July 23, 2013 // Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Football’s Off-Season of Discontent

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2013 Notre Dame Football Off-Season

Notre Dame Fighting Irish leprechaun mascot looks dejected in the second half in a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Alabama defeats Notre Dame 42-14. (Photo: Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame’s 2012 football campaign will long be remembered by Irish fans.  Unexpectedly posting an undefeated regular season for the first time in decades, the twelve regular season games served as therapeutic relief for a fan base that had become accustomed to apprehension and doubt.  Though ND fell short of bringing a crystal trophy to South Bend, overall the season was one of celebration and backslapping.  Middle linebacker Manti Te’o became the most decorated player in college football history.  Irish fans pinched themselves as Brian Kelly nabbed top coaching honors, finally tasting coaching stability after witnessing four head coaches come and go since Lou’s Holtz departure.  Notre Dame was even dominating the recruiting trail, securing commitments to the best Notre Dame recruiting class since the beginning of the Internet recruiting era.

And then the off-season began.

Notre Dame fans were still attempting to numb the pain from the Crimson drubbing received in Miami during the national title match when news broke Brian Kelly had interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles mere hours after Notre Dame’s defeat.  Nearly a week of uncertainty, surprise, and anxiety took hold until Kelly announced his intention to remain Notre Dame’s head coach, though the damage was done.  Rivals 4-star linebacker commitment, Alex Anzalone, decommitted from Notre Dame and immediately enrolled at the University of Florida, citing Kelly’s interview with the Eagles as the motivation for his switch.

If Notre Dame fans were disorientated by the sudden and unusual turn of events from the national title blowout, Kelly’s NFL posturing and Anzalone’s switch, nothing could have served to prepare for the haymaker to follow.  On January 16th, Deadspin.com broke the story that Lennay Kekua, girlfriend of Heisman finalist Manti Te’o, did not pass away from a battle with cancer as originally reported, a story that garnered nationwide sympathy and support for the mourning Hawaiian football star.  In fact, Lennay had never existed.  By January 18th Te’o had circled the wagons, admitting to interviewers he had indeed been untruthful to his parents about meeting Lennay out of fear he would be judged for his affection toward a woman whom he had never physically met.  The downward trajectory continued into April with Te’o slipping out of the NFL Draft’s 1st round before being selected by the San Diego Chargers as the 38th overall pick.

In the midst of Teo’s unprecedented public relations battle, Notre Dame was bitten hard by the transfer bug.  In mid-March former 5-star and number one overall quarterback for the Class of 2012, Gunner Kiel, announced he would transfer from Notre Dame, eventually landing at Cincinnati.  A short week or two later Notre Dame lost a pair of wide receivers in Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson.  Neal, a former 4-star, transferred to Arizona to be closer to his girlfriend and infant daughter.  Ferguson, a 3-star prospect hailing from Florida, left South Bend and headed one hour north to Kalamazoo, home of Western Michigan University.

Notre Dame’s misfortune trudged into the summer, though oddly in the form of insults provided by representatives from other academic institutions.  In early May Michigan head coach Brady Hoke made news for stating Notre Dame was “chickening out” of its commitments by opting out of its series with the Wolverines in order to placate a future ACC schedule, an optional right both Michigan and Notre Dame possessed under the series agreement.  A few weeks later a report surfaced that then-Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee had expressed his opinion that you simply “can’t trust those damn Catholics” at a Buckeye booster event the previous December.  And, most recently, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier bashed Notre Dame at the SEC’s Media Days despite his 0-1 career record against the Fighting Irish.  Spurrier publicly bemoaned the fact Notre Dame had yet to join a conference, and questioned why Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is treated equally to conference commissioners.

As Notre Dame fans wondered if relief would ever come after several public relation disasters and schoolyard name-calling from other head coaches and university presidents, more devastating news was delivered: Notre Dame starting quarterback and rare bright spot against the Crimson Tide, Everett Golson, was dismissed by the university for “poor academic judgment” and would miss the upcoming 2013 season.  Pouring gasoline on an already blazingly horrible off-season, Notre Dame made news yet again when it was reported Eddie Vanderdoes, one of the crown jewels of Notre Dame’s recruiting class and a potential star along the defensive line, planned to enroll at UCLA rather than Notre Dame in order to be closer to home.  Vanderdoes, though signing a letter of intent to attend Notre Dame, left the Fighting Irish before stepping foot on campus as a student.

