Chicago Colleges: Scott Daly
The (key) players: Kyle Brindza, Ben Turk, Jordan Cowart, Theo Riddick, John Goodman, George Atkinson III, Amir Carlisle, Austin Collinsworth, Chris Salvi, Nick Tausch
The incoming: Scott Daly
The breakdown: New tight ends coach Scott Booker is now in charge of special teams, though the entire staff will take a more hands-on approach following a 2011 campaign in which the Irish averaged 0.3 yards per punt return before the bowl game. In addition to kickoffs, Brindza will likely be the Irish's field goal kicker as well following the loss of David Ruffer. Turk improved as the season went on last season and figures to be the starting punter again. Atkinson returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns last season and may see more action in the backfield this season, so it remains to be seen if his duties could be extended to the punt return game as well. Same goes for Collinsworth, who was solid on both the kick-return and kick-coverage teams but will likely see extended time at safety following the graduation of Harrison Smith. Carlisle is out for the spring with a broken ankle, but he returned kicks for USC at times last season and could possibly be a factor on either return team.
Riddick's struggles returning punts last season are well-documented, but the staff likely isn't ready to give up on the big-play potential of which he is capable. Goodman had the sure hands and was basically back there last season as a safety net to prevent anything bad from happening, and the Irish hope that won't be needed again this year. (Goodman is in line to play a bigger role offensively, too.) Salvi earned a scholarship for being such a force on both kickoff teams, and Daly is the second scholarship long-snapper in school history, likely backing up Cowart this season before taking over the reins in 2013.
Scott Daly began long snapping out of necessity.
Daly was the only one capable of snapping the ball out of his fifth-grade peers, so he automatically was given the role.
What Daly didn’t know then was his unique skill would become his ticket to a college football scholarship and lead him to sign with Notre Dame, which he will sign with on Wednesday morning.
“I didn’t really think much of it,” Daly said on Tuesday. “I was a baseball player. I thought I would play baseball in college.”
Baseball was Daly’s targeted sport until his sophomore year at Downers Grove South. He had shown a knack for long snapping, and he was encouraged to attend a camp run by long-snapping guru Chris Rubio.
Rubio also noticed Daly’s skill and pulled him aside to tell him so. From there on, Daly devoted himself to the craft.
“He said I had a lot of potential,” Daly said of Rubio. “It really lit a fire under me. I started working my tail off.”
Daly quickly learned what it took become an elite long snapper. He had to spend six days a week snapping 40-50 balls. He needed to lift weights to build muscle. He had to do yoga to be flexible. There was also speed training involved.
Daly continued to flourish at the position, and he understood what had to happen next. It wasn’t easy, but he decided to quit playing baseball and give closure to his childhood dream.
“It was a little tough,” Daly said. “I was very committed in my life to baseball. I thought I would be playing baseball. Once I found the hidden talent of long snapping, I put all my focus into it.”
Being a snapper is a lot being a kicker. It’s not an easy role. Perfection is what it’s expected every time out. Daly understands that, too.
“The only time you hear about a long snapper is when they mess up,” Daly said. “You only go out there a few times. You have to be on every time or you hurt your team.
“There is some pressure out there, but Chris Rubio always talks about concentration, and concentration comes with working hard, snapping and preparing yourself to be in place to be successful. I take that seriously.”
Rubio works with some of the nation’s best long snappers, and he included Daly in that category. Daly is currently ranked the No. 3 long snapper by ESPN.
“He has a great combination of skills,” Rubio said. “He has great size, got incredible smoothness and speed and a great work ethic. He’s a good all-around kid, too.”
Daly arrived on Notre Dame’s radar when he attended a special teams’ camp in South Bend, Ind. He and the Irish’s coaches kept him touch from then on. When he offered a scholarship prior to the spring game in April, he committed on the spot.
“It’s unbelievable,” Daly said. “I still can’t believe it. I never thought I would get a full-ride scholarship to the best school in the country, let alone to play for one of the best football teams in the country.”
In his senior season, Daly helped Downers Grove South to a 10-2 record as a tight end and long snapper.
“It’s something he’s worked at,” Downers Grove South coach John Belskis said. “He found a niche. There are certain skills that come natural to people and snapping came natural to him.”
Those words became the stuff of internet legend Oct. 1, after coach Brian Kelly spoke about long snapper Jordan Cowart's scuffle during Notre Dame's victory at Purdue, which Cowart left with a broken hand.
Kelly and the Irish can repeat that phrase with much more gusto now.
As pal Dan Murphy of BlueandGold.com points out, Notre Dame commit Scott Daly won the inaugural Chris Rubio Award, given to the best high school long-snapper. He beat out LSU two-star commit Reid Ferguson (Buford, Ga./Buford) and 2013 prospect Cole Mazza (Liberty/Bakersfield, Calif.).
Daly, a two-star prospect from Downers Grove South High School in Illinois, committed to the Irish last April. ESPNU rated him the nation's No. 3 long-snapper.
Daly also won the Kohl's Underclassmen Challenge last December in Orlando, Fla.
Once he officially signs with the Irish during Wednesday's signing day, Daly will join Cowart as the only incoming freshmen in Notre Dame history to have received scholarships for snapping.