Notre Dame Football: Doug Randolph

New faces must step up as spring opens

February, 28, 2014
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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."

Position battles to watch: No. 1

February, 21, 2014
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Our series looking at the top positions battles concludes with an area that will feature plenty of new faces in the middle of the Irish defense.

Inside linebacker

[+] EnlargeSchmidt
Chris Williams/Icon SMIFormer walk-on Joe Schmidt played significant action inside for the Irish last season.
No Manti Te'o in 2013 was a bigger adjustment than most expected. The veteran presence of Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese kept things familiar, with Fox moving to the Mike, losing his job to Jarrett Grace, then bouncing back to play some of the best football of his career to close the 2013 season.

Now both are gone, and while the Irish lose Prince Shembo at the starting Cat linebacker spot as well, it is presumed that Ishaq Williams will step in with the chance to fill those shoes. (Jaylon Smith was a freshman sensation as the starting Dog linebacker.)

Grace figured to be the starting Mike, but his recovery from a broken leg means that the doors are open this spring for others to step up and make their marks. Kendall Moore is back for a fifth season and figures to play a big role this spring. So does redshirt junior Joe Schmidt, the former walk-on who earned a scholarship entering last season and played significant action inside in 2013.

One other thing to consider is that there is a new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder. And although Brian Kelly said that the Irish will still operate out of a 3-4 base and go 4-3 about half the time, it remains to be seen how much more aggressive, if at all, VanGorder is with the personnel at hand.

There will probably be plenty of mixing and matching this spring, as the Irish try to find where some of their young guys are most effective -- notably, Michael Deeb and Doug Randolph, a pair of players who redshirted last season as freshmen.

Outside linebacker has a bit more depth, with Romeo Okwara and Ben Councell, who will likely miss the spring after tearing an ACL late last season. And a major reinforcement inside could be on the way this summer in Nyles Morgan, the No. 5 inside linebacker in the nation and Notre Dame's top recruit from the 2014 class.

But that's a topic for fall practice. In the spring, the Irish need to work on replenishing the position unit that takes the biggest hit from 2013 to 2014 in linebacker, and in particular, at inside linebacker. Several players have opportunities to cement significant roles for the 2014 season.
Brian Kelly reiterated Friday that he will again call plays next season. New quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur will have full autonomy over his signal callers in the meeting room. And new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock will put it all together and oversee the entire offense.

That was the blueprint laid out during a joint news conference to announce Notre Dame's finalized staff for the 2014 season, with LaFleur coming over from the Washington Redskins and Denbrock adding more to his plate after coaching the Irish's outside receivers for the past two seasons (and tight ends in the two seasons before that).

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesHead coach Brian Kelly will call the plays this fall for Notre Dame.
"We're transitioning back to an offense that I feel is best suited for the personnel that we have, and I think it's important to really get that philosophy and influence back into the offense, and I know it the best," Kelly said. "And then, once we're able to lay that in there, I think it will give everyone a great visual look of what that offense will look like, and I think it starts with me. I think it's important that if I want that offense to have the look, it's important that I have the influence in some fashion, and this is the best way to do it."

Kelly also shed some light on personnel matters, saying that linebacker Doug Randolph (shoulder), end Chase Hounshell (shoulder) and offensive lineman John Montelus (shoulder) were all expected to be ready for spring ball come March 3. Safety Nicky Baratti, who, like the other three players, missed all of 2013 with a shoulder injury, will be cleared for contact this spring but might be held until the fall as a precautionary measure.

Defensive lineman Tony Springman (ACL, infection) is progressing but has not been cleared for spring ball just yet after missing all of 2013, nor has linebacker Jarrett Grace (broken leg), with Kelly saying that Grace's recovery is taking a bit more time because he broke a bone in four different places when he left the field Oct. 5 against Arizona State.

Kelly did add that linebacker Ben Councell (ACL) and center Nick Martin (MCL) are both exceeding expectations, though neither is expected to be available this spring after suffering their injuries late in the season.

Notes: Kelly said that Notre Dame will still operate out of a 3-4 base under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, though it will again be about a 50-50 split based on personnel. … Fifth-year players will not be announced until after national signing day, following usual protocol, though Kelly said those players know where they stand. ESPN.com and other outlets have reported that Austin Collinsworth, Christian Lombard, Kendall Moore and Justin Utupo are the four fifth-year players who will be back for 2014. … Kelly said he still needs to fill out one more graduate assistant position. Former Irish and NFL safety Kyle McCarthy tweeted earlier Friday that he will be a GA this season.

