Notre Dame Football: Notre Dame Fighting Irish


July 1 could be a big day for the Oregon Ducks. After narrowly missing out on five-star quarterback Kyler Murray and then QB Blake Barnett (No. 56 in the ESPN 300), No. 141 Travis Waller is set to announce with the Ducks and Notre Dame considered the top two. After being considered a lean to Notre Dame in recent weeks, a June 21 offer by Oregon is a potential game-changer. With the offer to Waller, Oregon is in position to not get left out of the quarterback sweepstakes in 2015. The Ducks offered No. 89 Sam Darnold on June 16 following Barnett's pledge to Alabama. With the offer to Waller five days later, they have a very good chance to snag one of the two remaining top quarterback prospects on the West Coast.

[+] EnlargeTravis Waller
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTravis Waller, the No. 6 QB-DT in the ESPN 300, is set to decide between Oregon and Notre Dame on July 1.
There are currently four five-star prospects committed in the Class of 2015. On July 2, another will come off the board when No. 13 Justin Hilliard announces his decision. The day should be a great one for either Ohio State or Notre Dame with the Buckeyes having been the team to beat headed into last weekend's unofficial visits to South Bend and Columbus. As decision day closes in, Ohio State remains the team receiving the behind-the-scenes chatter as the most likely destination for the outside linebacker. Should the Buckeyes reel in Hilliard next Wednesday, it will be a huge shot in the arm for Ohio State as he is close with a number of top prospects in the Midwest with the ability to impact a class with more than just his pledge.

ESPN 300 No. 226 Sage Hardin will announce his decision Friday at 6 p.m. via Twitter (@SageHardin75). While the athletic offensive tackle hasn't been tipping his hand in regards to a favorite, he did tell RecruitingNation on Wednesday night that Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, California, Miami (Fla.), Georgia Tech and NC State are in the running. The Georgia offer June 16 was a huge one for the Atlanta-area prospect, as was the offer from Tennessee June 17. The Hurricanes have placed the full court press on Hardin, and a June 7 unofficial visit to NC State impressed more than anticipated. There are family connections to Virginia, but the uncertainty of the Cavaliers' future is cause for concern. This one is likely to come down to the home state Bulldogs, the Volunteers and Cavaliers with Georgia having gained the most mention since offered 11 days ago.

Three-star safety P.J. Locke has announced that he will make his commitment on July 1 at Beaumont Central High. He has a final 10 school list of Arizona State, Baylor, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Stanford, TCU, UCLA and Wake Forest. Since an early June unofficial visit to Eugene, the Ducks have been the team trending with Baylor and TCU working hard to try to keep the physical safety in-state.

ESPN 300 No. 63 Abdul Bello had plans to make a number of summer camps, and for the first time see college programs outside the Sunshine State. The plans changed in early June with Bello taking summer school classes. After only having the time to attend Florida camp in early June, Bello and his coach are currently working to scheduled July trips to LSU and Auburn, along with a trip to Florida State and likely back to Gainesville for Friday Night Lights.

Florida State will hold its annual July camp on the 16th through 18th. Although the Class of 2015 will be the main focus of the Seminoles' camp, the top prospect in attendance may well be 2016 quarterback Malik Henry. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Henry will be in Tallahassee and is scheduled to work out all three days of the camp. Henry is at the top of the quarterback board for Florida State in 2016, and is also at the top of the board for UCLA with the hometown Bruins having had the full court press on Henry for months already.

No. 48 Richard McBryde continues to have Auburn in front with Miami (Fla.), Florida and Alabama in the mix. The Under Armour All-America Game selection said Thursday that Auburn is recruiting him the hardest, and is pushing him to commit. With that said, McBryde said he hopes to make unofficial visits to Miami (Fla.) and/or Florida. McBryde said the pressure from Auburn to commit does not hurt the Tigers, but shows how much they value him as a player.

Four-star athlete Shaquery Wilson continues to have Georgia on top of his list followed closely by Arkansas. The month of July will prove to be impactful in the wide receiver and cornerback prospect's recruitment. Wilson is scheduled to camp at Alabama for three days in July at wide receiver, and an offer would definitely be a game-changer. Wilson will also attend Dawg Night in July, as well as make unofficial visits to Tennessee and Auburn.

