Tag: Golden Tate


NFL Ready? Irish players still aren’t there


With the heart of the NFL draft set for Saturday, a handful of Irish prospects waited to hear their names called. But as rounds four through seven slid by, no Irish players were drafted after the Vikings selected Kyle Rudolph in the second round on Friday. Seven rounds, and only one player from Notre Dame selected. If you’re looking for schools that had a better weekend than the Irish, you don’t have to look far.

In a weird twist of fate, it was Brian Kelly on set with the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, Charles Davis and Mike Mayock, watching as Ian Williams, Darrin Walls, Armando Allen and a handful of other Irish seniors failed to entice an NFL team to take a chance on them.

For as at home as Kelly seemed on TV, talking about player development and a path to the NFL (definitely not a small-timey performance by BK), it was clear that the marketplace had spoken on Notre Dame’s job of producing football players — mostly under head coaches Charlie Weis, Ty Willingham and Bob Davie — and the results aren’t pretty.

Under Weis, known as an elite recruiter, the Irish had only six players drafted from 2009 to 2011, ranking them 40th in college football, well behind programs like TCU, Utah, Pitt, Brian Kelly’s Cincinnati team, UConn, South Florida, and Rutgers. It’s been almost 20 years since the Irish have had a Top 15 player, when Bryant Young went seventh in the 1994 NFL Draft. (Only Renaldo Wynn, Luke Petitgout, Jeff Faine, and Brady Quinn have been first-round draft picks since Lou Holtz left Notre Dame.)

Here are the recruits signed by Charlie Weis that heard their name called during the NFL Draft.

2009 — David Bruton, 4th Round – Denver Broncos (Three-star recruit)
2010 — Jimmy Clausen, 2nd Round – Carolina Panthers (Five-star recruit)
2010 — Golden Tate, 2nd Round – Seattle Seahawks (Four-star recruit)
2010 — Sam Young, 6th Round – Dallas Cowboys (Five-star recruit)
2010 — Eric Olsen, 6th Round – Denver Broncos (Four-star recruit)
2011 — Kyle Rudolph, 2nd Round – Minnesota Vikings (Five-star recruit)

There’s plenty of ways to analyze that output, but none stack up all that favorably for Weis, the Irish, or their ability to develop and produce NFL-ready players, which goes a long way in explaining why the Irish haven’t played as good of football as their fanbase would expect.

For a coach that recruited players into an NFL system and comes from a lineage filled with Canton-level coaches, there’s no good way to understand Weis’ inability to produce players with the talent he allegedly brought to campus, except to blame his ability to identify and develop high school athletes into excellent college football players.

In 2005, working with a class started by Tyrone Willingham, Weis was able to cobble together a recruiting class 15 strong, rated 40th in the country by Rivals. It produced David Bruton. In 2006, Weis’ monster class of 28 was rated 8th best in the country, but only yielded 6th rounders Sam Young and Eric Olsen. The 2007 class, again ranked 8th in the country, was a little more star-heavy, and produced the best output of the Weis era, with Clausen and Tate going in round two, and Gary Gray looking like he’ll have the chance to get selected next year. The 2008 class has already produced Rudolph, will see Michael Floyd get drafted, and likely see an NFL team take a shot on guys like Dayne Crist, Darius Fleming, and potentially a guy like Kapron Lewis-Moore or Ethan Johnson. (We’ll have the Manti Te’o, Cierre Wood, and Zack Martin conversation later.)

If we want to play the “let’s look back at the recruiting rankings” and draw conclusions, Matt Hinton at the very excellent Dr. Saturday blog does just that. At first glance, the hit-rate that Rivals produced is indeed pretty impressive. But if you’re looking to dig a little bit deeper and maybe even get to the problem of why the Irish (let’s just keep this to the Charlie Weis era) have struggled, consider the process in which Weis assembled a roster.

