and lean and athletic but he can put on the weight. In the spring he actually played at like 235. I think he’s at 245 now.

He has not been an issue at all. He sees the future in front of him and knows that he has a really bright future if he keeps his head on straight. He goes in the weight room and he works.

It’s probably not a surprise to Notre Dame fans that Lynch dropped 35 pounds during his self imposed sabbatical. That Taggart would openly say that Lynch, “wasn’t really motivated to do anything, from what I was told and heard from everyone,” is some pretty open candor about a player that never seemed the most disciplined to begin with, and points to a pretty inactive year off, after playing at a still-room-to-grow 270 pounds as a freshman.

What’s also no surprise are the rave reviews Lynch gets from the USF staff. Taggart talked about the lessons he’s been giving Lynch since he arrived in Tampa, especially with Lynch now a young married man with a future that’s very much in his hands.

The new USF coach probably puts it best when he tells Feldman, “I don’t talk about football much with him. I don’t think he’d fail at football. It’d either be something either academically or socially that could get in his way. In football, he’s a beast out there, so you just try to make sure he has everything else in perspective and help make sure that he’s a great husband because that’s something that is important to me. We talk about that constantly.”

Lynch’s on-field development took a major detour last season. It’s hard to imagine that he’d still be worried about adding bulk — Taggart wants him playing in the 260 range — if he had stayed in the Irish development cycle.

Yet after all the drama that’s surrounded Lynch and his departure from Notre Dame, it’ll be fun to get a chance to finally play football again, even if it isn’t for the team Irish fans hoped.


Lynch applying for hardship waiver at USF

Lynch USF

As you’d expect, Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch is hoping to receive immediate eligibility at South Florida. The former freshman All-American provided the biggest news of the offseason when he walked away from the Irish in the middle of spring practice, quitting the team. He finished out the semester before enrolling at South Florida over the summer.

Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times has more from USF head coach Skip Holtz:

“They’re compiling everything and putting it together. Once it’s submitted, it will be ruled on rather quickly,” Holtz told the Times. “Just trying to get all the letters in place and everything else. You have to remember he started here four weeks ago. I would imagine that would be done probably here within the next week.”

Lynch’s departure from Notre Dame, and the ensuing soap opera, has been well chronicled, which might actually be to the detriment of Lynch’s eligibility case.

Defining the hardship waiver is the first piece of the puzzle. John Infante, author of the NCAA’s Bylaw Blog, defines the hardship waiver as something for “student-athletes who are compelled to transfer because of financial hardship or an injury or illness to the student-athlete or a member of their family.”

Obviously, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Lynch. Then again, it didn’t seem to be the case with running back Amir Carlisle, who was granted immediate eligibility after his family uprooted to Indiana after his father took over as the head of Purdue’s strength department.

Eamonn Brennan of ESPN has a breakdown of undergraduate transfer waivers and how often they are granted in college football, and the numbers show that it’s pretty much a 50/50 proposition:


Graduate student transfer waivers:
81 approved
3 denied

Undergraduate transfer waivers:
85 approved
86 denied

The graduate student transfer waiver is allowing Dayne Crist, Mike Ragone, Anthony McDonald, Brandon Newman, Deion Walker, and Hafis Williams to continue their careers, playing out their eligibility after graduating from Notre Dame. Lynch’s case is an entirely different story.

Lynch returning home to South Florida seems to be a data-point that would seemingly support his chances of gaining immediate eligibility. Yet the fact that his mother adamantly disagreed with the decision makes that a tougher angle to pursue.

Pushed for clarification on the rule, the NCAA’s Cameron Schuh didn’t have any clear-cut answer for how the NCAA reaches its decisions.

“There are a number of factors that are considered with the criteria, some of which include the relationship of the individual to the student-athlete and proximity from transferring institution to where the individual lives/is being treated, to name a couple,” Schuh said in an email to ESPN. “Each case is reviewed and determined based on its own merits, so it would not be accurate for me to say if any one factor is weighted more than another nor if cases that look similar on the surface have different outcomes.”

From a football perspective, having Lynch available this fall for duty would be a huge lift to the USF program. It’d also represent a somewhat dangerous precedent, with the morphing of a hardship to include a student-athlete seemingly going against their parent’s wishes to play closer to his girlfriend and friends back home.

