Notre Dame Football: Cole Luke

Irish lunch links

April, 2, 2014
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Tough, tough news for Natalie Achonwa and the Irish.

Notre Dame mailblog

March, 28, 2014
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As always, submissions are welcome here or on Twitter.

Will Salvi from Chicago writes: Matt, you're the man. Chris and I are big fans. Coach [Brian] Kelly has been known to use multiple quarterbacks in the past, how likely do you think that situation is given the potential of Malik Zaire and the return of Everett Golson? Their styles seem similar, but they also have a lot of different qualities. Thoughts? Also, the safety situation is delicate, but also exciting. We have multiple safeties with plenty of experience, who do you see coming out with the most playing time. Special teams standout for next year? (I say Connor Cavalaris).Thanks, Matt. --Will

[+] EnlargeMalik Zaire
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsEven if he doesn't win the starting QB job, expect to see Malik Zaire on the field this fall.
Matt Fortuna: Is this our first mailbag submission from a former player? I believe so! Good to hear from you, Will, and thanks for the kind words. While I expect Everett Golson to be the starter come Week 1, I'd be surprised if the staff didn't find an in-game use for Zaire in some capacity; he's too talented to stand on the sideline for a second straight year. He actually has displayed a level of shiftiness that we haven't exactly seen out of Golson. And given the Irish's red zone issues in recent years, it would not surprise me at all if Zaire received some meaningful action down there in some specific packages inside the 20. As for safeties, I'd be surprised if we saw any two play significantly more than others, if only for the fact that there are so many bodies back there right now and it seems like all are going to get package-specific chances to see meaningful action. (Though I'd expect Austin Collinsworth to be the leader of that unit.) As for Connor Cavalaris, I'll be keeping a close eye on him this season and hold you to that prediction.


Kevin from Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Besides the QB battle, what is the biggest position battle to watch during spring and summer practice?

Matt Fortuna: Hey Kevin, I'd keep an eye defensively on linebacker and the secondary. Notre Dame has moved plenty of players around the field so far this spring, and we have seen much more of a 4-3 front so far. The Irish are very thin inside at linebacker but will get some re-enforcements from a healthy Jarrett Grace and the freshmen who arrive this summer. Speaking of re-enforcements, Cody Riggs will arrive from Florida this summer as well, adding further depth to a secondary that is not lacking for bodies. I don't think the eventual Week 1 depth chart will really tell the story with the Irish's defensive backs, as they have been mixing and matching their safeties (Austin Collinsworth, Elijah Shumate, Max Redfield, Nicky Baratti, to name a few) and corners (KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke, Matthias Farley), all of whom are expected to see significant time this fall.


Kenny Moore from Bluefield, W. Va., writes: As fans we have heard Coach Kelly talk about improving special team play especially on punt returns. Please tell me this is the year it gets fixed?

Matt Fortuna: OK: This is the year it gets fixed.

As for what Kelly has had to say about it recently, here are his comments from March 19, after he said they had practiced it every day this spring: "To me, where some of our shortcomings have been is the allocation of personnel in specific roles. We're spending time in breaking out specific players in specific roles right away. We're working on those fundamentals so they can carry those fundamentals into the summer and work on those fundamentals, so when we get here in August it's not the first time that they're working on specific fundamentals. We're allocating specific players to those fundamentals."


Matt Bortuna from Philadelphia writes: Hey Matt, first off, this is my real name. Difference is Bortuna is pronounced "BORT-eh-NA", a little different than Fortuna. I have a few questions regarding the depth chart. Should us Irish fans expect Cam McDaniel to eventually ride the pine by midseason or sooner if Bryant and Folston live up to the hype? Also, who are the favorites to return kickoffs and punts? Thanks for everything, Matt. Go Irish!

