The overall experience of the day was tremendous for the Fighting Irish commitments. The nation was able to see why the Irish have the nation's best recruiting class. If you are a Notre Dame fan I hope you see the future as I do......very bright!
Let's get to the breakdowns! I'm doing a weekly recap of each player. Today's game will be a part of the breakdown as will the week of practice. They will go position by position and do not reflect any sort of ranking.
DAYNE CRIST, QB
We saw today the tools that in my opinion makes Dayne Crist the nation's top quarterback prospect. The Sherman Oaks, CA native showed great arm strength in firing a sweet "slant" pass to Dan Bucker and a gorgeous 56-yard bomb to fellow Irish commit Michael Floyd. The phrase "Crist to Floyd" was uttered all week. On his final series Crist threw a nice seam route to Jameel Owens. Owens failed to adjust to the throw, which Crist put in the window, and the ball fell incomplete.
The throws he made on Saturday resembled throws he has been completing during the practice sessions all week. At times today we also saw some of the things that show that while he has tremendous talent and potential, the Notre Dame High School standout still is a work in progress. His mechanics aren't as consistent as they need to be. But his overall performance during the week was outstanding.
Crist finished 5-12 for 113 yards and a touchdown.
JONAS GRAY, RB
It's unfortunate we were able to see the Detroit Country Day High stand out during the week of practice. Gray was overshadowed in the game by Ryan Williams and Lamaar Thomas. Both players were outstanding during the week while Gray sat on the sidelines with an injured ankle. Gray wasn't healthy today but was able to earn some playing time. It wouldn't be fair to make an evaluation on Gray from this week based on the little amount of reps he received during the week and in the game.
Gray finished with 8 yards on 3 carries.
MICHAEL FLOYD, WR
Count me as someone who wasn't surprised by what Floyd displayed during today's Army All-American game. It's not that I'm a great evaluator of talent; rather, I just had to open my eyes and watch Floyd make play after play during the week of practice. So to see him perform the way he did on Saturday came as no surprise. Floyd showed much better speed throughout the week than he is given credit for. On the 56 yard touchdown reception he blew past Boubacar Cissoko, who is one of the faster players on the East defense. Floyd also showed on his first reception that he can break tackles and get extra yards as well.
Floyd will need to continue to get stronger, as all incoming freshmen must do, but he is about as ready to play as a freshman can be. Floyd also gets a bit too choppy at times making lateral cuts. He will need to become more efficient with his footwork on these routes.
Floyd finished with 4 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
JOHN GOODMAN, WR
I wish Gerrell Robinson all the best at Arizona State . From what I can gather he is a really nice kid and an excellent football player. I completely support his decision to choose whatever school he feels is best for him. But I will also be honest and admit I enjoyed watching John Goodman beat him for a touchdown after he chose the Sun Devils.
Goodman opened up some eyes this week. He showed he belongs with the elite players in the nation. Throughout the week of practice the Fort Wayne , IN native showed outstanding speed and big time play making ability with the ball in his hands. The East coaches, as we've discussed before, practiced several trick plays throughout the week that involved Goodman. We saw two of them during this game as Goodman threw a pass to Terrelle Pryor that was dropped and he pitched the ball to Thomas after making a short reception.
It's obvious that Goodman has the athletic skills to be a very good wide receiver at the next level; but there is plenty of work to be done. Goodman is thin and not real strong. He gave good effort during the week blocking but isn't strong enough at this point to be effective. He also needs to work at exploding up for the football more on deep balls. He has great body control but tends to drift away from under-thrown balls.
Goodman finished with 2 receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown.
KYLE RUDOLPH, TE
Perhaps the East quarterbacks aren't aware that tight ends are eligible receivers in a football game. On the one deep route I saw Rudolph run he flew off the line and was wide open in the seam. But the quarterback rolled out, threw late to Rudolph, and almost had the ball intercepted by Robinson. Rudolph held his own in the run game, as he did all week, but he will need to get stronger to be as good as he can in this department. The actual game was very similar to what happened the entire week of practice. Rudolph was wide open but the quarterbacks didn't throw him the football. The East safeties and linebackers couldn't cover Rudolph the entire week. He is an impressive athlete with tremendous size. His hands are top notch and he is a very smooth athlete. He is rare for a tight end with his size.
