Notre Dame Football: Corey Robinson

Irish lunch links

April, 11, 2014
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Safe travels to those going to the Blue-Gold game.

Notre Dame mailblog

April, 4, 2014
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Thanks for chiming in. As always, feel free to tweet any more questions you have here or drop 'em in the mailbag.

Away we go ...

Brendan Shaw from Raleigh, N.C. writes: Hi Matt, doing a great job as usual! This is a long shot, but is there any chance Kelly puts in a two-QB package to mess with the opposing defense? If you think about it, having two dual-threat QBs on the field simultaneously gives you a minimum of a quadruple threat in the backfield. Opposing d-coordinators may just quit football after trying to figure that out for a quarter or two. Regards, Brendan.

Matt Fortuna: Thanks for the kind words, Brendan. Having both quarterbacks on the field at the same time? That would be news to me, especially since I haven't seen either of these guys try their hands at something other than quarterback. That being said, I'd be surprised if Malik Zaire didn't see some meaningful action during the season, as I am sure Brian Kelly and the staff will do everything they can to keep him engaged. He seems to have another gear as a runner, and he could certainly be useful in some red-zone packages as well, as the Fighting Irish have struggled to punch it in down there so much in recent years. I wonder if throwing a lefty in in the middle of a game could prove to be a nice little wrinkle, too.

Mike S. from Chicago writes: Hi Matt, great work as always. Question: how is the schedule for ACC games determined each year? We know it's a rotation with up to five games, but how are the opponents determined each season and how are home-and-aways done?

Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Mike. It is, by all accounts, a collaborative effort. And the ACC has shown some flexibility so far to accommodate the Irish, allowing them to play four conference games in 2014 and six in 2015 because of previous schedule arrangements. Both parties plan on keeping things that way, hoping to blend a balance so that a) Notre Dame isn't facing a death row of Florida State/Clemson/Miami in a given season (just using those teams as an example) b) the Irish can fill their 6-5-1 scheduling arrangement (six at home, five on road, one Shamrock Series) and c) so that they play all 14 ACC teams over a three-year span. As you can see, it takes a lot of legwork from all sides, which explains why we didn't know the Irish's 2014 schedule until December of this year (and why the school released three years of schedules at once).

Michael Fry writes: Hi Matt, I have 3 questions for you: 1. Since he arrived on campus last year, und.com has made a point of showing spectacular catches from No. 88. Having seen some live practice, can you comment on how he is doing overall in terms of route-running and consistency in catching the ball? Right now, he is presented as a catch-everything kind of guy 2. Footage of Zaire looks great but, coming back to the theme of No. 1, what kind of a QB competition would this be if Brian Kelly had not called it already in Golson's favor? Would it be close or are we talking different stratospheres? 3. Defense -- just looking for some thoughts on who was off the radar last year but who fits well into the new DC's system well. Thanks for the great blog -- keeps the off-season interesting.

Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Michael. Corey Robinson seems to dominate every time us media folks are at practice, too. He has natural size and athletic ability, giving the quarterback a wider margin of error when matching up with smaller corners. Part of that, of course, is also because Notre Dame's corners are relatively green outside of KeiVarae Russell. That said, Robinson needs to put on more strength so he can win some battles along the line of scrimmage and gain some more separation downfield. But last spring's transfers, and this spring's absence of DaVaris Daniels, has given Robinson more opportunities to make an impression. Kelly has stated that he absolutely loves coaching him because of his willingness to accept coaching and not make the same mistake twice. As for the quarterback question, I'm not sure it's still close, but that shouldn't negate from the progress that Zaire has made this spring.

I don't think anyone seriously expects someone other than Everett Golson to be starting come Week 1, but I do think Zaire will see meaningful snaps this season, and the fact there are only two scholarship quarterbacks this spring will prove to be beneficial for the lefty in the long run. Kelly was right to publicly open things up.