Notre Dame’s off-season gives context and meaning to the cliché that no news is good news, as the Fighting Irish experienced one of the roughest off-seasons in recent memory.  However, with football camp beginning at the start of August, a new season is upon us, and with it an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.

It’s football time once again.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at scottjanssenhp@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Comments to this Article

  • ChrisJ commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Yeah, all that pretty much sucked after the year we had…

    [Reply]

  • bj commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 am

    i guess kelly was playing golf, what a total disaster

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 23rd, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Another fantastic observation. I heard he was also saying how he would like to go under .500 this year and jeopardize his multi million dollar a year job.

    Bj for president!

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on July 23rd, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I heard Kelly had gotten his handicap down to 14…. so how in the hell can you call that a total disaster?

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 23rd, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Excellent point!

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Aaron Lynch, Alex Anzalone, Eddie Vanderdoes, & Tee Shepard…

    Add those guys to our current group (Nix, Tuitt, Shembo, Williams,ect…) on defense and think what could have put on the field this year!

    Those are my only disappointments for this program.

    Everything else is par for the course with ND football.

    Fan Static, useless noise, media bias, redneck jibba jabba, jealously, rival hatred, predictable coach speak, a little internal turmoil and a bit of adversity.
    Embrace it….it’s part of who we are, and it comes with the territory.

    [Reply]

    domerdon replied on July 23rd, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Having Deontay Greenberry on the field would not have hurt anything either

    [Reply]

    Jack replied on July 24th, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Shazamrock,

    Let’s look at the players you mentioned:

    Lynch: head case who is in bad shape and a disaster for a locker room.

    Alex Anzalone: hasn’t played a college game yet can’t comment

    Eddie Vanderdoes: hasn’t played a college game yet, but reminds me of Omar Hunter. He didn’t have a great career at Florida

    Tee Shepard: Can’t get a Division I scholarship. Oklahoma passed on him. I think Kavaree is working out just fine.

    As my old man says, should of, would ofs and could ofs. (sorry on the spelling). I like how this program is being built and the mind set of the players and the Coach. If they post 10 wins this year and make a BCS bowl game, it will be the first time since the BCS era that has happened to ND. They need to continue their recruiting of top talent and develop them. Look at the LB core which I think is probably deeper than the D-line. ND never had that under Davie, Willingham or Weis.

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on July 24th, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Jack,

    Granted, most of these players have yet to prove themselves on the field (with the exception of Lynch)
    But based on their size, speed, and potential athletic ability, it would have, at the very least, been very interesting to see them all on the same field, playing together at the same time.

    In other words,(or dad’s) shoulda, woulda, coulda, might have been a lot of fun!

    I, like you, like how the program is being built, but sometimes I can’t help but think what might have been.

    [Reply]

  • Patrick commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 10:08 am

    The two that really bothered me were Kelly’s flirtation with the Eagles and Golson being dismissed. Let’s face it, in 3 years, Kelly has taken ND from a mediocre team to the cusp of a national title. To think of him leaving right after last season was concerning.

    Once we got past that, the next issue was Golson – as I think his absence will be the most noticed this year. The offense went from having a dynamic element with the run/pass to what will be more predictable, focused on the run and short, high percentage passes. I think Rees is capable of running the offense, and I do trust his decision making skills. But against elite defenses, his lack of athleticism will be exposed (as has been shown in the past against teams like Stanford, USC).

    This year, I’m hanging my hopes on another stingy defense, a much improved running game and quick efficient passes from Rees. I still think the Michigan, MSU, USC, Oklahoma and Stanford games will be the toughest. How ND fares in them, we’ll have to wait and see.

    While I’d love to see another NC run, I think it’ll have to wait a year for either Golson to come back, Zaire to get his feet wet, and for the running back talent to emerge.

    [Reply]

  • bj commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Coming out of the 2012 college football regular season, it appeared that Notre Dame’s biggest problem was solving Alabama’s defense.

    Since then, larger issues have arisen that need some attention.

    The Irish were pummeled by Alabama 42-14 in the BCS Championship Game, effectively crushing their bid for a title with a panache only a Nick Saban-coached team could muster.

    But it’s not the embarrassing loss to Alabama that is creating a buzz around the Irish right now; it is the startling attrition rate that Brian Kelly and his staff are currently trying to remedy.

