Notre Dame Football: Charlie Weis

Irish lunchtime links

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
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Two weeks till Halloween ... any good ideas?

Planning for success: Notre Dame

October, 17, 2013
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly caught himself this week when talking about the last time USC visited Notre Dame.

"I just think it was, you know, one of the pieces along the way," Kelly said. "It's just, you know, every family's going to have good days and bad days. That might have been one of our bad days, but we kept it in— we talked about it. We aired out our differences. We took accountability for where mistakes were made, and we moved on from it."

Everyone around the Irish remembers that 2011 contest for everything it wasn't and everything it eventually became — a season- and potential program-crushing moment that the Irish have since rallied from by going 20-5 and making a BCS title game.

Notre Dame has the chance Saturday night to make it 3-for-4 in the Kelly era against the arch-rival Trojans, who seemingly have been granted new life under interim coach Ed Orgeron following the firing of Lane Kiffin.

There will be lights. There will be two historic cross-country rivals. And there will be the chance for the Irish to beat the Trojans at home for the first time since 2001 — an unofficial span of five straight losses to USC here. (USC's 2005 win was eventually vacated.)

"I've been doing this a long time, so it's not really something I worry about," redshirt senior linebacker Dan Fox said of the atmosphere. "But obviously for younger guys and some younger linebackers that have been getting in the game, you've got to let them know it's been a little bit of a whirlwind — night game at home, it's a great atmosphere. So you've kind of just let them know how it's going to be so they're a little bit prepared for it."

That was not exactly the case the last time the programs met here. The Irish were riding a four-game winning streak following an 0-2 start. Notre Dame Stadium was hosting its first night game in 21 years. The players broke in shiny new helmets, and the building pumped in plenty of extra music to amp-up the environment.

Then the underdog, bowl-banned Trojans won 31-17, forcing three turnovers and effectively ending any BCS-bowl hopes for the Irish, who were coming off a bye. Kelly, then in his second year, was livid in the aftermath and drew a public distinction later in the week between the players he recruited and those of former coach Charlie Weis, which led to a social media firestorm from the players and sparked a closed-door apology to the team.

Notre Dame won its next four games after airing out its differences, and all was forgiven and forgotten during last year's perfect 12-0 regular season, a campaign that was punctuated with a win at USC to clinch a title-game berth.

With BCS-bowl hopes still barely alive, the Irish again have plenty on the line this time around as they come out of a bye week. The Trojans, under a new coach, are again seemingly playing with house money. But the lessons learned from that 2011 contest have brought Notre Dame together, as the Irish look to turn the tables in a rivalry that had gone USC's way in eight straight seasons before Kelly arrived in 2010.

"I guess in times where it's easy to kind of pull apart, that's when you truly find out what your team is, maybe find out who your guys are on the team and you pull together, whether it's player and player, coach and player," captain TJ Jones said. "You don't let things like that that can destroy a team destroy you, because you're playing for much more than what a few maybe comments or what a few negative things can do to a team."

Kelly: No alma mater after home losses

September, 29, 2013
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No alma mater after a loss.

That's Notre Dame's new home-game policy, instituted two years ago and cleared up Sunday by coach Brian Kelly during his teleconference, a day after some postgame confusion ensued following the Irish's 35-21 home loss to Oklahoma, with some players leaving immediately before most bee-lined toward the student section to engage in song.

The Irish's 10-game home winning streak was snapped by the Sooners so the players were not exactly versed in this exercise.

"A lot of our players were confused because they hadn't lost, a lot of them had never lost at home, and they weren't sure what to do," Kelly said. "I didn't communicate it to them clearly, what the protocol was, but we changed that protocol two years ago after a loss.

"We don't stay out on the field to sing the alma mater. We come in. And that wasn't communicated clearly. I wasn't thinking about losing a football game; it wasn't on my to-do list to go over with my team. It's a protocol we changed a couple years ago that we do not stay out on the field after the alma mater to sing after a loss."

Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis had started the routine in the 2006 season, his second with the Irish.

