Notre Dame Football: Auburn Tigers

Notebook: IMG 7v7 Championship 

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy over the weekend featured some of the top 7-on-7 teams from all over the country and even a few teams from Canada. The event, which included 12 prospects ranked in the top 50 of the ESPN 300, showcased some of the best talent you will find in a single tournament. Led by Alabama verbal commits Calvin Ridley and Shawn Burgess-Becker, the Florida Fire from South Florida defeated Tampa’s Unsigned Preps 20-18 in the championship game to take home the title.

Quarterbacks shine

There were several high-profile quarterbacks in attendance, and they lived up to the hype for the most part. Deondre Francois, who recently transferred to IMG Academy, made numerous impressive throws. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound signal-caller has a top three of Oregon, Auburn and Florida State and is planning to make his decision at the end of July.

Recruiting the right quarterback means a tremendous amount to every college football program.

In the Class of 2015, the race has been on for months for programs in need of signal-callers.

With the calendar having turned to June, there are more than 55 quarterbacks who have given verbal commitments to FBS programs.

Most recently, Florida snagged West Coast prospect Sheriron Jones over the weekend. In all, 39 of 62 programs in the Power Five conferences have QB commitments, and more are on the way.


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The state of Georgia is loaded in both the 2015 and 2016 classes.

In the 2015 class, the linebacker position is one of strength, as a number of rangy, athletic prospects -- highlighted by ESPN 300 prospects Adonis Thomas and Roquan Smith -- are available.

Five schools made the final cut on Thursday night for Thomas, one of the nation's top prospects.


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States of strength: Texas RBs 

May, 15, 2014
May 15
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When it comes to running backs, the state of Texas is loaded. Ten running backs represent the Lone Star State in the ESPN 300. Of those 10, five are committed. A total of seven running backs in the state have reported FBS commitments.

ESPN 300 RBs from the state:

No. 50 Ronald Jones II: Ranked the nation’s No. 3 running back, Jones is an explosive, game-changing back who -- as scary as it might sound -- will only get better. Jones committed to Oklahoma State on April 6 and finished his junior season with more than 2,400 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns.


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Florida has Florida State. Georgia has Georgia Tech. Kentucky has Louisville. And, of course, South Carolina has Clemson.

When it comes to the new SEC scheduling format starting in 2016, those four schools are already on board. Their annual rivalry games fulfill the league’s forthcoming requirement for a yearly nonconference game against an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 school.

But for the rest of the teams around the league, there’s a void.

Sure, they can go year to year and rotate in nonconference opponents. But where’s the fun in that? Let’s create some new rivalries, and in the case of some programs, reignite old ones.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops and Nick Saban
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertThe spectacular salaries of college football coaches such as Bob Stoops, left, and Nick Saban are generated mostly by the labor of unpaid workers.
Alabama-Oklahoma: If FSU wasn’t already taken, the Noles would have been a perfect fit. The physical and philosophical proximity between programs is obvious. But looking elsewhere, Oklahoma might be a fun matchup. The Sugar Bowl has already created tons of tension on both sides with Sooners coaches delighting in calling out Nick Saban and the SEC.

Arkansas-Baylor: Call it a throwback to the old Southwest Conference. Arkansas, which didn’t join the SEC until 1992, has played more games against Baylor (69) than any school in its current conference. On top of that, the differences between Bret Bielema’s physical style and Art Briles’ free-flowing offensive scheme would be a joy to watch.

Auburn-Oregon: Recent history and playing styles dictates this matchup. Not only do we get a rematch of the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, but it pits offenses that live to go fast. Maybe it could be a two-hand touch game in which whoever reaches 100 points first wins.

LSU-Notre Dame: We couldn’t make a list of nonconference matchups and leave Notre Dame off, could we? Pitting the Golden Domers against an SEC program would be appointment viewing. Make that program LSU and the opposing coach Les Miles, and television networks will scratch each other's eyes out to get the game.

Mississippi State-Texas Tech: The Bulldogs have shied away from high profile nonconference games in the past, loading up on the likes of Memphis, UAB and South Alabama. Well, it’s time to infuse a little spice into the schedule. Kliff Kingsbury is too cool to keep out of the SEC. His Red Raiders would be a good matchup with Mississippi State, which faced Texas Tech seven times from 1953-70.