    Yes, it’s a problem, and Brian Kelly and his staff need to address it immediately, if not sooner.

    Let’s review some of the attrition that has taken place since Kelly arrived at Notre Dame. Following the 2011 season, stud defensive end Aaron Lynch departed South bend for USF and is currently primed for a monster season…as a member of the Bulls. Offensive lineman Jordan Prestwood, part of the 2011 recruiting class, left for UCF after transferring to the Irish from Florida State.

    But the exodus of top recruits did not end there for the Irish.

    Gunner Kiel, the top recruit in the nation when he initially committed to Indiana, switched to LSU and then transferred to Notre Dame. After last season, he departed for Cincinnati.

    Hi-res-6449054_crop_exact Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
    Gunner Kiel

    The departures of Tee Shepard, Justin Ferguson and Davonte’ Neal left the Irish without three of their four star 2012 recruits, and the teams’ top three recruits from that class in Neal, Shepard and Kiel.

    And these key losses are not the only ones suffered by the Irish. We’re just warming up.

    Recruit Alex Anzalone, who seemed to be about as firm as a wet noodle on his commitments during recruiting, decided to commit to Florida. In March, defensive end Chase Hounshell was injured and is likely to miss the season.

    In May, the flood of bad news continued, as 5-star recruit Eddie Vanderdoes asked to be released from his letter of intent and wound up out west in sunny California at UCLA. Kelly has refused to release him from his letter of intent, so Vanderdoes will sit out a season before playing at UCLA.

    The same month, things got really ugly. News broke that quarterback Everett Golson is no longer with the program due to some type of academic issue. Golson was the man who helped the Irish to their perfect record last season, the only bright spot in a desolate BCS title game performance, and one of the most talented players on the team.

    Notre Dame fans across the country are still wrestling with the realization that they are back to the Tommy Rees era. The screams are echoing across South Bend.

    Hi-res-152593376_crop_exact Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
    Tommy Rees will start for the Irish this fall

    This is a huge problem.

    While each of these recruits and departures seems to have some type of legitimate reason for leaving, it appears as if the attrition in South Bend is worse than it has been at other programs. No other supposedly elite program has lost so many top-flight recruits over the past two seasons while keeping the same head coach.

    And Notre Dame is football royalty, seemingly on the way back to the top, fresh off an undefeated regular season with plenty of potential.

    The loss of so many star recruits and players for so many different reasons has got to be a point of emphasis for Brian Kelly and his staff.

    What good is all the recruiting and effort spent to get a kid to South Bend if he’s going to turn around and star somewhere else after a season?

    Kelly has got to make this a priority, and quickly. He must find a way to stop the flow of attrition, whether it be recruits flipping or players transferring, or the next few seasons of the Kelly regime at Notre Dame will be ugly, very much like the forgettable 2011 season.

    With all the tradition, success and power Notre Dame is supposed to be able to bring to bear in recruiting, Kelly needs to be able to bring in these elite recruits and keep them on the field.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 23rd, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Look who learned how to cut and paste.

    [Reply]

    Jack replied on July 24th, 2013 at 7:39 am

    BJ,

    You put to much into star ratings in high school and not enough in what they do in college. Every program has people leave. Alabama had 5 star QB Sims leave for VA. Lynch isn’t primed to have a monster season, if you read reports last year his work ethic sucked and he dropped all the way down to 220. Prestwood is at UCF and wasn’t even a starter. Neal left to be with his girlfriend, Ferguson wasn’t even in the top two and Keil the jury is still out. I personally wasn’t impressed with Keil and he played in a state with no talent. Kids leave for many reasons, it’s not the coach’s job to kiss their rear end and try to make them stay.

    [Reply]

  • Toulmin H. Brown commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I would not simply assume blindly that Alabama & their ilk are in no way responsible for ND’S recruiting misfires. That is the lay of the land in CFB currently.

    [Reply]

  • Bill commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    The argument for the recruiting dilema is a 2 sided story. Arron Lynch transfering hurts, but ND is loaded at D-line. Jordan Prestwood I think is out of football again, no big deal. Gunner Keil, I have to question his character,HE thinkks the qb job should be handed to him and he shouldn’t have to compete for it,not the sign of a good leader.Tee,Justin and Davonte have a lot of potential but did nothing on the feild to call them stars. Anzalone did what daddy wanted,head case and prima donna, who needs that. Vanderdoes wanted to be closer to home,that happens all the time. The Irish are still landing some very good recruits and why didn’t anyone mention the stable of studs in the backfeild?

