Day’s return first part of 2015 puzzle

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Over the weekend, Sheldon Day announced he would be returning for his senior season at Notre Dame. The returning captain and the Irish’s best defensive lineman sought a draft grade from the NFL’s advisory board before making the decision.

UND.com had quotes from both Day and head coach Brian Kelly, with both player and coach very excited for the future ahead.

“After talking with my family, friends and coaches at Notre Dame, I’ve decided to return for my senior year with the Irish,” Day said in the statement. “While the process leading up to this decision was difficult, ultimately my decision to return was easy. I love this school, my teammates and this coaching staff. I just felt it was in my best interest to play another year for Notre Dame.

“I believe we’ve got an opportunity to have a special season in 2015 and I wanted to be a part of that success. I was blessed to play in the national championship game as a freshman in 2012, and I want to do everything in my power to reach that stage again with my guys.”

Per an Irish Illustrated report, Day received a “Stay in School” draft grade, making the decision to play out his eligibility an easy one. And after struggling to stay healthy to past two seasons, Day’s return should give him another season to play up to the All-American potential the coaching staff believes Day possesses.

“It pretty much goes without saying that I’m excited to know that Sheldon has chosen to return for his senior year at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “Most importantly, this decision keeps him on track to graduate in May.

“He’s an outstanding player, and makes a major difference on the field for our team, but Sheldon’s impact goes beyond success on the field. His leadership as a captain in our program has been instrumental, and I look forward to him carrying this role into 2015.”

Another large decision should be coming imminently with left tackle Ronnie Stanley deciding between being a potential first-round draft pick or returning to school for his senior season. Stanley has seen his proverbial draft stock sky-rocket as early mock drafts begin, though he received a second-round grade by the NFL advisory board.

Under Brian Kelly, Notre Dame has had good success with seniors returning to school. Safety Harrison Smith played out his eligibility before being taken in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings. Michael Floyd returned for his senior season, breaking career receiving records in South Bend before being selected with the 13th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Tight end Tyler Eifert was a first-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals after winning the Mackey Award.

While Manti Te’o slid into the second round of the NFL Draft, he became the most highly-decorated defensive player in college football. Offensive tackle Zack Martin stayed for his senior season before being selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys. He is the only rookie to be named to the NFL All-Pro team.

Last season, Troy Niklas, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix all declared for the NFL Draft following the 2013 season, leaving a year of eligibility on the table. Kyle Rudolph left after his junior season as well, taken by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round.