Tag: Justin Utupo

BYU v Notre Dame

Irish draft hopefuls audition at ND Pro Day


Former Irish football players had their chance to audition for future employers today in South Bend at the Notre Dame Pro Day. It was a reunion of sorts as players from all over worked out inside the Gug under the watchful eyes of NFL scouts.

With Notre Dame only losing starters Ben Koyack, Cody Riggs and Kyle Brindza to the NFL, it’s not expected to be a big year for the Irish in the draft. But also returning to campus to audution were former captain Cam McDaniel, DaVaris Daniels, Jake Golic, Andrew Hendrix, Ethan Johnson, Kendall Moore, Justin Utupo and Alex Welch.

Daniels and Moore are back on campus even after last season’s suspension. They’re joined by Miami RedHawks Hendrix and Welch, who played out their eligibility under former offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

Golic returned to campus after playing at Cincinnati. Johnson is looking to return to the NFL after being a part of the concussion class action lawsuit and a cup of coffee with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Let’s take to social media to get you some results:

Here’s an update on Cody Riggs, who was a surprise to be not among the invites to the combine in Indianapolis, but certainly helped his draft stock by running as fast as you’d have expected.

It appears that Riggs tweaked a hamstring later in the workout, but not before taking a slo-mo leap in the broad jump:


Ben Koyack, who was invited to Indianapolis, but didn’t run the 40-yard dash there, did so in South Bend. Per SID Michael Bertsch, Koyack ran right around a 4.7, with the fastest time listed at 4.68.

Koyack was at the Senior Bowl and Combine and is likely to be the first former Irish player off the draft board, though maybe not as early as previous Notre Dame tight ends.


Also back on campus is McDaniel, who is days away from becoming a father. A fringe candidate to make a roster, McDaniel showed some versatility—needed if he’s going to be a special teams performer on Sundays.


Kyle Brindza did a nice job updating us on his Pro Day. Here’s the former Irish kicker on his afternoon, where he showed off epic strongman skills in addition to a big leg on kickoffs.


In a parallel universe, DaVaris Daniels was catching passes from Andrew Hendrix. The Elkhart Truth’s Rachel Terlep even has proof.

Daniels spoke with media at the event, doing his best to put his suspension and inability to return to South Bend into context.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Daniels acknowledged to The Observer‘s Mike Monaco. “I don’t hold any grudges. I just don’t really like thinking about the situation… it is what it is. At this point, I’m ready for the NFL. That’s my focus.”

Daniels estimates he’s got a little over two semesters left of work to complete before earning his Notre Dame degree. He said all the right things about moving forward and hopefully finishing up his course work, while also taking the high road about the frustrating time where all five suspended athletes waited to hear their fate.

Most importantly for Daniels, at least when it comes to his immediate employment future, is getting his speed and explosiveness back. Various reports had Daniels breaking into the 4.5-range on his 40, a critical threshold for him.


If you’re looking for good news out of South Bend, defensive end Ishaq Williams—currently in football and academic purgatory—was on hand watching the festivities. Williams didn’t speak to any media but sat with his teammates for the festivities, though what to make of that isn’t clear.

While scholarship numbers are tight, Williams could be a great addition to a defensive front that’s looking for more bulk, and it’d allow him to finish his Notre Dame degree after a two semester exile.

Irish A-to-Z: Justin Utupo


Entering his fifth year in Notre Dame’s football program, grad student Justin Utupo is still looking to find a role in the Irish defense. An undersized defensive lineman who only saw reserve playing time after injuries decimated the Irish defensive line last year, Utupo was asked back for a fifth year, perhaps a surprise to most that follow the program.

But Utupo’s productivity down the stretch, not to mention his ability to play in a system that better fits his body type and athleticism, has kept the senior in the mix, earning his way onto this week’s two-deep behind Sheldon Day. In his final season of college football, let’s take a look at what Utupo can provide the Irish defense.


6’0.5″ 290 lbs.
Grad Student, No. 53



Utupo was named the Los Angeles Times’ lineman of the year after his senior season of high school football, an accolade that speaks highly of his production in a football rich location. But he didn’t have scholarship offers from either USC or UCLA, with both programs likely skipping out on him because of his tweener size.

Kelly’s comments on Signing Day didn’t get into specifics as to where he’ll play, but as a defensive lineman that he inherited, the Irish staff seemed to have a good idea as to what he could do.

“He was named lineman of the year by the L.A. Times. And you could see how he arrives at the ball with a bad attitude,” Kelly said. “He plays with a great passion… He’ll breathe a lot of energy and passion into our defense. Loves to play the game.”



Freshman Season (2010):Did not see game action.

Sophomore Season (2011): Played in 12 games as a sophomore, contributing mostly on special teams.