    [Reply]

  • old school commented on July 23rd, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Thank you for the summary of what we all know. But some analysis or perspective would be helpful. Otherwise this article is just a cut-and-paste job.

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on July 24th, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Heading into a new season, a review of the previous year and the off season is generally regarded in most circles as an acceptable way to begin.

    There is no need to over analyze anything, it’s a review. Available to your own interpitations, optinions, and perspectives.

    Perhaps you are more inclined to the postings of the Bleacher Report and other such open ended publications?

    [Reply]

  • Damian commented on July 24th, 2013 at 8:31 am

    A lot of concerns obviously. I think the loss of Golson is probably the worse news since losing the NC. The other players are replaceable in one way or another, and ND has a lot of potential on its roster right now. I was actually one of those that was not too concerned with the loss of Kiel. He may be a great quarterback one day, who knows. However, his style of play does not fit with Kelly’s preferred offense like Golson does. I’d rather have a quarterback who uses the system the coach knows best.

    But many have noted, and I agree, we’ve seen the best Rees can give. I think he’s good enough to get ND 8-9 wins. But he will have trouble against the elite defenses. I complement him for what he was able to do for ND last year, and I think it’s great to have a reliable back up to bail the team out when needed. But I just don’t think he is capable of playing in top form 12 games start to finish.

    [Reply]

    bill replied on July 24th, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I think rees will have a great season, his best yet, the running game will be top notch, and that in itself will help rees.

    [Reply]

  • bj commented on July 24th, 2013 at 9:04 am

    i believe tommy will have an unbelievable year, he knows it all falls on him,
    have him spend some time with joe montana, a late bloomer, counting on you tommy!!!! but it is hard to stomach three things, kelly visits the eagles, he could not inspire the team for bcs and he let gunner get away, he is an eniogman to me. go irish!

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on July 24th, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Do you realize that you have been complaining about the same 3 things for 6 months now?

    6 months!

    Maybe if you continue on for another 3 months you will give birth to the damn thing and finally cut the rest of us a break?

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 24th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Knute Rockne could have been coaching the BCS game with Bill Walsh and Buddy Ryan as coordinators and it wouldn’t have mattered. Jimmy V could have given a pep talk and it wouldn’t have made a difference. Get off Kelly’s back and thus rhetoric that he didn’t inspire them.

    Mr. All Everything and the leader of the team just had his world collapse around him and he obviously was distracted and out of sorts. Not to mention the other guys in Crimson were just flat out better. ND wasn’t winning that game period.

    [Reply]

    Damian replied on July 24th, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Have to agree. Alabama is on a whole other level right now. ND is getting there, they’re good enough to beat most BCS teams, but not enough to beat them all yet. Alabama has one 3 in the last 4 years so they know what it takes. THis was ND’s first trip in over 20 years and it showed.

    Kelly talking to the Eagles was a blow. I don’t believe he had any intention of actually leaving ND (probably an attempt to get more money for himself and/or his assistant coaches–I’m sure he’d hate to lose Bob Diaco over money), but it was enough for other schools to pry away recruits. But memory is short these days. It seems many have already forgotten about that, and recruits will too soon enough.

    [Reply]

  • bj commented on July 24th, 2013 at 9:10 am

    inspiration

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq1PXq2egMg

    [Reply]

  • bj commented on July 24th, 2013 at 9:21 am

    HE SHOULD HAVE SAID: “SAVE NICK SABAN’S ASS FOR ME.”

    ENIGMA, SORRY NOT ENOUGH COFFEE YET

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 24th, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Put some bourbon in the coffee and go take a nap.

    [Reply]

  • gramac1 commented on July 24th, 2013 at 11:37 am

    This is like kicking a dead dog!! Its like getting unpregnant. It’s done and over. Lets get on to this year. GO IRISH!!!

    [Reply]

  • Jerry Seppanen commented on July 24th, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Kelly will be gone within 3 years and recruiters will use his talking to
    the Eagles as proof. Our defense will keep us in most games this year
    I think they will be even better than last year. Doubt it will be enough
    against the top teams though but defense does win the big ones.