Missouri-Kansas: Does this one really need to be explained? The Border War should have never gone away in the first place. Now is the perfect opportunity to save face and bring back a rivalry that goes all the way back to 1891.

Ole Miss-Miami: We’ve got to get ‘The U’ involved. Miami and Ole Miss have already played a few times in their history, with the Rebs holding a 2-1 series lead. But bigger than that, it would get the SEC back into South Florida on a permanent basis because Miami and Florida don’t have the common sense to do that already.

Tennessee-North Carolina: Even if most people don’t remember it, there’s history there. Tennessee and UNC have played 29 times, with the Vols holding a 20-8-1 advantage. Plus, even if your memory is short, you should recall the double overtime Music City Bowl from 2010 between the schools. If they can re-create that just once, it would make the rivalry worth it.

Texas A&M-Texas: See Missouri-Kansas. Don’t let conference affiliations ruin great rivalries. Texas A&M-Texas should have never been shelved in the first place. And while the UT administration might not see a reason to bring it back -- nor Texas A&M's leadership, for that matter -- surely both fan bases do.

Vanderbilt-Duke:Call it a private school showdown. The proximity is reasonable, the fan bases similar, and the rivalry could easily extend to the hard court. Plus, have you seen Derek Mason’s nonconference schedule this year? It needs help.
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Here’s are a few: WR Isaiah McKenzie is a bolt of lightning. He can really run, and while he may lack ideal measurables, he has some Tavon Austin qualities. RB Jeff Jones has flown way under the radar during the recruiting cycle and has been very impressive with his speed and explosiveness. We are still trying to figure out why no one is recruiting OC Jacob Bragg. We are hoping this week will open up some eyes. He has looked good. Considering four of our six original QBs have gone down to injuries and won’t be playing, we have been pleased with the likes of Rafe Peavey, Morgan Mahalak and Sean White as well. DT Garrald McDowell may be undersized, but he has been overlooked much in the same was as Isaac Gross was a couple years back down here for a lack of size.
Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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Under Armour Early Offer 

December, 30, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily morning dose of recruiting.

Today’s Early Offering is coming to you from the Under Armour All-America Game. Here’s a sample of some of the top news from the event, including a look at who stood out on the first day of practices and a quarterback who hopes to make a big impression.

No. 1 preps for announcement
Seven of the nation’s top prospects will commit live during the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 (ESPN, at 4 p.m. ET), including the No. 1 player in the country, running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine). Fournette has stuck with his top two of Alabama and LSU and said both school’s hats will be in front of him when he announces. A Texas hat will be there too, but it’s down to the Tigers and Tide. Fournette said he’s tired of getting asked where he’s going to end up, but that thankfully will end in a few days. “It is just something I want to get off my shoulders,” he said. “Everybody has been nagging me about a thousand times. At the end of the day, it’s where I’m going to be most successful and most comfortable at.”


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One thing is for sure for all the 2014 Under Armour All-Americans: This isn’t high school anymore. Day 1 is about gauging the competition. Some guys dive right in and some test the waters with their big toe, but by the end of the first day of practice, all those in attendance have a pretty good idea of where they stand and what they need to do to compete and get better.

Given that it is Day 1, the playbook is introduced (Team Nitro is going no huddle with wrist bands and limited plays), and there can be sloppy moments of indecision and uncertainty. With each rep, most, if not all, prospects began to get a better feel for what is expected. Most importantly, the center-quarterback exchanges were very good for the most part, which is generally the biggest worry. Upon completion of the first practice, here are some observations and things to look for over the week:

Top Performers


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Manziel or Winston? Prospects weigh in

December, 29, 2013
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- There are many topics of conversation among prospects playing in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. One of them centers around the past two Heisman Trophy winners.

