USC Weekend Paying Dividends for Notre Dame

Will Fuller - Notre Dame WR v. USC
Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame and Brian Kelly put a lot of their chips on the table for this year’s USC weekend with by far its biggest visitor list of the season.  Notre Dame hosted an elite group of recruits with their arch rival in town and while the weekend didn’t produce any on the spot commitments, the Irish are getting one heck of an ROI on what’s turned out to be a wise long-term investment by the Notre Dame coaching staff.

  • Daelin Hayes – Perhaps the headliner of the group, Hayes is listed as a 5-star prospect on some sites and is set to enroll at Notre Dame and begin his collegiate career today.  Hayes final position is still a bit up in the air in terms of whether or not he grows into a defensive end or if he stays at outside linebacker, but regardless he is one of the highest rated recruits in the class.  At the time of Hayes’ visit to Notre Dame for the USC game, he was also still committed to the Trojans.  Notre Dame on the field in October and on the recruiting trail in December for Hayes.
  • Javon McKinley – The latest addition from the USC visitor log, McKinley selected Notre Dame over Oregon and Washington during Saturday’s Army All-American bowl.  The California native held an offer from USC, but they were not one of his finalists.  The top 100, 4-star WR is currently the highest rated receiver in this year’s class.  Seeing Will Fuller burn Adoree Jackson for a long touchdown on Notre Dame’s first play of the game couldn’t have hurt the Irish’s chances.  McKinley isn’t a speed burner like Fuller, but he is the most versatile and complete wide receiver currently committed to Notre dame.
  • Devin Studstill – Another early enrollee at a critical position – safety – Studstill selected the Irish in December over Texas, West Virginia, Miami, and North Carolina.  It’s been rare for defensive backs to play early the last few seasons under Brian Vangorder’s defense, but the early start for Studstill could give him a chance to do so.  Notre Dame won’t have too many safeties on the roster this spring with Drue Tanquill on the mend from his ACL injury and Elijah Shumate and Matthias Farley headed to the NFL so he will get plenty of experience this spring.
  • Deon McIntosh – Yet another running back out of the state of Florida for Notre Dame, McIntosh joins classmate and fellow Floridian Tony Jones in this year’s backfield.  McIntosh is the speedier of the two backs for the Irish this year and held offers from Miami, Louisville, Michigan State, Penn State, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.  Kareem was just named the MVP of the Semper Fi Bowl after recovering two fumbles and returning one of them for a score.
  • Khalid Kareem – One of the most important recruits in this year’s class because of his position – defensive end – Kareem was at one time committed to Alabama.  The Michigan native selected the Irish though shortly after his visit for the USC game and he enrolls early today with Hayes and Studstill with a chance to earn playing time as a freshman just as Andrew Trumbetti did two years ago after enrolling early.  Kareem is destined for strong side defensive end, but could play on the weak-side this year where Notre Dame is in more of a position of need.
  • Troy Pride Jr – Notre Dame’s early Christmas present, Pride committed to Notre Dame on Christmas Eve with a name tailor made for headline writers covering Notre Dame and USC for the next 4-5 years.  Pride is one of a number of defensive backs in this year’s class and made a huge jump in the 247Sports rankings as a senior moving up to #85 overall and #9 at corner.  He was previously #263 overall and the 23rd ranked corner.

Notre Dame could further its ROI from the USC weekend if they are able to lure 4-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch out of Texas to join the class of 2016.  Even if they are unable to, the weekend was one of the most successful in-season recruiting weekends in years.  The fact that the Irish beat their rivals is not coincidental at all either.

Notre Dame has tried the “all in” approach on other USC weekends such as 2011 and 2013 without nearly the same results after they displayed a poor product on the field.  In 2011 the Irish got knocked around by a weak USC team and in 2013, the Irish hung on for dear life when Tommy Rees was knocked out and the offense completely stalled under Andrew Hendrix.  This year, however, the Irish displayed a big play offense and made some opportune plays on defense such as Keivarae Russell’s game clinching interception to put on a show for those in attendance.

