Academic Investigation Could Lead to Major On-Field Impact for Notre Dame

The Notre Dame community was rocked on Friday with the bombshell of an internal investigation into academic misconduct involving four members of the football team.  While not much is known at this time, we do know that the four players involved – Ishaq Williams, Keivarae Russell, Davaris Daniels, and Kendall Moore – are not practicing while the investigation is underway and their futures with the University are up in the air depending on the outcome of the investigation.

To be clear, none of the four players mentioned this point have been dismissed or had any disciplinary action levied against them other than being withheld from practice during the course of the investigation.  It’s possible that the investigation could lead to suspensions, dismissals, etc at some point but at this point we simply don’t know.

Since we also don’t know how long this investigation will drag out or when we may know the status of the four players involved, it’s probably safe to assume that Brian Kelly and his coaching staff have been spending a lot of time over the last 24-48 hours assessing their roster and what they will do should this investigation lead to disciplinary action.

Ishaq Williams - Notre Dame DE
(Photo: Robin Alam / IconSMI)

Here’s a run down of how the Irish roster would look like should they be without each of the four players involved in the investigation.

Ishaq Williams

The fallout from Notre Dame’s ongoing academic investigation looks like it could potentially have the biggest impact on the defensive end position.  Keivarae Russell is by far the best player to be associated with this scandal, but Notre Dame is better equipped to play without him better than they are Williams.   While the former 5-star DE hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire during his first three seasons, Notre Dame was already going to be forced to play a lot of freshmen up front following Tony Springmann’s injury.

True freshman Andrew Trumbetti was already listed as the starting weak-side defensive end and classmate Jonathan Bonner was in the two-deep as well at the three-technique.  If Notre Dame were to lose Williams, sophomore Isaac Rochell would probably be elevated into the starting lineup in Williams’s place.  Rochell has the size (listed at 287 lbs) to be able to hold up against the run on the strong-side.  It’s possible that Bonner could move over and provide some depth there as well.

While Trumbetti leap frogged Romeo Okwara at the weak-side, don’t look for Okwara to move over to the strong-side for Williams if necessary.  Okwara doesn’t have the size to hold up on the strong-side.  Notre Dame could be in worse position than having to start a sophomore who came in a year ago as a 4-star recruit but didn’t play as a true freshmen.  Given that the defensive and offensive lines are the two areas where you specifically don’t want to have to rely on freshmen, though, Notre Dame would have some serious challenges ahead of them if they lost Williams.

Keivarae Russell

As mentioned earlier, Russell is the best player among the four linked to the investigation currently.  He had the potential to become an All-American this year and was considered a potential early NFL Draft candidate following his junior year.  All of that said, with the addition of 5th year transfer Cody Riggs on top of the talent Notre Dame already has at corner, the Irish can sustain a potential loss of Russell and still be OK at the position.

If Notre Dame were to be without Russell, Riggs and sophomore Cole Luke would be the starters with Matthias Farley and Devin Butler battling it out for the nickel position.  True freshman Nick Watkins has been impressive in camp already and was already slated to play.  His role would definitely expand should the Irish be without Russell for any extended period of time.

It actually speaks to the depth Notre Dame has built at the position that they could lose Russell, arguably the best corner they’ve had in years,  and still have a group as strong as Riggs, Luke, Butler, Farley, and Watkins ready to play.  Notre Dame also still has Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown for depth at the position.

Also consider this.  In 2012 Notre Dame entered the season with a true freshman converted running back/wide receiver (Russell) and junior who had converted to corner from wide receiver just a year before (Bennett Jackson).  I don’t think anyone could argue that, at worst, Notre Dame would be in a similar, if not substantially better, position in 2014 if Riggs and Luke were the starters.

Davaris Daniels scores a 61 yard TD vs. BYU
Davaris Daniels scores a 61 yard TD vs. BYU in 2013 (Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today Sports)

Davaris Daniels

This is another position were Notre Dame thankfully has enough depth, albeit inexperienced, built up to potentially sustain the loss of Daniels should they have to.  Notre Dame already went through the entire spring without Daniels while he was suspended due to his GPA dropping too low – something separate from this current situation.

