Notre Dame Football: Devin Butler

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Spring football can be used as a time for players to fully recover from injuries or to ease their way back into shape following surgery. Several Notre Dame assistants spoke with reporters Wednesday for the first time in a long time, and they addressed the condition of several recovering players.

[+] EnlargeDevin Butler
AP Photo/Chris BernacchiNotre Dame cornerback Devin Butler is cleared for everything but contact this spring after offseason shoulder surgery.
Defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, on cornerback Devin Butler (offseason shoulder surgery):
"Going into the fall, we thought that (Butler and Cole Luke) would definitely be competing right now in the spring. It's obviously a setback for him, anytime you're missing a new system, and he's missing new techniques and he's actually missing that full-speed opportunity to see it vs. the offense. But I've been grabbing him after practice and working him for 10-15 minutes. He's doing all of our individual work, so he's cleared for basically everything other than contact right now. ... We want to make sure that shoulder's healed up before we put him in that. So he's coming along well, he's staying into it mentally, he's locked into our meetings, he's asking a lot of questions. So he's doing everything that you can ask a kid who's injured to do."

Cooks on safety Nicky Baratti (shoulder injury that kept him out all of 2013 season):
"A little bit different for Nicky, because he missed basically all of training camp and all of the season. So he's almost back to, just from a mental standpoint, again, new system to that freshman year. So, 'OK, how do I do this? How do I get from Point A to Point B? What is he talking about?' And again, going through that reaction phase, his comfort level's got to come when he's actually engaging wide receivers, taking on blocks, making tackles to build confidence that that shoulder's OK."

And here's defensive line coach Mike Elston on Chase Hounshell, who has missed each of the last two seasons with shoulder injuries:
"Well, it's taken Chase a little bit to feel comfortable with using his shoulder and being aggressive. I think today I finally saw a different side of him that used to be Chase, so we'll see as the rest of the spring progresses. But your third one, you're a little apprehensive at times. I think now he's starting to get a little more comfortable with it and feel better about it."

New faces must step up as spring opens

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly got into his car on Friday morning and saw that the outside temperature was minus-8 degrees -- as if there was any doubt Notre Dame would be indoors on Monday when the Irish commence Kelly's fifth spring here.

What he will see, though, are more new faces in new places than he probably has during his Irish tenure. And he's anxious to see who rises up from a team that said early goodbyes to three juniors after the 2013 season and welcomes two new staff members.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsBrian Kelly is looking for some new faces to step forward in the spring.
"In an ideal world you'd want your best players to be your best leaders," Kelly said. "Sometimes that's not the case, so you observe daily and find out who those guys are and you try to cultivate those individuals. I think with this group in '14 our best players can be our best leaders and they may not all be seniors. I think we've got some great seniors, I think all of our seniors are committed, but we may have some great underclassmen who are great leaders, too."

The additions of assistants Matt LaFleur (quarterbacks) and Brian Van Gorder (defensive coordinator) have given the staff more flexibility as well, as Kelly said Friday that Kerry Cooks will now coach the entire secondary, not just the cornerbacks, while Bob Elliott will move from safeties coach to outside linebackers coach. Kelly also added graduate assistants in former NFL fullback Ryan Mahaffey (offense), former Irish safety Kyle McCarthy (defense) and Mike Hiestand (defense), son of current Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

As for switches on the field: Matthias Farley has moved from safety to corner, John Turner has gone from safety to outside linebacker, James Onwualu has moved from receiver to safety, Will Mahone has moved from running back to receiver, and Amir Carlisle is now a runner and a receiver. Everett Golson, meanwhile, has returned at a listed 200 pounds, 15 pounds heavier from his listed playing weight from 2012.

Personnel notes: Tony Springmann (ACL, infection) and Devin Butler (shoulder) are out for spring. … Nick Martin (MCL) and Ben Councell (ACL) will be limited to non-contact. … Nicky Baratti, Chase Hounshell and Doug Randolph (all shoulders) are good to go. … Receiver Luke Massa will not return for a fifth season after initially planning to come back. Kelly said Massa had received a job offer that was too good to pass up.

Kelly on Shembo: Kelly addressed Prince Shembo's comments during last weekend's NFL combine, when the former Irish linebacker said the coach told him not to talk in school about the the Lizzy Seeberg investigation.

"That was a collaborative decision," Kelly said Friday. "I don't make any decisions independent when it comes to major decisions at this university. The head football coach works in concert with our administration, so we made a decision based upon the information that we had that we felt it was in Prince's best interest that this was not a matter that needed to be discussed, but that was certainly something that he could've decided to discuss. We didn't threaten him with, he couldn't play or we were going to put him on the bench or throw him out of school. It was still his decision. But talking to his parents and talking to Prince we felt because of the information that we had in front of us that it was a matter that be left alone at the time."

Irish lunchtime links

October, 15, 2013
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Not a bad night for Manti Te'o.

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.
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.

Notre Dame chat wrap: Feb. 7

February, 7, 2013
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Thanks for stopping by today's chat. Great turnout, lots of recruiting talk and lots of talk about who fits in where moving forward — a good problem to have if you're a Notre Dame fan.

You can read the full transcript here.