On Saturday, upon checking in for the prestigious game, a number of prospects weighed in on a hot topic involving Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

If they had to choose between the two, who would the players take as their college quarterback? Here are their responses:

[+] EnlargeMarlon Humphrey
Courtesy of IntersportNo. 9 overall prospect Marlon Humphrey likes how Johnny Manziel makes others around him better.
Five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Al./Hoover High): Ah man, I think I’m going to have to go with Johnny Manziel. I just feel like he kind of made a team out of nothing. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but he doesn’t have the scrambling skills that Manziel has. This year, you could tell that his teams defense wasn’t that good, the players around him weren’t as good, but he kept making his team better. He’s has the fight in him I would want on my team.

Florida commit and No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High): I would say Jameis Winston. He’s really a pure quarterback, and I think he sets up things more for a running back than Johnny Manziel does.

Auburn running back commit Racean Thomas (Oxford, Al./Oxford High): I would probably pick Jameis Winston. The reason behind that is because he is more of a leader for a young quarterback, and I think he can make his team a more mature team. I really think he would be a great quarterback to play with.

Florida wide receiver commit and No. 28 Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead Senior High): Whew, I don’t know. I think Jameis Winston. I look at how both of them played as a freshman, and I like how Jameis Winston leads his team. He is also more pro-ready than Manziel.

Texas defensive end commit and No. 78-overall Derick Roberson (San Antonio, Texas/William J. Brennan High): I guess I would say Johnny Manziel. I like how he plays with his swagger and confidence the most, so I would probably say him.

Notre Dame commit and No. 76-ranked Tyler Luatua (la Mirada, Calif./La Mirada High): I would take Manziel just because of the way he plays. If he doesn’t have a wide receiver open, he can make plays himself. He can get the ball to his players if and when he wants to, but can also do it on his own when he needs to.

No. 38 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic High School): That’s a hard one. As of right now, I would go with Jameis Winston. Overall, he’s a great player. I think Winston has an awesome football IQ. Johnny had his year too, but I think Winston is just a great player. Outstanding.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner: Jameis Winston, man. I feel comfortable with Jameis Winston as my quarterback because he’s smart and accurate. Johnny is accurate too, but Johnny is Johnny. How he runs around, people may get nervous. I would just feel more comfortable with Jameis as my quarterback.

No. 22 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High): That’s a hard one right there. Let me think ... maybe Johnny Manziel because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white boy get down like that. It would have to be Johnny Manziel.

Penn State wide receiver commit Chris Godwin (Middletown, De./Middletown High): I think Jameis Winston. I think overall he’s a better passer. I want a quarterback back there that can get me the ball on a consistent basis, but Johnny Manziel is a great player, too. I’m actually a big fan of both of them.

Five-star and Virginia defensive tackle commit Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, VA
Oscar Frommel Smith High)
: Dang, that’s a good question, man. I would go with Jameis Winston. His leadership qualities, coming in as a freshman and doing the things he is doing is definitely uncommon. It just foreshadows what he is going to do in the future, too. He’s already established a great foundation for himself, and I would definitely take him in the future.

Maryland commit Will Ulmer (Washington, D.C./Saint John’s High): I’m going with Johnny Manziel. I think he’s more dynamic, and more of a game-changer. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but you have to think about all the dudes he has around him at FSU -- all the great receivers and good running backs. I would go with Manziel because if you put him on the Florida State team, or a stacked team like that, it would be a scary sight.

20 years later, a November to remember

November, 1, 2013
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BowdenAP Photo/Doug MillsIt wasn't without controversy, but the 1993 season ended with Bobby Bowden and Florida State winning the national championship.

Twenty years ago, we had one of the wildest months in college football history. Over the span of four weeks, seven top-10 teams lost, including the No. 1 team twice. Florida State entered the month as No. 1, fell out of that spot and still ended the month atop the polls.

By the end of November, three teams would finish the regular season unbeaten (Nebraska, West Virginia and Auburn), but only two were eligible to play for the national title, and only one would wind up playing for it. The debate simmered for years.

Notre Dame fans were upset that Florida State was playing for the national title with one loss, since that one loss came against the Fighting Irish. West Virginia fans were also upset that FSU was playing for the national title with one loss, with the Mountaineers finishing the season undefeated.