Chris Brown and Will Fuller have been running with the first team at wide receiver so far in camp because Daniels was banged up and Kelly was making the senior earn his starting spot back.  Sophomore Corey Robinson’s role will greatly expand as well.  Early enrollee Justin Brent has looked strong in camp so far as well and is the most physically advanced receiver on the roster now.   Brent’s classmate Corey Holmes had a chance to see the field this fall even with Daniels available.  If Daniels ends up not being available, Holmes will almost certainly see the field.

A starting duo of Fuller and Brown will be plenty fast for Notre Dame – potentially the fastest starting combo Notre Dame’s had in a long time.  The problem with these two as Notre Dame’s starters, aside from a lack of experience, is size.  Neither have great size or are known to be great blockers at this point in their careers.   For that reason, Robinson or even Brent could a chance to start given their size.

Notre Dame would be down to Fuller, Brown, Robinson, Brent, and Holmes as outside wide receivers and CJ Prosise, Amir Carlisle, and Torii Hunter at the slot this fall if they are without Daniels.  That is a group that still has a lot of potential but hasn’t had that much previous production.

Kendal Moore

The easiest player to potentially replace for Notre Dame is 5th year senior Kendall Moore.  I can’t remember Brian Kelly mentioning Moore once during any of his fall camp press conferences or post practice reports.  Even after a strong showing in the Pinstripe Bowl, Moore was expected to be more of a depth player and likely wasn’t going to be in the 2-deep to start the season anyway.  Joe Schmidt and Nyles Morgan figured to be one-two at the MIKE, Jaylon Smith and Greer Martini at the WILL, and James Onwualu and John Turner at the SAM position based on Kelly’s comments earlier this week.

The linebacker group is still a major concern for Notre Dame heading into the season, but a potential loss of Moore really doesn’t hurt that much given his position on the depth chart.  It would have been nice to have Moore for the special teams units, but even if Notre Dame loses Moore, they probably won’t feel the impact much on the field.

Losing all or any combination of these players for any period of time will make what was already a tough schedule even tougher for Notre Dame, but even if all four were lost for the entire season, there is enough talent on the current Notre Dame roster for the Irish to still have a meaningful and successful season.

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  1. “Say no to hate”. Take your own advice, physician, and heal thyself. You have to be the most hate-filled person on this site. Do you even read your own posts, duranko? Would you like me to catalog some of the things you say about others on here? For instance, you just called me “Satanic”. How’s that not hateful?! You’re a hypocrite, duranko. And that’s not hateful, just truthful.

  2. Of course, like the delusional and self-appointed Pharisee you are, duranko, your over literal misinterpretation of my words are both lamentable and pathetic. Of course, I was using hyperbole when I referred to “our hated rivals”. Hyperbole is a figure of speech very familiar to both Jesus and the early Church fathers, who were also not above some more sobering words as well. Not that you’d know Jesus’ or a Church father’s words if they slapped you in the face (NOTE: I’m being sardonic, another figure of speech!).

    Moreover, I was speaking to JDH, not you, you self-righteous prig. That’s the “us” I was commenting on. Perhaps you should read more carefully before launching on one of your delusional and hate-filled tirades, duranko.

    Question whatever you want. I laugh at your delusional self-importance. Do you think I really care about what you think?! I couldn’t care less. The only reason I’m responding is to not give you the sick satisfaction of thinking you got one over on me.

    You are merely a darkest-souled, self-aggrandizing, pseudo-Christian, duranko.

    Has anyone else noticed that I never, ever address duranko, except to respond to one of his delusional attacks against me?

    Get over it, duranko, and get a life. BTW: thanks for proving the point JDH and I were making!

  3. Hey Rob, to paraphrase Samuel Goldwyn “include me out” when you talk
    “our hated rivals.” Quit making sounds like a Pharisee and just say no to hate.

    I disavow you and your ilk of hate.

    As a Christian, I know that hate is a mark of the Satanic.

    And I question your Notre Dame bona fides. Notre Dame men, the real ones, have a lot of respect for our football rivals. Oft punctuated by
    hobnobs at tailgates of the other team’s fans. But civil, not filled with infantile profanity.

    And rob, just to have a non-Scriptural penumbra on this, did you ever hear the one about “when you point the finger at someone you have three fingers pointing back at you.” T or F?

    read my lips, Bubba whoever is in your “Us” and “Our” I am not.

    1. Sometimes practicing Christians have moments of weakness. And in these non-Christian moments, if your mind wanders to thoughts about how much you hate Michigan and Michigan State, I think you’d be forgiven.

