Sharpley opens up about Weis, Clausen, etc.

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Tim Prister over at IrishIllustrated.com has a pretty in-depth Q&A with former quarterback and current minor-league baseball player Evan Sharpley about his five years in the Notre Dame football program. Evan opened up about the former coaching staff, his fellow quarterback Jimmy Clausen, and what may have gone wrong during those five years.

This is one of the more revealing looks into the Weis regime, and Sharpley was there for just about all of it. While most of the article is behind a pay-wall, here are a few interesting tidbits.

* Sharpley was honest about his relationship with Charlie Weis:

“At the beginning when he came in, the attitude he was trying to instill was one in which he felt he needed
to assert himself with power. His style is well documented. At that
point, it wasn’t really possible to have a relationship with him per se.
But towards the end of my career, it was different. He was good at
helping me figure out my baseball-football schedule. As a team, we had respect for him, all of our coaches, and our game plan.”

* His relationship with fellow quarterback Jimmy Clausen was understandably complex:

“On the field and in the classroom, it was good. We were both there for
the same reason. Obviously, we wanted the program to win. But off the
field, it wasn’t like we were going out to lunch or spending a lot of
time together. That was one of the hard things my junior year… We are definitely two different people, and I think that’s one of the
reasons we didn’t communicate much off the field.”

On Clausen as a teammate and why he came to Notre Dame:

“At times, and definitely early in his career, he had a lot of growing up
to do. We gave him some kudos as a quarterback group as he matured a
little bit. At times I think he maybe came off as he wasn’t there for
the right reasons. That’s something obviously he can answer… You can see from this past year that he used it to catapult him into the
NFL.”

* One of the more interesting tidbits revealed was the game plan for the 2007 season offensively. From Sharpley’s description, it seems like the change to a spread attack similar to the one Rich Rodriguez employed at West Virginia was an offense the team planned on playing for much of the season, not simply for the opening game with Demetrius Jones.

“That three-win season, we definitely should have won more than that. We
came into that season with kind of a new offense, similar to West
Virginia’s. The only problem was that we didn’t have Pat White or Steve
Slaton running it. Once that didn’t work, we didn’t – at least in my
opinion – have a lot of options to go to. In a lot of those games, I
thought we had great game plans and personally, I wish I would have been
able to play more.”

*****

Some very insightful stuff from Sharpley, who is a good reminder of the type of great student-athletes Notre Dame can develop, even if their playing career doesn’t go as planned. Sharpley expressed his wishes to come back and work with the program or pursue a Master’s degree, and the relationship he developed with Coach Kelly, who recruited him to Central Michigan might help make that a reality.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-8, 315 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A junior, Alt has two years of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Alt will be the Irish starting left tackle this fall, not surprising given he will be the first-team All-American left tackle in most, if not all, preseason considerations.
Recruiting: Notre Dame recruited Alt as an offensive lineman when he was a 240-pound tight end. He was up to 280 pounds by the time he signed with the Irish in December of 2020, still needing to add weight as his frame continued to grow.

Throughout that entire process, he remained a three-star prospect despite his father’s NFL pedigree, a 13-year NFL tackle. Few three-star recruits are drafted, even fewer are surefire first-round draft picks, and fewer yet are All-Americans as sophomores.

CAREER TO DATE
Alt’s career hit the fast track when injuries to three young tackles ahead of him in the first month of the 2021 season left Notre Dame with no choice but to throw him into a starting role; less than two years after Alt was a high school tight end, he was the starting left tackle following in the footsteps of Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey.

There is obviously no way to ever know how long it would have taken Alt to blossom on Saturdays if not for the back-to-back-to-back injuries of Blake Fisher’s torn meniscus, Tosh Baker’s concussion and Michael Carmody’s sprained ankle in September of 2021, but it is an entertaining parlor wonder.

Instead, Alt will go down as a three-year starter at left tackle, not missing a game in 2022. Counting this coming season, Alt will be the fifth consistent starter at left tackle for the Irish in the last 14 seasons. Three of those previous four were drafted in the top 20 with Liam Eichenberg going No. 42 overall in 2021.

2021: 13 games, 8 starts.
2022: 13 starts.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Logically, Alt is likely making more this year than all but one or two other players on Notre Dame’s roster. Given he has proven himself and will consistently be a headline player in 2023, even as an offensive lineman, that should not surprise anyone.

Much of that income will not be noticed publicly, but some of it will come from the most obvious of sources, working with the next generation of players.