In the Class of 2016, cornerback Trayvon Mullen has enjoyed about as impressive of a week as is possible, picking up offers from Alabama and LSU on the same day, as well as getting offers from Wisconsin and Ohio State on Thursday. While the Crimson Tide's offer is a big one, a May offer from Clemson was just as big because the 6-foot-2, long-armed corner has been a Tigers fan for a few years.
This week we ranked the Pac-12's nonconference games. There's little question which is the best and most anticipated matchup.

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Which is the second-best Pac-12 nonconference game in 2014?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,445)

If the idea of Michigan State, the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion and a likely top-five team, visiting Oregon, another likely top-five team, doesn't get your juices flowing, you are probably a zombie, and the proper authorities will be alerted.

But which is the second-best game? Or the one you're most excited about? We see five options. Three involve Notre Dame.

Here's how we previously framed those games.
  • Stanford at Notre Dame, Oct. 4: This has become a strong, national rivalry. The last time the Cardinal played in South Bend, the ending was highly controversial -- the Fighting Irish wouldn't have played for the 2012 national title without a boost from the officials. This game likely reveals the team that is a College Football Playoff candidate.
  • Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 29: It remains the greatest intersectional rivalry in college sports. It would be a good idea for first-year USC coach Steve Sarkisian to win this one, as it's a good way to win over his fan base.
  • Notre Dame at Arizona State, Nov. 8: The Fighting Irish tried to get out of this game. They also beat the Sun Devils last season. Arizona State should be plenty motivated in front of what is certain to be a packed house.
  • UCLA vs. Texas, Sept. 13 (Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas): Texas is breaking in new coach Charlie Strong in what is really a glorified home game. UCLA is only trying to announce itself as a national title contender. While the Longhorns are down, they won't lack talent.
  • Utah at Michigan, Sept. 20: Here's a good way for the Utes to announce their return to relevance -- a trip to the Big House. Utah certainly won't be intimidated. It won in Ann Arbor 25-23 in 2008 on its way to an undefeated season. It also lost 10-7 in 2002.

Tradition, obviously, makes the Fighting Irish a draw for national eyeballs, and USC and Stanford are traditional opponents, with the matchup with the Trojans being one of college football's great showcases.

But when something doesn't happen often, such as the Irish visiting Arizona State, that adds some juice.

Speaking of juice -- again -- UCLA's national title hopes could receive some with an impressive performance in front of a huge, antagonistic crowd in the NFL's marquee venue.

And, finally, the Big House is, well, just that: One of college football's most famous venues. The Utes could make some national noise -- and make life really, really difficult for Wolverines coach Brady Hoke -- with an upset victory.
The Pac-12 typically plays a rugged nonconference schedule, but the 2014 slate is, well, only fair to middling.

There's a true marque national game -- Michigan State at Oregon -- and there are three matchups with Notre Dame. But there aren't a whole lot of ranked foes from other areas of the country on the slate.

Here's how we'd rank the Pac-12's best nonconference games in 2014.

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6): It's a top-10 -- perhaps even top-five -- matchup that looks like a Rose Bowl. Or a College Football Playoff semifinal. The Spartans shut down Stanford in the Rose Bowl in January and are eyeballing even bigger things this fall. Like the Ducks.

2. Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4): This has become a strong, national rivalry. The last time the Cardinal was in South Bend, the ending was highly controversial -- the Fighting Irish wouldn't have played for the 2012 national title without a boost from the officials. This game likely reveals if one or the other is a CFP candidate.

3. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29): It remains the greatest intersectional rivalry in college sports. It would be a good idea for first-year USC coach Steve Sarkisian to win this one. A good way to win over his fan base.

4. Notre Dame at Arizona State (Nov. 8): The Fighting Irish tried to get out of this game. They also beat the Sun Devils last year. Arizona State should be plenty motivated in front of what is certain to be a packed house.

5. UCLA vs. Texas (Sept. 13, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas): Texas is breaking in new coach Charlie Strong in what is really a glorified home game. UCLA is only trying to announce itself as a national title contender. While the Longhorns are down, they won't lack talent.

6. Utah at Michigan (Sept. 20): Here's a good way for the Utes to announce their return to relevance -- a trip to the Big House. Utah certainly won't be intimidated. It won in Ann Arbor 25-23 in 2008 on its way to an undefeated season. It also lost 10-7 in 2002.

7. California at Northwestern (Aug. 30): Sonny Dykes wants to get his second season off with a bang. This is a good -- and winnable -- opportunity to do just that.

8. Rutgers vs. Washington State (Aug. 28, CenturyLink Field, Seattle): The Cougars are eyeballing a breakthrough season. It will be hard to do that with an opening loss to a Big Ten team. Yes, Rutgers is now a Big Ten team.