  4. I’ll tell you my agenda. I live in PA and the whole Sandusky thing made me sick. When I think that my tax dollars go to Ped State, it makes me livid. I’m a registered Republican who won’t be voting for Gov. Corbett because how they tried to minimize what happened. They actually had the audacity to fight with all their might to avoid the Death Penalty for the football program. ND has done everything it could with this. If you say that ND deserves no credit for simply doing what they should, I’m okay with that. Someone needs to tell Ped State that.

    1. “If you say that ND deserves no credit for simply doing what they should, I’m okay with that.”

      Wow, a much needed simplification of the present reality without all the noise. Fantastic line. That one sentence is it’s own therapy session. Thank You!

    2. “If you say that ND deserves no credit for simply doing what they should, I’m okay with that.”

      Wow, a much needed simplification of the present reality without all the noise. Fantastic line. That one sentence is it’s own therapy session. Thank You!

  5. I agree with other posters here that ND is handling this the “right” way. Academics comes first. I mean, how many schools would have dismissed their starting QB for cheating. Time and again, ND has proven that they are first an acedemic institution. Football is important and a big deal, but only to a point.

    I won’t name any specific schools, but we all know there are schools out there who would protect the football program first.

    One of the reasons I’m a ND fan is that they have proven you can win doing things the right way. Not to say they are perfect, like anything, they make mistakes, but you can clearly see their priorities are straight.

  6. JDH,

    I had finished a long-winded response when the computer crashed. Typical of another problem endemic on this site lately. I’ll take it as a sign.

    Thus, I won’t rehash what I tried to say other than to agree with you.

    I miss our old comrades and hope they are well, wherever they are.

    God’s speed and Go Irish!

    1. Some of us are still here, but chose to sit back and just watch the peeing contests rather than take an active role.

      Keep fighting the good fight. I enjoy your posts and dedication to the cause.

      Go Irish!

      1. Thanks, Doc, but why so silent of late? You’re one of the sane voices on here, calming some of us more tempestuous types. Plus your ND football acumen is above average. Don’t be a stranger. The old guard needs to make a stand.

        GO IRISH!

      2. Thank you, Rob. I made the mistake of almost stating this had been one of the more quiet off seasons (except for Malone). Then this thing popped up. My first test at ND was in Anthropology, and I got a 16%. I scrambled real hard and got a C. As a junior, I had three freshmen players in my section, and used to help type their English papers. I helped correct errors and hopefully made them better writers. I hope that wasn’t a violation of NCAA protocol. It has always been and always will be a tough school. (Ask Tee Shepard.)

        Kelly has a very talented staff that work well together. They recruit for needs in the roster, not all multiple star folks all the time. We are going to get burned deep a few times on defense but I am glad to be away from the “keep everything in front of you” mentality. If you’ve watched any of the practice footage, we have defensive backs in receivers’ faces at the line now, and the receivers are running routes well and Golson is putting the ball where it needs to go and most of the receivers catch the ball (or make it “uncatchable” for the defense). Good coaching. We have three very talented running backs and will have an offensive line like the good old days as long as Harry stays on and stays healthy.

        Killer schedule this year. If we lose these four guys, it will hurt. At best, they are only gone the first three games. Nobody knows what happened yet. I am hoping it is smaller than it is being made to be.

  7. JDH,

    Frankly, I don’t give a shit about Burgundy, his lies, half truths, or statistics. For some time now, if I address him at all, it’s about standing up for ND. My advice to you is to treat Burgundy like the pariah he is.

    This isn’t about “schadenfreud,” JDH. I for one take no pleasure in the scandals at other schools, even those of our hated rivals. However, we shouldn’t confuse what happens at ND with what happens in the SEC, USC, or Ohio St. I can assure you that whatever ND players have done would earn them Dean’s List at these other places. The real scandal here is that what ND is doing in investigating itself doesn’t happen on a regular basis throughout the NCAA.

    Burgundy: I’d rather root for Harvard or Yale than Bama or Ohio St.

    1. I agree that ND deserves proper credit for doing this on their own and that many institutions would simply cover it up. History shows us that to be true anyway. It’s interesting to me that Daniels (and apparently his father) are strongly denying the charges. I personally hope that points to his innocence! To me, the biggest blow would be the loss of Russell though. He is / will be an elite player this year and we need him desperately given the schedule.