The gamble paid off this year.  Expect Notre Dame to employ a similar approach next year when Stanford visits for what could be another showdown of top 10 ranked teams in a game in which the Irish will be out for revenge.



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  1. rmatteo,

    Agree about the defense. BVG needs to do a top down review. Firing him would be premature, I mean it’s was only his second year. You’d basically have to start from scratch if you hired a new DC at this point.

    The only way I’d fire him now is if he refused to make changes and insistent his coaching was working. Then they’d have no choice. But if he is willing to make adjustments and simplify his schemes I still think it could work. High pressure, heavy blitz defenses that BVG champions can work, but the players have to understand the schemes and you have to have the right players. And I do like BVG’s intensity on the field. You can tell he gets into it and loves what he does. Players do respond to that. But no doubt, he needs to make adjustments.

  2. Not bad for a start but crunch time will be here before we know it and the defense could use more help.
    They folded like a cheap suit when the chips were down. Hopefully it was the players rather then the defensive coach, but I’m afraid it may have been the “D” coach. Actually it easier to get a new “D” coach than a new defense. I don’t think they should fire VanGorder but another top game failure year should cook his goose. 10-3 although a nice record is not what the Irish need. We need to get over that hump, go 11-2, 12-1, or maybe even 13-0. Improvement needs on “D”. Plenty of good QBs, running backs and receivers. Let’s get some real beef and speed on “D”! Go Irish!!!!

  3. Meant to say: “What has been a signature win that reoriented the ND football program that happened in the last 20 years?” Of course, Lou had several such wins within his first three seasons, culminating in a NC and a few other close calls (Lou should’ve had at least one more NC in 93, but we know what happened then). BK can’t come close to that!

    @45, if you’re pleading for “duranko” to do your debating for you, good luck. Unlike “JC,” “irisheye,” and “C-Dog,” among others, “duranko’s” rants have no effect on me. When I agree with him I have no problem giving the man his props. When I need to disagree with him I have no qualms about doing so. So don’t think he’ll scare me away!

  4. So beating a very average LSU team in a third-tier bowl is what you consider a signature win, @45? Really?! That’s your standard of greatness?

    You say you back with ND football to the 60s. I doubt it. If you really did, you would recall ND beating the likes of Bear Bryant’s powerful Bama teams in January 1 bowl games. Now that’s the standard I want to see ND return to. You’re happy beating a downtrodden team in a third-rate bowl game.

    I @45 just made my case for me.

  5. @45,

    Here’s concise for you. Answer just one of these questions:

    1) What has been a signature win that reoriented the ND football program that happened in the last 30 years?

    2) What was our biggest win this past season?

    See, in addition to poor reading comprehension, you obviously don’t think very well on your feet. You keep on wanting to side step the issue. Sadly for you, some of us here can actually read and think critically.

    Like I said, @ 45, next time you elect to waste energy and time typing a response try actually addressing any of the number of questions I asked.

    Don’t bring a dull knife to fight some one with a bazooka!

  6. George,

    What’s the issue with the extra practices? I guarantee you, every college football coach in America treats every available practice like gold. Esp. considering practice time is strictly regulated in CFB.

    And those extra practices you seem so disdainful of did have one net positive–there was much improved red zone efficiency against one of the best defenses in the country. I’d say that was a good thing.

  7. Shazam-meister? Great point. I’ve forgotten about the bowl game. (my brain injury helps, but that’s another issue) Not to sound like Aaron Rogers of Green Bay, (especially b/c I’m a New Englander) but everyone just CHILL-OUT!

  8. Let’s see… the last time an elite team lost a marquee bowl game by 16 points….

    Number #5 Iowa at 12 -1, lost to number 6 Stanford at 11-2, 45-16 in the Rose Bowl. But that’s 29 points.
    Number 4 Oklahoma at 11-1, lost to Number 1 Clemson at 13-0, 37-17 in the the Orange Bowl. But that’s 20 pts.
    Number 3 Michigan St at 12-1, lost to number 2 Alabama at 21-1, 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl. But that’s 38 points.

