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Author Archives: Duranko

Instant Maturity: KeiVarae Russell and Avery Sebastian

Keivarae Russell - Notre Dame CB

Two vintage wines recently arrived in South Bend from West Coast vineyards.  Avery Sebastian came in from Berkeley and KeiVarae Russell from Tacoma. Last Spring Brian Van Gorder and Kerry Cooks were moving along counting on KeiVarae Russell as the cornerstone cornerback, and grizzled vet and captain-in-waiting Austin Collinsworth shepherding the young safeties, with Eilar Hardy and Nicky Baratti as Collinsworth’s lieutenants and assisting with the kids.  Russell was rated by Phil Steele as the #7 cornerback in America.  (FWIW, the six listed above him were all drafted in the 2014 NFL draft.) Oops! Van Gorder and Cooks, by the ...

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Duranko’s Digest: Notre Dame Football’s Spring Forward

Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today Sports

Spring practice is now concluded.  What did we learn? Better than expected: Jerry Tillery at Defensive tackle.  Tillery’s move from “left tackle of the future”  to defensive tackle was an “experiment”  like the Manhattan Project was an “experiment.”   Tillery’s progress eases the burden on some promising young tackles like Cage, Hayes, Matuska, Mokwuah and the three frosh. What is unique about Tillery is that he inspires nearly head-shaking awe from all who observe him.  The recruit who requested and received an audience with  Rev. Theodore Martin Hesburgh, C.S.C. during one of his recruiting trips may have picked up a little ...

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Notre Dame Defense Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow

Jarron Jones & Isaac Rochell - Notre Dame DL

YESTERDAY Last Spring was Brian Van Gorder’s first coordinating the Notre Dame defense. As Spring practice unfolded, there were some intriguing personnel groupings. These Four: Ishaq Williams, the Five Star, poised at last to emerge. KeiVarae Russell, star cornerback, destined to be on the Thorpe list. Eilar Hardy, a solid swing safety, sound tackler in the open field. Kendall Moore, tackler, solid sub, perfect for slowing Navy and North Carolina down. It was an interesting foursome, with tons of experience, as Moore was entering his fifth year, Hardy and Williams rising seniors and the precocious Russell a rising junior. Experience ...

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Ranking Notre Dame’s ’15 Offensive Starters: Pre-Spring Practice Edition

Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Tarean Folston (25) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Northwestern Wildcats at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

To have 11 players we had to take a flyer at quarterback.  Wiser men would wait and see, but occasionally, the job description of a fool is to rush in.  Despite what is offered below, Everett Golson is evocative of what Churchill said about Russia (“A riddle wrapped inside a mystery shrouded in an enigma.”)  The Nelson, Brown and Carlisle inclusions are subject to change after Spring Practice, for one reason or another. [Related: Ranking Notre Dame’s Defensive Starters: Pre-Spring Edition] (1) Ronnie Stanley, Left Tackle. Projected in the 2016 mock drafts as a first rounder, crowding the top 10 ...

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A Pre-Spring Ranking of Notre Dame’s Starting Defense

Jaylon Smith & Jarron Jones - Notre Dame Defenders

We take a pre-Spring Practice look at the putative defensive starters. This may well change during Spring practice or in the Fall. The middle linebacker situation remains fluid, but suddently there are options, arguably including Nyles Morgan, Joe Schmidt, Jarrett Grace, Tevon Coney and even Michael Deeb. If the names below seem familiar it is because only Cody Riggs departs from the starting lineup. Jarron Jones and KeiVarae Russell are not participating in contact in the Spring, and Russell will still be in Seattle, but we will slot them in. 1. Jaylon Smith (Linebacker) – Changed position but not his ...

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Notre Dame 2015 Offense: An Early Glimpse

Will Fuller - Notre Dame WR

In the first four years of the Kelly hegemony, the Fighting Irish offense averaged 27.1 points per game. The Irish averaged  161 yards rushing and 246 yards per game  passing for a total offense of 407 yards per game. In 2014, Kelly installed Mike Denbrock as de jure Offensive Coordinator, but made himself the play caller. Points per game , through the 11th game of the regular season (USC had little predictive value) was 34.8 ppg, up by a touchdown or 25%, rushing yards per game down  a smidgen to 154 yards per game and passing yards up 10% to ...

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2015 Notre Dame Defense – An Early Glimpse

Keivarae Russell - Notre Dame CB

Three overarching factors will impact the 2015 Fighting Irish Defense. First, it is the second year of the Brian Van Gorder defense.  While Van Gorder and Kelly, for counter-espionage  reasons, attempted to downplay the extent of the retooling, it was a complete and radical overhaul.  When the change was made  from the Diaco 3-4 to the Van Gorder 4-3 it was dramatic. All SEVEN of the job descriptions  of the DLS and LBS changed.  Players who had already achieved conscious competence were sent back to square one to begin again in unconscious incompetence. While the changes for the back four ...

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Duranko’s Digest: What Did We See Against LSU?

Tarean Folston - Notre Dame RB v. LSU

Hard by the banks of the Cumberland River, and in easy walking distance of the cathedral of country music, the Ryman Aauditorium, the  Fighting Irish defeated those long, thick, swift  men from LSU 31-28.  It was Notre Dame’s 8th win of the season and the first since beating Navy on November 1st.  It was a victory as passionately intense as  Hank Williams and as pure and sweet as the mellifluous Emmy Lou  Harris. THE ALPHA The first Irish possession was masterful, consuming nearly 8 minutes and putting the Irish ahead 7-0.  It gained 66 yards in 15 plays but, more ...

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2015 Irish opponents in the Bowl Games

Greg Bryant - Notre Dame RB v. USC

Eight of Notre Dame’s scheduled opponents for 2015 are playing in bowl games. Virginia, UMass, Temple and Wake Forest are not. We list them chronologically, with some possible points of observation and analysis. NAVY v. San Diego State, Poinsettia, Tue, Dec. 23, 9:30 NYC time 7-5 Navy, which has been defeated four times in a row by the Irish, is led by Junior Keenan Reynolds, a slippery master of the option who rushed for over 1100 yards while passing for a mere 800. Fullback Noah Copeland is playing his last game for the Middies. The cutblocks and chainmoving will be ...

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