      1. Agreed, JDH.

        BTW: Good to hear from you. It seems that we’ve lost some of the old-school posters. Where are JC, C-Dog, irisheye, fxm, and so many other friends (and sometimes foes) from the past?

        GO IRISH!

      2. I can’t speak for them SFR, but I can speak for myself and it has to do with the current “culture” of the site. Some of my lamentations you’ve already seen. Need I say more? :(

  8. SFR,
    My advice would be to not ever directly address Burgundy. He has appointed himself the conscience and head statistician of this site. Since he himself has written of other people’s citation of statistics: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”, I’m always wondering into which category his fall. Transparent in the extreme, he needs to constantly “correct” others to appear intellectually superior. Furthermore, he seems to relish the fact that no one really wants him on this site, as far as I can tell. (Awaiting an uber-witty quote from the movie. Again.)

    With that out of the way, I do agree that there is so much inherent hypocrisy in fans. If this was another school we didn’t like, many would be engaging in “schadenfreud”, which is somewhat understandable. I do give ND credit for being transparent and policing their own. Indeed, many places would cover it up. I’m waiting for all the facts to come out, but if it is as they are saying, Davaris Daniels should be given no quarter. He’s had his chance to make things right.

  9. You will not find a bigger PSU homer (hence the name) and hater of ND. With that being said, I do give props to Notre Dame for actually investigating this and for Kelly holding these players out.

  10. What does the size of the school or length of time matter? They’ve only been handing these out since the 50’s and there have been scholarship limits since the 70’s. Whether a school has a million students or 200 doesn’t matter.

    Now go root for Harvard or Yale.

  11. Exceptions to the rule at Columbus, Burgundy. When you’re that big a school and have played football for that long, chances are you get a few bright ones. Ohio St. wouldn’t even investigate this. They’d sweep it under the rug and move on. After all, look at UF’s fine academic and moral track record under now OSU head coach Urban Meyer. I’m sure Ohio St. lured Urban by telling him they’d run a tight ship in Columbus and admit only Academic All-American types.

    Bottom line, Burgundy, is that ND is not perfect. But in its imperfection it nevertheless tries to live up to its hallowed ideals.

    Now go root for Bama or Ohio St.

    1. Problem is Paddy, Burgundy has become a regular on here and like JDH and others have pointed out,he is a blight on our community. Notice how he tries to subtly take a shot at ND by suggesting its fans would take glee if this were happening somewhere else. OK. So what? That’s ND’s fans and not the school or team. Moreover, many of us wouldn’t take comfort in the misery of others. For example, many on here expressed sadness for the scandal at PSU. What we would take comfort in is if every other school had thr integrity ND has in investigating its own. Perhaps if PSU had acted more like ND it might have mitigated the scandal somewhat.

      You’re right, Paddy, Burgundy is a troll. He’s been one from the start. But we need to call them out lest they over-run our site. (Oops, I forgot this is duranko’s site and he doesn’t like the word “our” when it goes against his eminence.)

      Good to have you on board. Hopefully we can talk football soon and bypass this nonsense.

  12. Interesting: OSU has produced 49 football academic all Americans. Good for 5th all time. I guess they do teach reading, riting and rithmetic over there.

  13. It’s not a matter of “if” this is happening at Bama or Ohio St., Burgundy. It’s a matter of how much of it doesn’t even get investigated at these win at all costs institutions. At these schools players don’t even take real classes much less have to write real papers. There’s no need to cheat when you don’t even need to know how to spell or add to get by at these places. The only way the public and media finds out about academic fraud at these football factories is if someone spills the beans and leaks the story to the press. Otherwise business as usual academically promoting and eventually perhaps even graduating functional illiterates in Tuscaloosa or Columbus. Don’t even pretend to compare ND’s handling of this matter with the routine sweeping under the rug and business as usual approach to academic dishonesty practiced elsewhere, Burgundy.

  14. what kills me most about this is that 2012 is in the air. We waited 19 years for a season like that and it could come down to that it really didn’t happen. It makes me sick, and the university doesn’t have to go that far. It goes back to the feeling I have had for years, that the university truly doesn’t care about the football program, they only want it successful enough to fund the other agendas of the school. If students are guilty then punish them and kick them off the team. But, to back track and take away old wins? Let’s be honest we could go back to every single season in school history and find at least one violation of a football player cheating academically. So should we vacate all 874 wins then?