This space has said it before, and it will say it again. The NCAA’s prohibiting players from working in camps like that up until a few years ago was the most obtuse of its many obtuse policies.

Alt will also profit off sports cards and signing them. Again, an obvious thing that was never going to harm anyone except the NCAA’s monopoly and schools’ control of players, which is why it was outlawed for so long.

QUOTES
When Harry Hiestand retired, it was generally understood Irish head coach Marcus Freeman would have his pick of offensive line coaches from across the country. Notre Dame returns three veteran starters up front, including a clear first-round draft pick in Alt. That line should make its position coach look good the next couple of years. Pulling Joe Rudolph out of Virginia Tech, where Rudolph had made a long-term commitment just a year ago, proved that understanding to be true.

“Some guys just have amazing talent,” Rudolph said of Alt in mid-April. “Amazing athleticism, amazing size.

“And then there’s some guys that just have the quality of leadership and the grit and the way they’re going to get it done in the moment. They’re going to be a great leader and make guys around them better. You don’t always find that all in one guy.

“He’s as close as I’ve got to see all of that in one guy. He brings it from all facets, and it’s much appreciated. … Very unique young man.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“If Alt was able to help solidify the Irish line, along with left guard Andrew Kristofic stepping in for Zeke Correll, with his size after just one summer in a collegiate strength and conditioning program, then all expectations should be fast-forwarded even further. It defies logic to think someone once projected as a possible 2024 contributor could now be a stalwart on the Notre Dame line in 2022, but Alt has made that a potential reality.

“That is not meant to jump the proverbial shark or to move the figurative goal posts. It is just the possible continuation of Alt’s rapid ascent.

“At the absolute least, he should start throughout the season, barring injury. His length was what made Alt an intriguing prospect as a recruit, along with his lineage. Taking so well to adding weight already should make him durable, as well.

“He will give up some sacks, just as he did early in his first start, but that is the inevitability of the position. Under returned offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s eye for fundamentals, Alt should correct those mistakes shortly after he makes them. That could make for a very impressive November.”

2023 OUTLOOK
Alt ended last season as a first-team All-American. Remember: He was recruited as a project, not as a three-and-done, multi-year All-American first-round draft pick.

Walter Camp has already named him a preseason first-team All-American for 2023, and a pile more of those nods should come before the season. So his 2023 will be marked by three possibilities: unanimous All-American, Outland Trophy, Joe Moore Award.

If Alt pulls off those first two, Notre Dame will be in good position for the third, the honor given to the best offensive line every season. If that becomes reality, then the Irish ceiling in 2023 ticks toward Playoff contender.

There are few other ways to genuinely track a left tackle, but Ohio State’s primetime visit on Sept. 23 will shine a light on Alt. Buckeyes junior defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau could be a top-15 pick in the spring. Alt faced a similar prospect last season, not giving up a pressure to Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy on 15 snaps matched up against each other. Worth noting: Murphy went No. 28 in the NFL draft.

DOWN THE ROAD
There is an easy way to judge the veracity of a 2024 mock draft right now: Is Alt in the top 15? If not, find a more in-touch analyst.

Not much else needs to be said here. If Alt is looking at a top-15 projection, and that is on the low end, no one in South Bend should try to dissuade him from jumping to the NFL. Tosh Baker or Blake Fisher should assuage most 2024 worries about the left tackle position.

Some pieces of context to Notre Dame left tackles in the NFL draft to remember when Alt hears his name called:

2014: Four-year starter Zack Martin goes No. 16 overall.
2016: Two-year starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley goes No. 6 overall.
2018: Two-year starting left tackle Mike McGlinchey goes No. 9 overall.
2021: Three-year starting left tackle Liam Eichenberg goes No. 42 overall.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year …
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth
Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit

Ty Chan Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-5, 310 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Chan has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Chan might crack the two-deep as the backup to junior Blake Fisher at right tackle, conceivably competing with classmate Aamil Wagner for that theoretical honor. “Theoretical” because the practical backup to Fisher would more likely be senior Tosh Baker, though Baker will not be listed as No. 2 at both left and right tackle.
Recruiting: Chan’s low-maintenance recruitment fit both an offensive lineman prospect and a Massachusetts product, turning down Boston College, Penn State and Syracuse when he committed to Notre Dame more than a year before he could sign his National Letter of Intent. The No. 11 offensive tackle and No. 221 overall prospect in the class, per rivals.com, Chan never wavered in that lengthy commitment.

