Tag: Kyle Rudolph


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.

Friday notes: Spring recruiting, NFL Draft, and more

Kyle Rudolph Michigan TD

If you’re looking for the Notre Dame football coaches, look up. As the spring evaluation period kicks into gear, the Irish assistant coaches are taking to the sky as they blanket the country talking to a wide net of Irish prospects. If you’re looking for Irish recruiting news, you’ll probably do better here, here, here or here.

But for those curious as to what the actual NCAA Evaluation Period entails, let’s take a quick look at the actual guidelines as they’re laid out by our friends in Indianapolis:

(f) April 15 through May 31, 2011 — Evaluation Period

One hundred sixty-eight evaluation days (216 for U.S. service academies) (see Bylaw (excluding Memorial Day and Sundays) selected at the discretion of the member institution and designated in writing in the office of the director of athletics [as provided in (1) below]:

(1)    An authorized off-campus recruiter may use one evaluation to assess the prospective student-athlete’s ability and one evaluation to assess the prospective student-athlete’s academic qualifications during this evaluation period.) It an institution’s coaching staff member conducts both an athletics ad an academic evaluation of the prospective student-athlete on the same day during this evaluation period, the institution shall be charged with the use of an academics evaluation only and shall be permitted to conduct a second athletics evaluation of the prospective student-athlete on a separate day during this evaluation period.

The entire schedule is available for download here, but it’s a far more complex system than what we usually read — where one coach usually “bumps” into a recruit, exchanges pleasantries with said recruit, then goes on his way to a meeting where the coach and the high school coach discuss the player.


Staying on the recruiting topic, the net that the Irish coaching staff is casting is much wider than any net the previous coaching regimes at Notre Dame have cast. It’s as much a sign of the times as it is a clear difference in philosophy, with Brian Kelly and his coaching staff understanding you need to throw out a ton of bait to catch some fish.

If you’re looking for a clear-cut example, look no further than uber-blue-chipper Arik Armstead, the mammoth 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive lineman that’s already committed to USC. Nevermind that Armstead’s brother still plays for the Trojans and that he’s been pledged to Southern Cal since June of last year, IrishSportsDaily.com’s Christian McCollum reports West Coast recruiter Mike Denbrock was at Pleasant Grove High School paying Armstead a call.

“I got a chance to put faces with people I’ve been talking to and I’m just taking in more information and trying to pick the five I’m going to take my visit to,” Armstead told ISD.

Armstead has hopes of playing basketball as well in college, and right now the Irish are in the mix for one of Armstead’s five visits.

The Irish have well over 100 “reported” offers, and even if that number isn’t anywhere close to accurate, it’s a lot more than any Charlie Weis recruiting cycle.


Congratulations to Kyle Rudolph for becoming the 43rd pick in the NFL Draft, going to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2nd round this afternoon. Rudolph was the first tight end taken and joins an offense filled with talented skill players but an unproven quarterback position. (The Vikings drafted FSU quarterback Christian Ponder in the first round.)

Rudolph is about seventh months removed from the hamstring surgery that cost him much of the 2010 season, but he’s expected to be back and healthy as he approaches his first season in professional football.

Rudolph’s production in the NFL, where he’ll be paired with Vikings standout tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, will depend on Rudy staying healthy and the Vikings solving their quarterback issues.

(As a Vikings fan, I’m hoping to see Kyle catch plenty of touchdowns.)


Irish fans looking for more of Brian Kelly? Turn on the NFL Network tomorrow as Kelly joins NBC Sports analyst and draft expert Mike Mayock on the broadcast. Alabama coach Nick Saban, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, and North Carolina’s Butch Davis will also be on set.

Kelly should stay on the air for about two hours.

Pro Day highlights Rudolph, Williams and Walls

Darrin Walls
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We talked more about the NFL Draft last offseason when the Irish had Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate in the running for first round contention. But today a crop of Irish seniors worked out for NFL scouts, headlined by tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is fighting to be a first round draft pick as he rehabilitates from a hamstring surgery that robbed him of much of the season.

Rudolph was joined by teammates Armando Allen (also rehabbing hip injuries), Robert Hughes, Duval Kamara, Kerry Neal, Kyle Rudolph, Brian Smith, Chris Stewart, Darrin Walls and Ian Williams at Loftus today, where they went through nearly three hours of drills, sprints, interviews and prodding in anticipation of the upcoming NFL Draft.

If you’re looking for all the results, Tony Krausz at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has you covered. If you’re looking for a guy that impressed, look no further than cornerback Darrin Walls.

It was mildly surprising that Walls wasn’t invited to the Combine, and Walls confirmed that by putting up a 4.39 in the forty-yard dash as well as a 6.88 in the three-cone drill, times that would’ve had him in the lead pack at the combine.

All reports on Rudolph’s workout seem to be positive, with his 4.7-4.8 forty time not really hurting him, especially considering he’s recovering from hamstring surgery. (Rudolph is incapable of not impressing in sweatpants.)

Chris Stewart’s continued commitment to fitness should also be a surprise as he weighed in today at 317 pounds, a fraction of what he once weighed and down significantly from the 358-pounds he played at this year.

Armando Allen weighed in at slightly over 200-pounds and ran in the 4.5s, Ian Williams ran a 7.75 in the three-cone drill, and Brian Smith also helped his cause.

For more, check out the coverage from UND.com or hunt down one of the dozens of draftniks moving Irish players up and down their big boards.