  15. This is so disappointing! If these four players did what is alleged then they will have let down their teammates, coaches, families, fans, and ultimately themselves, and that’s frustrating, disappointing, and unfathomable. They will have forfeited an opportunity of a lifetime – to earn a degree from the University of Notre Dame and represent the University on the athletic field. There are mistakes in life and then there are mistakes that follow you around the rest of your life – and I fear that these four young men have made a mistake that will impact them negatively for the rest of their lives. I sincerely hope this is not the case. However, if what is alleged is true, then I am confident that Notre Dame will hold them accountable. Notre Dame holds true to its standards and stresses the “STUDENT-athlete”. Major college athletics has somehow lost that concept – it’s a joke. I know ND will do the right thing, regardless of how it impacts them on the football field. I can’t help but wonder how other programs around the country would handle this very same issue. I think I already know the answer.

    Proud to be Irish!

  16. I would rather lose with integrity and honor with Notre Dame, than win the way USC, Auburn, Florida State, Alabama, etc do. It is a sad day to possibly lose all these players, however Notre Dame shows once again that it is committed to doing what is right. I can say I am still proud to be ND!

  17. ND needs to get either join the Ivy League or drop football all together. They can’t expect to be at the top of the ladder without letting things slide. The other conference teams do and lets face it college football has become minor league for the NFL. These players don’t care about an education just pay them and let them play.

  18. Well, until the investigation is completed, it’s truly hard to say how true the alleged infractions are. Unfortunately, if it was felt an investigation was required, I’m guessing there is probably something to it. I think the biggest hit will be more PR/Image related than “on-the-field” happenings. I was going through the drive thru at my bank today and the next car beside me there was talk between the driver and teller about this. They had much GLEE in their voices about this. I’m sure haters are having a field day. Again, another significant issue of disappointment to occur before the first kickoff even happens. It would be great if nothing results, but, I am not holding my breath.

    Go Irish

    1. Yes, there is much glee for the haters. But I don’t see how the university did anything wrong. A member of their academic staff reported their suspicions. An investigation ensued immediately. Players are being withheld from football activities until the investigation is completed. They’ve notified the NCAA what’s going on. They volunteered to vacate the wins if any of these players were guilty of these violations while playing in any games. ND has done all it can do.

      1. I hear what you are saying, Mike. For the haters, it doesn’t matter how we are responding, it’s the fact they perceive it as “Ha, ha, you holier than holy’s, you cheated.” I have no issue in how the University is handling it. If this has been going on for years, though, a head coach may have to say goodby to ND as well as an AD. Hopefully, that is not the case.

  19. I mean honestly this absolutely sucks but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker!! I mean if Williams is are biggest loss than I say were in good shape, he was an absolute phenom coming out of a not so well known football state.. He never really lives up to the hype as of yet, he’s more or less a converted 3-4 outside linebacker who would of been playing with his hand down as a pass rusher in a 4-3, no telling how he would adjust.. I think having a bigger body like Rochell on the strong side will benefit us more anyways, also having Hounsell back helps.. Daniels if he stayed healthy would have likely produced 600-800 yds receiving and 6-10 TDS, I feel with the system and group of talent we have that can be replaced as need be, I look for our 3 RBs to be much more involves this year and we are Tight end U!! Russell stings quite a bit but thank touchdown Jesus we got Cody Riggs, I think the secondary will be ok.. Hell to be honest Collinsworth at starting SS scares me more than losing Russell for a while.. And you lastly we don’t know how long these guys could
    Be out or gone, hopefully only a couple games at the most!!

  20. Since the four players will not be practising until the investigation is complete, and the investigation might easily take weeks or more, Kelly has to plan for almost certainly being without the players at least for Rice and probably for more of the early games of the season.

    While I agree that ND is likely to feel the losses the most at defensive end, overall the deletions will hurt our depth. We can still manage well enough at corner, but we will be thinner there. Thin is not even the word at defensive end and on the defensive line. I never counted on Daniels being able to make the grade in summer school AND being able to learn the playbook AND focus enough to run his routes properly. So this just clears the way for the receivers we have coming up. Again, however, it takes away some depth and leaves us extremely young at the receiver position. Our special teams, which have been among the worst in the country under Kelly, will also suffer a hit with the loss of Moore.

    Overall, although we can manage (except maybe at strong side defensive end, where opponents will, at least initially, run to their heart’s content), this is a significant hit.

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