Lastly, everyone has been raving about Sheldon Day, who is not exactly off the radar but who was limited last season because of an ankle injury. I'd expect to see a breakout campaign from him along the line, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jarron Jones took his game up another level as well, as the redshirt sophomore has said to us how much more fun he is having in the new system.

Thomas Witty from Northbrook, Ill. writes: Hey Matt! Thanks for answering all of these questions. I know I enjoy reading your answers. My question today is focused on the linebackers. It seems like they are set at outside, but who's going to play middle? Will Nyles Morgan come in and make an impact right away? Could they move Jaylon Smith? Thanks!

Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Thomas. I'd say the only sure things at linebacker across the board right now are Joe Schmidt and Smith. Brian VanGorder absolutely raved about Schmidt when asked last week, and we all know what kind of potential Smith flashed during his strong rookie campaign in 2013. Smith has described his position as sort of a hybrid between the Mike and Sam. I'm curious to see the fallout of Jarrett Grace's second operation. He seemed to come along better than anyone over the first half of last season before breaking his leg, and Kelly said the Irish won't know his exact prognosis now until about six weeks after the operation, which took place March 28. If he can come back to camp in full-force, I think that will be huge. If not, I think Morgan could certainly make an impact upon his arrival this summer, probably not unlike the one we saw last year from Smith before he started every game in the fall.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly wants more out of all of them, because that's just the way the head coach is wired. Mike Denbrock is not displeased with any of them, because six practices into spring ball would be an awfully early time for the offensive coordinator to heap any significant praise on a green group.

If Notre Dame's offense is going to break out in the fashion all expect now that it has a proven, dynamic quarterback in Everett Golson, it's going to need its receivers to take the next step. And these final three weeks of spring practice will probably go a long way in determining whether such a leap can occur, especially with headliner DaVaris Daniels exiled until the summer because of an academic matter.

"Now, it's kind of been funny, when I have a question, I have to figure it out as opposed to last fall," Corey Robinson said. "DaVaris played 'W' a lot -- whenever I had an issue, I'd go to him and he'd help me out, or I'd go to TJ [Jones]. Now I have to figure it out, and some of the younger guys who didn't play last year are coming to me and asking me what to do. That's really forced my hand -- and I know it's the same for Breezy (Chris Brown) and C.J. (Prosise). We have to know the offense better and it kind of puts pressure on us to do that so when questions are asked we can help out."

Robinson has raised eyebrows for the second spring in a row, this time for more than just his frame. The 6-foot-4.5, 205-pound son of hoops Hall of Famer David Robinson has asserted himself more after a nine-catch, 157-yard, one-touchdown rookie campaign, with Kelly saying the sophomore has pleased him more than anyone else at the position.

"He does exactly what I ask him to do all the time," Kelly said, loud and deliberately. "And he does it right. Now he may screw it up the first time, but you coach him and he does it right the second time. I love that kid.”

"They try to do it right," Kelly later added of the others when asked. "They all try to do it right. He does it right the second time. He's fun to coach."

Denbrock said the experience of Brown has made him the steadiest of the bunch, as his junior status and 17 career grabs for 265 yards and a score are all tops on the current roster.

It helps that youngsters like Robinson and
Will Fuller
(six catches, 160 yards, TD) got their feet wet last season as freshmen, but there are still projects in spring enrollee Justin Brent and Torii Hunter Jr., who redshirted last season while recovering from a broken left leg suffered in high school.

"If you look at those other guys, it’s still new to them," Denbrock said. "We’re really working hard at all positions on offense because of our youth and gaining that type of consistency play in and play out that you need to control the game from the offensive side of the ball."

Irish lunch links

March, 24, 2014
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Bracket hanging in there ... barely.
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.
Duke and Tulane already opened spring ball this past Friday. Notre Dame is moving things up this year, too, as the Fighting Irish will start their spring season on March 3. With that in mind, during the next few weeks, we'll start taking a look at players, position battles and more to watch as spring ball rapidly approaches.

