Notre Dame Football: Ohio State Buckeyes

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.

4-star LB Jaylon Smith commits to Irish

June, 2, 2012
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ANGOLA, Ind. -- Long rumored to be a heavy Notre Dame lean, four-star outside linebacker Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) ended all speculation with a pledge to the Fighting Irish on Saturday at the inaugural R.A.S Football Camp hosted by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer at Trine University.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Smith is ranked No. 46 in the ESPN 150 and is the top prospect in Indiana. He reported offers from Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC.

"Every (Notre Dame) coach has the same stand character-wise," Smith said. "Other coaches tell you what you want to hear, and I saw that with my brother." Rod Smith, a running back, is entering his sophomore season at Ohio State.

Smith is Notre Dame's top 2013 commit, its third commit in the ESPN 150 and its 13th overall.

Irish Lunch Links

February, 21, 2012
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Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday ...

Irish Lunch Links

January, 31, 2012
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Has Dwight Howard requested a trade to the Yankees yet?

Ex-ND assistant Sheridan to OSU

January, 30, 2012
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Add one more former Notre Dame assistant to Urban Meyer's Ohio State staff.

Bill Sheridan, who coached the Irish defensive backs in 2001, has rounded out the Buckeyes' staff and will be their new secondary coach, according to multiple reports.

The 53-year-old Sheridan has also coached at Michigan, Michigan State, the New York Giants (2005-09) and the Miami Dolphins (2010-11).

Former Irish assistants Tim Hinton (running backs) and Ed Warinner (offensive line/running game coordinator) were hired away from Notre Dame by Meyer this offseason. They will coach the tight ends/fullbacks and the offensive line, respectively.
Harry Hiestand is Notre Dame's new offensive line coach/run game coordinator, the school announced Wednesday.

Hiestand, a 29-year coaching veteran, comes from Tennessee, where he coached the offensive line for the past two seasons. His recent stops include the Chicago Bears (2005-09), Illinois (1997-04) and Missouri (1994-96).

"I've spent most of my coaching career in the Midwest and I'm happy to be back in the area," Hiestand, a Malvern, Pa., native, said in a statement. "I've always had great respect for Notre Dame and what it stands for. As you look at the college football landscape, Notre Dame is truly a unique place and I'm happy to be part of it. I'm excited about working with Coach [Brian] Kelly and our offensive linemen this year."

Hiestand replaces Ed Warinner, who joined Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State to become the Buckeyes' co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach.

Hiestand should be the final piece to Notre Dame's staff for the 2012 season. The Irish lost former offensive coordinator Charley Molnar (now head coach at Massachusetts), former running backs coach Tim Hinton (tight ends/fullbacks coach at Ohio State) and Warinner after 2011. In addition to Booker, Notre Dame hired Bob Elliott to coach safeties and promoted offensive intern Scott Booker to a to be determined full-time position.

"Harry is one of the best offensive line coaches in college football, and we are fortunate to have him on our staff," Kelly said in a statement. "When I was searching to fill this position, I asked some of the most respected offensive line coaches in football whom they would recommend and Harry's name was routinely mentioned as one of the best. His history of developing NFL-caliber offensive linemen speaks for itself, and I know our linemen will learn a lot from him."

Elliott named Irish safeties coach

January, 21, 2012
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Bob Elliott is Notre Dame's new safeties coach, the school announced Saturday.

Elliott, a 33-year coaching veteran, comes from Iowa State, where he served as the Cyclones' secondary coach the past two seasons.

“My family and I are excited to be part of this great university,” Elliott said in a statement. “I grew up in the Midwest and have spent much of my life in this region and always wondered what it would be like to coach at Notre Dame. This was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up and am happy to be associated with this great place.”

Elliott also has a combined 11 seasons of experience as a defensive coordinator, at San Diego State, Kansas State, Iowa and Ball State.

The position was open because former Irish safeties coach Chuck Martin moved to offensive coordinator this offseason, where he replaces Charley Molnar, who took over as head coach at Massachusetts.

Elliott is familiar with members of the current Irish staff, as he coached current co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks at Iowa in 1997, when Elliott was the Hawkeyes' defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach. Current Irish assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was a graduate assistant under Elliott from 1996-97.

