Notre Dame Football: michael deeb

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.
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

Te'o, ND commits make Butkus list

October, 22, 2012
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Turns out Manti Te'o has to play by the same rules as everyone else for defensive awards, too.

The Notre Dame senior and arguably the best defensive player in college football was named one of 12 semifinalists Monday for the collegiate Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker. The Irish have quite the crowd on the list, as three of their 2013 commits take up one-fourth of the high school semifinalist list.

Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa./Wyomissing), Michael Deeb (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) are all Butkus semifinalists. For good measure, so is one prospect out of Te'o's high school, Stanford commit Isaac Savaiinaea (Honolulu/Punahou).

Te'o was also named the FBS Independent defensive player of the week for the fourth time this season and seventh time overall after notching a game-high 10 tackles, a half-tackle for loss and his fourth pick of the season, tied for the most among linebackers.

Theo Riddick took home the offensive FBS player of the week honor after a career-best 143-yard rushing performance.
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 (**)
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 (**)
Alex Anzalone will be going to Notre Dame. He will be going to Notre Dame early. And, if he gets his wish, he will be wearing jersey No. 5, too.

All of which led the current defensive owner of that digit to post Sunday night on Twitter: "I think I might have started something special at ND."

Replacing the production of Manti Te'o, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, is a tall task for anyone. But the future of the Irish's linebacking unit is in good hands. Anzalone's commitment Sunday at The Opening — two months after his decommitment from Ohio State after a sex offender, a Buckeyes fan, posted a picture of himself and Anzalone on the Web — rounds out a loaded corps in the middle for the 2013 class, as Jaylon Smith, Michael Deeb and Danny Mattingly have already pledged to Notre Dame since the beginning of June.

ESPN rates Anzalone as a four-star prospect, the No. 5 player at his position in the nation and the 66th-best player overall from the 2013 class, one that is shaping up this offseason to be very special for Brian Kelly and the Irish staff.

Here is a breakdown of the Irish's 17-man 2013 recruiting class, which is composed of 14 four-star prospects, five ESPN150 commits (*) and 10 ESPN300 commits (**)

Deeb commit keeps Irish rolling

June, 29, 2012
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What was once a gap at linebacker has been filling up pretty quickly lately, with four-star inside linebacker Michael Deeb (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) committing Friday to Notre Dame, becoming the Irish's 16th Class of 2013 commit.

Deeb's pledge comes three days after three-star athlete Danny Mattingly (Spokane, Wash./Mead) committed to the Irish and nearly four weeks after four-star outside linebacker Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) announced his plans to go to South Bend, Ind.

There is likely one inside linebacker spot remaining in this class, one everyone associated with Notre Dame hopes is eventually filled by Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, Pa./Wyomissing). His future remains unclear, but the Irish's looks brighter by the day after landing another big prospect in the month of June.

Here's a breakdown of the Irish's 16-man 2013 recruiting class, which is composed of 13 four-star prospects, four ESPN150 commits (*) and nine ESPN300 commits (**)
Notre Dame picked up commitment No. 16 on Friday as four-star inside linebacker Michael Deeb (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) gave his pledge to the Fighting Irish. The 6-foot-2, 238-pound prospect chose Notre Dame after camping in South Bend over the weekend.

American Heritage coach Jeff Dellenbach said a lot that went in to Deeb's decision to choose Notre Dame.

"He went up there and had a great experience. I think he saw it as a great opportunity as far as academics, high-caliber football and obviously the spiritual side," Dellenbach said. "That part of Notre Dame is very impressive. He just see's it as a real good fit for himself, and I don't think anyone could argue with that. He's very excited."

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