This week we'll look at the top five players to watch in spring, starting today at No. 5.

5) Freshman WR Justin Brent

It was just a year ago that rising sophomore wide receivers Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson announced their intentions to transfer during spring ball. Who did that benefit most? Early enrollees Corey Robinson and James Onwualu, who received increased reps and parlayed that into more playing time during their freshman seasons with the Irish.

Now Notre Dame welcomes in another early enrollee at receiver in Brent, who certainly has the physical tools to compete immediately at the next level. What's more, the Irish took a number of unexpected hits at the position this offseason, with top returning target DaVaris Daniels receiving the Everett Golson treatment for what he said is an academic violation and tight end Troy Niklas declaring for the NFL draft. Daniels has said he plans on returning in the summer, but in the meantime, there are passes to be caught, passes to be thrown by Golson in his return to school.

Brent, one of just two Irish signees to enroll early, has already drawn attention for his 6-foot-1, 204-pound frame.

"When I got a chance to see him work out this morning, the first thing that stood out to me is that he does not look like a freshman," coach Brian Kelly said on signing day. "He had his shirt off this morning and he was running around, and he looks like a senior. He is a physically gifted young man. You can see a lot of the accolades that are out there with him in terms of where he was ranked.

"But what we were looking for specifically, and there were some really good players at this position, we were looking for a physical player at this position, somebody that could impose their physicality, could run after the catch. His ability to run after the catch was very impressive for us and had, for us, some of the things, the traits that we were looking for at that particular time and that position."

The opportunity will be there for Brent to make an early impact. And based on accounts of his pre-Notre Dame work ethic, he sounds ready to step up to the challenge.

Notre Dame mailblog

January, 24, 2014
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It has been a while. What's on your minds?

Scott from St. Joseph, Mich., writes: Matt, disagree about Michigan State easily being the highlight of the season. The game was marred with questionable penalties and calling by MSU's staff. To me the highlight of the season was the second-half defense against USC. Being able to beat your biggest rival basically without a functional QB and on the hands of a defensive performance remnant of '12 was the highlight of the year for me.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame Celebration
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPulling out a victory over Rose Bowl champion Michigan State was the biggest achievement for Notre Dame in 2013.
Matt Fortuna: I think both performances, to be fair, were far from aesthetically pleasing. And yes, we have to give Notre Dame's defense plenty of credit for its play in both games. But the circumstances are too big to ignore here. By beating Michigan State, Notre Dame helped reshape the national title picture. It was the only team to beat a very good Spartans squad, one that ended up winning the Rose Bowl. While it's always big to beat your archrival, let's also remember that USC was without Marqise Lee for the second half, committed 11 penalties and missed two field goals (from 40 and 46 yards), too. And I just can't erase the memory of the Fighting Irish offense coming to a standstill once Tommy Rees went down. No points from either team in the final 30 minutes of a primetime game? No thank you.

Matt from Pittsburgh writes: Matt, O-line starting 5 from LT-RT: Elmer, Hanratty, Martin, Lombard, Stanley? Also how do you see the D-line and linebackers forming out?

Matt Fortuna: That would probably be my early guess, though I'll keep a close eye on that group this spring since Martin will still be out. Matt Hegarty started at center in his place but provides plenty of flexibility, too, so it will be interesting to see where he fits into the picture next fall. My guess for defensive line would be Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell, only because I don't know how ready Tony Springmann (ACL, infection) is. If he's 100 percent, it's easy to see him starting. And I'm anxious to watch Chase Hounshell, who saw the field as a true freshman in 2011 but has missed the last two seasons with shoulder injuries. Same with Jarrett Grace at the mike linebacker position (probably not this spring), with possibly Kendall Moore starting next to him. Jaylon Smith (dog) and Ishaq Williams (cat) will be expected to start if and when Brian VanGorder employs a 3-4 scheme, though he said last week he had not delved into schematics yet. Could we see Williams and/or Romeo Okwara play on the line some more? And where will Ben Councell fit into the picture once he's back from his ACL tear?