“I couldn’t be more excited about bringing Bob Elliott to Notre Dame,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “At his core, Bob is an outstanding teacher and tactician. He has had great success developing top-tier defensive backs and his experience as a defensive coordinator will complement our coaching staff. Bobby has a long-standing relationship with Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks so the transition to our staff should be extremely smooth. I know our safeties will love playing for him.”

The Irish staff has shuffled this offseason, with Tim Hinton (running backs) and Ed Warinner (offensive line/running game coordinator) leaving for jobs under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

Former offensive intern Scott Booker was promoted to a full-time staff member at a position yet to be determined.

Irish lunch links

January, 19, 2012
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My TV said E! was airing "(500) Days of Summer" last night. I clicked. It was "Kourtney & Kim Take New York."

Let. Down.

Notre Dame among most overrated in '11

January, 19, 2012
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Notre Dame entered 2011 as the Associated Press' preseason No. 16 team, expectations high and a BCS-bowl berth in sight.

Things didn't go according to plan. But were the Irish the biggest disappointment of this past college football season?

Turns out they'll have to settle for No. 2 in that category.

CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy broke down the preseason AP poll, using it as a measuring stick to see whom the voters were right (or close to being right) about while acknowledging those they whiffed on. McMurphy listed the 48 schools that received a vote in the preseason poll and calculated the difference from where they finished in the final poll.

The numbers showed that preseason No. 8 Texas A&M, at minus-41, was the biggest disappointment of 2011, with Notre Dame right behind the Aggies at minus-33. Ohio State (minus-31), Mississippi State (minus-29) and Florida (minus-27) rounded out the top five disappointments. Those five, plus Missouri (preseason No. 21, minus-8) and Auburn (preseason No. 23, minus-4) made up the seven schools that were not ranked in the final poll after being ranked in the preseason.

Preseason unranked Baylor (plus-36) finished as the biggest surprise.

And, in a reassuring sign for sportswriters everywhere, No. 7 Stanford, No. 14 TCU and No. 19 Georgia finished in the exact same spots as their preseason rankings.

Irish Lunch Links

January, 17, 2012
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Tuesday?

Decker de-commits from ND for OSU

January, 15, 2012
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Urban Meyer probably doesn't have too many fans in South Bend, Ind.

Three-star offensive tackle Taylor Decker (Vandalia, Ohio/Butler) de-committed from Notre Dame on Sunday and pledged to Meyer and Ohio State, joining former Irish assistants Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner in leaving for the scarlet and gray.

Warinner, who will coordinate the running game as Ohio State's co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, will be Decker's position coach. Warinner had previously served as the Irish's offensive line coach and running game coordinator.

Decker's de-commitment drops the Irish's recruiting class to 16 members. The 6-foot-8, 310-pounder originally committed to Notre Dame in March.

Ohio State now has 20 commitments for the class of 2012, and four since Meyer took over the Buckeyes.

Notre Dame suffered a de-commitment just a week ago when four-star athlete Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac) re-opened his recruitment.
Former Notre Dame assistant coaches Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton officially joined head coach Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State on Thursday, the Buckeyes announced.

Warinner will coordinate the running game as the team's co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. Hinton will be the tight ends and fullbacks coach.

"I was very pleased with the coaches already in place on this staff," Meyer said in a statement, "and now we’ve gotten even better with the additions of Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton. Both are excellent coaches who bring a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge to our staff."

Warinner had served as the Irish's offensive line coach and running game coordinator. Hinton was the team's running backs coach.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had promoted former safeties coach Chuck Martin, not Warinner, to offensive coordinator when Charley Molnar left the post to become head coach at Massachusetts. Warinner had served as Kansas' offensive coordinator for three seasons before joining the Irish.

"I really wanted to hire a coach with coordinator experience," Meyer said. "That was very important to me. Ed has that experience. His offenses at Kansas were not only impressive, but they were some of the top offenses in the country."

Hinton had served as a graduate assistant with Meyer under former Buckeyes coach Earl Bruce in 1986, and his named had been linked to Meyer's staff the minute Meyer was hired by the Buckeyes, though he had previously denied any interest.