9. Illinois at Washington (Sept. 13): The Illini don't seem too scary, but they are a Big Ten team. They didn't make things too easy on the Huskies last year, either.

10. BYU at California (Nov. 29): We've already noted how nice it would be for Dykes to get his second season off to a fast start. What about a strong finish?
1. Texas Tech sophomore Davis Webb is a reason to look forward to next season. Webb threw for 403 yards and four scores in the upset of Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. He went 25-for-37 for 354 yards and four touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ spring game on Saturday. Afterward, he said that Tech fans should expect this team to be one of the best in school history. Can’t wait to find out how that turns out.

2. Junior Maximo Espitia came to Cal after playing fullback at an Oregon high school. He got issued a running back’s number (No. 19), and then former Bears coach Jeff Tedford moved him to tight end. Tedford got fired, and his replacement, Sonny Dykes, shifted Espitia to inside receiver. Late in the nightmare of last season, when Cal went winless against FBS opponents, Espitia moved to safety to plug a hole in the depth chart. This spring, he is playing linebacker. At least he knows everyone on the team now.

3. I understand why Notre Dame is installing FieldTurf at Notre Dame Stadium. After resodding the field three times last year, the athletic department might be sick of fertilizer. But what I love about Notre Dame is the lengths the university has gone to maintain the stadium's look and feel as it did when Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz coached there. Virtually no signage, no field paint, and, yes, a grass field. Oh well.
MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Nike SPARQ combines have grown with each passing year, and on Saturday there was a record turnout. If the 1,993 prospects who attended weren't impressive enough, the performances by several top prospects who came to compete certainly left spectators turning heads.

Here is a rundown of some of the event's top performers.
  • ESPN Junior 300 running back Taj Griffin posted one of the top SPARQ scores of the day. Griffin checked in at 5-foot-10, 174-pounds, ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 4.35 shuttle, had a 46-inch vertical leap and a 36-foot power ball toss for a combined score of 124.29. On the recruiting front, Oregon, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee continue to stand out the most.

  • No. 3 junior offensive tackle Chuma Edoga posted an impressive score of 94.65. After measuring at 6-4 and weighing 276 pounds, Edoga ripped off a 5.01 40-yard dash, a terrific 4.69 shuttle and had a 33.8-inch vertical jump and 37-foot power ball throw. Following his impressive effort, he said his top four schools in order are Tennessee, Southern California, Georgia and Stanford with a decision likely on May 25, his birthday. The big news might have been that he currently prefers the Volunteers, but his mother is in the corner of the Bulldogs and Cardinal.
  • No. 252 prospect C.J. Sanders made the trip and did not disappoint. He checked in at 5-9 and 176 pounds, ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, had a blazing 4.09 shuttle run, leaped 36.5 inches and tossed the power ball 41 feet. On the recruiting front, USC, Notre Dame and Georgia are the latest to offer, joining Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He visited USC last week, and lists Reggie Bush as his childhood idol. Sanders is the son of former Ohio State and NFL wide receiver Chris Sanders. His mom played basketball at Michigan. He reports his family favors Duke and USC early on with a decision slated for the summer.
  • Class of 2016 prospect Ben Cleveland is already considered one of the top offensive line prospects in the country, and the 6-7, 317-pounder showed why Saturday. He clocked a very impressive 5.22 40-yard dash and 4.87 shuttle, and had a 25.8-inch vertical leap and 41.5-foot power ball throw for a score of 99.78. He has offers from Georgia, Clemson, Florida, South Carolina and Texas with Alabama expected in the near future. He made an unofficial visit to Clemson two weeks ago.
  • Class of 2015 running back Jaylen Burgess posted a 118.44. The 5-10, 214-pounder ran a 4.66 40-yard dash and a 4.38 shuttle, and had a 36.7-inch vertical leap and 42.5 power ball throw. He is receiving interest from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Duke and a number of other ACC schools. Duke and Tennessee are the coaching staffs Burgess talks to the most. He posted more than 1,500 all-purpose yards as a junior.
  • Class of 2016 linebacker and defensive end Charles Wiley checked in at 6-3, 203 pounds. He clocked a 4.68 40-yard dash and 4.45 shuttle, and also leaped 35 inches and threw the power ball 34.5 feet. He has an early offer from Virginia Tech.
  • Class of 2015 athlete Jeremiah Mercer is flying completely under the recruiting radar. While he had to sit out the 2013 season due to transfer rules, he made his mark Saturday posting a score of 97.47. The 5-11, 163-pound running back and wide receiver ripped off a 4.48 40-yard dash and 4.18 shuttle, and added a 36.2-vertical leap and 31-foot power ball toss. He is receiving interest from Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and lists Florida State as his dream school.
  • Class of 2016 inside linebacker Tyler Reed posted a very impressive score of 104.91. After measuring 6-2, 234 pounds, Reed ran a 4.96 40-yard dash and 4.59 shuttle, and had a 35.5-inch vertical leap and 41-foot power ball throw. He recorded 130 tackles as a sophomore.
  • Class of 2015 running back Eric Montgomery posted a 115.47, one of the day’s top scores. The tailback checked in at 5-11, 185 pounds, ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and a 4.19 shuttle, and jumped 36 inches and threw the power ball 38 feet. On the recruiting front, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, among others, are showing interest.