Matt Fortuna: This is incredible. Too bad I don't have any relatives in Philly. Anyway, to get to your question, I don't think we'll see McDaniel riding the pine this season. While I expect Greg Bryant to make a leap and Tarean Folston to continue to build off his strong finish to last season, it would be asking an awful lot of them to become so good that they completely cast aside the team's leading returning rusher last season, especially one who's a senior. As for kickoffs and punts, I'd imagine the two second-year running backs, C.J. Prosise and a couple of other receivers will get chances in the return game, but it's important to remember that the Irish didn't announce their punt returner for last season until late August.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Spring football is under way at Notre Dame. And if the snowbanks at every turn of campus weren't an indication, the sight of a No. 5 throwing footballs in a red jersey again sure was.

Yes, all eyes were on Everett Golson during his first Irish practice in nearly a year, with Avicii's "Levels" blasting once stretching was done and the tempo drill was under way. The media was able to view the first 30 minutes of practice from a balcony in the Loftus Sports Complex, with Golson and the offense running tempo on the far end of the field and the defense getting into gear right below us.

Golson is set to meet the media after practice for the first time since his return to school so we will have more on him later on Monday. As for what could be gathered about his weapons with the 2014 season still far away …
We'll have more later on Monday, as Golson will be joined by seven other players, plus coach Brian Kelly, following the completion of spring practice No. 1.

Recapping Friday's 'The Echoes'

December, 16, 2013
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Brian Kelly's bigger workload was on display already Friday night, when the Notre Dame head coach presented not one, not two, not three, but four different awards during the Irish's awards banquet, named "The Echoes" for the second straight year.

He did say on Saturday, however, that he does not expect any more of his assistants to leave, and that was seemingly confirmed shortly afterward by defensive line coach Mike Elston, whose first-ever tweet was the announcement he's staying at Notre Dame. (There had been some chatter that he could follow Bob Diaco to UConn to become the Huskies' defensive coordinator.)

As for the awards show, TJ Jones took home team MVP honors in a team vote that Kelly said wasn't even close. (Yours truly had predicted Jones as the winner beforehand, just as he had predicted the correct final score of the Stanford game.)

Jones easily took home best-dressed honors on the night, wearing a burgundy suit with a bowtie and some hipster glasses. Corey Robinson and Chris Watt were among the bowtie-wearers as well.

The biggest news, or non-news, of the night came when Stephon Tuitt met with the media afterward, saying he remains undecided on his future.

As for the big winners on Friday...
There was also in-show fan voting for best hit and best catch honors, which went to Tuitt and Jones for their plays against USC.

What we learned: Week 8

October, 20, 2013
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Here is what to take away from Notre Dame's 14-10 win Saturday over USC, as the Irish improved to 5-2 on the season with a trip to Air Force awaiting them this week:

1. No Rees = big problem. Notre Dame's offensive woes were evident when Tommy Rees went down in the third quarter with a neck strain. The Irish totaled just 30 yards (including penalties) and netted one first down on six drives (not including a seventh in which Hendrix kneeled twice.) Notre Dame better hope that Rees heals quickly, as it simply could not move the ball without him Saturday against USC.

2. Defense steps up when called upon. This looked like the Notre Dame defense of 2012 on Saturday, with the Irish playing big in the second half when the offense needed to be bailed out. USC punted the ball four times, missed a field goal, turned it over on downs twice and had a pass picked off by Jaylon Smith -- all in the second half. The Irish brought pressure up front and defended the run much better late, limiting the Trojans' chances of making something happen in a tight game.

3. Atmosphere doesn't get to newcomers. Smith had a pick to open the third quarter, Cole Luke played well in the secondary and Joe Schmidt stepped up big late in his first real extended action with the Irish. The noise level was very loud and USC had a number of false-start penalties. But after last season's eight-total-turnover game against Michigan and Saturday's offensively-challenged second half, perhaps we could all use a break from home night games, at least from a football perspective.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Cole Luke is a true freshman from Arizona. Corey Robinson is a rookie from Texas. Both have seen extended playing time in their first five games at Notre Dame, and both will be part of reunions of sorts on Saturday when the Irish face Arizona State in Arlington, Texas, though both have tempered any excitement about the familiarity of the weekend.