    [Reply]

  • Terry commented on July 24th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    ND did not belong in the NC game last year – they had more than their shore of lucky calls, Pittsburgh being the most obvious.

    BUT – when all the other teams have at least 1 loss, ND has none, their linebacker has a heartwarming story to tell (even though he didn’t know it was b.s.) – ND is gonna be numero uno, the damn sun is gonna rise in the east and Massachusetts is gonna vote democrat.

    So they got a butt-kicking in the NC game. As a wise man once said – feces occur. Get over it – we have.

    To Scott Janssen, the author of this drivel – if you actually get paid to write this stuff – where do I sign up? IOW – We know you don’t like ND and it is always a convenient target – BUT you are but the latest in a long series of journalistic nobodies who aspire to make his/her journalistic ‘bones’ by saying something nasty about Notre Dame, and let me conclude with a question – ever heard of Red Smith? Guess where he went to college.

    [Reply]

    Patrick replied on July 25th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    My instincts tell me, if Kansas State and Oregon didn’t lose – and OSU wasn’t on probation – we’d be talking about ND’s latest championship.

    The only teams, last year, that I think was better than ND was, Alabama. I’d say Georgia had better depth, but not the coaching skill of Nick Saban. So an ND/Georgia came could’ve been much closer.

    K-State? ND would have had them beat by half-time. Oregon? I see a similar ending to the contest as their game with Stanford.

    They did belong in the game. Why? LSU lost to Alabama. Georgia lost to Alabama. Nobody else was left. Plain and simple.

    [Reply]

    JC replied on July 25th, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you Patrick,

    Instinctively ‘par excellence’

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on July 24th, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Terry, please enlighten us about: “saying something nasty about Notre Dame”? What part of the ‘unvarnished truth’ to ND’s preseason would you so skillfully rewrite? Please entertain us. If not, troll back to ESPN.

    [Reply]

  • John Helmer commented on July 25th, 2013 at 10:59 am

    This article seems to overlook two things that are important:
    1. During the second half, Alabama and Notre Dame both scored 14 points. Fortunately, I missed the first half and based on what I saw, the Irish played well in the second half.
    2. Compared with what happened during the last 10 years or so, ND has done very well lately.
    Lets stop griping and see what happens this year!

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on July 26th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Missed the first half??? That’s like missing the first 90 seconds of the Tyson / Spinks fight and saying that it looked even to me.

    [Reply]

    duranko replied on July 26th, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    John Helmer, arguably, you made the post of the year.

    But your epigrammatic,clever pearls might get trampled.

    John, post more, read less.
    We are suffering, or at least I am, from a wit vacuum!

    Thank you

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on July 26th, 2013 at 11:29 am

    “Never tell people your problems, 80% don’t care, and the other 20% are glad you have them.”

    Lou Holtz

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on July 31st, 2013 at 10:09 am

    7/31/2013: “Vanderdoes appeal upheld, cleared by the NCAA to play for UCLA immediately.”

    If I was a college football recruiter, starting today, I would never stop pursuing the players that I wanted… ever.

    Forget about investments, official visits, hand shakes, verbal commitments, signings, enrollments, deadlines, or even team participation. None of that matters any more.

    Forget about mutual respect between Universitys’, any type of common courtesy, or unspoken rules. That stuff is for suckers.

    Signing day… it’s just another day on a calendar.

    If I can’t get a kid in Febuary, it’s no big deal, because there is always March, April, May, or June, and with plenty of NCAA loop holes to exploit, it’s wise to never stop.

    Even if a player plays somewhere else for a year or two and seems happy, convincing that kid to transfer should now be the proactive mission, because the way I see it, one or two years is better than none. And with players transfering out, you better have a few transfering in.

    Like any successfull business, a college football program better have plenty of recruiters, solicitors, and head hunters, in order to keep their coffers full.

    It’s not the way I would prefer, but according to the NCAA, that’s just the way it is going to be.

    [Reply]

  • SteelfanRob commented on July 31st, 2013 at 11:51 am

    In this corner, hailing from parts unknown, the masked “NCAA.”

    The NCAA is a joke. Look at their mishandling of the Miami scandal. On the one hand, they blew the investigation. On the other, because of their lack of due diligence, the Hurricanes are going to basically get away with major infractions by self-punishing for two seasons. What a joke!

    The day may well come when ND can no longer be morally a part of the NCAA.

    [Reply]

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