3-point stance: Dressed for success

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1. In 1997, Under Armour outfitted its first college football team, Georgia Tech, which opened the season at Notre Dame. Under Armour made $110,000 in sales that year, which is why its founder, Kevin Plank, spent the night before the game in the Yellow Jacket locker room -- he couldn’t afford a hotel. On Tuesday, Plank and Notre Dame announced a 10-year deal, worth a reported $90 million, for Under Armour to outfit all Fighting Irish teams. That’s the quintessential American success story.

2. A longtime reader emailed me to complain about the price of the $2,000-and-up premium tickets for the College Football Playoff final next year. He worried that the grab for cash will prevent the father-and-son bonding that takes place on fall Saturdays at campuses across America. I think that ship sailed some time ago. Iron Bowl tickets went for $300 each on StubHub last November. Face value for Texas-Oklahoma last season: $110.

3. Manny Diaz, looking for a chance to coach, and maybe redeem his reputation after the flame-out as Texas defensive coordinator, has been hired for the same gig at Louisiana Tech, where Skip Holtz landed last year, looking for a chance to coach, and maybe redeem his rep after South Florida, etc, etc. Ruston might be the place: After Tony Franklin fizzled as Auburn offensive coordinator, he spent three seasons in the same job with the Bulldogs. Franklin left a year ago with Sonny Dykes for the Cal Bears, back among the big boys.
1. The American Football Coaches Association named David Cutcliffe of Duke its FBS coach of the year, and I hope a little part of him is seething. Yes, the Blue Devils had never won 10 games before this year. But Duke went to a bowl game in 2012. It’s not as if this season came entirely came out of the blue. Coaching awards are mostly about expectations. The AFCA voted that Duke winning 10 games is more outlandish than Gus Malzahn taking Auburn from 3-9, 0-8 in the SEC, to within nine seconds of being No. 1. That makes no sense.

2. The run of assistant coach hirings over the last few days serves as a reminder that coaches change jobs but relationships endure. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly hired Brian VanGorder as his defensive coordinator. VanGorder, the Jets’ linebacker coach, worked for Kelly at Division II Grand Valley State in the ‘90s. Bo Davis, who is returning to Alabama as defensive line coach, is the fourth of the Crimson Tide’s nine assistants whom Nick Saban has rehired. He might be hard to work for, but they keep coming back.

3. Longtime Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker died Monday, at age 72, only three seasons after retiring because of complications from diabetes. Parker was a coach’s coach. He didn’t look for the spotlight. He just delighted in coaching his players, teaching them the fundamentals of the basic, solid defense that has been a hallmark of Kirk Ferentz’s teams in his 14 seasons in Iowa City.
ORLANDO -- Let the season of indecision begin.

Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), the No. 1-rated tight end nationally who committed to Notre Dame on Dec. 16, said he’s interested in looking more closely at hometown USC.

Is Miami this year’s Notre Dame?

November, 1, 2013
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Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsMiami has needed 4th quarter comebacks in its last two wins to remain unbeaten.

No. 7 Miami (FL) enters its Week 10 matchups with No. 3 Florida State undefeated and looking to jump into the BCS National Championship conversation.

The Hurricanes needed two fourth-quarter comebacks in their last two games in order to remain undefeated. In both of those games, they had less than a 25 percent chance of winning at one point in the fourth quarter, according to ESPN’s win probability model.

Miami’s win against Wake Forest was its third win by seven or fewer points, which brings up the question, “Could Miami be this year’s Notre Dame?”

Last season, Notre Dame won five games by seven points or fewer en route to its 12-0 record entering the BCS National Championship.