Lynch most certainly has the right to play football wherever he wants. Unfortunately for Lynch, the Bulls and Skip Holtz, it might not be until 2013.

With Lynch leaving Notre Dame, USF pursuing eligibility waiver

Aaron Lynch Blue Gold

As expected, South Florida is pursuing a waiver to let former Irish defensive end Aaron Lynch played in 2012. Bulls head coach Skip Holtz, while hosting an interactive Google+ Hangout, mentioned the process of getting Lynch integrated into the South Florida football program. (Fast-forward to around minute 17 for the Lynch talk.)

“Right now, the NCAA rule is if you transfer from D-I to D-I, you have to sit for a year unless there’s some extenuating circumstances,” Holz said during the fan chat. “And there are some things there that we’ll look at to see if that’s a possibility. Right now, looking at Aaron Lynch, he would have to sit for a year and then after that year, he would have three years of eligibility unless the waiver with the NCAA is heard and approved, then he would be granted permission. But at this point, that would be way too early and would put the cart before the horse.”

Lynch’s case has been well documented. After a freshman season that earned rookie All-American kudos for leading the Irish in sacks, Lynch walked away from the Irish football program in the middle of spring practice. After talking with his family and returning to campus, Lynch made the unilateral decision to leave South Bend and move closer to his girlfriend and his roots back in Florida.

What the NCAA will rule is anybody’s guess. Notre Dame was the recent beneficiary of one waiver, with Amir Carlisle granted immediate eligibility after leaving Southern Cal and coming to the Irish football program after his father’s new job with Purdue moved the entire family to Indiana. Just today, Michigan State announced that DeAnthony Arnett, a freshman wide receiver that played last season for Tennessee, would be eligible immediately to play for his home-state Spartans. Arnett wanted to return to Michigan to help his family as his father’s health started to fail, and what ensued was a lot of egg on Vols coach Derek Dooley’s face.

Yet Lynch’s case might most closely resemble that of former Oklahoma Sooner Justin McCay. McCay transferred to home-state Kansas and was denied his request for immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Head coach Charlie Weis disagreed with the ruling, commenting to the Kansas City Star that the NCAA denied the request because “there wasn’t that one catastrophic event evident to rule in his favor.”

(Weis, as you’d expect, had even more to say: “I’m extremely disappointed that common sense did not prevail,” Weis said in a statement. “I have read all of the information on this case and it is a shame that this case resulted in a rejection. I cannot release all of the details of Justin’s case as it would be an invasion of his privacy.

“I can only say that the University of Kansas felt the evidence was overwhelmingly in his favor. I also do not understand why the NCAA had us appeal this case to the subcommittee only to have received the same answer with the same rationale.”)

With Lynch’s mother and siblings relocated to Ohio, it’s hard to say there’s a “catastrophic event” that will allow Lynch to play immediately. Homesickness, and a girlfriend that’s at a nearby college most likely won’t be enough to have the NCAA grant a waiver, especially with the decision being against the wishes of Lynch’s mother, who picked her son up from school this week with no plans of returning to South Bend.

Lynch is scheduled to enroll in the second session of summer school at USF.


USF announces Aaron Lynch transfer


It appears that the Aaron Lynch saga is officially over.

Lynch, who walked away from the Irish football team in the middle of spring practice, visited USF this weekend while his former teammates were playing in the 83rd Blue-Gold game. The soon-to-be-sophomore, who led the Irish in sacks last season with 5.5, is still enrolled in classes at Notre Dame, but has apparently made up his mind that he’s leaving at the end of the spring semester.

While rumors swirled this weekend, it appears Lynch’s decision has been made. The official website for the South Florida Bulls made this announcement today, all but finalizing the move:

TAMPA – The University of South Florida will add transfer Aaron Lynch to its roster for the 2012 season, head coach Skip Holtz has announced. Lynch, a Cape Coral, Fla. native, intends to transfer from Notre Dame after earning Freshman All-America honors during his true freshman season in 2011.