Day to play against USC, other notes

October, 16, 2013
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Sheldon Day is scheduled to speak with reporters Wednesday, as sure a sign as any that he will actually play Saturday after missing the majority of Notre Dame's last three games because of an ankle sprain.

[+] EnlargeSheldon Day
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesNotre Dame is expecting sophomore defensive end Sheldon Day back after he missed the better part of the last three games due to injury.
Brian Kelly said that Day practiced Monday and is expected to play against USC this weekend, though the head coach had sounded pretty confident publicly about Day's condition going into each of the last three games. Day missed the Michigan State and Oklahoma games and was very limited in the Arizona State contest two weeks ago.

Versatile lineman Kona Schwenke had started opposite Stephon Tuitt in Day's absence.

"He doesn't stay blocked," Kelly said of Day. "One of the things that makes a defensive lineman a great player is he gets off blocks. Sheldon gets off blocks and is a great pass rusher. He's a guy that early in the season was a great pass rusher and wasn't staying blocked. He'll figure into our game plan on Saturday."

Kelly also said that, among players already ruled out for the season, Chase Hounshell (shoulder surgery) is the closest to returning to full strength, with the end possibly getting to put pads on within the next 10-14 days.

Doug Randolph and Nicky Baratti (both shoulder) are in a light rehab process, while Tony Springmann (ACL tear) suffered an infection after surgery but is recovering well.

Kelly said that Torii Hunter Jr. probably would have been playing this year had he not suffered a broken left femur in during U.S. Army All-American bowl workouts, while Daniel Smith (ankle) and Jarrett Grace (leg) had successful surgeries following their injuries two weeks ago in Arlington, Texas.

Among those contributing this season, Kelly said that Tarean Folston has recovered from a hamstring injury suffered on his career-long 36-yard run in the Sept. 28 loss to Oklahoma.

"He looked better when we got a chance to run him out, and we expect him to be part of the mix for us," Kelly said. "That was the Oklahoma game moving forward. He just didn't feel like he could cut it loose. We had a play -- I think it was a series or two later -- where he was coming out of the backfield, and Tommy (Rees) overthrew him. He really couldn't cut it loose on a mesh route, and that's when we pulled him out of the game. He's a lot better. I think he's 100 percent. He feels a lot better, and he looked really good in practice yesterday."
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: Linebackers

March, 18, 2013
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Our series continues with the linebackers.

Starters returning: Prince Shembo, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Danny Spond
Players returning: Ishaq Williams, Jarrett Grace, Kendall Moore, Ben Councell, Anthony Rabasa, Justin Utupo, Joe Schmidt
Players departing: Manti Te'o
Newcomers: Michael Deeb, Jaylon Smith, Doug Randolph

The breakdown: Te'o, of course, leaves the biggest void, as Notre Dame is tasked with replacing the man who came as close as any pure defensive player ever did to winning the Heisman Trophy. But he is the only linebacker departing, assuming that Fox and Calabrese have had no hold-ups with their fifth-year paperwork.

Brian Kelly said during the winter that Fox and Calabrese, along with Grace, will be the front-runners to fill Te'o's vacant spot in the middle. He added that Moore and incoming freshmen could emerge as candidates as well. Fox and Calabrese have split time as starters during the past two seasons, and it will be worth watching how much that is the case this season, as it will likely depend on how well Grace progresses. Grace received much hype during last year's spring season but ended up seeing little time, though Te'o was clearly a big reason for that.

During last fall's camp, Councell generated similar hype to what Grace generated in the spring. Councell saw plenty of time at the dog while Spond was sidelined with what turned out to be a severe migraine. Spond emerged as one of the Irish's biggest surprises last season -- he started in Week 3 at Michigan State and never looked back.

Shembo, meanwhile, made a huge jump in 2012, starting at the cat and tallied 10.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 12 hurries and one forced fumble. He was another valuable pass-rushing option for the Irish -- among the biggest disruptors on a team that finished the regular season atop the nation in scoring defense. He kept Williams from seeing lots of action during his second year, though the Brooklyn, N.Y., native did see more and more time as the season progressed and should continue to grow.

Smith was the highlight of this recruiting class, as ESPN's No. 7 overall player can probably play either outside or inside, though he will not arrive on campus until this 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
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 (**)

Irish recruiting roundup

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
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Big things happened yesterday. So, here we are today ...

Irish Lunch Links

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
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Never forget.

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