Jim from Chicago writes: Matt, What role do you see Torii Hunter Jr. having next year? Seemed to be the most athletic freshman WR before the injury. Can he work his way into the rotation with Daniels out in spring ball?

Matt Fortuna: He's the guy on offense, outside of Everett Golson, whom I most want to see this spring. The opportunities will be there for the taking with Daniels gone until the fall, and Hunter was able to battle back from that nasty leg injury to win offensive scout team player of the year. I'm also curious to see what kind of improvements Corey Robinson can make, given his size and potential. In limited practice viewings he seemed to be always making plays, but in games this season there were times where he looked like he could've used a couple of extra pounds.

Chris Kosiak (@C_K_42) writes: Justin Brent going to push for playing time next year? Or does he RS?

Matt Fortuna: It's probably too early to say, though, like Hunter, he'll have a great opportunity to showcase himself this spring with Daniels out. Last year Robinson and James Onwualu enrolled early and ended up taking advantage of the spring transfers of Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson, resulting in playing time during the 2013 season. Notre Dame's receiving corps was young then and is young again now, so playing time will likely be there for the taking.

Michael Hughes (@designwithmike) writes: More important to ND success in '14: Red-zone execution or finding good to great defensive leadership?

Matt Fortuna: Good question. I'll go with red-zone execution, since I expect this Notre Dame team to rely much more on its offense than it has so far in the Brian Kelly era. And that means the Irish will have to capitalize on more red-zone opportunities and score more points. With Golson back at the helm after a semester spent training with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. and an improving backfield, I think you'll see the Irish take more chances offensively. None of this is to minimize the importance of defensive leadership, but that's just such an unknown factor at this point, especially since we have yet to see these players get coached by and respond to VanGorder, who seems nothing like Bob Diaco from a personality standpoint.

Notre Dame mailblog

December, 24, 2013
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And this year for Christmas, Santa brings … a mailbag!

Frank Serra writes: Who do you feel will be granted a fifth year at ND?

Matt Fortuna: Frank, if I had to guess right now, I'd say Austin Collinsworth and Christian Lombard are the most likely to come back if they want to. Kendall Moore is a possibility as well. As for the others? Lo Wood has already decided to play elsewhere next semester. There are reports of Andrew Hendrix and Alex Welch seeking other options. There is usually a surprise or two every year, but it is tough to say right now who could fit into the picture next season.

Todd from Buffalo, N.Y., writes: Do you put any credence in the theory that on teams with depth that an injury-plagued season, while disappointing, can provide a boost to the next season since younger players got a lot of playing time and experience that they might not have gotten? This could really help on defense and the O-line where multiple starters are moving on. Or am I just trying to desperately put a positive spin on an uneven 2013 campaign?

Matt Fortuna: Todd, nice try. (Kidding.) There are, though, obvious silver linings when younger players are forced to play so quickly. Was it in Notre Dame's best interest to lose two games in November? Of course not. But the fact the Irish were able to compete against strong competition with vastly depleted lines and with young players getting their feet wet certainly should alleviate some concerns about those guys as they enter the 2014 season.

Jeff from Ontario, Canada writes: If Everett Golson gets readmitted to the university, shouldn't he be able to participate in everything with the university (traveling with the team or at least practicing)?

Matt Fortuna: Obviously this question came before Golson was readmitted. But since I've gotten similar questions this month, I'll try to explain it here. Basically Golson has been readmitted to start classes at Notre Dame for the spring semester, so he is not technically a student there until classes resume there on Jan. 12, 2014. So he would not be able to participate as a Notre Dame student-athlete in competition until then, though he is certainly able to pay his own way to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and join his teammates on his own if he would like. (And as Brian Kelly said he may do, considering his girlfriend lives in New York.)