CAREER TO DATE
Chan did not see the field as a freshman.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

QUOTES
When new Irish offensive line coach Joe Rudolph twice mentioned Baker getting work at guard this spring, it sparked a thought that perhaps Chan and/or Wagner was impressing at tackle. At this point, that is nothing more than a sparked thought, but it is something to keep in mind if Baker again works on the interior in preseason practices.

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Vague expectations show Chan as a reserve at right tackle in 2022, putting him behind sophomore Blake Fisher and junior Tosh Baker, though if injuries were to tear through the line (again), junior Michael Carmody would find his way onto the field long before Chan.

“Which is to say, Chan should enjoy the typical freshman season that Fisher and Joe Alt did not in 2021. He will work on his technique under (former Irish offensive line coach Harry) Hiestand’s tutelage, more of a need for this class than perhaps any other after so many of their 2020 seasons, their junior seasons, were turned upside down by the pandemic.

“Chan has much of the lower body muscle one would want from a collegiate offensive tackle, but his upper body still needs to develop some punch. Working in the strength and conditioning program will also benefit him.

“One thing neither Heistand nor strength coordinator Matt Balis will need to worry much about is Chan’s footwork. Assuredly, some of his exact steps may need fine-tuning, but someone able to deftly move around the post in a basketball game usually takes well to the exact steps at tackle. Exhibit A: Ronnie Stanley.”

2023 OUTLOOK
Chan’s 2023 should look much like his 2022, though a spot on the travel roster and perhaps some special teams protection work could be added to his portfolio. Otherwise, it would take a rash of injuries to move Chan past not only Alt and Fisher but also Baker and senior Carmody, a one-time starter at tackle during the 2021 rash of injuries.

This is the typical track of an offensive line prospect; Alt and Fisher are the exceptions that prove the rule. Chan lost his junior season of high school football to the pandemic, and he comes from rather infertile preps territory in Massachusetts. Developing the fundamentals of pass blocking against collegiate defensive linemen should be atop his priority list for the time being, and that is exactly what scout-team work is for.

Furthermore, Chan appeared to have some wrist or arm injury at the end of spring practices. If that is something that has plagued him this summer or continues to, that could knock him a step backward in development, particularly behind Wagner.

All of which is to say, Chan may provide Notre Dame depth in 2023, but little more.

DOWN THE ROAD
Alt will be in the NFL next season. Fisher might be, but that is not the same certainty. If only one starting gig is available, Baker will get the first shot at it and with a decent runway. But after him, Chan and Wagner will be competing with incoming freshman Charles Jagusah.

That same trio should be the primary challengers for both starting gigs in 2025, when Fisher should be in the NFL and Baker will be out of eligibility.

Such a timeline is, again, the usual for an offensive line prospect and why Chan can spend the short-term focusing on his fundamentals.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year …
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth
Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience

300-pound defensive tackle Sean Sevillano joins Notre Dame class of 2024

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Notre Dame added its second defensive lineman commitment in two weeks with the Friday announcement from consensus three-star defensive tackle Sean Sevillano (Clearwater Academy; Fla.). The massive interior prospect is the first defensive tackle to join the Irish class of 2024.

And “massive” might not be saying enough. At 6-foot-2, Sevillano weighs more than 300 pounds. Keep in mind, he has yet to start his senior year of high school.

And while he is big, Sevillano does not play slow. If there is a hole in the offensive line protection, he is quick enough to get up the field and bother the quarterback, logging 22 sacks last season. If there is not a hole, his sheer size is likely to create one.

He uses his body weight to bring down ball carriers, content to drop his weight on them and force them to consider moving forward with 300 added pounds rather than using that force to knock through them. While that is an example of his size as an asset, some college running backs will be able to shimmy out of that trap or strong enough to even carry him for an extra yard, so some discipline to actively tackle will need to be developed.

In a similar respect, Sevillano’s size represents raw potential. He is already clearly strong, but if more of his frame becomes devoted to muscle, he could become a genuine collegiate force.

How much of that size and frame is immediately functional may determine if Sevillano is a day-one contributor for Notre Dame in 2024. Starting tackles Rylie Mills and Howard Cross both have eligibility through 2024, but both could also consider the NFL draft after this season. Cross, in particular, will be a multi-year starter and would be a sixth-year veteran in 2024; it may simply be time for him to move on. There are other players between Sevillano and Cross, namely current junior Gabriel Rubio and sophomore Donovan Hinish, but none with a bounty of experience. Furthermore, no defensive line rotation can ever be too deep. If Sevillano arrives on campus as a hard body to move, a situational role in goal-line packages could await him, but if he arrives as needing conditioning work above all else, it could be a season on the scout team while suffering under strength coordinator Matt Balis’s tutelage.