“With Aaron originally being from Florida, we’re very familiar with the kind of player he is,” Holtz said. “Aaron had a great freshman season at Notre Dame and we’re excited to welcome him into the Bulls family.”

Lynch played in 12 games for Notre Dame last season, including the Bulls season-opening victory against the Fighting Irish, and started six. He posted 33 tackles, 5.5 sacks, seven TFL, 14 pressures, two PBU and a forced fumble en route to first-team Freshman All-America honors. Lynch probably had his most productive game of the season against Michigan St., when he posted five tackles, a sack, six pressures and a forced fumble. He also started in the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida St. and tallied five tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pressure.

A highly-decorated prep player at Island Coast High School, Lynch was one of the top-ranked players coming out of high school in 2010, rated as high as the sixth-best prospect. He capped his stellar career with 31 solo tackles and 10.5 sacks en route to being named a U.S. Army All-American.

Lynch is expected to enroll in summer school at South Florida in June. After watching Amir Carlisle gain immediate eligibility, it’s expected that USF will begin immediate work on getting a similar waiver.

Heading into the weekend, it appeared there was a sliver of hope that Lynch would reconsider his decision. Between his mother’s social media outreach to former Irish defensive end Justin Tuck, and a few conversations Lynch had with parents and people close to the program, outsiders hoped that Lynch would come to his proverbial senses.

One person with no interest of holding out for Lynch was Irish head coach Brian Kelly. From the moment Lynch and Kelly discussed his departure after his brief visit home over Easter weekend, Kelly has been consistent with his sincere ability to turn the page and move quickly past the loss, a potentially immeasurable one to the Irish pass rush.

Of course, with Lynch nothing is complete until he’s on campus in Tampa this June. But it appears Lynch’s path to the NFL will no longer be a direct flight from South Bend.


Pregame Six Pack: Blue & Gold (and a certain Irish victory)


It may count the same as the other fourteen practices allotted by NCAA rules during the spring, but there will be plenty of eyeballs on the last official workout of the school year for the Irish. With a national broadcast on NBC Sports Network kicking off at 1:30 p.m. ET, a spring spent mostly working away from the eyes of media will be opened up for all to see in high definition, tightening the microscope on a Notre Dame football program that’s had a roller-coaster spring.

From position changes to unexpected departures, a quarterback battle that’ll likely last deep into August, and a wide receiving corps in desperate need of reinforcements, plenty has happened since the Irish ended the 2011 season with a disappointing loss to Florida State.

To get you up to speed, the pregame six pack will give you six fun facts, tidbits, leftovers and miscellaneous musings, as we prepare for a football game where the Irish are certain to win.


While the focus should stay on the players on the field, the most intriguing football player on campus is still Aaron Lynch.

Brian Kelly isn’t in the business of talking people into staying. In his first days as coach at Notre Dame, he wished wide receiver Shaq Evans well, unwilling to re-recruit a talented player to a team where he wasn’t committed to playing. While mystery still surrounds cornerback Tee Shepard‘s departure, Kelly didn’t blink when Shepard went home to Fresno, looking more and more a lock to never set foot on campus again after being one of the Irish’s most steadfast (and important) recruits.

A week ago, Kelly addressed the media without flinching, announcing that rising star defensive end Aaron Lynch “has quit the football team.” While he remains on campus finishing the semester before deciding where to take his prodigious talents, it appears that Kelly is fine with living the credo “next man in.” But that doesn’t mean his family is.

Thursday evening, Alice Lynch, Aaron’s mother and an active presence on Twitter, took to the popular social networking website to seek the help of former Irish defensive end Justin Tuck. “Please go to Zahm Hall and tell my son Aaron what a bad decision he is making by leaving ND. Thank you.”

The message spread like wildfire across the web, and certainly confirmed the suspicions of many that the younger Lynch is making a unilateral decision, one that wasn’t run by his mother, teammates, or coaches. That Lynch’s mother would reach out of Notre Dame’s best NFL player, a defensive end that battled culture shock in South Bend to become one of the best ambassadors of the university playing professional football, shows both the power of social media, and the lengths Lynch’s mother is willing to go to talk sense into her son.