[+] EnlargeTom Osborne
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesTom Osborne was denied his first national title when the Cornhuskers lost to the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl.
In addition, WVU argued that it should be included in the national title game since it had a higher ranking in the coaches poll (No. 2) than Nebraska (No. 3). In the AP poll, Nebraska finished the regular season No. 2 and WVU No. 3. Meanwhile, Auburn fans claimed the Tigers were actually the best team in college football, finishing the season 11-0 and with a win over the eventual SEC champion Florida Gators. The Tigers, however, were on NCAA probation and ineligible for postseason play.

As we begin another month of potential unbeaten controversy in college football, here's a look at 20 things to remember from November 1993.

1. Florida State was the No. 1 team in the AP poll every week of the season prior to November. Entering the month, the Seminoles were 8-0 and had outscored their opponents by a combined total of 350-38.

2. Three of the teams that garnered a lot of attention in November were still not even ranked in the top 5 by the beginning of the month. Nebraska (8-0) was No. 6, Auburn (8-0) was No. 8 and West Virginia (7-0) was No. 11.

3. Ohio State also entered November 8-0, its best start since 1979. Two decades later, the Buckeyes enter November again undefeated.

4. The Miami-WVU game on Nov. 20, 1993, drew a crowd of 70,222 at Mountaineer Field (now called Milan Puskar Stadium). It’s still the largest home crowd in the history of the stadium, which opened in 1980. Capacity for that stadium at that time was 63,000, meaning it was 7,000 over capacity for that game.

5. Notre Dame was ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP poll, the lowest preseason rank for the Irish since 1988, when they were ranked 13th and went on to win the national title.

6. No. 1 Florida State was a 6 1/2-point favorite for its Nov. 13 matchup at No. 2 Notre Dame on Nov. 13, 1993.

7. ESPN's College GameDay staged its first live remote show at the FSU-ND showdown in South Bend.

8. The “Game of the Century” matchup with Florida State was the ninth 1 versus 2 game in Notre Dame history, and the second for FSU. Overall, it was the 14th regular-season 1 versus 2 matchup in AP poll history.

9. The Irish beat the favored Seminoles 31-24 to improve to 10-0, the third time in the previous six seasons the Fighting Irish started a season 10-0 or better (1988, 1989).

10. In a wild month, the following Saturday (Nov. 20) was easily the biggest day. Consider what occurred:

  • No. 1 Notre Dame was upset at home by No. 17 Boston College, 41-39, on a last-second 41-yard field goal by David Gordon.
  • No. 9 West Virginia upset No. 4 Miami, 17-14, keeping WVU's undefeated season alive.
  • No. 5 Ohio State suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of its rival, Michigan, losing 28-0.
  • No. 6 Auburn won the Iron Bowl, beating No. 11 Alabama 22-14 and completing a perfect regular season.

11. That Boston College could come in and beat a No. 1 Notre Dame team was surprising enough -- especially considering the Irish had won that matchup by 47 the year before. But it was more of a shocker when you consider the Eagles started the 1993 season 0-2, including a loss at Northwestern, a team that finished just 2-9.

12. A lot was made about how West Virginia did not deserve to play for the national championship over Florida State or Nebraska, because the Mountaineers played a weaker schedule. Mountaineer fans did not want to hear it, but the numbers appear to back up that argument. FSU’s opponents finished 81-61 (.570), Nebraska’s 59-54-1 (.522) and WVU’s 59-64-2 (.480).

13. West Virginia's argument about deserving a shot at the national championship was always the following: WVU beat the team (Boston College, in the regular-season finale) that beat the team (Notre Dame) that beat the team (Florida State).

14. To understand how wacky the month of November was, look at how the AP poll played out since the middle of October:

  • Oct. 18 poll: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Oct. 25: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 1: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 8: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 15: Notre Dame received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 22: Five different teams received at least one first-place vote
  • Nov. 29: Three different teams received at least one first-place vote
  • Dec. 6: Five different teams received at least one first-place vote.
[+] EnlargeChampion
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesNotre Dame fans are probably still upset about being kept out of the 1993 national championship game despite having beaten FSU.
15. Prior to the Bowl Championship Series, college football's championship game matchups were determined by an organization called the Bowl Coalition. It was made up of five conferences: Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 8 and Southwest -- and Notre Dame. The group had six bowl tie-ins: Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, Sugar, Gator and John Hancock (now Sun Bowl). But it did not include the Pac-10 and Big Ten, because those teams had the tie-in to the Rose Bowl. After the wackiness of November, the top five heading the bowls was:

