Tag: Mike Ragone

Mike Ragone

Ragone and McDonald set to join Weis in Kansas


The westbound caravan heading from South Bend to Lawrence, Kansas has added two more passengers, with linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone ready to play out their eligibility for former head coach Charlie Weis. McDonald’s addition to the Jayhawk roster was finalized late last week, while Ragone’s — long anticipated after he was cleared for a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA — was announced by Kansas this afternoon. They’ll join former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist in Lawrence, with all three likely expecting to immediately contribute to a Kansas program that fell off a cliff after Turner Gil took over for Mark Mangino.

We’ve discussed Crist’s departure from the program multiple times, but closing the book on Ragone and McDonald’s careers in South Bend deserves a little consideration. McDonald in many ways typified the career path of the 2008 recruiting class. Highly ranked out of Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks (where he was teammates with Crist), McDonald’s star-ranking was much better than his recruiting cohort, with neither UCLA or USC offering the Los Angeles prospect. Choosing the Irish over Boston College and Oregon, McDonald redshirted his freshman season then contributed mostly on special teams during three injury plagued seasons. Stuck behind and passed by guys like Manti Te’o, Dan Fox, and Carlo Calabrese, both McDonald and fellow inside linebacker commitment David Posluszny failed to make any impact on the field, with the ’08 class essentially whiffing on inside linebackers.

Ragone’s career, also discussed many times here, is one more difficult to profile. Between terrible luck with injuries, Ragone also battled an up-and-down attitude and some off-the-field issues before turning his career around. Expected to be one of the best tight ends in the country with multiple national offers, an ACL injury suffered in high school kept Ragone off the field for his senior season and All-American game exhibitions. Still, he saw the field through most of the dreadful 2007 season. Ready to contribute during 2008, Ragone suffered a torn ACL, the second in just over two years, during fall camp. By the time he rebounded for the 2009 season, Ragone was delegated to second tight-end duty, with Kyle Rudolph the featured pass catcher. Ragone’s senior season was put in jeopardy when he was pulled over on the Indiana Toll Road driving home after classes ended in May. While it was less publicized than Michael Floyd’s lenient sentence, Student Affairs, and head coach Brian Kelly, allowed Ragone to play his senior season without sitting out a game.

That Ragone went from the doghouse to a fifth-year player for the Irish was as good of proof as any that he had turned the corner and matured as a player and leader. Suffering another season-ending knee injury early in the season — after he was counted on to fill a void at the tight end position — was especially disheartening, but Ragone continued with the team, delaying surgery for a brief spell to keep young tight ends Ben Koyack and Alex Welch up to speed. With the Irish needing to identify an in-line blocking tight end for 2012, the Irish coaching staff had to consider bringing Ragone back for a sixth season, but ultimately decided against it.

McDonald and Ragone will join Crist in Lawrence this summer for unofficial workouts before both being immediately eligible next season.


Ragone granted sixth year, headed to Kansas

Mike Ragone

Lost in the shuffle of a pretty eventful offseason Thursday, tight end Mike Ragone won his sixth year appeal with the NCAA and will play one more season of college football. While it won’t be for the Fighting Irish, Ragone will be reunited with the head coach that brought him to South Bend, joining Charlie Weis — and Dayne Crist — in Lawrence, Kansas.

Catching up with the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen, Ragone was ecstatic about the opportunity.

“I’m pretty excited right now,” Ragone told Hansen. “I want to do big things, now that I have this chance.”

That chance didn’t seem possible at Notre Dame, especially with the return of Tyler Eifert and a depth chart featuring promising youngsters like Ben Koyack and Alex Welch, who were forced into duty after Ragone’s knee injury.

Ragone was one of the most highly touted tight end recruits in the country when he came to Notre Dame, recruited by Weis out of New Jersey after a promising high school career as both a football player and wrestler. But a knee injury ended his senior season of high school before it ever started, and then did the same in 2008. Last season’s knee surgery was the third for Ragone in his last seven seasons of football.

The injuries were hardly the only speed bumps in his career at Notre Dame. He suffered severe heat illness during preseason camp and also was arrested for possessing marijuana in his car. He returned to the team without missing a game and earned back the trust of the coaching staff who hailed Ragone’s maturity and leadership after his knee injury last year.

Reunited with Crist, Hansen also hinted that the Notre Dame to Kansas migration isn’t complete, with linebacker Anthony McDonald — not invited back for a fifth year at Notre Dame after an injury filled career as a reserve linebacker — potentially joining them in Lawrence.

Ragone still contributing, sixth year possible

Mike Ragone

The Irish have done a good job of staying healthy these first four games. Unfortunately, one big exception is fifth-year tight end Mike Ragone, who tore his ACL against Michigan and was lost for the year.

Ragone’s had three major knee injuries dating back to his senior year in high school, a snake-bit career that likely robbed some big stats and offensive production from his time at Notre Dame.

Brought back by head coach Brian Kelly for a fifth year to work as a second tight end and to provide some might in the running game, Ragone’s injury weakens the Irish at the point-of-attack. What it doesn’t do is rob the Irish of his veteran presence, a real testament to Ragone’s character. Ragone made the travel squad against Pitt, and even put off major knee surgery to stay with the team.

“Mike has really been a great mentor to those young tight ends,” Kelly said after practice. “You got three really inexperienced tight ends. He’s been great. He rooms with them, he spends a lot of extra time with those guys. “He’s been a coach for us. He’s at every single practice, he’s put off surgery just to be with the guys. He’s going to get it done, but he’s put it off because he’s so much wanting to be part of what we’re doing.”

When people were speculating who Kelly and his staff would bring back for a fifth year last offseason, Ragone was one of those guys on the bubble, a supporting cast member who didn’t profile to start over Tyler Eifert. But Kelly brought him back, and he worked almost exclusively as a traditional tight end, adding a physical blocker to the run game while allowing Eifert to create mismatches out in space.

With Ragone out, the Irish will rely on Eifert, a “work in progress” blocker, according to tight ends coach Mike Denbrock, and sophomore Alex Welch and freshman Ben Koyack. Junior Jake Golic will also work into the mix, recently back from a broken arm. But Kelly values Ragone’s contributions to the offense so much, that he’ll consider bringing him back for a sixth year — something the NCAA should approve with Ragone’s two seasons missed due to major injuries.

A sixth year will likely come down to Irish recruiting class numbers and who Kelly and company decide to bring back for fifth years. (Some very interesting decisions are on the horizon.) But just the fact that Kelly is considering Ragone’s return shows a lot about a player that’s career highlights might have been sparse.

While there’s a chance that Ragone has played his final snap for the Irish, Kelly and Denbrock still plan to get major contributions out of the veteran as the season rolls on.