Of the guys that were drafted out of Charlie Weis’ Irish program, half of them had all but punched their ticket before they got to the program, with Clausen, Young and Rudolph all five-star recruits. Rudolph and Clausen left the program after three seasons, getting the absolute least development from Irish coaching as possible, while a guy like Sam Young — starting every game of his Irish career — never managed to develop into more than just a bottom of the draft type of player, something he probably was when he first stepped foot on campus in 2006. Golden Tate, another three-year player in the Irish football program, ascended quickly, going from a freshman season with only six catches to a 18 touchdown, Biletnikoff Award winning junior year. But Tate’s development as a football player was far from complete, struggling in his first season in the NFL, failing to have more than four catches in a game or a single touchdown, all while being held off the stat-sheet or out of uniform for five games.  Topping off the problems of the Weis era, only Bruton came from the defensive side of the ball.

As Brian Kelly sat on the NFL Network’s set during Saturday’s draft festivities, he had an illuminating conversation with Mike Mayock, Rich Eisen and Charles Davis about developing NFL-caliber players and winning college football games. Quite simply, it isn’t Kelly’s job to develop NFL players, and he was unapologetic about the fact that the spread offense might not be the best precursor to success in the NFL for quarterbacks. But there’s also a reason that Kelly has had a hand in more players drafted at his two previous coaching stops (Central Michigan and Cincinnati) than Notre Dame has since 2007. It’s his ability to target and develop players for success.

There are far too many reasons why Ian Williams, Darrin Walls, and Armando Allen didn’t get drafted, and blaming coaching transition, poor player development, or underachievement only get you so far. There are also plenty of good reasons why players like Chinedum Ndukwe and Sergio Brown, guys that slipped to the bottom of the NFL Draft or signed via free agency, now have great careers in the NFL.

It’s obviously too soon to grade Kelly’s ability to produce NFL ready talent at Notre Dame, but his ability to look outside the star system and target physical attributes is a good look inside his process of finding good football players. For Irish fans looking for a reassuring trend, consider that Notre Dame, with a roster missing Kyle Rudolph, Theo Riddick, Dayne Crist and Ian Williams finished 8-5 with a schedule rated 22nd by Jeff Sagarin. Meanwhile North Carolina finished 8-5 with the 29th rated schedule. The big difference? The Tar Heels had nine players drafted, the Irish had one.

The role of scrappy over-achiever is certainly uncharted territory, but after the last 15 years, it’s one that Irish fans should certainly embrace. Succeeding during NFL Draft weekend? Let’s just call that a nice little bonus.

Ian Williams talks draft, Rudy, Te’o and Floyd

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

In his running diary at the South Bend Tribune, Notre Dame nose guard Ian Williams had a great post about the NFL lockout, the upcoming draft, and former teammates Kyle Rudolph, Manti Te’o, and Michael Floyd.

As Williams returns to campus to finish his classes before May graduation, he talks about balancing his preparations for Notre Dame’s April 7 pro day while training in Chicago with former teammates Kerry Neal, Brian Smith and Robert Hughes, all guys that have legitimate shots at catching on with an NFL team — if they ever figure out their labor impasse.

Williams also gave us some minor scoop that Kyle Rudolph signed an endorsement deal with Adidas, which helps explains his inclusion in the latest Adidas “All In” commercial. (Don’t blink, you might miss him.)

It’s a pretty cool commercial and Notre Dame’s inclusion with Derek Rose, Katy Perry, and Lionel Messi certainly means something I’m not qualified to figure out. But if there’s one thing Irish fans might like hearing is Williams’ take on Irish star Michael Floyd, who decided to stay in school for his senior year, and rising junior Manti Te’o, who also will have a decision to make after next season.

From Williams:

The lockout won’t stop endorsement deals. My former teammate, Kyle Rudolph, signed with adidas. Me, I haven’t gotten any calls. Rudy is an offensive player. A lot of those brands — adidas, Nike — they like the offensive guys, but I’m happy for Rudy to get something like that.

You really never know where you’re going to go in the draft. You hear things and they have projections, but when you’re a player in college, you just have to go out there and play as hard as you can.

You can’t focus on something like, “If I do good here, if I get a sack here, I’ll go in the second round, third round.” That’s kind of being a selfish player.