"I just don't think it's appropriate to put your players after a defeat in a situation where they're exposed," Kelly said Sunday. "I want to get them in the locker room. It's important to talk to them, and I just felt like in those situations, after a loss, there's a lot of emotions. It's important to get the team back into the locker room and get them under my guidance."

Notes: Kelly will talk to ACC officials about Ben Councell's second-half ejection Saturday for targeting. Councell, by rule, has to sit the first half this coming Saturday against Arizona State. Romeo Okwara will likely take his spot as the No. 2 Dog linebacker. … Sheldon Day "tweaked" his ankle during warmups against Oklahoma, causing Kelly to sit him after he missed last week with an ankle sprain. TJ Jones "rolled" his ankle Saturday but should be fine moving forward. … Greg Bryant did not play because of a knee injury suffered this past week. … Tommy Rees is "certainly" Notre Dame's starting quarterback, with Andrew Hendrix serving as a complementary piece. Kelly said that, barring an injury situation to either signal-caller, he'd prefer not to play freshman Malik Zaire this season.

The last fullback of Notre Dame

August, 30, 2013
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The last fullback of Notre Dame spent his final Saturday night surrounded by a half-dozen or so friends and family members, two pizzas and a handful of Miller Lites in brother Andrew's house while Floyd Mayweather fought Robert Guerrero on the television screen.

Asaph Schwapp wanted more moments like this one. Just knowing that Mayweather would ultimately win the bout, he spent much of that May night discussing plans for the summer, telling the gathering how they all needed to get together more often for cookouts in the coming months.

This is the way it often went with "Ace," whether it was helping a third-grade classmate with simple multiplication problems, calling a junior high friend he had no relation to his "cousin," or -- as the buddy quickly discovered -- threatening to beat up said junior high friend if he dared tell anyone that they were anything other than cousins.

That was something that the last fullback of Notre Dame could have done with ease, what with a 6-foot, 257-pound frame during his playing days with the Fighting Irish. One of former coach Charlie Weis' first recruits, Ace "just looked like muscles on top of muscles," Weis said.

[+] EnlargeGolden Tate, Pat Kuntz, Asaph Schwapp, George West, David Grimes, Emeka Nwankwo
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesAsaph Schwapp (44) loved his time and teammates at Notre Dame.
He was talking about the Ace he had first met, the 17-year-old prospect out of Weaver (Conn.) High.

"He came in as if weightlifting was something he had mastered," Weis said.

In the nine years since committing to Notre Dame, Ace became his state's player of the year, totaled 160 yards over four years with the Irish, signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, got cut, joined his hometown United Football League team, tore his ACL twice and worked for Merrill Lynch.

He was also diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, in March of 2012. Four months later he was still bench-pressing 400 pounds, while squatting 500. Two months after that he went in for what seemed like his final PET scan, after chemotherapy, only to get word that his body had not properly responded -- and that another, stronger round of chemo would be needed.

"It's obviously not what anyone wanted to hear, but all I can do is stay positive," Schwapp said at the time.

Ace did just that right until May 8, when he died at the age of 26. The last fullback of Notre Dame will be honored Saturday before the Irish open their season against Temple, when brothers Alvin and Andrew, along with their uncle, Clarke King, present the national colors on the Notre Dame Stadium field.

"That's the place where he made a name for himself and grew and became the young man we were all very much proud of," Alvin said. "So to be on the field that had such a tremendous impact on his life will be moving. It'll be an emotional moment."

Ace's mother, Evelyn, died of colon cancer when he was just 9. He moved in with Evelyn's sister, Loretta, and her husband, Clarke, who raised him. When he was diagnosed last year, he moved in with oldest brother Alvin, his wife and his three daughters. He spent his final months living with Andrew, his other older brother.

"He really genuinely had the patience of a saint," Alvin said through a laugh, "because little things he'd do with my girls, whether it was being captured on video doing silly things or having his nails painted or whatever, he engulfed in all of that just for the love of it, to see the joy in them. So that's a fantastic uncle."