As mentioned Rudolph needs to get stronger but I believe he has the talent to help out as a freshman for the Fighting Irish. I'm not saying he is going to start, as the Irish return two pretty darn good tight ends, but we all know Coach Weis loves to use many tight ends. Rudolph is the nation's top tight end and will be a tremendous addition to the Fighting Irish roster.
Rudolph finished with 1 reception for -3 yards.
TREVOR ROBINSON, OL
Although he struggled at times in the game with Marcus Forston (who didn't) Robinson had an outstanding week at the Army All-American game. Robinson is a relatively solid young man who was the nastiest interior linemen through the entire week of practice. This includes both the East and West rosters. Robinson was dominant at the point of attack in the run game. His technique in pass protection isn't very good at this point but he used his size and strength to hold his own in the passing game. Robinson had several pancakes throughout the week of practice.
As I mentioned Robinson isn't the best pass blocker at this stage in his career. He mentioned to us during the week he is rarely asked to pass block in high school. This will need to be his top priority when he gets to Notre Dame. Robinson also needs to learn to be more consistent with his hands and he also gets too wide of a base when engaged with defenders. Overall Robinson had an impressive week.
LANE CLELLAND, OL
The McDonough High School standout had arguably the roughest week of the Irish commitments. Clelland; along with Michael Golic Jr. was clearly the smallest of the East offensive linemen. He struggled at the point of attack through the week. Clelland also was very inconsistent with his footwork. Far too often he was too far back on his heels which allowed the defenders to get into his chest. Once that happened he was beat.
When Clelland came off hard and was able to get moving he looked good. He is a good athlete despite the fact his footwork wasn't good. This is a technique issue and not a lack of ability issue. That was encouraging. I still am high on Clelland for the future but I did realize this week that he will need more time than I previously anticipated.
MICHAEL GOLIC, JR., OL
The week started off rough for the younger Golic. During one-on-one periods Golic was consistently beat by the much bigger and much stronger East defensive tackles. But as the week progressed Golic got better and better. During the Army All-American game Golic proved that he can play some football. Golic more than held his own and helped pave the way for 221 rushing yards for the East offense. Not one East offensive linemen worked as quickly as Golic, who was consistently getting up to the second level and making blocks on the West linebackers. Golic also displayed very good technique and was consistent all week with his shotgun snaps. It was very encouraging.
Golic is still a long way from being able to play on the offensive line. Although his long snapping might get him on the field as a freshman, I'm of the opinion that Golic needs a lot of time in the weight room and in the cafeteria. If he can get bigger and stronger he has a chance to be a starter for the Fighting Irish.
DARIUS FLEMING , DE
You can't help but notice two things right away with Darius Fleming. First of all he's one of the most impressive looking athletes at this game. Second he has outstanding quickness off the ball. All week the East tackles struggled to keep up with his speed off the edge. He showed that at times as well during the game. Even though he missed the sack, Fleming showed real good open field speed in chasing down Blaine Gabbert. The Chicago native also showed a very nice arsenal of pass rush moves. He was the best of what was an impressive group of End's for the East defense.
There isn't really a lot in his game that he will need to improve on. I can't think of one weakness in his game. Fleming will be learning a new position at Notre Dame so his mental adjustment will be combined with a bunch of new techniques. This will be where Fleming needs to work. I expect to see Fleming no the football field next season in South Bend.
Fleming finished with one tackle on the day.
SEAN CWYNAR, DT
Darius Fleming and Sean Cwynar can't be more opposite as linemen. But both were productive during the week. Fleming just screams athlete. Cwynar isn't un-athletic by any means, but it's not what his game is all about. After getting off to a rough start during the week Cwynar showed what makes him a big recruit for the Irish. The Marian Central Catholic star is strong, has good quickness off the ball, and never stops working. Cwynar also showed better use of his hands than I had seen in the past. He was able to get extension on blockers and use both a swim move and a spin move to get free. During the game Cwynar was around the ball carrier all day. His fumble recovery in the first quarter put the East offense in great position to score points, but the field goal missed. Cwynar's game translates well to the 3-4 defensive end position at Notre Dame. An entire semester on campus at Notre Dame will benefit him greatly.