    I guess the answer is ND vs Ohio St in the Fiesta bowl.

  9. When is the last time an elite team lost a marquee bowl game by 16 points, and that loss actually generated a feeling of thankfulness amongst its fans due to the fact that the 16 point deficit at least wasn’t as bad as the previous time said team made it to a marquee bowl game (or NC game)? Guess it doesn’t matter when your “cost per player each year” is high and you were “at the top” 30 years ago.

  10. I personally feel middle of the road on where ND stands thus far. I’m sure those who want BK fired would feel I’m a BK apologist. I feel I’m realistic. I do think ND is trending up. Our red zone offense was clearly better against OSU as we did not settle for FG’s this go around. We got TD’s. ND needs to continue working on that and hopefully having Zaire and Folston back next year along with everyone else will help. The other problem is obviously defense. I’m not in the knee-jerk fire BVG camp, but I think to keep his job BVG needs to evaluate his schemes. The defense is wildly inconsistent and needs work. But he just finished his second year. He needs to be given a chance to adapt. That gives ND the best chance to win next year IMO. Otherwise you fire him, get a new DC, then you have to give him a year to install his own schemes, you’ll likely lose some recruits on the defensive side and you’re back to square one on defense and next year ends up being a wash.

    I’d love to see ND with all it’s talent on the field with minimal injuries next year (something ND should also look at). Then we’ll really be able to make a true judgment on ND under BK. I give the players this year a lot of credit. A lot of them had to step into new roles, a number of players had to start earlier than expected and overall they did a good job given the hand they were given.

    For those who are in the fire BK camp now, what do you see that CFB experts don’t? Universally in the media I hear about what a great job BK has done at ND, how much he has improved ND. I don’t hear a single media pundit saying ND should get rid of BK, not one. I don’t get it. If ND were to fire BK that would be disastrous for the program and would probably set us back, probably permanently. They’d have to settle for some mediocre coach and we’d be back to the D/W/W years settling for 6-7 win seasons. Your elite coaches, forget it. They see BK as a good coach and they’d never come to ND if they fired him. They’d think ND was crazy and would never want to work under those conditions.

    As for me, I will keep my fingers crossed that the injury bug stays away next year. I’d love to see what BK and co. would do with all the pieces in place. That would be a true test. Is BK a good coach, I say yes thus far. Is he elite? Not yet, win a NC, then I could say yes. If you’re someone that feels a 10 win season with all the crucial injuries ND had this year is a poor performance, then nothing I or anyone else can say will ever change your mind.

  11. @ SFR What diatribe, please learn to write concisely. Boasting losses? Your ad lib. You do frequently. “Room full of fans & Vince Young”? WTF. Day dream much? Please educate yourself differentiating “Finished Product”& “Total Program” I don’t care to do it for you. Read again if necessary. “True ND Fans”? Who are you to judge or say Yes or No? “Rose Colored Glasses”, what your looking through with what you remember. Good for you also. I wish you no ill memories. Drawn upon history is always better than the true facts though. Historian? I never claimed that. Just long faithful fan. The labeling & chastising towards myself? No problem. I don’t understand why YOU continue to diminish and demoralize the efforts of all those PEOPLE/Employees & Volunteers of the “ND Total Program”. You may not appreciate what it entails. I realize much of it. I am sure there is so much more involved. Again “Elite Total Program”. Get off this site and read Values, Revenue, Expenditures. Additionally cost per player each year and total years ND has been at the top. “Elite “. LSU was last big win for me. Do not care if you agree or for your opinion. I wish you well, but will not be reading your comments. “Mediocre and Irrelevant”. Pun intended. Try to not be so ANGRY. Have a good one. P.S. CONCISE. Thanks

  12. SFR-Wow must have chased all family and friends away and need a site like this to remind everyone how right you are.
    Maybe Swarbrick will see your posts and realize only you can safe ND football and immediately replace BK. Please, please accept for there is no other as insightful and capable of restoring this program to glory as you.