The Fighting Irish had a difficult schedule, but also failed to dominate some of their lesser opponents. Notre Dame’s average margin of victory against its unranked FBS opponents was 18.6 points compared to 35.9 for Alabama last season.

Further, their average in-game win probability ranked ninth in the FBS entering the BCS National Championship, meaning that despite winning all of their games they were not dominant in those wins. In-game win probability measures the chance that a team has of winning across all of its plays.

Miami currently has the 18th-best average in-game win probability, but has faced only one ranked opponent. Adjusting for strength of schedule, Miami’s in-game win probability rank falls to 34th, according to ESPN’s win probability model.

Another potential similarity upcoming
Arguably, Notre Dame’s biggest win of last season came at No. 8 Oklahoma in its eighth game of the season. The Irish entered the game as double-digit underdogs, and, like Miami, they needed fourth-quarter comebacks in their previous two games against Stanford and BYU to remain undefeated.

Miami enters its eighth game of the season as more than a three-touchdown underdog at Florida State. The Hurricanes’ offense was slowed in its last two games, and it will face a Florida State defense that has held its last two ranked opponents to 14 combined points.

One of the keys to Notre Dame’s win against Oklahoma was its run game. The Irish gained 179 yards and all three of their touchdowns on designed runs. They were able to control the clock and keep Landry Jones off the field.

Look for Miami to employ a similar plan Saturday. In the fourth quarter of its past two games, Miami ran the ball on 76 percent of its plays and averaged 99.5 rush yards.

They scored all four of their fourth-quarter touchdowns on the ground in those two comebacks. If Florida State has a weakness, it is its run defense; the Seminoles lead the nation in pass defense, but rank 29th in rush defense.

Florida State has scored a touchdown on 52 percent of its drives, second best in the FBS. If Miami is able to keep them off the field, the Hurricanes might be able to continue their unbeaten season.
ESPN Junior 300 defensive tackle Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas/Gladewater) has a new top four.


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Not to get Biblical on you, but the Arizona State Sun Devils -- Devils! -- are embracing their sinister side for their showdown Saturday against Notre Dame in Cowboys Stadium.

The Sun Devils will don black uniforms with helmets decorated with wild-looking flames -- hellfire? -- against the Fighting Irish, who will be wearing angelic white.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezArizona State signal-caller Taylor Kelly has thrown for 11 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
Of course, this isn't a battle of good and evil. It's just two teams embracing the marketplace ideology of branding in college football.

"We wanted to do something unique obviously to Arizona State, so the flames we thought were pretty cool and we put the flames on the back, we obviously want to use our brand," said Arizona State coach Todd Graham, who was involved in the design and noted that every helmet will be different.

The Sun Devils are, er, on fire after a blowout win over USC, while Notre Dame is coming off a loss to Oklahoma and is a disappointing 3-2 after going unbeaten and playing for the national title a season ago. If the Sun Devils can pull off the win and start 4-1 against a rugged early slate, they will enter the meat of the Pac-12 schedule with plenty of momentum and confidence.

Moreover, they can make history. No team has ever beaten USC and Notre Dame, two of the nation's most storied programs, back-to-back.

But while Graham is glad to talk about attention-grabbing uniforms and history, neither is his central focus. There have been two downers so far this year for Arizona State: (1) The first half at Stanford; (2) The Sun Devils' run defense, which ranks 11th in the conference, yielding 192 yards per game.

When asked about what the problems were against the run, Graham, not known for being laconic in any event, went on with a nearly 500-word answer during his Monday news conference. This story is just over 732 words.

"I am answering long because this is the number one thing that we have to do to win a championship," he said. "This has got to get better and I think it can. That is our number one focus."

Graham said that the chief problem was players getting out of position. He said there were 15 misalignments for the defense against the Trojans, who rushed for 247 yards on Saturday. He also said the biggest plays are coming on the perimeter, not up the middle. Part of the problem against USC was noseguard Jaxon Hood being out. He's questionable-to-doubtful for the Notre Dame game.

The good news for that run defense, however, is the Fighting Irish's struggles on offense. They rank 85th in the nation in scoring (25.4 points per game) and 93rd in rushing offense (135.5 yards per game).

But even the Irish's vaunted defense has been only mediocre. It has yielded 23.8 points and 364 yards per game, numbers that rank 46th and 53rd in the nation.