Former Irish player Spencer Boyd took to Twitter today to announce Lynch would be joining Skip Holtz‘s South Florida team this summer, and there were other reports that Lynch would be visiting Tampa for a visit this weekend. But the fact Lynch’s mother would reach out to Tuck, who is serving as an honorary captain this Saturday, gives you the feeling that the final chapter in Lynch’s Notre Dame career may not have been written in ink.


With the depth chart at wide receiver dwindling, it’s time for Daniel Smith and Davaris Daniels to step up.

As the Irish enter the first year of life after Michael Floyd, they’ll walk into Saturday’s scrimmage with a depth chart more than a little short. With incoming freshman Justin Ferguson and Chris Brown not coming to campus until summer, even at full strength, it was tough to field a complete depth chart at the outside receiver positions.

Add to that some untimely injuries this spring, and the lack of receivers was a big reason Kelly decided against a traditional scrimmage that split the roster in half. With fifth-year senior John Goodman suffering a minor ankle injury that’ll likely keep him out of the spring game and Luke Massa suffering an ACL injury that’ll likely keep him sidelined into next season, the Irish are down to four scholarship players at the outside receiver positions — a number that just isn’t enough in a spread offense.

But the shortage should benefit two players that were persons of interest this spring: rising junior Daniel Smith and soon-to-be sophomore Davaris Daniels. Both have been under close watch by Kelly, and both seem to have performed up to task.

After bearing the brunt of some candid comments by Kelly, Daniels — who has already been pronounced one of the most dynamic athletes on the roster by the head coach — turned in a steady week of practice and has the staff feeling like he’ll be ready to go come fall.

“This last week, DaVaris Daniels really stepped up his play and became a guy that we can feel comfortable now saying that he’s going to help us win games next year,” Kelly said. “That’s a really important thing.”

After battling a difficult depth chart and some injury woes in his first two years in the program, Smith, a South Bend native that’s yet to make much of a difference on the field, made it through spring practice unscathed and ready to use his 6-foot-4 frame for some good.

“Daniel is important to us,” Kelly said this week. “We need him to come up and be a consistent player for us, and it’s been about injuries for him. He’s got the injury bug and it looks like he’s kicked it because he made every spring practice and he hadn’t been able to do that in his previous time here. So a really positive step for Daniel Smith this spring.”

TJ Jones returns the most snaps at the receiver position, and we’ll see if he can make a leap as an upperclassman after battling through a challenging season off the field last season. We’ll also see walk-on Andre Smith getting some reps, as the North Broward Prep, Florida prospect has done some nice things this spring.


While Kelly’s declared the playbook open, don’t expect to see all the new wrinkles.

Talking with coaches the past two years, the Blue-Gold game was one of the least efficient practices of the season. In Brian Kelly’s first year, the offense ran about as vanilla as it could possibly go, with Irish fans dazzled at a quick pace, and more than fine with seeing the same three running plays. On defense, Bob Diaco made sure his unit didn’t run a single alignment that they’d use during the season.

Last season, Kelly and company were happy to get out of the workout unscathed, with defensive starters pulled quickly, Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees both protected and pulled quickly, and the second half given to Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, not to mention the breakout performance of Aaron Lynch.

With four quarterbacks that need to see live bullets, and new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin running the show, Kelly has reversed course on what he’s trying to get out of the spring’s final workout.

“We’re going to show,” Kelly said. “Everybody has film on us. So we’re going to run our offense and our defense, and our quarterbacks are live, all four quarterbacks are live. They need to be live, they need to be part of it.”

Making his quarterbacks live is a luxury the Irish didn’t have in Kelly’s last two spring games, both featuring Crist rehabilitating a major knee injury. And while each quarterback will be treated like any other ball carrier, don’t truly expect to see all the new wrinkles come out, especially with Martin and Kelly completely revamping the personnel groupings.

One new play in particular to watch for? The “Fly Sweep” that West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen used to shred Clemson’s defense with in the Orange Bowl. (For the genesis of the play, here’s a great rundown.) We’ve already seen the play in UND.com practice videos, meaning Martin and Kelly won’t be afraid to show it again. With talented slot versatility with guys like Robby Toma, Theo Riddick, incoming freshman Davonte Neal and even Cierre Wood, don’t be surprised to see this come into play on Saturday.