[+] EnlargeCorey Robinson
AP Photo/Michael ConroyCorey Robinson returns to his home state of Texas when Notre Dame plays Arizona State in Arlington on Saturday.
"Honestly, I'm going to treat it like every other game," Luke said. "Trying to do the regular stuff that I do against any other team -- Oklahoma, Michigan State, so it doesn't really matter who I play, I'm just going to do the same stuff that I always do."

That role has increased for Luke in recent weeks, with the 5-foot-11, 184-pounder jumping from nickelback to the next-guy-in at corner behind starters Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell, tallying three tackles, one break-up and one pass defended in the process.

Luke, who will face a pair of buddies in Sun Devil starters D.J. Foster and Jaxon Hood — the latter of whom was his prep teammate at Chandler High — never really gave ASU much consideration because he was set on leaving the state.

Robinson, the Irish offense's 6-4.5, 205-pound target, had more hesitation leaving Texas, though the academics, tradition and "mystique" of Notre Dame convinced him to get out of the Lone Star State.

"My older brother goes to [Texas], so I was thinking about staying in Texas, being around my family going to see Spurs games," said Robinson, the son of former NBA great David Robinson. "That's a really big thing for me. My whole life I grew up in the stadium and in the arena."

Robinson has four catches for 66 yards this season. He is also a skilled ukulele player, as he and defensive linemen Kona Schwenke demonstrated after interviews Wednesday for television cameras in town to film a special on the Irish program.

The San Antonio native enrolled this past January, allowing him to adapt to the learning curve and get thrown into the fire early.

"Before it was just like a whole new playbook, and then they'll just throw you right in, especially coming in the winter, so it was just trying to stay alive," Robinson said. "And then now it's like actually understanding some of this stuff. Before it was just like: 'What is it? What is it? What is it?' And now it's kind of slowing down and I'll be like, 'Oh, that makes sense now,' because it's conceptual and I'm starting to understand everything."

What we learned: Week 4

September, 22, 2013
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Did we really learn anything from Notre Dame's 17-13 win over Michigan State?

1. Limiting mistakes is sometimes enough. We all know that turnovers have cost Notre Dame in the past. But I didn't realize just how much until I saw this postgame stat: The Irish are 12-0 under coach Brian Kelly when they don't turn it over. They came awfully close a few times Saturday, especially on special teams, and Tommy Rees did not have a great day. But they won the turnover battle 1-0, which ended up being the difference in the game.

2. Run game needs to get going. The Irish ran for just 82 yards on 32 carries. They went empty backfield on a number of third-and-short plays, an oddity considering that Rees is not a mobile quarterback. MSU's defense is among the best in the nation, so the Spartans deserve some credit, but this was not the kind of start the Irish wanted on the ground through four games.

3. Rookies step up. Corey Robinson had his best game. Will Fuller made a 37-yard catch. Cole Luke and Devin Butler saw time together. Tarean Folston even got four carries for 12 yards. (Though everyone's still waiting to see Greg Bryant on more than kick coverage.) The first-year guys took advantage of some opportunities, perhaps earning more trust as the season progresses.

What we learned about ND: Week 1

September, 1, 2013
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Here's what to take away from Notre Dame's 28-6 season-opening win over Temple.

ND1. Rees looks better. There's no such thing as a perfectly clean opening game. But Notre Dame delivered about as crisp of a performance as one could have asked for offensively, starting with Tommy Rees. He led the Irish to touchdowns on their first two drives and avoided the bad decisions that had plagued him earlier in his career, allowing Irish nation to rest easy as Notre Dame heads to Michigan for Week 2.

2. Carlisle might become a major factor. Notre Dame's first play of the game? A 45-yard rush for Amir Carlisle, who was playing in his first game with the Irish after a broken ankle cost him last season after getting a waiver to play immediately following his transfer from USC. Carlisle had a team-best 68 rushing yards on just seven carries, adding two catches for 5 yards. He looked like the best of the five running backs the Irish used Saturday, and he could grow into a bigger role in the offense as the season progresses.