"Tim is an awesome coach," Meyer said. "He and I worked together on the Ohio State staff in 1986, but what I am most impressed with is his time spent as a high school coach in Ohio. He had some outstanding teams at Harding, and his extensive experiences coaching in the state were crucial in my desire to want him on our staff."

"I have always felt it would be an honor to have an opportunity to coach for and to represent Ohio State," Hinton said in a statement. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to work with great people and great coaches at such a wonderful place."

Both assistants are Ohio natives -- Warinner from Strasburg; Hinton from Amanda.

"I’ve always strived to coach in positions where I have a lot of responsibility," Warinner said in a statement. "Serving as a coordinator goes beyond just coaching what my guys are doing. It is a thought process of attacking and moving the ball, and strategies and reading plays. There is a big picture as a coordinator that I am into and really enjoy, and it’s a position from where I think I can make a significant contribution to the success of a team."

Final 2011 opponent power rankings

January, 10, 2012
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The 2011 college football season is officially over, leaving us 234 long days between now and Notre Dame's Sept. 1 showdown in Dublin against Navy.

In the meantime, let's look back at the Irish's 2011 opponents, seven of whom played in bowl games and three of whom (the Big Ten slate of Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue) won bowl games.

1) Stanford (11-2, beat Notre Dame, 28-14, on Nov. 26): This was a close call between the Cardinal and the runner-up, the USC Trojans. But given Stanford's road win against USC and the fact it beat the Irish convincingly from start to finish — whereas Notre Dame had its chances to close in on the Trojans — the Cardinal get the edge here.

2) USC (10-2, won at Notre Dame, 31-17, on Oct. 22): It's a shame we couldn't see this team in a big bowl game against another quality opponent. These Trojans didn't really register on the national radar until their impressive showing in South Bend, jumping to a 17-0 lead to top their rival for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

3) Michigan State (11-3, lost at Notre Dame, 31-13, on Sept. 17): Few could have envisioned Sparty coming within a few plays of the Rose Bowl following the beating it suffered at Notre Dame Stadium. But the way Kirk Cousins and Co. handled the rest of their Big Ten slate proved that, if nothing else, the Irish certainly had at least one big "quality" win in 2011.

4) Michigan (11-2, beat Notre Dame, 35-31, on Sept. 10): Another case in which a team's game against the Irish was not at all telling about what the rest of the season had in store. You wonder what would have happened to the Wolverines in coach Brady Hoke's first year had the fourth quarter against Notre Dame never happened. Instead, Michigan rode the momentum of a miracle comeback to a renaissance season that culminated with a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech.

5) Florida State (9-4, beat Notre Dame (in Orlando, Fla.), 18-14, on Dec. 29): The Champs Sports Bowl proved the Seminoles were the most worthy of opponents for the Irish. Both followed disappointing four-loss regular seasons with a defense-dominated, turnover-plagued contest that featured a late FSU comeback, allowing one team to end 2011 on a high note.

6) Wake Forest (6-7, lost to Notre Dame, 24-17, on Nov. 5): The Demon Deacons were responsible for one of the more surprising close contests the Irish played in all season long, jumping ahead early but not having enough gas left in the tank to finish off Notre Dame. Wake Forest did manage to beat FSU earlier in the season and gave eventual conference champion Clemson all it could handle a week after its loss to the Irish.

7) Air Force (7-6, lost at Notre Dame, 59-33, on Oct. 8): The Falcons certainly didn't lack for excitement, helping to put on an offensive clinic in their loss to the Irish and averaging nearly 35 points per game on the season. Their 42-41 Military Bowl loss to Toledo in many ways encapsulated all that was good and bad about this one-sided team.

8 ) Purdue (7-6, lost to Notre Dame, 38-10, on Oct. 1): What is it about Notre Dame and these Big Ten teams? The Irish were clearly much better than the Boilermakers all season long, but their thrashing of them at Ross-Ade Stadium looked all the more impressive after Purdue managed a solid season the rest of the way, beating a ranked Illinois team, Ohio State and winning the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Western Michigan.

