Recapping A Wild 2 Weeks of Notre Dame Football

Photo © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Photo © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame isn’t preparing for a bowl game this holiday season, but that hasn’t stopped the Notre Dame news cycle from spinning in overdrive.  Graduate transfers, coaching hires, coaching fires, recruiting commitments, recruiting losses, program changes.  You name it, it’s happened in the last two weeks for Notre Dame.  With all of the comings and goings, I felt a recap of sorts was in order.

Graduate Transfers

Since the season has ended, Notre Dame has lost four graduate transfers – none of which was overly surprising.

  • Corey Holmes – The first domino to fall was the announcement from junior wide receiver Corey Holmes that he was transferring upon graduating.  He’ll have two years of eligibility left since he’ll graduate from Notre Dame.  Holmes likely was going to be lost in the wide receiver shuffle next year.
  • Malik Zaire – In an unsurprising move, Malik Zaire announced that he would not be back for a 5th year at Notre Dame.  Reports are that Zaire is looking at Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Baylor.  Notre Dame plays North Carolina next season.  That could be interesting.
  • John Montelus – Reserve offensive linemen John Montelus announced that he would be attending the University of Virginia last week to complete his collegiate career.  Montelus failed to crack the lineup during his four seniors at Notre Dame and did not figure to be in the mix for playing time next season either.
  • Devin Butler – Butler missed all of 2016 due to a broken foot and a season long suspension following his August arrest outside the ‘Backer.   Butler will be completing his eligibility at Syracuse in 2017 and likely would not have been in the mix for Notre Dame regardless.

It’s possible more could be on the way for Notre Dame as well.  A few 5th year eligible seniors could find substantially more playing time elsewhere should they so choose.  I’ll refrain from throwing out any names, but some of them are obvious.

Other Player Departures

On top of the graduate transfers, Notre Dame has lost two players to professional futures.  Again, nothing too surprising here.

  • Deshone Kizer – Another unsurprising bit of news was the decision of Deshone Kizer to leave Notre Dame early for the NFL.  In a weak quarterback draft class, Kizer’s name is right at the top of the list along with Deshaun Watson and he’s a likely high first round pick.  His departure has opened the door for the Brandon Wimbush era at Notre Dame.
  • Torii Hunter Jr – The senior wide receiver had a 5th year available to him but he will forgo the opportunity to pursue a career in professional baseball.  Hunter came into 2016 with the opportunity to be Notre Dame’s go-to receiver but as has been the case throughout his career, injuries slowed him down.  We saw glimpses of what could have been at times in 2016, but after suffering a rough hit against Navy we didn’t see him again.  At the time of the hit Hunter went over 100 yards for the first time in his career.

Notre Dame Coaching Changes

Here’s where things started to get wild.  Notre Dame has fired one position coach, lost another to a head coaching job, and reportedly made two hires all on the last week.

  • Mike Sanford – Notre Dame’s up and coming offensive coordinator left the program last week to be the head coach as Western Kentucky.  Landing Sanford two years ago was a coup for Brian Kelly and at the time it was assumed he might not be around very long before getting a head coaching gig.  Well, Sanford got it and hopefully becomes a future Notre Dame head coach in training.
  • Scott Booker – Much maligned special teams and tight ends coach Scott Booker was dismissed last week after a disastrous year of special teams for Notre Dame.  Tight end production has fallen off drastically under Booker’s watch. Booker joined Brian Vangorder as staff subtractions but there could still be more before all is said and done.
  • Mike Elko – Brian Kelly needed to nail this defensive coordinator hire and he did.  Elko is one of the brightest defensive minds in the college ranks and his defensive schemes fit Notre Dame’s personnel and the style of defense Kelly prefers.  Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame hinges on this hire.
  • Brian Polian – Kelly did a hell of a job replacing Booker too.  Polian is a great special teams coach and an even better recruiter.  When he was let go by Nevada, it opened the door for his return to Notre Dame and now Kelly has a proven special teams coach and ace recruiter on his staff.

Strength & Conditioning Changes

Over the weekend news broke that Paul Longo was going to be reassigned to some other role within the program/university.  The move means someone new will be in charge of strength and conditioning for Notre Dame football for the first time since 2010 when Longo took over for Reuben Mendoza.

The S&C department at Notre Dame has been a common target any time the Irish have sputtered on the field.  Questions about the S&C under Longo were not new this year though.  As injuries mounted over 2014 and 2015, questions arose as to whether Notre Dame’s off-season conditioning played a role in the teams injuries.

Kelly needed to nail the defensive coordinator hire and he did.  He needs to nail this one too if he is going to have any chance at turning this around.