1. Florida State
2. Nebraska
3. West Virginia
4. Auburn
5. Notre Dame

16. West Virginia was actually invited to play No. 7 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but instead decided to play in the more lucrative Sugar Bowl against No. 8 Florida. The Sugar Bowl was worth approximately $1.1 million more than the Cotton, which elected to invite Notre Dame instead (which beat the Aggies 24-21). The move obviously backfired on the Mountaineers, as they were soundly beaten by the Gators in the Sugar Bowl, 41-7.

17. After losing to Miami on missed field goals in the final seconds in 1991 and 1992, Florida State recruited the top high school kicking prospect, Scott Bentley. Bentley struggled early in his FSU career (seven missed extra-point attempts in the first five games), but eventually was a difference-maker in the Seminoles' run to the national title, kicking the game-winning field goal in a 18-16 Orange Bowl victory against No. 2 Nebraska and giving Bobby Bowden his first national title (and denying Tom Osborne his).

18. Florida State became the first preseason AP No. 1 team to go on to win the national title since Oklahoma in 1985.

19. Auburn's win streak, which began in 1993 as the lone unbeaten, would eventually reach 20 straight before a tie against Georgia on the next-to-last game of the 1994 season. The Tigers lost the following game to Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

20. The matchup that many Mountaineers fans wanted (WVU versus Nebraska) eventually took place … in 1994. The Cornhuskers slammed the Mountaineers in the 1994 Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands, 31-0.
Want to know how popular Notre Dame is? Take a look at ticket prices for some of this fall's games.

OK, not the top price. That has been paid for by folks traveling to College Station, Texas, on Sept. 14 to see if the reigning Heisman Trophy winner can once again take down the defending national champions.

But how about second?

And third?

And fourth?

And seventh?

Coachingsearch.com's Chris Vannini compiled a list of the 10 highest-priced college football games for this fall, using the cheapest available ticket on StubHub as a measure.

Notre Dame appears on the list four times, including twice at home.

The Irish's Oct. 19 night game against arch-rival USC is the second-most expensive ticket to grab now, with the lowest-priced ticket going for $375. Not much further behind is Notre Dame's home tilt three weeks earlier with Oklahoma, which will cost you $350, at minimum, to attend.

Want to see Notre Dame try to even its record to 1-1 in night games at Michigan Stadium? A cool $295, at minimum, will do, making that the fourth-highest priced ticket — $20 more and one spot higher than the Wolverines' annual end-of-season tilt with arch-rival Ohio State, which itself could be playing to put itself in position for a spot in the national title game.

One of the bigger surprises comes in at No. 7, with the Irish's annual Shamrock Series tilt — this year against Arizona State in Arlington, Texas, — drawing a minimum of $249 for a ticket.

Notre Dame's four appearances on the 10-game list edge out Alabama, whose quest for a three-peat features three games demanding plenty of cash — the aforementioned tilt with the Aggies, a Nov. 9 home game with LSU ($255 minimum, good for sixth-most expensive) and the Nov. 30 Iron Bowl at Auburn ($245, ninth).

Oklahoma and Michigan appear on the list two times apiece, including their contests against the Irish.

Armstead not announcing at Army Bowl 

January, 4, 2012
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SAN ANTONIO -- Unlike many of the uncommitted athletes at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, four-star lineman Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif./Pleasant Grove) said he has decided against announcing during Saturday’s football game at the Alamodome.

A massive defensive tackle at 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds, Armstead said he eventually will choose between Oregon, California, Notre Dame, Texas and Auburn. The decision, however, will not take place Saturday, as he wants to take as much time as possible to make the proper decision.

“Some schools are stronger academically than others, and some schools have more opportunities as far as education goes,” Armstead said. “All of the schools do a good job of putting guys in the pros, which is very important, too.”

Armstead, a two-sport star in football and basketball, has visited Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame, and he said an official to Texas may be next for him. He said of the five schools, there are no front-runners, but all five schools have agreed to let him play both sports in college.

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