Jamoris Slaughter will only be adding to his versatility.

After dropping down into the box last season to play outside linebacker against Air Force, the defense found one of its most versatile weapons in safety Jamoris Slaughter. After losing most of his junior year with a nagging foot injury suffered in the opener against Purdue, Slaughter showed his value by moving seamlessly from the back of the defense to the front seven, working well taking on both pulling guards and speedy receivers, filling in for field linebacker Prince Shembo, who struggled playing out of position for most of the year.

With field cornerback a major concern with Lo Wood and Josh Atkinson battling it out for the job across from junior Bennett Jackson, don’t be surprised to see Slaughter working in at another spot, optimizing one of the Irish’s most flexible players. What looked like an experiment at cornerback earlier in the spring is now clearly cross-training.

“I don’t think it’s an experiment,” Kelly said. “He’s in there if we need him. If we get into a bind or we lose a guy or two, he can go in there. I remember when I played baseball, I carried two gloves: a catcher’s mitt and a first baseman’s glove. That’s kind of what we’re doing with Jamoris. He’s our safety, but he’s got to be ready to go if we need him.”

There’s no cornerback help coming in the fall, with Shepard gone and the Irish unable to bring in any other recruits after players like Yuri Wright and Anthony Standifer had to be taken off the recruiting board. While Cam McDaniel has shown promise in his 14 practices learning a new position, getting the cornerbacks off the field healthy is of the utmost importance, as is making sure Slaughter can play anywhere. With the coaches confident that Zeke Motta and Austin Collinsworth can handle safety reps, adding another dimension to Slaughter’s game will only help.


It’s a recruiting reunion on campus this weekend for the Irish.

In years past, the Blue-Gold game has been a showcase weekend for the Irish coaching staff as they unofficially welcome handfuls of recruits to campus. That’ll stay the same this weekend, though most recruits coming to campus have already given their pledge to the Irish.

Nine of the ten verbal commitments to the Irish will be in South Bend this weekend for the Blue-Gold game. Offensive linemen Hunter Bivin, Steve Elmer, Mike McGlinchey and Colin McGovern will all reunite after seeing each other at the Irish’s last junior day. They’ll be joined by cornerback Devin Butler, defensive end Jacob Matuska, wide receivers James Onwualu and Corey Robinson and quarterback Malik Zaire. The only commitment that can’t make it this weekend is New Jersey cornerback Rashad Kinlaw.

The Irish hoped to get an appearance from uber-recruit Jaylon Smith, but the Fort Wayne product — who was timed running a 4.4, and dazzled at his regular outside linebacker/defensive end position before taking reps as a 6-foot-3, 230-pound shutdown cornerback at an Adidas combine recently — will be playing in a seven-on-seven tournament.

But fear not, Irish fans. Notre Dame has its own secret weapon working on Smith. None other than the school’s most popular athlete, All-American point guard Skylar Diggins. After Smith tweeted out candidates like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and USC, Diggins — for all of her 230,439 followers to see — tweeted back at Smith, “Irish. Easy.”


Blue-Gold performance is no indicator for future earnings.

There are plenty of reasons to watch the Blue-Gold game on Saturday. (First of all, it’s your last chance to watch the Irish on TV until you’re up at dawn to see them playing Navy in Dublin.) But take anything that happens on the field with a grain of salt. A great performance in the Blue-Gold game is just that: A great performance in a spring scrimmage. For every performance like Aaron Lynch had last season, there’s one by Kyle Budinscak, who racked up five sacks during the 2001 spring game. (He never had more than three sacks in a season.) Cierre Wood’s big 2010 Blue-Gold game was a sign of things to come, while Junior Jabbie‘s breakout 2007 performance is noting more than a fun footnote in Irish lore.

With live quarterbacks, ones-versus-ones, and legitimate competition at several key positions, there’s plenty you can glean from the only up-close look at the Irish we’ll get until Dublin. But a terrific (or terrible) performance by anyone — quarterbacks included — may be big news to us, but only one of many data-points to coaches.

Saturday will be a fun one and will likely give a few hints at what’s to come. But if you’re expecting to reach any conclusions, you’ll walk away disappointed.