Recruiting Wins & Losses

  • Aaron Banks – On the good news front, Notre Dame landed 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks to complete and impressive offensive line haul yet again.
  • Joshua Pashcal & Thomas Graham – On the bad news front, Notre Dame lost 4-star DE Joshua Pashcal and 4-star CB Thomas Graham to Kentucky and Oregon.  At one time or another, both were considered to be heavy leans to Notre Dame.  On the field performance and questions around the Notre Dame defense likely played a role in both elite recruits souring on Notre Dame.

That is a hell of a lot to happen over the course of a couple weeks but hey, welcome to the Notre Dame football 2017 off-season.  There are still more changes on the horizon as well.  Notre Dame still needs an offensive coordinator.  Rumors have floated about Mike Denbrock’s status with the team.  And it’s been reported that at least one assistant will be following Elko from Wake Forest which could mean another departure from the current Notre Dame staff.

Notre Dame has a former head coach and offensive coordinator under Brian Kelly on staff as an analyst in Jeff Quinn.  While Kelly went outside the program and his circle for the defensive coordinator, it could make sense for Kelly to turn to Quinn as his OC after the success they had together at Cincinnati.  What that would mean for Denbrock though remains to be seen.  Kelly could also tap Denbrock as his OC and turn over some of the offensive control to him.

Defensively, the status of interim defensive coordinator Greg Hudson is still up in the air.  Rumors are he will be retained on staff in 2017 but in what capacity remains unclear.  The only defensive position group he’s ever coached specifically is linebacker  – the same position group Elko figures to oversee. that is, unless Kelly shifts his coaching assignments and goes with more defensive coaches in 2017 than he has in the past.  With all the changes he’s made so far nothing is out of the question.

Notre Dame might not be participating in a bowl game this year, but they are making the off-season much more entertaining than if they were.

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  1. You irons are being irrational and childish. BK knows so much more than you jablokes even have any idea about, you really should just go sit-in-the-corner. There are SO many aspects to the dynamics of a football team. Being a knee-jerk (and yes, you guys are jerks) coach is the quickest way to being a loser. BK’s got a much bigger mind than y’all.

      1. BK clearly has a bigger brain than you for sure, “HURLS.” Albeit, that’s not saying a lot!

        Question for you, how much does BK pay you to be his patsy?

  2. ND let another OC/potential head coach slip out right under Swarbrick nose!!.Kelly is there, but he’s really not .Just going through the motions. Coach,Ihope the powers to be end your stay at ND.more sooner than later.

  3. As long as ol’ purple face is still there, it ain’t nearly “wild” enough.

    Come September —– despite the new faces on the sideline —– ND will be taking the ball first, lining up with an empty backfield, shotgun, and slinging it on second and goal from the 2. And the best we can hope for is to have gotten there without burning a couple game clock timeouts.

    Because he’s been doing this for 27 years now.

    1. I couldn’t agree more David, nothing will change till Kelly and swarjerk are gone. So tired of the same ole Kool-aide we are told to drink every year. I watched Catholics vs Convicts, look how far our program has fallen. The stadium was rocking (no whiners asking the ushers to tell people to sit down, come on people we’re at at football game!!), we had great players who wanted to win, lead by a real motivator who said “leave jimmy johnsons ass for me!” The whole culture at nd now is to make sure visitors have a wonderful nd experience, instead of winning games. The nd admin has forgotten it’s base. I take so much abuse from all the um and osu fans here in Ohio. I can’t defend anything nd does anymore, because I truly believe the admin thinks they can get get by with just enough wins… keep us all still believing. Stanford wins more with kids just like ours and it’s cold in Ann Arbor and Columbus too. Stop the excuses, withdraw a ton of the dollars you are sitting on in the nd vault. Go out and hire a real coach!!!!!!!

      1. Kyle,
        The same people who moan and piss about a no-back or a single back offense on third and short or fourth and short will be mocking a two back offense as well – even with the same breath they use to call for a “great” coach to come here from one of three or four schools that never have any problem burying key defensive players with a fullback or a diveback.

        You are exactly right, Kyle. Our third and one and fourth and one joke plays will never end until we can run a simple tackle blast play, or a quarterback sneak. I saw a tape of Michigan with two backs behind the QB this year. It was play action, and I was astounded at how fast BOTH of them got out into a shallow pass pattern right through the center of the line. The DB’s crapped, followed them, and then watched helplessly as Michigan threw deep to a post guy for an easy TD.

        Shove that up your ARSE, Dave.

        Merry Chrismas.
        Bruce G. Curme
        La Crosse, Indiana

      2. Bruce, supplying your personal info on the internet?! Because in your world that adds credibility, conviction (or bar room courage) to your thoughts? Really dude ?!

        BTW….what’s the chance that reply wasn’t even directed at you? Any?

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