O’Malley’s Monday Musings

Nine Notre Dame – and NCAA Championship – related thoughts to kick off your sports week.

1 – You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: It was good to catch up with a more mature, focused Everett Golson following Notre Dame’s Pro Day drills Thursday afternoon. Golson presented well as a Notre Dame graduate with no regrets, but an obvious soft spot for his former teammates and university despite spending his final, inglorious collegiate days in Tallahassee.

Golson was uneven in his performance from my point of view, though his lightning strike right arm did flash its familiar form on more than a few throws. Also familiar, and seemingly impossible considering the sterile, defense-free surroundings:

Golson fumbled. Wish I were kidding.

Actually, no I don’t. Who fumbles a pass cocking their hand to throw in drills? I felt like I was back in Tempe…

2 – Impartiality Out the Window: I haven’t encountered an athlete in my eight years covering Notre Dame football and basketball for Scout.com that I rooted against in terms of his professional prospects. It’s human nature to root for some more than others – and to be indifferent to a handful or so – but it’s with certainty and an alumnus’ pride that I can tell you this:

Jarrett Grace joins Jonas Gray and Kapron Lewis-Moore (debilitating late-career knee injuries for both) as players I truly hope get a shot at the next level. For Grace, that window is much smaller, but he’s the type of player and person where even the proverbial “cup of coffee” in the NFL would be a nice endnote to his playing days.

There’s not a member of the Notre Dame-centric media who isn’t openly rooting for Grace to stick as a special teamer over the next few seasons.

3 – Prister was right: It is still bragging, even if you back it up, and cornerback KeiVarae Russell is well versed in the former despite an uneven senior season in which he fought through a stress fracture to play the first 11 games. Russell’s test scores (broad jump, 40-yard dash) were predictably outstanding (story here: http://www.scout.com/college/notre-dame/story/1657115-brash-russell-backs-up-bravado) but he’ll have to prove it between the lines – and likely as a third, fourth, or perhaps fifth-round pick – at the next level.

In Russell’s case, I have a feeling Pride indeed Goeth Before the Fall, and the affable but braggadocious defensive back might benefit from the added incentive a drop in the draft sometimes provides a true competitor – one that I believe him to be.

4 – Four Out of Five: Russell, Ishaq Williams, Eilar Hardy, and DaVaris Daniels (did not test) were all on hand Thursday. Frozen no more…

5 – Tonight’s the Night: There are two annual events in my life where I can tell you, with unequivocal certainty, where I was over each of the last 35 iterations (dating back to 1981): the Super Bowl and the NCAA Championship game.

I’ll thus take the liberty to step outside the Irish Sports world for a moment:

Top 5 NCAA Champions Since 1981: 1982 North Carolina, 1990 UNLV, 1996 Kentucky, 1992 Duke, and 1984 Georgetown.

Top 5 Championship Games Since 1981 (no order): 1982 UNC over Georgetown, 1987 Indiana over Syracuse, 1997 Arizona over Kentucky in OT, 1999 UConn over Duke, and 2003 Syracuse over Kansas.
-- Honorable Mention: Michigan over Seton Hall 1989 and Kansas over Memphis in OT 2007

Ranking the Upsets (and thus, the excitement) Since 1981: NC State over Houston, Villanova over Georgetown, Kansas over Oklahoma, Arizona over Kentucky, and nearly Butler over Duke, which would have been the Holy Grail…

6 – Take Solace: At this point last season, Notre Dame basketball fans felt legitimate pain as potentially the best team in the country NOT playing in the title game, or at least not in the Final Four. The 2015 basketball season ended with the following five squads as #1A through #1E in no particular order: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Duke, and Michigan State.

This season? Notre Dame made a run, but they’re rightfully on the outside looking in. North Carolina and Villanova are the two best teams in the country, and Kansas is probably third.

7 – Freshman Tommy Kraemer: Is headed for the two-deep on Harry Hiestand’s offensive line – at offensive tackle, it appears – upon hi arrival this summer.

Notre Dame’s top position group could again be its offensive line, but it’ll be razor-thin this season at offensive tackle. After a group conversation with Hiestand today, my projected starting offensive line for 2016 remains unchanged (Left to Right): McGlinchey, Nelson, Mustipher, Bivin, Bars.

And Kraemer might be the first tackle off the bench. (Guard and center have built-in depth with Tristen Hoge C/G and Colin McGovern at G.) As of now, Bivin is the backup tackle at both spots. My guess is that changes by the end of August.

8 – It Means More: I don’t know how they’ll fare this fall, but here’s the short list of players up for my unofficial but annual (and necessary to success) Chris Zorich Award: Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Shaun Crawford, James Onwualu, DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire, Andrew Trumbetti, and Drue Tranquill.

9 – Corey Robinson’s National Anthem: (In case you missed it:

https://twitter.com/Bucks/status/717019182240432128

There’s not much Robinson doesn’t do well, including enjoyable, varied media interviews that break up the monotony of the football season, notably speaking to media post-Clemson in the first available player session following a game in which he visibly struggled.

But this latest off-the-field endeavor elicits a 2013 interview I had with former Irish captain Cam McDaniel in which he offered Robinson was the most talented person (not player) on the team. Apparently McDaniel was prescient, and that reality is likely to present between the lines for 2016, which reminds me of this outstanding commercial spot by the NCAA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXeDUFTaU1Y

Until next week, Irish fans…


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