Leftovers & Links: On voting, mental health and Notre Dame’s tight ends’ importance against Clemson


Notre Dame is already done with its typical Monday. As is Clemson. Both the Irish and the Tigers are a day ahead this week. Not because Saturday’s top-four matchup (7:30 ET; NBC) is that pivotal, but because tomorrow is.

During the summer, when the idea of college football this November was at best still a fraught concept, the NCAA mandated Election Day be devoid of all required practices and meetings so any player still needing to vote would have the time to do so. Thus, Notre Dame’s weekly staple of “Mental Monday” became Subconscious Sunday. Setting the week’s focus, the underlying messaging and beginning install followed physical treatment by hours, not by a full day.

That shift was on Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s mind immediately following No. 4 Notre Dame’s 31-13 win at Georgia Tech on Saturday, maybe not as much as the coming absence of Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but that was because Kelly had only just learned of Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney ruling out Lawrence for this weekend, whereas he had known Tuesday is Election Day for some time now.

“We’re ready to go back to work,” Kelly said. “It’s a short week. We go right back tomorrow. … They’re excited, they’re going to be a little bit tired, but Clemson will be, too.”

Indeed, it is equal footing across college football, a fact that makes any coaches griping about the change to their preparations more petty than vindicated. Those complaints have existed and very well may arise one more time this afternoon, but Kelly has avoided such a misstep.

“We’ll watch the film (on Sunday), we’ll put the film away from this past weekend, we’ll then move the guys around a little bit,” Kelly said Thursday. “We’ll get into the weight room, then we’ll begin the scouting report on Clemson.”

Those would usually be Monday activities. Instead, today will be a full-fledged, padded practice, taking the place of Tuesday’s. And Tuesday, well, logically most of the roster has already voted, so they may still spend time in film study.

But the motivation for the NCAA’s decision holds up. Emphasizing Election Day to 18- to 22-year-olds encourages civic engagement moving forward, a cause worth the cost of inconveniencing Kelly, Swinney and their colleagues.

In a way, an Election Day focus altering the usual placement of “Mental Monday” fits the expected approach to the start of the week. Kelly has leaned into the mantra-setting moment for 6-to-8 years, per his estimate, and it has gained steam with mental performance consultant Dr. Amber Selking’s assistance in the last four years, a piece of the program-wide reboot following the 2016 debacle.

“There is a consistent messaging that goes throughout the entire building through all the coaches, through the support staff, through social media and through everybody here,” Kelly said. “There isn’t anything different in the weight room. There isn’t a different message being talked about anywhere else, so it’s a consistency in messaging that starts with me and emanates throughout our entire program, so we’re all talking about the same things.

“We’re clear on Monday what is most important now.”

Certainly, the Irish spent Sunday discussing what is important now, as in beating the No. 1 team in the country and ending its 14-game road winning streak. But the NCAA also made it clear what’s important now, something we should all remember: Vote, y’all.

Playing football is taxing in most every way. Playing college football demands more of an individual, in terms of finding some semblance of a balance academically while at an age in which nearly every aspect of life is in flux, anyway. Doing all that while in the midst of a pandemic is asking a lot of young men with less of a choice in the matter than optics want to portray.

Those demands have led to two Notre Dame players stepping aside for the season, and understandably so.

“The trails and tribulations of battling COVID-19, and not recovering to the level I expected to has clearly impacted me in a negative way,” Irish junior defensive tackle Ja’Mion Franklin said via Twitter last week as he prepared to enter the transfer portal. “I have felt that I have lost control of my mental capacity, and I feel that I need to take time to gather and reevaluate myself.

“The process of rebuilding myself from the ground up is a much-needed step in this stage of my life.”

Whether intentionally or not, Franklin was following junior running back Jahmir Smith’s lead from just a week earlier.

“Talking about mental health issues is a difficult subject matter for many,” Smith said in announcing his departure from the team. “For those struggling with mental health, asking for help can seem discouraging, but it is the first step towards improving.”

Smith and Franklin set an example for us all to follow, particularly in the middle of a pandemic as we approach the end of an election cycle that might actually deserve the title as the most contentious of our lifetimes.

Follow their examples. Take care of yourselves, y’all.

Notre Dame, Miami and Boston College have three common characteristics among them:
— They are members of the ACC, and thus …
— After this coming weekend, they will be the Tigers’ three toughest opponents to date.
— All three lean on tight ends in their passing attacks.

Hurricanes tight end Brevin Jordan ranks third on the team in catches (18), second in receiving yards (243) and is tied for first in touchdowns (3). Eagles tight end Hunter Long leads Boston College in catches (41), is second in yards (478) and third in touchdowns (3).

The Irish rely on a pair and combined, Michael Mayer’s and Tommy Tremble’s stats fit the theme: 27 catches, 294 yards and two touchdowns.

How did those first two fare against Clemson’s defense? Jordan led Miami in catches against the Tigers, pulling in three for 31 yards, targeted a total of five times. Long caught three passes for 23 yards on six targets.

More notably, though, both were frequent third-down targets, Jordan sought twice and converting one of them, but catching both passes. Five of Long’s six targets came on third or fourth downs, gaining two first downs.

Consider this simply something to file away, that a Notre Dame strength has often been a third-down outlet against Clemson, albeit to mixed success.

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