Tag: Aaron Lynch


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.





Practice Report: Day Thirteen update

Stephon Tuitt 1

Apologies on falling behind a day with the practice reports. (If you didn’t notice, simply carry on…) As the Irish defense deals with the voluntary departure of one of the team’s most talented players, in seasons past, this could have been a death sentence.

Yet the loss Aaron Lynch has overshadowed a lot of the impressive depth the Irish have put together along the defensive line, and while it’s foolish to say Lynch won’t be missed, there are capable back-ups ready to take the field.

Almost on cue, the guys at UND.com gave us a look at defensive line coach Mike Elston’s troops. Led by fifth-year senior Kapron Lewis-Moore, who is all-the-way returned from a knee injury that ended his season early, the Irish should have plenty to offer along the defensive line.

As usual, here’s the practice report, with some thoughts and observations along the way.

  • 0:13 — While Jack Nolan tees up the particulars of this weekend’s Blue-Gold game (watch it live on NBC Sports channel, where you’ll get an appearance from some schmuck blogger…), you see the Notre Dame stadium crew putting in new field turf — just kidding, they are finishing up some drainage repair and laying new sod along the outside of the field.
  • 0:48 — It’s amazing to see the transformation of Kona Schwenke. The guy is just a monster now. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s merely one of those spring all-stars, or if this momentum carries into some significant stats next season, where he’ll likely benefit from the loss of Lynch.
  • 0:56 — We’ve already seen this play, but it’s impressive work by Kapron Lewis-Moore against Zack Martin. KLM looks all the way back from his knee injury.
  • 1:05 — “The Irish defensive line is a position group that remains one of the deepest and most talented units on the Notre Dame football team,” Jack Nolan unequivocally states (while sticking needles into his #19 voodoo doll).
  • 1:15 — Nothing not to like about Mike Elston. Smart guy, good guy, and a coach who took some lumps last year for the Irish special teams, maybe for reasons outside of his control.
  • 2:12 — Gotta love Kappy pushing to get blocker duty in special teams drills. Seniority is still seniority even in major college football.
  • 2:40 — Exchange of the video: “I don’t have swag?” Elston says (to what I’m guessing is linebacker Jarrett Grace). “What are you talking about? I’m dripping with swag. You don’t even know me.”
  • 2:52 — Of course, you’ve got to get defensive coordinator Bob Diaco into it. The guy might as well be the king of swag.
  • 3:06 — A good look at the two dog linebacker candidates, with Ben Councell and Danny Spond working some basic leverage drills. They both certainly look the part.
  • 3:56 — The transition “from speed to power” is a good fundamental to see in action. Especially with a 6-foot-7, 300-pound defensive end.
  • 4:10 — It’s amazing that Tyler Stockton, at six-foot, 285, looks small out there. He’s a product of a different recruiting system, and looks a little bit like strolling out  a Walkman instead of a iPod when you match him up with Tuitt.
  • 4:26 — Great to see Chase Hounshell back out there, after missing practice earlier with an injury. With Lynch gone, Hounshell,who many thought would redshirt last season, will now be a contributor if he can work into the regular rotation.
  • 4:40 — Elston coaching a basic sled drill, but drilling in the practical usage to Tuitt. Nicely done.
  • 5:07 — Seen this already, but Louis Nix does a great job beating Mike Golic, then tackling Cierre Wood.
  • 5:45 — Looks like we’ve got to work on the “club and slip” move again.
  • 6:20 — KLM puts Nick Martin on roller-skates.
  • 6:40 — Freshman Sheldon Day looks like he’s more than holding his own out there, doing some good work against Tate Nichols.
  • 6:52 — Call me crazy, but if I had to lose one defensive end out of Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt, I’d rather lose Lynch. For the scheme the Irish run, Tuitt is more than the prototype, he’s next generation. Coming off the edge and snatching up that football is pretty ridiculous athleticism, as even Elston (and the UND.com slo-mo replay) acknowledged.