Andrew Sama from South Bend, Ind., writes: Great article on the "Echoes" preview. Definitely agree on TJ Jones for team MVP. Folston and Jaylon Smith should probably be offensive / defensive frosh of the year but honorable mention should go to Corey Robinson. Kid had a great year and got better as the season progressed. Big things ahead for him. Sleeper candidate for defensive POY would be Dan Fox. Led the team in tackles I believe and responded to a mid-season benching like a true team leader, then came back and played his heart out. It would behoove the coaching staff to reward a kid like that with something. Keep up the great work -- Go Irish!Andrew

Matt Fortuna: Thanks, Andrew. Prince Shembo ended up winning the defensive player of the year honors, with Fox and Chris Watt sharing the Nick Pietrosante Award (courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication). The honor seems to fit both fifth-year seniors, each of whom had to deal with different problems during their final year at Notre Dame. As you mentioned, Fox led the team in tackles (90) and seemed to turn a corner after it looked like he would lose his starting job to Jarrett Grace. He also played the Mike and Will inside without complaint, and it certainly seemed like he was playing his best ball of the season in November.

William Wheaton from Illinois writes: Hey Matt, diehard Irish fan here! And my question today is concerned with the departure of both offensive and defensive coordinators, who and when are the Irish going to be after. And with the change imminent, what is it going to do to our offense being Everett Golson is back. Will we still be running the pro-style offense that Tommy Rees has been operating this year or will it be the option attack that Everett Golson led us to the title game with?

Matt Fortuna: William, I highly doubt that Kelly would bring in someone with a completely new idea for the offense considering the success he has had throughout his career, though obviously a Kelly offense will ideally look more like the ones he had at Cincinnati, given that he now has a mobile quarterback seemingly tailormade for the role. I would not be surprised if Kelly put Mike Denbrock and/or Tony Alford in charge of the offense full time, and simply hire a new position coach. The bigger concern would probably be finding the right fit on defense, especially with the likely personnel losses about to come on that side of the ball next year, and especially with so many ties between all of the coaches on that side of the ball.

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.

Five things: Notre Dame-Navy

November, 2, 2013
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No. 25 Notre Dame goes for its fourth straight win today when it hosts Navy at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC). Here are five things to watch when the longtime rivals take the Notre Dame Stadium field later this afternoon.

Injured guys. Louis Nix III and Ishaq Williams are out, but coach Brian Kelly said that Chris Watt, Sheldon Day and Elijah Shumate will play. Still, how fresh they are, and how much they can do, remains to be seen. We could see more Conor Hanratty at left guard, as he filled in when Watt (knee) went down in the Air Force game. And the defensive line already is stretched pretty thin without Nix, so if Day is limited, that could mean even more playing time for Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones. (With Kona Schwenke playing nose guard in place of Nix.) Regardless, it is another test for the Irish defense against a much more potent triple-option attack than the one they faced last week.

Freshmen (and other) receivers. Corey Robinson and Will Fuller reached the end zone last week for the first time. Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said after the game that the Irish's receiving corps was as deep as he has seen it. When others step up, it makes like easier for Tommy Rees, who does not have to just rely on TJ Jones. DaVaris Daniels and Troy Niklas have been solid, but when Ben Koyack, Chris Brown and James Onwualu can make plays, it helps open up the offense and make things a lot less predictable.

Running game. Speaking of opening up the offense ... I feel like I've been repeating myself all season in this category. Obviously Notre Dame lost its top-two running backs from last season and has dealt with injuries on the offensive line, but the running game has to be better, especially when this team goes into Stanford at the end of the month. Notre Dame threw the ball extremely effectively last week and had too many good opportunities downfield to pass up, but things won't always be that easy. The Irish averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last week, and on the season, they are averaging just 4.1 yards per rush. They are 95th nationally in rushing offense, tallying 136.4 yards on the ground per game.