Cwynar finished with 2 tackles and a fumble recovery.
BRANDON NEWMAN, DT
What we saw during the game today is what we should expect to see for the next four years with Brandon Newman. Welcome to the world of double teams. Newman was the biggest surprise of the week for the Irish. I will admit that I was wrong in my previous assessments of the Pleasure Ridge star. Newman was solid all week and at times was a standout. His Thursday practice was one of the better performances all week by a defensive lineman. Newman was quick off the ball, ate up contact, and was in the backfield all week. While he needs to get in much better shape, he hustled all week and doesn't quit on plays. You could see him start to wear down toward the end of practices, but he didn't stop trying. Newman earned his starting position this week over 5* DeAngelo Tyson.
STEVE FILER, LB
Filer had a relatively quiet week of practice and a relatively quiet game. He showed flashes of what he is capable of but never really busted out. Two things were against Filer. The first is he was getting used to a new defense. Filer comes from a 3-4 defense at Mount Carmel . This week he was asked to not only play in the 4-3 but was asked to learn all three linebacker spots. That's a difficult task in one week. Despite that there were times later in the week where you could notice Filer getting comfortable and starting to fly around the football field. He had a couple of good inside run sessions and started to make some plays. The second thing working against him was an East linebacker unit that was loaded with speed players. Filer is a very solid athlete but isn't a speed guy. He's big, he's quick, and he has good range, but he's not in the same league from a speed standpoint that Arthur Brown, Etienne Sabino, and Marcus Robinson play with.
Filer will need to get better in pass coverage. That is the one area where I felt he struggled during the week. But he has great size, good athletic ability for that size, and the range to play inside in South Bend . Despite his quiet week I feel Notre Dame is getting themselves a very good football player.
Filer finished with one tackle and had a key block on the 24 yard fake punt run by Blair Walsh.
ANTHONY McDONALD, LB
McDonald is another Irish commitment who had a relatively quiet week. McDonald struggled more during the first half of the Army All-American game than he did during the week of practice. During the week McDonald, who also is adjusting to the 4-3 defense, was solid against the run. He had one session on Thursday where he was a standout during an inside run period. McDonald also was solid in pass coverage, which I previously viewed as a weakness in his game. He didn't get great reads during the first half of the game but showed good instincts during the week of practice. The Sherman Oaks, CA native isn't an elite linebacker, but he's a very solid football player who should be able to help out sooner rather than later for the Fighting Irish.
McDonald finished with two tackles.
ROBERT BLANTON, CB/S
Blanton is another player who opened some eyes during the week of practice. Blanton was the "do it all" player for the East coaches this week. After losing T.J. Bryant for the game on the first day the East coaches asked Blanton to play some cornerback. Blanton responded well and on Thursday had the most dominant performance all week by an East cornerback. During the game Blanton showed what makes him such a good football player. He made an outstanding tackle on a 3rd down run to Justin Johnson and also made a great breakup on a pass to Owens from Andrew Luck. Blanton has good speed, very good footwork, and is hands down the best tackler of all the East secondary players. He couldn't be blocked all week by the East wide receivers. Of course we didn't see that on the long run by Sam McGuffie, but overall Blanton was tremendous in run support. He was also used on every special teams for the East and flew around the field all week. Blanton is a player!
It's obvious seeing Blanton that he needs to fill out and get stronger. For a player his size he hits well but will need to fill out to hold up in college. He also doesn't have very good technique in press coverage and must improve. This week showed that Blanton can cover the nation's best and does indeed project to college as a cornerback.
Blanton finished with 2 tackles and 1 pass breakup.
The Irish commitments showed playmaking ability all week and backed it up during the Army All-American game. As I write this article I can't help but feel excited about the talent that Coach Weis and his staff are bringing in next year. Also after having talked to these young men I came away very impressed with their character and maturity, as well as their collective talents on the football field.