Uncle, brother, friend -- Ace wore many hats for those around him, touching everyone with his infectious charisma. He might have been most proud of his hometown of Hartford, so much so that Alvin joked that the only people who said they loved the city more than his youngest brother were politicians.

Malcolm Harrison moved to Hartford from Canada in 2003. Born in Jamaica, Harrison never really had a place to call home before coming to Connecticut and attending Weaver with Schwapp. Ace was one of the first people he met after the move, and Harrison was blown away by how much his new friend cared about his new city.

"He always said there's a lot of kids out there like him, and he also wanted them to grow up with the proper education or the right people there to tell them what to do," Harrison said. "He talked a lot about guiding these kids. He wanted to make sure that they were not alone and could make it with hard work and dedication."

Ace's cancer, simply, was no match for that message.

"When the doctor gave him news he didn't want to hear, he was positive," Harrison said. "I'd text, 'Are you OK?' He'd be like, 'I'm fine. I'm all right. How are you today? Did you go to the gym? Did you study?' You would never know that he was hurting or that he had cancer, because he was so positive about it and always more worried about you and how you were doing."

Alvin, a 47-year-old retired cop and member of the Army Reserve, called Ace the bravest person he ever met. He had learned that Ace's desire was to keep his loved ones from knowing the battle his body was engaged in every day, instead choosing to enjoy every precious moment he had with them, like that final weekend of pizza, beer and boxing.

"I believe he didn't want to burden anyone with his problems," said his cousin, Andre King, who was with Ace that Saturday. "I think he was the only one who knew how sick he really was."

Four days later, he was gone, surrounded in his final hours by dozens of friends and family members in his hospital room. Six days after that, on May 14, came his viewing and funeral. A line formed around the Carmon Funeral Home some two hours before services were set to begin. Extra parking lots were needed for the roughly 1,000 people who showed up to pay their respects.

An hour into the service, visitors were invited up to share their favorite memories of Ace. A two-minute limit was given. Every bit was needed.

The third-grade buddy with multiplication problems, Alicia, stood before the audience and said that she coined the phrase "Asaph Energy," a term she would ask people for whenever they complained.

The junior high friend-turned-cousin, Ray Ray, came up and said he had suffered a broken leg in flag football because of Asaph. All would be forgiven, he joked, had Ace hooked him up with Pro Bowl tickets in the future.

There were more, many more: an old friend who said Ace broke his ankle, forcing him to miss the playoffs one year; a buddy who said Ace inspired him to lose more than 100 pounds; current Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker, who recalled sharing the same NFL dreams with Ace when both were Hartford prep stars.

They went on and on, stories of laughter and injuries and dreams in the making.

"Not that it's a bad thing," King, Ace's cousin, said sheepishly, "but that was probably the longest funeral I've ever been to."

King said he does not get too sad about Ace, reminding himself that his cousin did more in 26 years of life than most do in 80.

"He had such a good spirit about him that he could take over a room without being the center of attention," Alvin said. "People would normally gravitate toward him."

A fullback's job, by definition, is to block and pave the way for those behind him. He goes mostly unnoticed, and he has been gradually phased out of today's game in the era of spread offenses and multiple receiver sets.

The last fullback of Notre Dame will return Saturday, though. Through the presence of his family and all the lessons they have carried, the man who played the position that everyone forgot will continue to command the legacy of a guy everyone loved.

Irish lunch links

August, 1, 2013
8/01/13
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Finally August!

Irish lunch links

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
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SI.com's Andy Staples recently took on the fun task of drafting in reverse order for every FBS team in 2013, using college players eligible for this season. The hypothetical takes into account a player's college career and years of eligibility remaining.

Like many NFL mock drafts, this one, too, features a pair of Notre Dame players in the top 10.