If you go out and play hard every Saturday and do what you can, at the end of the day, the coaches and the scouts will see that.

The projections, ESPN and all that, really don’t mean anything. The coaches and GMs and the scouts who are in the draft war room at the time have the final decision of where you may go.

Now sometimes you have teammates you know will be high draft choices eventually. Michael Floyd, I think personally, would have been a first-rounder this year.

There were questions about his speed, but those people apparently don’t know that Michael Floyd is actually fast. And Manti Te’o is going to be a great linebacker.

I think he’ll stay all four years, but when he does come out, with his talent and the way he’s played the past two years, he’s going to be a first-rounder.

I wasn’t in the position to have to make a decision to come out early, like Michael Floyd did this year and Manti might next year. I think it would have been difficult, but it comes back to the thought that there is no experience that parallels being in college.

I would have talked to Jimmy (Clausen) and Golden (Tate) about it, but I think if I was in that position, I would have come back.

Te’o mentioned when he decided to forgo his Mormon mission that he’d be staying for four seasons in South Bend, but obviously restating that claim after next fall will have Irish fans breathing a lot easier. And while it’s an exercise in futility, if Williams had the recruiting skills needed to bring back Clausen and Tate to the Irish offense this year, it could’ve been a much different story, especially with the defensive renaissance.

Michael Floyd isn’t one of the 10 best receivers in college football


(Or at least the Tallahassee Quarterback Club doesn’t think so.)

A year after Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best wide receiver, Michael Floyd found himself on the outside looking in as the 10 semifinalists were announced today for the Biletnikoff Award by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club.

Here are the 2010 Biletnikoff Award Semifinalists:

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Randall Cobb, Kentucky
Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M
A.J. Green, Georgia
Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina
Julia Jones, Alabama
Aldrick Robinson, SMU
Greg Salas, Hawaii
Jordan White, Western Michigan

Floyd has 59 catches for 767 yards and 9 touchdowns this season, matching his number from an injury shortened season last year, but seeing his yards per catch average drop from 18.1 to 13 yards, no doubt the effect of a new quarterback and offensive system.

Floyd’s numbers are comparable to those put up by Cobb, Green, Jones, and Robinson, although Green missed some time due to NCAA suspension for selling a game-worn jersey to someone the NCAA classifed as an agent. (For what its worth, Blackmon is a semi-finalist even after getting arrested for DUI in the middle of the season.) One interesting name of note was Western Michigan’s Jordan White, who went head-to-head with Floyd in South Bend, putting up five catches for 55 yards in a 44-20 loss to the Irish where Floyd made 9 catches for 157 yards and three touchdowns.

Awards like this are ultimately meaningless, but Irish fans should hope that a slight like this is the motivation Floyd needs to return for his senior season and make a run at the Biletnikoff.

Kelly continues to embrace the role of ambassador


Before even getting hired as the head coach at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly compared the high-profile position to that of a city mayor. It’s not a surprise that with Kelly’s background in politics, he’s taken to his new job quite well.

Kelly hit the court at halftime of the Irish women’s basketball game against UConn, and did his best to keep the crowd fired up. (He also attempted the first Irish jig by a head football coach in recent memory…) Kelly may have to ask Digger Phelps for some advice for the dance moves, but he’s already proven adept at the choreographed compulsory moves that a new Notre Dame football coach needs to perform in his first months on the job.

With the minor lull before Spring Practice begins, Kelly also took time to reach out to the faculty of football players, imploring them to push his student-athletes to reach their academic potential.

Here’s the text of the letter:

To Faculty of Football Student-Athletes:

As I begin my coaching tenure here at Notre Dame, I look forward to
supporting the faculty in their promotion of a rich and challenging
academic culture.   Furthermore, I hope to reinforce your individual
efforts in challenging the student-athletes on the Football Team to
maximize their academic potential.  Liaising through Academic Services
for Student-Athletes, I plan to maintain specific knowledge of each
student-athlete’s academic situation.  

