Notre Dame adds 17 to 2012 football roster

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(Notre Dame’s press release on the Irish’s 2012 recruiting class.)

One transfer student and 16 high school seniors will have their names added to the University of Notre Dame football roster in 2012.

The 16 student-athletes who signed National Letters of Intent represent 13 states – three from Indiana, two from North Carolina, plus one each from California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

As listed by group, Notre Dame adds 10 skill players, four power players, one big skill player and one specialist. As listed by position, Notre Dame adds five defensive backs, two wide receivers, two defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, two running backs, one linebacker, one long snapper and one quarterback.

Four of the 17 players – transfer running back Amir Carlisle and early-enrollee freshmen defensive lineman Sheldon Day, quarterback Gunner Kiel and defensive back Tee Shepard – enrolled at the University in January and are taking classes. They will participate in Notre Dame’s spring football practices that begin March 21. The other 13 players have signed national letters of intent and will arrive on campus by June 18 for the start of summer school.

Among the 16 players that will be freshmen for the Irish this fall are:

–       Four who were selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio: DL Jarron Jones, QB Gunner Kiel, RB KeiVarae Russell and DB Elijah Shumate.

–       Five who played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Phoenix: DL Sheldon Day, WR Justin Ferguson, OL Mark Harrell, DB Tee Shepard and OL Ronnie Stanley.

–       Nine members of the SuperPrep All-America Team: QB Gunner Kiel, RB KeiVarae Russell, WR Chris Brown, OL Ronnie Stanley, DL Jarron Jones, DL Sheldon Day, DB Tee Shepard, DB Elijah Shumate and DB C.J. Prosise.

–       Three members of the SuperPrep Elite 50: QB Gunner Kiel (10th), DB Tee Shepard (22nd) and DB Elijah Shumate (37th).

–       Eight members of the MaxPreps Top 200: QB Gunner Kiel (second), DL Jarron Jones (22nd), DB Tee Shepard (39th), OL Ronnie Stanley (116th), DL Sheldon Day (119th), DB Elijah Shumate (149th), WR Justin Ferguson (175th) and RB KeiVarae Russell (183rd).

–       Five members of the ESPNU 150: QB Gunner Kiel (52nd), WR Justin Ferguson (85th), DB Tee Shepard (90th), DL Jarron Jones (102nd) and DL Sheldon Day (143rd).

–       Eight members of the Rivals.com 250: QB Gunner Kiel (20th), DB Tee Shepard (76th), DB Elijah Shumate (113th), RB KeiVarae Russell (124th), OL Ronnie Stanley (176th), RB Will Mahone (197th), DL Jarron Jones (199th) and DL Sheldon Day (244th).

–       Nine members of the Scout.com Top 300: QB Gunner Kiel (38th), DB Tee Shepard (39th), DL Sheldon Day (50th), DB Elijah Shumate (55th), OL Ronnie Stanley (66th), RB Will Mahone (201st), RB KeiVarae Russell (207th), DL Jarron Jones (229th) and DB CJ Prosise (276th).

–       Seven members of the 247Sports Top 247: QB Gunner Kiel (24th), DB Tee Shepard (50th), DL Sheldon Day (81st), DB Elijah Shumate (103rd), DL Jarron Jones (107th), RB KeiVarae Russell (122nd) and OL Ronnie Stanley (145th).

–       One recipient of their state’s respective Mr. Football player of the year awards: QB Gunner Kiel (Indiana).

–       One Gatorade State Football Player of the Year: QB Gunner Kiel (Indiana).

–       Three members of Tacoma News Tribune Western 100: RB KeiVarae Russell, DB Tee Shepard and OL Ronnie Stanley.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.