  13. Let me play at being Burgy for a second.

    Here’s what @45 said above: Not the “Elite” yet. Will be though. The total program itself is among the “Elite”.

    So what is it, @45? Is this an elite team or not? One second you say they aren’t quite yet; the next second you say they are. Is this your attempt at trying to pretend to be objective, having it both ways? Sorry, that’s just either trying to have it both ways or just plain schizophrenic!

  14. @ 45,

    I see you failed to answer even one of my pointed questions. So be it.

    Since you can’t seem to follow an argument for very long I’ll make it easy for you. Give me just one program-defining, signature win for ND football in the past two decades? I’ll make it even easier for you: what was our major win this past season?

    If you think you’re objective, well, then, you’re really self-delusional. I hear nothing from you but unsubstantiated pie-in-the-sky rhetoric. Too bad you can’t seem to look in the mirror.

    I, on the other hand, have challenged both the “sky-is-falling” bunch and the “rose colored glasses” bunch. I dare say you can’t say the same, @45.

    As for Lou, what was his record his first few seasons (after his inaugural campaign)? Did it take him more than three years to win a NC? Did he not quickly rebuild the program (left in miserable conditions by Faust, or did you forget his last game against Miami in the old Orange Bowl?) with NFL-caliber talent (e.g., Zorich, Taylor, Waters, Bettis, Ishmael, etc.)? All real easy questions for a historian of ND football such as yourself, seeing as you go all the way back to the sixties, to answer, @45.

    Next time you elect to respond, please do so with something other than your unsubstantiated opinions.

  15. @SFR. My comments were about mediocrity. You really are to windy. Signature losses? No. I am pointing out the program as a whole. Foundation and program is elite. There were certainly games that would have been lost in years past. Growth. You need to look at past records and bowl stats. You will be enlightened % wise.. I go back to mid 60’s. Holt’z was 100-32-2. 5-4 in bowls. For the rest of your comments. Give me sometime to read. Skimmed. Although I don’t see you as center and objective. I’d be the objective person , you fit CHX little. Didn’t view same game as you. Saw a whole lot of past USC though. Have a good one.

  16. MTA,

    Well-said, indeed.

    Except, like I said, I don’t see much of a gamut on this site. It seems that, a few of us excepted, there are two extremes when it comes to the current status of ND football: 1) the “chicken little, sky-is-falling” bunch championed by “bj” et al.; and 2) the “pie-in-the-sky, rose-colored-glasses” gang led by the curiously silent of late “duranko.”

    I’ve tried to steer a middle course, however. I’m highly critical of BK and the current state of ND football, but believe that with some substantive changes to the football and university culture (a la the days of Lou Holtz) ND might be once again able to lure a truly great coach, that will be able to recruit truly great talent, coach that talent up, surround himself with an elite staff, and thus return ND football to its rightful place at the top.

  17. In addition, @45, last time I checked, those signature defeats you boast about didn’t happen on the big stage of a January bowl game.

    Besides blind faith, can you give me an example of how ND football is now truly an elite, NC-caliber program? What has been ND’s return-to-glory victory in the last twenty or so years? How many major-level bowl games has ND won in that time period? What has been the team’s record and or average margin of defeat in January bowl games? How many Heisman Trophy winners has ND produced in the last three decades? How many consensus All-Americans and first-round NFL picks compared to truly elite programs?

    Besides kitsch poetry and blind faith, what objective criteria can we put forward to posit that ND is an elite team, on par with Bama or Ohio State? Certainly, the last time the Irish played both these teams on a national stage they proved that they bonged there!

  18. Where else can you get:
    1) links from golden days passed to despair and doubt for the present
    2) Pink Floyd lyrics and stats that reveal
    3) along with the full gamut from ND will never be great again to ND is already an elite program again?! Throw in some subtle snark and a few haiku- what a site!
    Thanks, Frank, and others, for giving us this forum to vent and hope.