Specifically, I would ask that faculty be consistent and forthright
in sharing academic issues with Adam Sargent and Scott Carlin   in
Academic Services for Student-Athletes.  Although independent from the
Athletic Department, ASSA works closely with coaches to ensure the
academic mission of the University is upheld. To assist in these
efforts, I ask that you please make note of any issues in class
attendance, including inconsistent punctuality, and pass along any and
all relevant details to Adam and Scott.  Moreover, I expect our players
to not only be present in class but to also establish a positive class
presence:  to be attentive, engaged, and participatory on a regular
basis.  Again, only through your assistance in disseminating
information, can ASSA and I know what is occurring in each one of your
respective courses.

In all, I embrace the opportunity to support your efforts in cultivating academic growth among

these students. I request that you share your experiences,
concerns, and insights regarding the players’ successes and
shortcomings within your particular courses.

Thank you in advance for continually furthering the learning
experience for both the football student-athletes as well as the
greater student body.  I appreciate all that you do to propel the
mission of the University, and best of luck in all of your current
academic endeavors.

Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly

Head Football Coach

The head football coach trying to get in good with the faculty that teaches his players isn’t a ground-breaking move, but it is proof that Kelly is leaving no stone unturned as he attempts to change the culture of the football program. Kelly has consistently stressed academics wherever he’s been, and his Cincinnati Bearcats program had the highest GPA of any team in the BCS last season.

This isn’t meant to be an indictment on the previous regime, a coaching staff that achieved great things off the field with Notre Dame’s student-athletes. But Kelly’s open approach to leadership seems like a breath of fresh air into the football program. 

Weekend recap: Tate blazes, Clausen set for Pro Day


As the Olympics close, and American hockey fans everywhere but Pittsburgh curse Sidney Crosby, let’s catch up on an eventful weekend for a few former members of the Irish.

* Any questions about Golden Tate’s speed were answered today, as the Biletnikoff winner blazed times that were measured as fast as a 4.36 (but officially recorded as a 4.42) forty and impressed in just about everything he did this weekend.

Here’s a great link to the NFL Network’s coverage of Tate’s performance, which should have him miraculously shooting up draft boards everywhere. As I’ve said from the beginning, Tate’s exactly the kind of guy that should go — and thrive — after being picked at the tail end of round one.

I caught up with Golden via an email, and he confirmed running a great forty was a big weight off his shoulders. “One less thing to worry about,” he said. 

I look forward to Todd McShay somehow backpedaling on everything he’s
said and sliding Tate into the late first round, and eventually moving
Jimmy Clausen there as well.

Here’s more from Tate if you’re looking for it, who spent five minutes talking with NFL Network reporters.

(And how about those Nikes on Golden? Didn’t take long to chuck the Adidas…)

* Moving onto that Clausen character, the NFL Network’s Charley Casserly made waves Saturday when he reported that Clausen wouldn’t be ready for his Pro Day workout on April 9th.

Not so, Jimmy said.

“That is what I’m shooting for and that is what the doctor told me,” Clausen said when asked if he’ll be ready. “I went through (the medical exam) process yesterday. It look quite a bit of time. They said it looks really good and it’s healing. They told me to take my time and not push it too much.”

Meanwhile, the sentiment is growing that St. Louis Rams, the holders of the first pick of the draft, are choosing between Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford or Clausen as the first pick. And while neither of them threw a football or worked out, this weekend brought out more than a few opinions on who had the better interview sessions.

As he did on Saturday, Casserly seemed to do his best to knock Clausen down a peg. “On interviewing people, it was unanimous on Bradford over Clausen,” Casserly told the Tulsa World, after claiming to have spoken with 16 teams. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Mel Kiper thinks that Clausen will end up being picked ahead of Bradford.

“Once he’s fully recovered from his toe surgery, he’ll show teams he can make throws, but there’s more to it,” Kiper said. “His intelligence, competitiveness and toughness will impress personnel people and his stock will rise. Clausen has under-center experience and was as close to mistake-free as he could be given his surroundings this past season.”

For anyone getting too worked up about this, please realize that the draft isn’t until April 22nd, nearly two months from now.