It's worth noting that both teams have played tough opponents, so the early-season statistics might be slightly skewed. But in the preseason, the Sun Devils looked like underdogs for this game. Now they are 5 1/2-point favorites.

This game also will be another test for the Sun Devils learning to play better on the road, most particularly QB Taylor Kelly. Though this game is technically being played at a neutral site, Irish fans will far outnumber the ASU loyalists. The Sun Devils are 3-4 on the road under Graham, and two of the 2012 road wins were over woeful California and Colorado. The lone quality road win was at rival Arizona last year.

Further, Kelly is a decidedly better QB at home. His rating this season is 156.6 at home and 121.3 on the road (at Stanford, perhaps the Pac-12's best defense). Last season, he was 198.7 at home and 127.6 on the road.

"You could probably take any quarterback and they would have the same stats," Graham said before adding, "If you want to win a championship you have got to win on the road."

Graham was quick to point out that the Pac-12 schedule has more importance for the Sun Devils. But he also knows that lining up opposite Notre Dame means you'll be performing in front of a lot of eyeballs.

Winning is the most important part of branding.

"Is it more important than the Pac-12 games? No, it is not," Graham said. "That is how we emphasize it to our players. But it is very important to our fan base, very important to our football program."

Video: Rose Bowl, Notre Dame vs. Stanford

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In 1925, the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish outlast the Stanford Cardinal 27-10.

Golson takes 'full responsibility' for choices

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Everett Golson was suspended by Notre Dame due to "poor academic judgment," the former starting quarterback said in a statement given to ESPN's Tom Rinaldi.

"I have been informed by the University of Notre Dame that due to my poor academic judgment that I have been suspended from the University for the 2013 Fall Term," Golson said. "I take full responsibility for my poor choices and will do all that is asked of me to regain the trust of my family, friends, teammates, coaches and the entire Notre Dame community."

Read more on Golson's suspension here.

Video: ACC official visit

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NoleNation’s Corey Dowlar and Midwest regional coordinator Jared Shanker join Jim Basquil to discuss where Florida State’s quarterback recruiting stands now that Clint Trickett has left the program, and which top-ranked running back the Fighting Irish are zoning in on.

Recruiting has Tide, Irish in 2013 title mix

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Getty ImagesNick Saban and Brian Kelly have Alabama and Notre Dame primed for another run in 2013.

Before the season, the Alabama Crimson Tide were one of the favorites to play in the BCS National Championship. The Tide were ranked second in both the Associated Press and coaches’ preseason top 25 polls. However, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were a surprise participant. The Irish were unranked in the AP preseason top 25 and 24th by the coaches.

The Tide rolled the Irish 42-14 to capture their third consensus national title in four seasons. Despite the loss, the trip to the title game marked a return to prominence for one of the country’s most storied programs. Looking ahead, what are the chances one or both teams reach Pasadena for next year’s BCS National Championship?

Alabama has proven it has staying power, but the Tide will lose at least two members of their offensive line in highly decorated center Barrett Jones and left guard Chance Warmack.

Right tackle D.J. Fluker could also leave early for the NFL, as could running back Eddie Lacy and cornerback Dee Milliner. However, quarterback AJ McCarron returns, as do freshmen T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper.

As for Notre Dame, the Irish’s biggest personnel losses will be linebacker Manti Te'o on defense and tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Theo Riddick on offense. Te’o won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Eifert captured the Mackey Award as the country’s top tight end, while Riddick led the team in yards from scrimmage (1,244).

Like Bama, Notre Dame’s starting quarterback also returns, Everett Golson. Although the defense loses Te’o, eight other starters return, including defensive end Stephon Tuitt and nose tackle Louis Nix III. Tuitt led the Irish with 12 sacks and was just 1.5 shy of the school’s single-season record set by Justin Tuck in 2003.

One reason these schools enjoyed success in 2012? Recruiting. Alabama and Notre Dame have brought in top-10 recruiting classes each of the previous two years and this year’s classes are no different. The Irish currently have the top-ranked recruiting class, while the Tide’s is third according to ESPN Recruiting Nation.

Notre Dame’s defense, which was exposed a bit by Alabama, has help on the way in outside linebackers Jaylon Smith (No. 2-ranked OLB) and Alex Anzalone (No. 5). Greg Bryant, the second-ranked running back, has also committed.

As for the Tide, the rich get richer as Robert Foster, the nation’s No. 2 receiver, will join a corps that already includes the aforementioned Cooper. With the players returning and the new pieces on the way, don’t be surprised if both teams make another title run next season.

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