From Staples:
4. Akron: DE Stephon Tuitt, Jr., Notre Dame, 6-6, 303

Why Tuitt and not Notre Dame linemate Louis Nix III? Because Tuitt is a junior, and because his mom's view on football is such that there might be a slim chance he decides to stick around for his senior year. Terry Bowden had a miserable first season in Akron, but Tuitt could help year two go a lot more smoothly. Defensive coordinator Chuck Amato would have a blast figuring out how to use a 300-pounder who runs like a receiver.

9. UNLV: DT Louis Nix III, R-Jr., Notre Dame, 6-3, 340

Tired of stinking on defense, UNLV coach Bobby Hauck selects the sturdiest building block in the country. Nix likely will only play one more college season, but he can set UNLV on the right path defensively.

That's not all from the Irish, however, as No. 39 brings us to a reunion in Lawrence, Kan.
39. Kansas: OT Zack Martin, R-Sr., Notre Dame, 6-4, 304

Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis is thrilled Rhule went with youth, because it allows Weis to take a player he recruited but barely got to coach. Martin redshirted during Weis' final season at Notre Dame. For one year, he'll be the foundation of Weis' offense.

Staples also has former Irish and current USF end Aaron Lynch going to new conference rival Cincinnati at No. 91.

And who does Notre Dame end up with at No. 121? (The draft order is the reverse of the Sagarin rankings.) Brian Kelly scoops up Alabama redshirt sophomore center Ryan Kelly, who backed up Barrett Jones last season and has yet to start a game for the Crimson Tide.

Irish lunch links

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
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Just waiting for the other shoe to drop with A-Rod ...

SI: Kelly among top coaches

July, 10, 2013
7/10/13
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SI.com's Stewart Mandel unveiled a list this week that will surely draw lots of praise and criticism: The 10 best and five worst coaches in college football.

Brian Kelly fell just outside of the top-10 list, checking in with four other coaches in the "just missed" section.

There are a pair of very familiar faces on the five worst list, however: USC's Lane Kiffin and Kansas' Charlie Weis.

Mandel stresses that the list is about the best and worst right now, meaning they are not career achievement lists. Hence, no Mack Brown, who won a national title at Texas in 2005 but has had mediocre squads the past three seasons.

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are Nos. 1 and 2 on the list, respectively, as they have been on most other coaching lists. It's tough to argue against those two and their multiple national titles.

I do, however, think Kelly belongs somewhere in the top 10. While coaches like TCU's Gary Patterson (fourth on the list) and Baylor's Art Briles (10th) have had much less to work with, there's no denying Kelly's track record, especially in taking last year's team to the BCS title game, resurrecting a program that had been through too many disappointing campaigns in the 24 years preceding 2012.

Bobby Petrino is at No. 9 as well, which is a bit of a head-scratcher for me.

Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis made more from the school in the 2011 season than Brian Kelly, the man who actually coached the Irish.

Weis, now the coach at Kansas, received a buyout payment of $2,054,744 from Notre Dame as part of the agreement for his 2009 firing, according to the Chicago Tribune, which cited federal tax documents the school provided the newspaper.

To read the full story, click here.

Irish lunch links

May, 20, 2013
5/20/13
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Not a bad gift.

Irish lunch links

May, 14, 2013
5/14/13
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It wasn't for lack of heart, Bulls.
In some ways, social media is often a popularity contest. And few fare better in popularity contests than Notre Dame, which attracts attention like no other on an annual basis, win or lose.

The latest example comes from the Tulsa World's Kelly Hines, who compiled a list of college football coaches by Twitter followers.

No. 2 on the list? Brian Kelly.

The fourth-year Irish coach has 91,042 Twitter followers as of the writing, trailing only LSU's Les Miles, who has 105,760.

Anyone who has seen Miles live-tweet a sporting event in the past should not be all that surprised, given the Tigers coach's seemingly unfiltered thoughts on everything.

Kelly's successor at Cincinnati, new Tennessee coach Butch Jones, checks in at No. 3 on the list, at 75,300 followers.