    Two gut wrenching losses to (according to AP final poll) #2 and #3, and one more to #4.
    Just even one more win from that top four would have been so much sweeter, but, re: team 127 . . .

    Let’s appreciate
    And not diss nor underrate
    Here comes 1-2-8

    Go Irish! An elite finish can be for team 128. How many days ’til Spring practice?!

  19. @45

    I appreciate what you are saying. I respect and understand your intent. But imagine how your argument would sound to anyone but a ND fan. Are we now actually boasting about games we lost and by how little? Is that where we are?! Can I suggest that it’s high time ND and its fans boast about signature wins, about dominating elite teams, about how much the Irish win by. Is that unreasonable to you? I can imagine how your logic would play out in a room full of fans from other schools. It would come across as loser logic. It would play right into the hands of those who say ND is no longer elite and thus has to focus on moral victories as opposed to real one. I’m sorry, 45, but I will never boast about signature defeats, no matter by whom the Irish get beat by or by how little.

    As for your take on the NC game, I agree. Funny, though, how luck always seems to follow the best teams. Why is it we never hear people talk about the luck of 1-11 teams?! Sweeny and his staff gout out-coached in the end. Plus, the Clemson QB is a scattershot passer. To compare him to Vince Young is actually to do a disservice to Vince Young. One thing we did see was competent half-time adjustments by both D coordinators. Clemson totally neutralized Bama’s run game in the second half, while Bama took away Clemson’s favorite pass plays. In the end the more talented team, with a history of winning big games, led by a legendary coach won.

  20. This year they played very competively with #2&#3. #4 (AP final poll) controlled game. ND was always in the game. Not sealed until late. The whole program is elite. Built back up and sustainable. That is the foundation to having a repetitive competing finished product. NC caliber. Certainly 30-40 years ago ND had that base for the whole program comparitvely. Their success didn’t cone without that. As for last nights NC game. I saw Clemson beating themselves. Altered their offensive play calling
    . Defense gave up the big ones. I saw Clemson controlling LOS both sides of ball, controlling flow of game, controlling Bama. Didn’t finish. I saw Saban/Kiffin got some “luck of the Irish” a few times last night. Thanks

  21. So, so you think you can tell…
    Heaven from hell?
    Blue skies from pain?

    Can you tell a green field…
    From a cold steel rail?
    A smile from a veil?

    Do you think you can tell?

    Do they want you to trade….
    Your heroes for ghosts?
    Hot ashes for trees?
    Hot air for a cool breeze?
    Cold comfort for change?
    And did you exchange….
    A walk on part in a war
    For a lead role in a cage?

    How I wish, how I wish you were here.

    Poor lost souls Swimming in a fish bowl….
    Year after year.
    Running over the same old ground.
    And what have they found?

    The same old fears.

    Wish you were here.

  22. I see two extremes on this site. “david,” “bj,” “Bruce Johnson,” et. al. who seem to have all but abandoned the Fighting Irish football team altogether. At the other extreme are some who seem very comfortable with ND winning 9-10 games a season, playing yearly in the Peach Bowl, and not really being elite, as proved by the regular beatings the Irish take when they play a meaningful game in January against a truly elite team. For this crowd, it’s always something that happens year in and year out that justifies not being great. It’s always about next year for them, going on thirty years now of rationalizations, justifications, excuses, etc.

    I see a via media between both poles. For starters, a true ND fan never quits on the Irish, no matter how bad it gets. Having said that, a true ND fan never accepts as bad as it gets and makes excuses for it. I’m sure if Charlie Weis were still the HC in S. Bend, putting up 6 and 7 win seasons, while loosing to Navy regularly, some here would be saying give him another year to turn things around! That’s misplaced loyalty, unbefitting a true son of ND.

    There are major structural problems with ND football. Some are of its own making. Others are a byproduct of the evolution of the game over the last three decades or so. Regardless, ND isn’t close to playing competitively for a NC. This program needs to do some profound soul searching and decide whether it wants to go forward and become truly elite or stay put and continue to win 8-10 games a season and play in a mid-major bowl game. I respect whatever path the university elects. Just don’t expect for the football team to continue to be respected as it falls further behind the likes of Bama and Ohio St.

