1 – The Fulton County Five: Once upon a time, on US-31…
Max Redfield, Dexter Williams, Te’von Coney, Kevin Stepherson, and Ashton White. In terms of crimes or malfeasance, the quintet’s half-baked, locked and loaded trip south barely registers as a blip on college football’s (or Notre Dame’s) radar. Far worse crimes occur – and go unreported – monthly.
And in case your memory is selective, worse offenses happened one year ago this weekend when students first reported to campus.
But it’s worth noting that the Notre Dame roster’s run of bad off-the-field decisions – namely 2013, 2014, and 2016 off-seasons – is the worst since, perhaps not coincidentally, the halcyon days of the Lou Holtz era, when NFL talent and wins not coincidentally stockpiled in South Bend.
That’s why Devin Butler’s arrest at the Linebacker Lounge barely caused me to blink in Saturday’s early morning hours. My thought was, “Well yeah, first weekend back at school…someone’s getting arrested.”
Then Redfield and his eager pupils’ joint offense became public and it was clear that September and the season were subject to change.
The only clarity I gained from the weekend’s fall-out is that Notre Dame will beat Texas by more than one score on September 4…and I was leaning the other way, prior.
Why? Because from the top of the roster down, they’ll finally come together – if only for one game – because they have no other choice.
2 – If a Tree Falls in the Woods…Will Notre Dame miss Max Redfield’s presence in 2016? Upon further review:
-- The 23-game starter ends his Irish career with as many disciplinary actions (2) levied against him as career interceptions secured (2).
-- He likewise suffered more benchings/starting assignments lost (3) than career tackles for loss (2.5), and, in my estimation, fell about four stars short of the moniker bestowed upon him by Scout.com in 2013 when he concluded the cycle as the nation’s fifth-ranked safety and 57th-ranked prospect overall.
As an aside, you can already feel the breath of fresh air wafting through the post-game media room on Saturdays this fall.
A legend in his own mind, Redfield’s greatest contribution to the team to date was that he was very fast, so a few would-be long touchdown runs were likely negated by his sprinting presence some 40 yards downfield. I’ve watched every game he’s played more than once and still can’t figure out what he does best.
3 – Half-Full or Half-Empty? Doubtless one of the three best recruiting classes in South Bend since the turn of the century, Brian Kelly’s 2013 haul has dwindled from 24 pledges to a measly dozen entering the group’s senior season.
-- One failure to launch: Eddie Vanderdoes (5-star)
-- One transfer: The late Greg Bryant (4-star)
-- Four medical retirements: Mike Heuerman (3 stars – and the gift that keeps on giving, apparently), Michael Deeb (3), Doug Randolph (3), and Corey Robinson (4).
-- Two dismissals: Redfield (4) and Rashad Kinlaw (3)
-- One graduation and early retirement: Steve Elmer (4)
-- One indefinite suspension: Devin Butler (3)
-- Two early NFL Entrants: Jaylon Smith (5) and Will Fuller (4)
Add depth chart nomad John Montelus (4) to the aggregate and that’s a combined 49 unavailable recruiting stars for Kelly regarding the seniors of 2016.
Conversely, more than two-thirds of the remaining dozen are potential standouts and/or starters for the forthcoming campaign – Mike McGlinchey (4) Isaac Rochell (4) Torii Hunter (4) Cole Luke (4) Malik Zaire (4) Tarean Folston (4) James Onwualu (4) Durham Smythe (4) and Colin McGovern (4).
Each of the above faces a monumental leadership test in the coming weeks.
4 – Time To Earn Your Stripes: Enough of Year 3 being the magical elixir.
Enough of the intricate complexities and pre-snap computations. We’re not interested in your complicated language (apparently it wasn’t Mandarin) or “NFL-centric” approach.
If you recruited Jalen Elliott and Devin Studstill to play safety in your defense, get them ready to compete at a level commensurate with a contending football team, because everyone else around them has enough experience to offset the lack of theirs.
This message was intended for the sole use of Brian VanGorder.
5 – Fool Me Once…Remember that Friday night when you were about to file your “Above the Line” story regarding a sophomore running back and his enviable maturity level, one that includes a catch-phrase about holding himself and all others around him accountable, both on and off the field?
And then he gets arrested less than five hours after said interview was held? You can’t make this stuff up…
6 – We Interrupt These Off Field Musings…You know something went WAY wrong over the weekend when I don’t mention the dual/duel quarterbacks until Musing #6.
My official take on Kelly’s chosen approach, one I’ve championed since last spring:
I think Kelly can utilize – without detriment to the offense/team – a two-quarterback system until the squad’s first loss. (Because, for instance, if the Irish enter Senior Day at 10-0, do you really think either quarterback can afford to bellyache about his total snaps and opportunity?)
But if asked to predict, I think Kelly will settle in on one main triggerman (playing both each week, regardless) by the time the second half of the Michigan State game concludes on Sept. 17. It won’t be an easy decision, because both will make plays on game days.
7 – Have You Met the Quarterback? Oh, I’d Forgotten, It’s Been Awhile: Season sack totals posted during the six-year Kelly Regime: 27, 25, 34, 21 (twenty-one?!) 26, and 25.
Only one (not coincidentally, the 34 levied by the 2012 crew) is commensurate with a playoff contending defense.
Speaking of which: Alabama 53 (FIFTY-THREE!), Clemson 48, Oklahoma 40, Ohio State 38, Michigan State 37, Stanford 34 – Sack totals by the six teams reasonably considered to be “better” than was Notre Dame last fall.
You gotta get there more often Mr. Morgan, D-Hayes, and Andrew Trumbetti…
8 – Prediction #17: 2,490.
That’s the combined rushing yardage total for C.J. Prosise, Josh Adams, DeShone Kizer, and Malik Zaire last season. It’ll be eclipsed by Notre Dame’s top two running backs and the two quarterbacks this fall.
If suspended sophomore Dexter Williams returns by Game #3, that number could approach 2,800 aggregate among the lead backfield quintet.
9 – Post-Camp Baker’s Dozen: In order, the dozen best Irish players through my eyes (that’s 8 practice hours of the 30-plus) in August’s now concluded Training Camp. And for this list, all previous bodies of work (2015, 2014) are irrelevant:
1.) Mike McGlinchey or Quenton Nelson 3.) Isaac Rochell, 4.) Cole Luke, 5.) Nyles Morgan, 6.) Torii Hunter, Jr., 7.) Malik Zaire, 8.) DeShone Kizer, 9.) C.J. Sanders, 10.) James Onwualu, 11.) Nic Weishar, 12.) Nick Coleman, 13.) Tarean Folston (would be higher, but had fewer contact periods).
Among the suspended six, only Dexter Williams would have been considered had I expanded to 15.
Here’s to a quieter week, Irish fans…