3. Kicking woes need to be resolved. Brian Kelly wanted Week 1 to be somewhat of a tryout between Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza. Kelly could not have liked what he saw, as each missed his lone field goal attempt. Michigan will be far less forgiving of such mistakes next week if Notre Dame cannot work out the kinks there.

4. Freshmen make presence felt. Notre Dame played 10 true freshmen in the opener, with Corey Robinson and Jaylon Smith earning the starts. Receivers James Onwualu and Will Fuller, cornerback Cole Luke and end Isaac Rochell saw action early, with Max Redfield and Devin Butler getting special teams action. Running backs Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston carried the ball late in the game, finishing with 35 total yards. Folston was the only freshman to catch a pass, hauling in a 9-yard grab.

What to watch: Notre Dame vs. Temple

August, 29, 2013
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Here's what to keep an eye on Saturday when the Irish host the Owls.

1. Running backs: William Mahone is out with an ankle sprain, but five other backs will get the chance to make plays Saturday, starting with George Atkinson III. Seeing how often, and how well, the offense runs the pistol is also noteworthy.


2. Jaylon Smith: The five-star freshman will likely start from Day 1, giving all a glimpse of what made him such a prized prospect and what allowed him to ascend up the depth chart so quickly in camp.

3. Defensive depth: If there were ever a game on Notre Dame's schedule to figure out what it has down the depth chart, especially on the increasingly thin defensive line, this is it. And not just because of the expected heat. Keep an eye on fresh faces Cole Luke and Max Redfield in the secondary.
Class is back in session today. And that doesn't just mean that yours truly has returned from vacation. Notre Dame's summer classes start today, which also marks the first day of the rest of 18 football newcomers' lives.

The Irish reeled in ESPN's No. 4 recruiting class in the nation for 2013 prospects -- a ranking that had included No. 10 overall prospect Eddie Vanderdoes -- and a majority of that group officially begins their college lives today.

Steve Elmer, Mike Heuerman, James Onwualu, Corey Robinson and Malik Zaire already received head-starts, having enrolled this past semester and going through spring ball with their new teammates. Here's a refresher course on some of the new faces on campus today. (* denotes an ESPN150 member; ** denotes an ESPN300 member)

Pre-spring breakdown: Secondary

March, 19, 2013
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Our series wraps up with the defensive backs.

Starters returning: Bennett Jackson, KeiVarae Russell, Matthias Farley
Players returning: Austin Collinsworth, Lo Wood, Nicky Baratti, Elijah Shumate, Jalen Brown, Josh Atkinson, Eilar Hardy, C.J. Prosise, Chris Badger, John Turner
Players departing: Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter, Dan McCarthy, Chris Salvi
Newcomers: Max Redfield, Devin Butler, Cole Luke, Rashad Kinlaw

The breakdown: The secondary was the biggest concern going into 2012, and it ended up becoming the biggest surprise. Though the group had a night to forget on Jan. 7 in Miami against Alabama, three starters are back from a stingy unit that suddenly finds itself with another numbers problem -- this time a good one.

Russell, a converted freshman running back, did better than anyone could have ever imagined after rising to the No. 1 spot when Wood went down with a preseason Achilles tear. Jackson lived up to the high preseason words of the coaching staff, finishing third on the team in tackles (65) and adding four picks. Farley, another converted player who made his first appearance in the secondary on a college field (after a redshirt season), adapted well as a tackler. He put in all the necessary post-practice work with safeties coach Bob Elliott to emerge as a strong starter after Slaughter -- who is done after being denied a sixth year by the NCAA -- went down with an Achilles tear of his own. Like Russell, Farley has three years left at Notre Dame.

Wood, a projected starter last season before getting hurt, enters the mix this season as well, though how much he'll be able to do this spring remains to be seen. Collinsworth saw extensive action at safety as a sophomore but underwent both shoulder and back surgeries that forced him to sit out all of last season. He is expected to be back this spring. He will surely give Notre Dame another proven body in the defensive backfield.