    What we saw last night was a truly great coach, on a team loaded with NFL-quality talent, win yet another NC. Now, ND will never be able to recruit like the SEC schools (Vandy excluded). Nor should it. However, the university needs to look back to what it was doing during the Holtz era that allowed for an unprecedented influx of NFL talent and returned ND to greatness (at least until the curse of Joe Moore hit the football team). Even then, BK is no Nick Saban. Sadly, these men are worlds apart as football coaches. Saban showed the brains and balls in a title game that BK has never shown even in a regular season game.

    Speaking of the NC game, I called Clemson’s demise the second they punted into the endzone early in the 4th after having a first and ten at Bama’s 40 with a three point lead. Even a FG would’ve taken several more minutes of the clock and given the Tigers a 6 point lead. Instead, Sweeney shows that he doesn’t have the guts of Saban and opts to punt after not gaining a yard on three plays from Bama’s forty. Of course, the punter promptly kicks the ball into the endzone for a touchback. A few plays later Bama tied it up. Gutsy onside kick, followed by a quick TD, followed by a KO return for a TD, etc., game, set, match for another Crimson Tide NC that puts even more distance between them and ND in that regards.

    It’s just frustrating to watch Bama become the gold standard of college football. That’s what ND was for a long time, now seemingly a long time ago. I want to see ND return to that place of prominence. If you’re happy winning 9-10 games and playing in the Sun Bowl, then please feel free to take your lame support elsewhere and cheer for NW, Vandy, Duke, Wake Forest, etc., all fine schools that would love to see their football teams play regularly in the Peach Bowl.

    Go Irish!

  23. Mediocre? Nah. Tier I. Not the “Elite” yet. Will be though. The total program itself is among the “Elite”. So finish product will follow. Final AP poll. Defeated by #’s 2,3&4. Two and three ND help beat themselves. Game was controlled by # 4. Let ND hang around and were always in striking distance. Game wasn’t sealed until late. The “D” line is not weak. There is depth and talent . Backers too. Vision and faith are also prerequisites to success. So is being objective. Look at the roster/coaches & supporting staff. Not seeing the shortage of talent and potential being suggested.. Thanks

  24. Bruce Johnson,

    Complaining is truly your strongest weakness.

    ” Leave the situation or accept it.
    All else is madness.”

  25. @ jeff
    Until they go down with injuries like so many have the last two seasons! Given a chance (see: Kizer, Adams, Prosise), that “next-man-in” might have been the “first-man-who should have been-in” all along.
    The day of Frosh not being ready to step in and contribute to your O’ or D’ in college football is as obsolete in thinking as insisting on first establishing the run (see: Clemson who scored 33 vs. Bama with no running game other than QB keepers for nearly three quarters- and had the lead in the 4th!
    It’s a new era- old established rules/keys to winning need not apply.
    A Frosh walk-on caught two TD passes for Clemson tonight. Freshmen all over the field in the NC game.
    Clemson played at times with an entire new front 7 on D’ and all 5 of their OL were new starters this season and they nearly were national champs, so so much for needing to rely on returning starters to excel. Other than two or three big plays by Bama and they might have been. If they’re good enough to be elite stars in HS, some are good enough to step right in as Frosh, especially when you arrive on a team like ND where few still remaining (especially on D’) have established themselves as stars as of yet.

  26. MTA, Its highly unlikely that Khalid and Daelin have much of an impact next year other than maybe special teams. ND needs Morgan, Coney, Martini, and a couple other 2nd year guys to step up.

  27. Is Florida Coach Denson’s ? If so, he’s establishing himself as a recruiter extraordinaire!
    And with Hayes and Kareem, will BVG turn the pressure on the several new opponents’ QBs next year?

    Khalid and Daelin
    Pressuring rookie Q Bs
    Bring ’em BVG

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