Sevillano chose Notre Dame over finalists Ohio State, Auburn and Miami, becoming the 17th Irish commitment and the fourth defensive lineman, following consensus four-star end Loghan Thomas’s pledge last week.

Notre Dame’s class of 2024 now ranks No. 3 in the country, behind only Georgia (with 16 commits) and Michigan (17), though not behind the Wolverines by much. Ohio State and Oregon loom at Nos. 5 and 6 with just 13 and 14 commitments, respectively.

Those team rankings will obviously continue to fluctuate plenty between now and the December signing period, but spending a second straight summer in the top five should reflect only well on Marcus Freeman’s continued recruiting emphasis.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-5 ⅛, 309 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A junior, Coogan has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: An interior offensive lineman through and through, expect Coogan to spend some preseason practices working among the guards before being listed as the backup center on the public depth chart, behind fifth-year Zeke Correll.
Recruiting: The recruiting rankings industry rarely respects centers, thus effectively capping Coogan’s ceiling at a consensus three-star prospect. Yet, Stanford and Michigan chased him until he chose Notre Dame, a clear choice all along given the Chicagoland product was a lifelong Irish fan.

CAREER TO DATE
Correll started all 13 games of 2022 after Jarrett Patterson did so at center in 2021, limiting any chances for Coogan. He appeared in just the snowy blowout of Boston College last season.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Anyone pushing back against athletes making money off their name, image and likeness rights (looking at you, Eli Drinwitz) is missing many realities. One of them is that college athletes may be the best on-field instructors for high-school players, having recently been in those shoes, helping both understand what those younger players are trying to do and aid their credibility with the next wave of recruits.

Yet, college football players have been able to profit from teaching football camps only in recent years.

Their tutelage can and does extend further to far young players, again nothing but a good thing.

QUOTES
Coogan was viewed solely as a center while recruited, and his first couple of seasons at Notre Dame featured a similar outlook. New Irish offensive line coach Joe Rudolph gave Coogan a shot at guard this past spring, and while Coogan is unlikely to win a starting role over the likes of fifth-year Andrew Kristofic, senior Michael Carmody, junior Rocco Spindler and sophomore Billy Schrauth, the chance at competition may have reinvigorated him a bit.

“There’s been a really good battle at left guard, Billy Schrauth has been working along with Pat Coogan,” Rudolph said in April. “They’ve got the majority of the reps there. I think it really freed Pat up, going to guard. I’ve seen his footwork getting better and I think it’s a little more natural for him.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“A springtime meniscus injury that required surgery and cost Coogan nearly all of spring’s practices has him behind the proverbial eight-ball this year. That absence forced (former Irish offensive line coach Harry) Hiestand to take a look at Carmody at center, and Carmody’s athleticism shined. (That may become a theme for Carmody until he finds a permanent home on the Irish offensive line.)

“That likely elevated Carmody to the ‘break glass in case of emergency’ role at center rather than Coogan.

“There are worse fates. Coogan is only a sophomore, after all, and the entire idea of the emergency glass is to not be broken. Even if he had not injured his knee, Coogan was probably going to spend this season fine-tuning his game under Hiestand’s watchful eye.”

2023 OUTLOOK
Expect Schrauth and Kristofic to prevail as Notre Dame’s starting guards in 2023, and if the Irish have their way, the world will never genuinely know who their backups are. Of course, football likes to skew such plans, so it is more likely Spindler reveals himself.

In other words, Coogan will probably not find playing time at guard in 2023, and with Correll returning as a three-year starter and possible captain, finding it at center would depend entirely on injury.

Some action should await Coogan, presumably starting with special teams protection units, a clear step forward from not even seeing that last season.

DOWN THE ROAD
Correll could return in 2024. He will have the eligibility to do so. But instinctively, a three-year offensive line starter at Notre Dame is going to seek a chance in the NFL, and a three-year offensive line starter at Notre Dame will be given a chance in the NFL, though it may begin by earning a roster spot.

If Correll does make that leap, Coogan will be the presumptive leader to start at center in 2024, but early-enrolled freshman Sam Pendleton could challenge him. With a bit stronger recruiting profile, Pendleton may have a higher ceiling than Coogan. If he continues to take to the collegiate strength and conditioning program, and avoids a hard collision with the proverbial freshman wall in the fall, then Pendleton could be nearing Coogan’s level by next spring.

At the very least, that could lead to a more honest position competition than is usually the case in spring practices.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year …
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth
Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience