1 – Both sides of the coin: Detailed scouting reports on Notre Dame’s draft prospects are readily available, but after covering each for his three and/or four seasons in South Bend, I can instead provide the following upside/downside opinion for 2016 Irish draft prospects:
-- Will Fuller: Top tier competitive confidence…but he’s the most slightly built star player I’ve ever covered – in any sport.
-- Ronnie Stanley: I’ve seen him fully engaged (LSU) and it was impressive…but just because you’re great at football doesn’t mean you want to play it for another decade. Stanley has a lot going for him after he retires…
-- Sheldon Day: Unquestioned physical and mental toughness…and a history of foot and ankle problems. The NFL trenches are not a kind place.
-- Nick Martin: If I had to get out of a dark alley, and two guys with knives stood between me and the exit, I’d want Nick Martin next to me…but he’s not as athletic as most NFL starting centers.
-- C.J. Prosise: Could be a 10-year Special Teamer without his running back skills…but playing injured in the League is a pre-requisite, not a choice, and that’ll be an adjustment for a running bak neophyte.
-- KeiVarae Russell: Could aid a team as a CB, or S, or Nickel, and on both special teams coverage and returns at the next level…but pride cometh before the fall, and Kei’s about to encounter a different level of passer/receiver combo than he did Saturday’s in South Bend.
-- Romeo Okwara: Love the upside of a player that surges as a senior – and is not yet 21 years old…but he won’t quickly impress at the professional level as a pass-rusher, and I’m not sure he can grow into another role.
-- Elijah Shumate: If every ND player had his hunger for the game, there’d be far fewer 8- and 9-win seasons littering past and future slates…but at the next level, there are 100 Elijah Shumate’s vying for backup roles.
-- Chris Brown: Self-made wide receiver, one that eschewed his track past to become an all-around solid football player…but he doesn’t have one top tier trait to speak of.
-- Matthias Farley: An ideal teammate and special teams performer, one that will doubtless impress coaches in his first and subsequent training camps…but he doesn’t have a scrimmage position in the league.
-- Jaylon Smith: Picked up Brian VanGorder’s ludicrous – I mean, complicated, I meant “complicated” – scheme almost as quickly as did football savant Joe Schmidt…and I don’t have a downside other than the obvious. And neither do you.
2 – My Favorite Niche: Growing up there were two off-season events that I truly enjoyed – the NBA and NFL Drafts. The former was ruined by the late 1990s when half of the first round picks were no longer recognizable, memorable college stars, but rather prep prospects with untapped potential. That often remained untapped…
The latter? Ruined by ESPN and the Internet. There’s nothing more annoying than being inundated with NFL Draft chatter and uninformed opinions for four months rather than the one-week blitz in days of yore.
My two former niche events are now instead indulgent, excessive extravaganzas. Also: GET OFF MY LAWN!
3 – Delayed Gratification: I have a hunch senior tight end Durham Smythe is going to be an outstanding football player – as a fifth-year senior in 2017. I expect that Smythe’s two surgeries and subsequent lost season of weight training as a 2015 junior will impair his potential through ’16.
4 – Can’t Lose ‘Em: Isaac Rochell, Shaun Crawford, Justin Yoon, Tyler Newsome, Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Torii Hunter, Jr., Drue Tranquill, Jarron Jones…and Alex Bars.
I think Brian Kelly’s 2016 roster could overcome the loss of any other player sans the list above.
5 – Your Next Notre Dame Weekend: Here’s your short list of the three best South Bend meals – that you don’t already know about – for a reasonable price:
-- Breakfast: Build your own breakfast sandwich at the Overlook Café (across the street from LaBar Practice Fields). I recommend Ham, Egg, Brie cheese (a good melting cheese), sautéed Jalapenos and caramelized onions with a side of Sriracha/Honey sauce. On English Muffin toasted twice. (I like to eat toast, not bread). Plus Coffee = $8.41
-- Lunch: Cobb Salad at Uptown Kitchen, Granger – can’t go wrong with chopped lettuce, diced tomato, sliced avocado, grilled chicken, crumbled egg, bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and green onions. The dressing that comes with it is good but I suggest their homemade garlic/parsley – and subsequently, some tooth paste – instead. $12, plus the best beer in the world, St. Bernardus Abt 12, is on tap. (But don’t have more than one, Manziel).
-- Dinner: Chicken Pad Thai (choose your spice level, but beware) at Cambodian Thai, downtown South Bend. A ludicrous $7.99. It’s an ideal downtown option if you can arrive a night early (Thursday) so you don’t miss your traditional visit to Rocco’s/Barnaby’s/Macri’s/etc. on Friday night.
6 – Long-lasting repercussions of their respective departures: Joe Moore circa 1996 and Bob Diaco circa 2013. Discuss...
7 – Wait ‘Til Next Year? Notre Dame’s 2017 offensive line could (should?) remain intact from the quintet Harry Hiestand produces this fall. It’s likely that the starting quarterback will carry over as well – as could the entire receiving corps and collection of running backs, though if in good health, Tarean Folston will have a business decision to consider.
And if the Brian Kelly/Mike Sanford/Mike Denbrock trio remains whole, Notre Dame’s offense could be absolutely lethal – and thus headed for another play-in game in Palo Alto, post-Thanksgiving 2017.
8 – Your First of 25 Off-Season Predictions: The aforementioned Torii Hunter will lead the 2016 Irish in total touchdowns scored, marking the sixth time a wide receiver will turn the trick in the seven-season Brian Kelly era.
Can you name the only non pass-catcher to lead a Kelly-coached Irish squad in touchdowns scored?
9 – Don’t Go There: Public service message to Notre Dame fans – please do not compare current or future Irish to the following:
-- Jeff Faine: I promise you, your player point-of-comparison is nowhere near as mean + talented…
-- Harrison Smith: Considering the entire package, Smith’s presence in South Bend is akin to seeing a unicorn…
-- Zack Martin: 52 consecutive starts, and at no point was he not one of a given squad’s six best players. Think about that…
-- Tony Rice: No, (insert name here) is not the same type of leader as was Rice, because no one is…other than maybe Manti Te’o.
-- Ricky Watters: Son, Cierre Wood and (especially) Greg Bryant couldn’t hold Ricky Watters’ jock…
-- Jaylon Smith: Enough said.
Until next week, Irish fans…
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