Quarterback play. Andrew Hendrix played the entire fourth quarter of last week's game after Rees' strong outing, and he completed a 47-yard pass to Fuller that set up the quarterback's four-yard touchdown run. The much-needed work was certainly a step in the right direction for Hendrix, who remains the Irish's No. 2 signal caller and who, frankly, needs to do better than he did against USC if he gets thrust into meaningful game action again. While this game might not get out of hand like last week's, it is not out of the realm to expect the Irish to have a comfortable second-half lead. Even without it, it would not hurt to stick Hendrix in there more mid-game and get his feet wet.

Cornerback play. One of the reasons for Notre Dame's improved defensive play over the last two weeks has been tackling, especially from the cornerbacks. The secondary stepped up last week against Air Force, tallying 22 total tackles against the option attack. Navy does not present much of a threat passing the ball, but play on the edges is always key, and the Irish will need Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell -- who has come along very nicely lately -- to continue similar play this afternoon.

Notre Dame vs. Navy: Did you know?

November, 1, 2013
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Thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and sports information departments for these tidbits:
  • These teams have met every year starting in 1927. Notre Dame previously had a 43-game winning streak against Navy. The longest Navy winning streak against Notre Dame is two games. Last year’s meeting was played in Dublin, Ireland, the season opener for both teams. Notre Dame drubbed Navy 50-10, the first win a in a undefeated regular season for the Fighting Irish.
  • From 1964 through 2006, Notre Dame went 43-0 against Navy. That streak was the most consecutive wins against a major opponent in FBS history. From 2007 through last season, however, the teams are 3-3 against each other. That includes Navy winning two of the last three meetings in South Bend. If Navy wins this game, it will have four wins in a seven-game span overall against Notre Dame for the first time since 1957-63.
  • Notre Dame allowed 2.2 yards per play in the red zone last season, tied for the second fewest in FBS. Through eight games this season, the Fighting Irish have allowed as many red-zone touchdowns (13) as they had allowed all of last season.
  • Notre Dame is getting big contributions from freshmen this season and that was highlighted last week when freshmen WR Corey Robinson and WR Will Fuller both caught touchdown passes. Notre Dame said it’s only the third time in school history that two freshman have caught touchdowns in the same game. The others instances were 2007, by Golden Tate and Duval Kamara, and 1988 by Rocket Ismail and Derek Brown.
  • Beating Notre Dame in November under Brian Kelly has been a rare feat. The Irish are 10-1 in November games under Kelly and the only loss came in 2011 at No. 6 Stanford. Since Kelly came to Notre Dame in 2010, only two FBS schools have a better November record: Northern Illinois (11-0) and Stanford (12-1). “October is for pretenders and November is for contenders,” Kelly said. “We try to ingrain that within our players’, coaches’ minds that this is now the time to kick it into gear because this is where you get the opportunity to play for championships.”
  • The Irish are 25th in the BCS standings this week though just outside of the rankings in the AP poll (first team in “others receiving votes.”) What would it take for the Irish to get to a BCS bowl? BCS rules state that Notre Dame will have an automatic berth if it is in the top eight of the final BCS standings. The Irish would almost certainly have to win out, including a win at No. 5 Stanford, to finish 10-2 and make a case for a top-eight spot in the BCS standings. Stanford is the only remaining currently-ranked opponent on Notre Dame’s schedule. If Notre Dame is in the top 14 and has at least nine wins, it is eligible for an at-large selection to a BCS bowl.
  • Navy is the least-penalized team in FBS. The Midshipmen are the only FBS team averaging fewer than three penalties per game (2.9) and are tallying just 23.4 penalty yards per game, also the lowest total in FBS. That’s almost one-fourth the penalty yardage as the most-penalized team in FBS, Houston (82.7 penalty yards per game).

Irish lunch links

October, 31, 2013
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Congrats, Boston. And Happy Halloween to all!

Planning for success: Notre Dame

October, 31, 2013
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Corey Robinson and his dad never talk football. Dad doesn't know anything about the sport, Corey said, and Corey feels as if he himself still has a lot to learn about the game despite playing it every day.