Baratti saw plenty of time on defense in his first college season, and you can expect to see him on the field often in one capacity or another. He played often on special teams last season too. Shumate was essentially the Irish's nickelback after converting from safety, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up given the numbers situation back there in 2013.

Among newcomers, Redfield has received the most attention, as he was the No. 23 overall player from the Class of 2013, according to ESPN. He will not enroll until the summer.

Folston stays with Notre Dame

February, 6, 2013
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ESPN 150 athlete Tarean Folston (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa) made his pledge to Notre Dame official Wednesday afternoon, becoming the Irish's ninth ESPN 150 commit, 12th ESPN 300 commit and 23rd overall player to sign his national letter of intent with the program.

Our Corey Long rates Folston a 4 on the immediate impact scale , saying he should be able to contribute upon his arrival to campus, be it at running back, receiver or defensive back.

Notre Dame currently sits at No. 4 in RecruitingNation's rankings, and the school will wait like everyone else until 8 p.m. ET tonight to hear the announcement of Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer), the nation's top defensive tackle.

Here are the names that came through the fax machines for Notre Dame earlier today:
Durham Smythe was once committed to Texas. He was considered a Stanford lean. He had a trip to Michigan scheduled for next weekend.

On Sunday, he committed to Notre Dame.

Smythe, a four-star prospect, becomes the Irish's 23rd commitment for the class of 2013 and their third tight end prospect of this class.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder gave his word to head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin near the end of his official visit this weekend, our Max Olson reports , and he will look to become the next in line at Tight End U following the departure of record-setter Tyler Eifert. (Eifert's predecessor, Kyle Rudolph, was voted Pro Bowl MVP on Sunday night.)

“I talked to the staff and they’re stacked with three junior tight ends and then I know they have me and Mike,” Smythe told Olson. “They use a lot of tight ends in a way I’m familiar with, so hopefully we can continue that tradition.”

Notre Dame remains No. 3 in ESPN's class of 2013 recruiting rankings , trailing No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama.

Below, we break down the Irish's 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes. The 2013 class features nine ESPN 150 prospects (*), three ESPN300 prospects (**), one five-star commit, 18 four-stars and four three-stars. The class of 2014 consists of four players, all of whom are ESPN Watch List members.

Class of 2013
Class of 2014
  • Watch List OLB Greer Martini (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest)
  • Watch List OT Jay Hayes (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep)
  • Watch List OT Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius)
  • Watch List WR Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind./Speedway)

Bryant addition another boost

December, 10, 2012
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Notre Dame has gotten quite the lift off the field following a 12-0 regular season on it.

Look no further than this past weekend, when four-star running back Greg Bryant pledged to the Irish, one day after the school beat out Ohio State for Class of 2014 Watch List offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne. Insider

Bryant, Notre Dame's 22nd 2013 commit, immediately becomes the Irish's second-highest rated prospect, beyond Jaylon Smith. And he will likely have the chance to step in immediately, with the Irish losing Theo Riddick and possibly Cierre Wood after this season.

With Bryant, George Atkinson III, Cam McDaniel, the yet-to-be-seen Amir Carlisle and freshman William Mahone, the Irish should have no shortage of backs to turn to next season, and the different styles each brings will create an interesting dynamic.

The addition of Bryant moved Notre Dame up one spot, to No. 3, in ESPN's class of 2013 recruiting rankings, behind USC and Florida. Insider You can read scouts' take on Bryant here. Insider

Below, we break down the Irish's 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes. The 2013 class features eight ESPN150 prospects (*), four ESPN300 prospects (**), 17 four-star commits and one five-star. The Class of 2014 consists of four players, three of whom are ESPN Watch List members.

Class of 2013
Class of 2014

Irish recruiting roundup

November, 7, 2012
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Busy week.

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The latest from Gustin at The Opening
ESPN 300 athlete Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) took time out to talk recruiting and more with WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz on Tuesday at The Opening.
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