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O’Malley’s Monday Musings

Essential reading, crucial starters, injury updates and the art of trash talk highlight this week’s Notre Dame Football Musings.

1 – Greg Bryant, Sr. and Jr.: Save this link and read when you have time to appreciate a father, a son, personal growth and crippling loss. I’m honored to have it appear on our site:
2 – Brave New World: For those of you that like to beat the rush and begin worrying early, Sunday evening, September 4 will serve as the first taste of competitive game pressure for the following presumed starters/rotation members among the 2016 Irish:

Center Sam Mustipher, guard Hunter Bivin, slot receiver Corey Holmes, Will LB Asmar Bilal, safety Devin Studstill, cornerback and nickel Shaun Crawford, defensive end Jay Hayes, sub package rusher Daelin Hayes, and wide receivers Miles Boykin and Kevin Stepherson.

Additionally, much more prominent roles await a crucial starter on both sides of scrimmage: wide receiver Torii Hunter, Jr., and Mike linebacker Nyles Morgan.

Quarterback play will determine the outcome for a young, talent-filled, but not yet game tough Notre Dame squad. If it’s solid, they’ll beat Texas in Austin…but September 4 is not an evening that affords the Irish triggerman much leeway.

3 – The G Word: My one-on-one interview with Brian Kelly last week elicited a word I didn’t think I’d hear regarding one of the coach’s aforementioned still-developing competitors:


Said Kelly of junior middle linebacker Nyles Morgan, “I see that he’s got a chance for greatness. He’s our toughest kid; our most gritty player. He knows our defense as well as anybody.”

“He needs to make one play,” Kelly offered, referencing one big play when the chips are down. “He makes one play and that kid is going to skyrocket.”

4 – Arrows Pointing Up: It’s all good news on the Irish injury front according to Kelly, with rookie pass-rusher Daelin Hayes (prep shoulder), Will ‘backers Te’Von Coney and Greer Martini (off-season shoulder surgeries), and return man C.J. Sanders (hip surgery) all ahead of schedule.

For the shoulder trio, camp and September contact will be the telltale, but it’s nonetheless good news that each is expected to be full go this month (Hayes already is).

For Sanders, the road back to contact will apparently start sooner than expected.

“He’s (about) least three weeks to a month ahead of schedule,” said Kelly, thereafter admitting that Sanders “had to be” if the Irish were to realistically expect him to compete for lead roles in training camp.

5 – Take a Break and Work: Friday and Saturday’s overnight houseguests included a high school friend and her two girls under 10. Sunday’s was the same, with three under 13. Tonight’s is pair of fraternal twins, age 2, accompanied by my wife’s friend of 25 years.  

Let’s just say the offsite writing destination of today’s edition of the Musings was essential. On all counts…

6 – Pat-a-Cake: On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate the weekend’s trash talk and ensuing tussle between LeBron James and Golden State’s Draymond Green a 4…at best.

This, on the other hand, was a 10:

7 – Four for 34? My seventh prediction of 20 this offseason offers subscribers a chance to chime in:

Combined touchdowns scored by the squad’s Top QBs, DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, top RBs, Tarean Folston and Josh Adams, and top pass-catcher, Torii Hunter, Jr.?

After a seven years of attempting such pre-season ridiculousness (and actually finally hitting last year on a “Three for 35” prediction when 36 were scored among Will Fuller, C.J. Prosise, and Zaire (who ended up being “Kizer”), my magic number for the five above in 2016 is…34.

What say you, Irish Illustrated? (For the sake of reference, ND scored 58 total touchdowns last season, a Kelly-era best.)

Let’s allow for one total score discrepancy on either side of 34.

8 – It’s Been Awhile: A quick examination of Notre Dame’s recent recruiting success relative to star ratings show that a five-star linebacker has come to South Bend (excelled and departed), while a five-star middle ‘backer enters his first season as a starter.

A five-star quarterback prospect will join the fray down the road and a five-star tight end enters his sophomore season under the Dome this fall.

Meanwhile, borderline Top 50 prospects remain along the Irish offensive front (Quenton Nelson, #46), in the depths of the offensive backfield (Justin Brent, #64) and along the back line of defense (Max Redfield, #57).

Similarly touted wide receiver Javon McKinley (#55) has just hit campus.

But it’s been awhile – 2012 and Sheldon Day, to be exact – since a five-star defensive line prospect found his way to South Bend. It’s essential that no more recruiting cycles pass before a likewise talented prospect does again.

(*The highest ranked defensive line prospect to ink Irish since Day is still-suspended junior Grant Blankenship, No. 91 overall in the 2014 cycle.)

“The concentration of those difference-makers are in a geographical area that we’re not typically strong,” Kelly told Irish Illustrated last week. “When I say ‘strong’ meaning a profile fit for Notre Dame. We know who they are. We know how to get there (the South), it’s just, can we get them here and will they fit here?”

Kelly added that he believes there’ll continue to be cycles where Notre Dame lands a really good haul on the D-Line and there’ll be years where there won’t be.

The Irish defense can survive and even thrive with that reality, but since the aforementioned five-star Day was plucked in 2012, only four-star Isaac Rochell has established himself as a championship level player up front.

One out of two cycles hitting a defensive line gem is fine – one out of three won’t suffice.

Which reminds me…

9 – Daelin Hayes: a child shall lead them? Unless junior Andrew Trumbetti harnesses his second-half effort against Ohio State, and unless Nyles Morgan is as advertised in his ability to stress the pocket as a blitzer, Notre Dame’s best bid for a defense that can complement it’s championship-level offense lies in the above-mentioned rookie from Belleville, MI.

As currently constructed, the Irish defense cannot compete at a borderline Major 6 Bowl level without a pass rush that doesn’t rely upon exotic blitzes. It’s thus not outside reality to includes the true freshman Hayes’ name among the short list of “Indispensables” for Kelly’s 2016 Irish.

Until next week, Irish fans… Top Stories