Saturday will nonetheless present quite the family conflict for the Robinsons when Corey takes the field for No. 25 Notre Dame against Navy, his father's alma mater. It was with the Midshipmen that his father, a pretty tall guy by the name of David RobinsonDavid, helped set himself up to be taken No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs and win two championships during a 14-year Hall of Fame NBA career.

[+] EnlargeCorey Robinson
AP Photo/Michael ConroyCorey Robinson knows his dad, David, made a name for himself at Navy before embarking on a Hall of Fame NBA career, but he hopes to get him to support Notre Dame when the Irish play the Midshipmen.
"I need to talk to my dad about this, make sure he's wearing my jersey or wearing Notre Dame something as opposed to Navy," Corey Robinson said of this weekend's matchup. "But I think my grandpa who also served in the Navy might be wearing Navy. I don't know. There's a lot of Navy happening right now. I need to change that."

A freshman receiver with the Irish, Robinson reached the end zone for the first time this past Saturday against Air Force, hauling in a 35-yard pass from Tommy Rees for Notre Dame's first touchdown. He has five catches for 101 yards through eight games after enrolling this past spring.

He would always visit his father's old campus in Annapolis, Md., for older reunions and such, but Notre Dame's offer sent him in another direction when choosing a college out of San Antonio Christian High.

"I think he was happy, because he was telling me horror stories," Robinson said of his dad. "I think he was trying to scare me out of it. He was all like, ‘You have to wake up at 5 in the morning, and all the PT we had to do in addition to basketball and football.' He said he didn't get any sleep the whole time. He's a smart guy, and he told me he got some bad grades his first couple years. And I was like, ‘Hmm, I don't know if that's for me or not.’ I think he was actually happy when I told him I wanted to go somewhere else."

The 6-foot-4.5, 205-pound Robinson will probably never reach his father's height of 7-1. David Robinson has been a fixture at Irish games so far, gestures that Corey appreciates, though he gives off little sign that he is a son with a famous father.

"He's a very easy-going guy, it seems like he never really gets riled up, never really seen him get upset or anything like that," Rees said. "He's extremely competitive and you can tell the way that he grew up there's a lot of structure, a lot of different -- this is how you work, this is what's expected of you. And he does a great job of coming in every day eager to learn and eager to get better."

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the weight of the game had yet to dawn upon Robinson. Right now it is another military academy and another option-offense that stands in the way of the Irish extending their winning streak to four in a row as they make a late run toward a BCS-bowl berth.

That sentiment probably does not run throughout the family, though.

"So far it's another game. I think for my dad, it means a little more to him," Robinson said. "I'm excited to play Navy. But at the end of the day, we've got to get the win. it doesn't matter who we're playing. I respect them and I respect what they do and I'm excited to go play a school that I wanted to go to for a very long time, that my dad's helped out a lot. But we have to get the W."

What we learned: Week 9

October, 27, 2013
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Here is what we take away from Notre Dame's 45-10 win Saturday at Air Force:

1. Tommy Rees can play, remember? Rees had one of the best outings of his career, completing 17 of 22 passes for 284 yards with a career-high five touchdowns to five different receivers -- a Notre Dame first. He got to take the fourth quarter off for his efforts, which came a week after a neck strain forced him out of the USC game in the third quarter. He now has 54 career touchdown passes, as he topped Ron Powlus (52) to move into third place on the school career list. He also gave way to Andrew Hendrix, who hit Will Fuller for a 47-yard strike late and ran it in himself from 4 yards out for a score in some needed extended action.

2. Freshmen step up. Corey Robinson and Fuller had their first career touchdown grabs, and Fuller caught the aforementioned deep pass from Hendrix as well. Jaylon Smith also impressed in his first action against the option, recording eight tackles (tied with Dan Fox for most on the team), had a tackle for loss and recovered a fumble that would have turned into a touchdown if not for a blown call. Right guard Steve Elmer found himself at right tackle, too, and played well in his first career start, despite a false start penalty on his first drive that accounted for the Irish's only flag on the day.