Some highlights:
  • Tad (Chicago): Will defense or offense be the 2013 irish strength on the field and who is coming back for a 5th year now that recruiting is over?
  • Matt Fortuna (2:04 PM): Tad, given that ND loses its best receiving threat (Eifert) and two-best running threats (Riddick, Wood), I'll go with defense, still. We don't have official word on fifth year seniors and probably won't for a little while longer, but it's not a stretch to say that Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese will be back next season.
  • Brian (Minneapolis): Matt I first want to say you are doing a great job on the blog! My question comes in terms of filling needs. How do you think this recruiting class fills the needs at DB, RB, and just getting more depth across the board?
  • Matt Fortuna (2:09 PM): Thanks, Brian. Depth seemed to be the theme of this class, as ND has played under the 85-man scholarship limit throughout BK's tenure there so far. The two areas you mentioned received great boosts -- particularly from Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston in the backfield, and Max Redfield and Devin Butler in the secondary -- but O-line was the biggest priority, which ND locked up early during junior days back in spring, hauling in five new men up front overall. That's where the depth really took a hit this season, and these guys will prove valuable over the long haul.
  • Justin (Omaha): Matt, you're doing a great job out here! Quick question, i'll be brief im sure you're busy. Do you think the off field issues surrounding the Manti Te'o situation has negatively impacted ND's recruiting class at all?
  • Matt Fortuna (2:37 PM): Thanks, Justin. Given how zero players de-committed from the Irish in light of the scandal, I'd say no. While it was obviously bad press for the school, I'm not sure if there's a correlation there as it relates to on-field success and what the players are hoping to get out of their college football careers.
  • Patrick (Gloucester Heights, NJ): Matt, Do you think any of the incoming Freshman can start right away and if so what ones?
  • Matt Fortuna (2:41 PM): Patrick, my three-best guesses would be Jaylon Smith, Max Redfield and Greg Bryant, with Smith most likely to start from Day 1 and Bryant mid-way through the year. Redfield's a wild card because of the depth ND now has in the secondary. (Been a while since we said that, eh?)
  • Rett (Oregon): After a great signing class is ND poised to be a BCS contender? or did the Bama game just expose them as a lucky team that is still rebuilding?
  • Matt Fortuna (2:53 PM): Rett, did ND get some breaks to run the regular-season table? Of course it did. Almost every team does. Going undefeated is incredibly difficult to do, and you can just look at the Bama dynasty for evidence of that, as the Tide have lost games in each of the past three years despite being a level above the rest of the college football world. The title game exposed ND as a team that still has a gap to close, and this class should play an important role in helping the Irish get there, even if it's Sundays-Fridays by providing depth and allowing the first-team OL to go harder against the D. ND is set up to be a perennial BCS-bowl contender year in and year out, and if things break right, like they did in 2012, they could find themselves back on centerstage.

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
The already-crowded Notre Dame famous parents section will have to make room for one more.

ESPN 150 receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (Prosper, Texas/Prosper) committed to the Irish following their primetime home win over Michigan, our Damon Sayles writes, making him the school's 21st commitment for the Class of 2013.

Hunter Jr. is the son of the MLB All-Star of the same name, and he joins the nephew of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (Danny) and the son of pro basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson (Corey) as Irish 2013 commitments looking to make their own names.

Hunter Jr. raved about Saturday's atmosphere to Sayles, an obvious strong sign for a program that has been looking to make its game day scene a little bit more electric. Coach Brian Kelly has said that will come with winning. And, as he found out by landing Sayles, Notre Dame can benefit beyond the scoreboard because of it, too.

Hunter Jr. is ESPN's 50th overall prospect, the No. 6 player in Texas and the No. 8 receiver in the nation.

Here is a breakdown of the Irish's 21-man 2013 recruiting class, which features 17 four-star prospects, six ESPN150 commits (*) and 12 ESPN300 commits (**)

ACC exposure can only help Notre Dame

September, 12, 2012
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Brian Kelly has landed six commitments from North Carolina since arriving at Notre Dame in 2010. He has a commitment from Virginia in each class from 2012 to 2014. He was 0-for-12 in Maryland and Washington D.C. through three years before landing 2013 commit Devin Butler (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga).

Colleague Jared Shanker says you can expect those numbers to grow Insider with the news of Notre Dame's scheduling agreement with the ACC.

The post is Insider, so you have to be a subscriber to read it. But Shanker makes the case for the Irish's exposure in ACC cities to help their recruiting efforts.

Irish recruiting roundup

September, 5, 2012
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The week that was ...
For a few minutes, anyway, Will Fuller (Philadelphia/Roman Catholic) was just another one of us.

The three-star wide receiver and former Penn State commitment was among the gathered media members Saturday outside the LaBar Practice Complex, awaiting the start of Notre Dame's fall camp like everyone else.

Fuller got to stay when the rest of us were kicked out, and he clearly liked what he saw on the field and off, as he eventually became the Irish's 19th Class of 2013 commitment.

The 6-foot-1, 163-pound prospect caught 46 balls for 758 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and he tested well this spring on the Nike Combine circuit, posting an electronically-timed 4.53 40-yard dash, 4.25 20-yard shuttle, 33.9-inch vertical and 88.47 SPARQ Insider.

Fuller is ranked by ESPN as the No. 132 receiver in the Class of 2013, and as the No. 26 player in the state of Pennsylvania.

Here's a look at the Irish's 19-man 2013 recruiting class, which features 15 four-star prospects, four three-star prospects, five ESPN150 commits (*) and 10 ESPN300 commits (**)

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