9) Pitt (6-7, lost to Notre Dame, 15-12, on Sept. 24): An underwhelming Panthers squad made the Irish earn their second win of the season in the ugliest of fashions, as their meeting at Heinz Field was brutal on the eyes before a late Tommy Rees touchdown drive sealed the win for Notre Dame.

10) Navy (5-7, lost at Notre Dame, 56-14, on Oct. 29): Perhaps no team had worse luck on the field all season long. Navy lost a couple nailbiters on a couple of questionable calls but managed to win three of its final four games after getting blown out in South Bend.

11) South Florida (5-7, won at Notre Dame, 23-20, on Sept. 1): No excusing this loss. The Bulls followed this win and three more nonconference victories by falling flat on their face, losing their first four Big East contests en route to a 1-6 record in conference play this season. Oh, and Pitt beat them 44-17 five days after the Panthers' loss to the Irish.

12) Boston College (4-8, lost at Notre Dame, 16-14, on Nov. 19): Two wins in the Eagles' final three games was too little, too late for a team that could never get it together this season. BC's defense was stingy — and that unit and its special teams units made for a much tighter contest in South Bend than anyone had reason to expect — but the Eagles could never get it clicking on all cylinders this season.

13) Maryland (2-10, lost at Notre Dame (in Landover, Md.), 45-21, on Nov. 12): Where do we even begin? The Terrapins lost their final eight games of the season, beat just one FBS opponent all year and capped their campaign by blowing a 27-point second-half lead in a 56-41 loss at North Carolina State.

Darby de-commits from Notre Dame

January, 9, 2012
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Four-star cornerback Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac; No. 69 in the ESPNU 150) has re-opened his recruitment after de-committing from Notre Dame, according to multiple reports.

Darby, who committed to the Irish in April and had been their highest-rated recruit for this year's class, is expected to visit Florida State and Clemson, and is considering trips to Ohio State and LSU as well.

Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting class is down to 17 members.

Irish announce staff changes

January, 2, 2012
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Notre Dame will have some familiar faces in new places next season.

Bob Diaco has been named assistant head coach, Chuck Martin has been named offensive coordinator, Kerry Cooks has been named co-defensive coordinator and Scott Booker has been promoted to full-time assistant, the Irish announced Monday, four days after their season ended with a Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State and five days after head coach Brian Kelly said he was excited to be able to keep his staff in place for 2012.

Former running backs coach Tim Hinton and former offensive line coach and running game coordinator Ed Warinner have left to pursue other opportunities.

Diaco, Martin, Cooks, Booker, Tony Alford (receivers), Mike Denbrock (tight ends) and Mike Elston (defensive line/special teams) have all received contract extensions as well.

Diaco is promoted after two seasons as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, duties he will still be responsible for. Martin, who coached safeties and served a recruiting coordinator, replaces Charley Molnar, who took the head coaching job at Massachusetts last month.

Martin succeeded Brian Kelly as head coach at Grand Valley State for six seasons and directed the offense, continuing the same system Kelly had installed.

“Chuck is a very talented coach that will make our offense better in the future due to his knowledge of our offensive system as well as how defenses like to attack it,” Kelly said in a statement. “I wanted someone that knew the system I’m familiar with and our experience coaching together will make for an easy transition. Chuck did a great job directing the Grand Valley State offense after I left and led the program to unprecedented heights. I look forward to witnessing the impact he’ll have on our offense.”

Cooks coached cornerbacks last season and outside linebackers the year before. Booker has been an offensive intern the past two seasons and will be assigned a specific position in the future.

Hinton has long been rumored to be joining Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State, though neither school had an immediate announcement and Hinton deflected those rumors Dec. 19, saying:

"Here's what I know: I am coaching at the University of Notre Dame. That's all for everything else, and that's all for everybody else. I've got one thing to do: I'm gonna coach Cierre Wood, I'm gonna coach Theo Riddick, which kind of got you guys last week, didn't it? And I'm gonna coach George [Atkinson III] and Cam [McDaniel] and that's the only thing we can do. And that's the bottom line: We're coaching the heck out of them. And do I want to be at Notre Dame? Absolutely."

The loss of Warinner comes as a bigger surprise, though it is unclear where his next stop will be.

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