Junior Season (2012): Contributed in the final 11 games of the season, mostly on special teams, though did make appearances on defense.

Senior Season (2013): Made seven total tackles while playing in all 13 games. Saw significant time after injuries decimated the defensive front. Made three tackles against Pittsburgh, had two tackles, including one TFL, against Air Force.



I’ve probably been higher on Utupo than just about anyone, and I’m still finding it hard to believe this is the year that he can make a big difference. That being said, if it isn’t in this system with this depth chart, he never had the ability to do it.

Brian VanGorder’s one-gap scheme seems to favor the type of player Utupo has become, a disruptive but undersized defensive lineman that isn’t the type of player who can two-gap. Backing up Sheldon Day, Utupo will be at his best as a high motor replacement, taking a few snaps while Day catches his breath.

Asked to probably do more this season than anybody expected, it’ll be interesting to see if a fifth year ends up getting some production out of Utupo.



The more Irish fans see Utupo on the field, the bigger worry there is that something is wrong with Day. Still, at 290 pounds, Utupo isn’t the type of interior pushover that sometimes was forced onto the field in the Weis era. At his best, he’s capable of contributing 10-15 snaps of productive play a game, doing his best to wreak havoc from the three-technique.

As a fifth year player, he’s finally playing in a scheme that suits him. Whether that’s enough to finish his career on a productive note remains to be seen.



The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Will Fuller
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes
Matt Hegarty
Mike Heuerman
Kolin Hill
Corey Holmes
Chase Hounshell
Torii Hunter Jr.
Jarron Jones
DeShone Kizer
Ben Koyack
Christian Lombard
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Nick Martin
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Cam McDaniel
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Pete Mokwuah
John Montelus
Kendall Moore
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Romeo Okwara
James Onwualu
C.J. Prosise
Anthony Rabasa
Doug Randolph
Max Redfield
Cody Riggs
Corey Robinson
Isaac Rochell
KeiVarae Russell
Joe Schmidt
Elijah Shumate
Jaylon Smith
Durham Smythe
Ronnie Stanley
Drue Tranquill
Andrew Trumbetti
John Turner

Collinsworth, Lombard, Moore and Utupo on track for fifth year

Christian Lombard

It looks like the 2014 roster is coming into focus. While Brian Kelly and his coaching staff are on the road trying to add some final pieces to the recruiting class, four seniors are likely to return for a fifth season. Multiple outlets are reporting that Austin Collinsworth, Christian Lombard, Kendall Moore and Justin Utupo will return for a fifth season. Credit Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated for breaking the news on Utupo, seemingly the last decision made by Kelly and his defensive staff.

That these four return isn’t much of a surprise. Collinsworth spent a considerable amount of time in the starting lineup at safety, playing his best football down the stretch. Lombard is a multi-year starter whose season was cut short after surgery.

Depth chart issues are likely the impetus for bringing back Moore and Utupo. With questions marks at inside linebacker, Moore will be given a shot to compete for playing time. A productive special teams contributor, Moore has been stuck behind Manti Te’o, Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox for his time in South Bend. Always considered a heavy hitter and good in run support, Moore’s getting a fresh start with new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. It’s not inconceivable that the change could turn on a lightbulb on for Moore, and he becomes a player late in his career like Corey Mays did in his fifth year nearly a decade ago.

Utupo could also benefit from VanGorder’s arrival and a change of scheme. While Kelly still wants to play multiple fronts, Utupo just isn’t big enough to be a traditional two-gap nose guard in the Irish’s three-down fronts. But at just a shade over six-foot and weighing 290 pounds, Utupo could be the type of gap-shooting defensive tackle that is productive, showing hints of that when he got his chances after injuries ravaged the defensive front.

The road to an 85-man scholarship roster remains a fascination for Irish fans watching the management of a roster with sharp eyes. That means it’s likely the end of the road for a handful of seniors that have eligibility remaining. Veteran receiver Luke Massa has never been the same after a major knee injury. Bruce Heggie, long a fascination for Irish fans after his out-of-the-blue recruitment and commitment, provided depth on both sides of the line. Meanwhile, Alex Welch and Lo Wood will play for Chuck Martin in Miami, where they’ll join Andrew Hendrix.

There is no official decision date for fifth year announcements. Student-athletes need to gain admission into a graduate program and need to have earned their degree or be on pace to earn it in May. Who comes back is also likely a product of the final number of recruits incoming, as well.

In the past, Kelly has talked about sitting down with seniors and discussing what he sees their role to be in the program going forward. From there, the decision is made together. Not all returning players need to play key roles on the field. Veterans like Tyler Stockton made their impact in the locker room, providing leadership and a work ethic for younger players.