Other coaches of interest to Notre Dame fans are USC's Lane Kiffin (18th, 29,790), Kansas' Charlie Weis (28th, 17,460), MSU's Mark Dantonio (39th, 9,425), BYU's Bronco Mendenhall (53rd, 4,560), Nevada's Brian Polian (60th, 3,046), Temple's Matt Rhule (66th, 2,289), UMass' Charley Molnar (76th, 1,548) and Navy's Ken Niumatalolo (84th, 837).
Another list, another debate — though this one should again have Notre Dame fans pleased following the Irish's 2012 campaign.

The Sporting News' Matt Hayes released his list of college football coach rankings this week, one week after AthlonSports delivered a list of its own. Athlon had Brian Kelly ranked fourth. Hayes has Kelly fifth.

His reasoning:
5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: How impressive has Kelly been at ND? The weight of the program hasn’t crushed him like it did every other coach since Lou Holtz retired. The Alabama loss in last year’s BCS National Championship Game was brutal, but he somehow managed to get a team with significant flaws (freshman quarterback, tight-end-oriented passing game) all the way to the big game. He won championships at the NCAA lower divisions, won conference championships at the non-BCS and BCS levels, and will win a national title at Notre Dame.

The usual suspects top this list: Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Meyer. After that? The debate really begins.

Boise State's Chris Petersen is No. 3, followed by Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

Athlon's list, meanwhile, had Kansas State's Bill Snyder at No. 3.

There really are no right or wrong answers with any of these, depending on your view. Program-builder? Hard to argue with Snyder, Petersen or Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, who comes in at No. 8 on Hayes' list. Length of success? Few can doubt Stoops' mark in Norman, though consecutive BCS-bowl-less campaigns have not made him the most popular guy among the die-hards lately.

Then there are the real head-scratchers, guys like Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, who comes in at No. 34 on Hayes' list but is No. 9 on Athlon's. Les Miles is another one who seems to draw opposing reactions, as the LSU coach is ninth on Hayes' list but 24th on Athlon's.

Most can agree with Saban and Meyer at the top. After proving this past season that Notre Dame can succeed at the highest level, Kelly is making a case for himself to be right up there, too.

Former Notre Dame coaches Charlie Weis and Bob Davie check in at Nos. 57 and 87, respectively.
Much of college football debate is based on lists and rankings. Notre Dame fans know this as much as anyone after a 2012 regular season that did not see the Irish rise from fourth to first in all of the major polls until the three teams ahead of them dropped games.

Those same fans will have a hard time being upset with the list that AthlonSports released this week: College football head coaches, Nos. 1-125.

Brian Kelly's spot? No. 4.

Steven Lassan writes:
Not many coaches in college football can rival Kelly’s resume in four stops as a head coach. Kelly’s first head coaching gig came in 1991 at Grand Valley State, and he stayed in that capacity until 2003. During 13 years with Grand Valley State, Kelly went 118-35-2 and won two Division II titles. After his success with the Lakers, Kelly went 19-16 with Central Michigan, which included a MAC championship in 2006. Kelly moved on to Cincinnati at the end of the 2006 season and guided the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East titles in 2008 and 2009. After back to-back 8-5 seasons with Notre Dame, Kelly led the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the BCS National Championship game at the end of the 2012 season. Despite the blowout loss to Alabama in the title game, Kelly clearly has the program back on track to be an annual top 10-15 team.

The three men ahead of Kelly? Alabama's Nick Saban, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Kansas State's Bill Snyder. Few can make a legitimate argument right now against the first two, as each is the owner of multiple national championships at college football's highest level. The Snyder spot could be up for debate, but when you take into account his longevity -- and remember just how bad the Wildcats were before his arrival -- it is tough to top what he has done in his 21-year career, ring or no ring.

How about some of the names above whom Kelly is ranked? South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (No. 5), Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (No. 7), LSU's Les Miles (No. 24) and Texas' Mack Brown (No. 28) are title-winners who finished behind Kelly on the list, though Miles is the only of that quartet whose best years have been among his most recent ones.

Other names of note to Notre Dame fans are UCF's George O'Leary (No. 68), New Mexico's Bob Davie (No. 89) and Kansas' Charlie Weis (No. 106).

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