3. Injuries are mounting. Brian Kelly said Chris Watt had a knee strain, but it did not sound serious. Sheldon Day, DaVaris Daniels and Ronnie Stanley all looked like they were banged up, too. We'll know more after speaking to Kelly on Sunday afternoon, but it was already a rough week for the Irish in the injury department after Christian Lombard was lost for the season and Louis Nix III did not travel for Saturday's game.

Bye week evaluations: Offense

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
4:00
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Notre Dame's first bye week comes at the season's midway point, giving us the perfect opportunity to make a decent evaluation of what this team's strengths and weaknesses are following a 4-2 start. We'll break this down into four categories over the next four days: offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff.

Without further ado, here is the first installment.

OFFENSE

Grade: C+

Summary: Notre Dame is averaging 27.3 points per game, a slight increase from last year's 25.77 mark. Of course, part of that is a result of playing from behind, something the Irish did against Michigan and Oklahoma, both losses. They found themselves in another shootout this past weekend against Arizona State and proved they were able to pull out a contest far different from some of the meat-grinders they endured in 2012.

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTommy Rees has nine TD passes and just one interception in Notre Dame's four victories.
Tommy Rees has been Tommy Rees. He eclipsed the 300-yard mark in the first three games. He threw two picks in a loss at Michigan, a game in which the Irish defense did the offense no favors. Rees misfired several times against a stout Michigan State defense, but he protected the ball and the Irish escaped the Spartans in a game reminiscent of last season. He became the easy scapegoat against the Sooners after throwing three picks — which Oklahoma turned into 21 points — but he received little help from his offensive line and receivers on two of those gaffes. Andrew Hendrix has appeared here and there, but Rees remains the Irish's best option at quarterback. Criticize Rees for his physical attributes if you must, but if you're going to get mad about the offense's make-up, blame the starting quarterback who got himself suspended for school this semester — after the program spent a whole spring investing in him to take charge. Rees stayed through the good and bad, has endured a lot more than most signal-callers has had to, and has kept a strong mindset through it all. Go back and watch the Purdue game, especially late in the second half, as he rallied the offense on the sideline, commanding the group's attention in a way only a senior with the respect of the entire locker room could. Brian Kelly has stuck by Rees, and he will continue to do so as long as Rees remains the offense's best option, which is what he is.

His offensive line has been stellar in pass protection, ranking eighth nationally in fewest sacks allowed per game (.60), surrendering just four on the season. That's all the more impressive when you consider Rees' lack of threat with his legs. Still, the running game had trouble getting off on the right foot, tallying three consecutive under-100-yard performances in games 2-4 before George Atkinson III broke out against Oklahoma. The Irish continued to build off that ground success last week against the Sun Devils, rushing for 145 yards. Slowly, the Irish have made progress in that department, raising their rushing yards per game average from 114.3 to 137 since Week 4.

In the pass-catching department, meanwhile, TJ Jones has been every bit as good as advertised, with the captain hauling in 33 passes for 481 yards and four touchdowns. He has had two 100-yard games and a 98-yard effot, absorbing hit after hit and becoming the kind of reliable target for Rees that Tyler Eifert was in 2011 and 2012. He has gotten big lifts here and there from DaVaris Daniels (25 catches, 385 yards, 4 TDs) and Troy Niklas (14, 250, 4), and the Irish have regularly played true freshmen who have made some minor contributions (Corey Robinson, James Onwualu, Will Fuller).

Overall, the offense has been uneven, as it has yet to really turn in a complete performance outside of Week 1 against a Temple team that is still seeking its first win. The Irish appeared to be moving closer to that direction against ASU, but a pick-six put a dent in that performance. The bye week will serve them well as they prepare for a skilled but depleted USC defense that should give the offense its biggest test before Senior Day against BYU.

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