Ishaq Williams

Looking to stay closer to family, Notre Dame DE announces transfer

5 Comments

Transfer season appears to be in mid-season form. Notre Dame is the latest to lose a player to a pending transfer, with the news defensive end Jhonny Williams will look to continue his collegiate football career elsewhere.

Williams, a Michigan native, took to his Facebook page to announce his decision, as reported by our pal Keith Arnold over on Inside the Irish. Per that report, Williams could have a clear path to any program of his choosing, with no restrictions apparently being put on his transfer process. However, as with all transfers, if Williams moves to another FBS program then he will have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules. He would do so after already sitting out his first year on a college campus. Williams was redshirted as a freshman last fall by the Irish.

By all accounts early on, it appears there was nothing more to the decision to leave Notre Dame other than it just no longer being the best possible fit for Williams. Williams was not in any doghouse of head coach Brian Kelly or anything like that. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery, and that appears to be the case for Williams. Williams has told some media outlets he is looking to be a bit closer to home and his family.

As for the Irish roster, the loss of Williams is a mild hit on the depth chart for the Irish in 2015, with defensive end potentially filled anyway. It is a position of some concern for Notre Dame, but the Irish should be situated for the fall if everyone stays healthy. Ishaq Williams is possible to return to fill a spot on the depth chart as well, so defensive end should not be much of a concern this fall, which has many expecting some big things from Notre Dame.

Why people are buying Notre Dame as College Football Playoff contender (and why some might hold off)

34 Comments

It’s about that time of the year again when Notre Dame starts generating some buzz as a national title contender. This seems to happen every few years or so. If we’re not asking if Notre Dame will be back, we are asking if they will be in the championship conversation. Perhaps those questions are the same for some. Whatever the case is, the Irish appear to be entering the 2015 season with high expectations by many around the college football universe. Are you buying the Irish as a College Football Playoff contender, or are you holding off to see how they start the new season?

Associated Press college football writer Ralph Russo placed Notre Dame in a College Football Playoff semifinal, against Auburn (Ohio State and Baylor are in the other semifinal). Russo’s early summer bowl projections are not the only place you will see preseason hype for the Irish. Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports said in a recent mailbag post he views Notre Dame as a legit playoff contender. The always knowledgeable Matt Brown, of Sports On Earth, lauded the playoff talent on Notre Dame’s roster, suggesting Notre Dame may actually be underhyped. Fresh off Notre Dame’s Music City Bowl victory over LSU at the end of last season, Chicago Tribune writer Chris Hine set the bar for the Irish at the College Football Playoff level. Anything short of a playoff game won’t cut it for the Irish in 2015, Hine suggested. Travis Haney of ESPN.com reviewed first-time starting quarterbacks for this upcoming season’s supposed playoff contenders, which naturally included Malik Zaire of Notre Dame.

So here we are on June 10, with many respected names around college football’s media coverage dropping Notre Dame in the playoff conversation. Are they on the mark with the Irish, or is it a tad early to suggest Notre Dame will have everything in place to make a postseason run?

A quick review of what the Irish have shows why so many seem to be optimistic about Notre Dame in 2015. First, the Irish return 19 starters from last season. This does not account for the possible returns of potential starters Ishaq Williams at defensive end and KeiVarae Russell at defensive back. As mentioned above, Zaire is set to take control of the offense without anybody standing in his way following Everett Golson transferring to Florida State. Zaire has shown some promise, but now the job is his. Let’s see how he and head coach Brian Kelly handle it.

Notre Dame’s defense was hampered by injuries down the stretch of the season in 2014, and it showed. What will ultimately place Notre Dame in the playoff hunt will be an improvement in turnover margin. When the Irish defense was beat, it was torched. Last season the Irish forced 23 turnovers, but gave the football away 26 times. It was the third time Notre Dame had a negative turnover margin in a season since 2008. Not so coincidentally, when Notre Dame made a run to the BCS Championship Game in the 2012 season, the Irish had their highest turnover margin in that stretch, with a +8. The Irish will also have to improve inside the red zone. Last year the Irish entered the opponent’s 20-yard line 62 times. On 40 of those trips the Irish scored a touchdown, good for the 45th best red zone touchdown percentage in the country. Three of the four playoff teams had a higher percentage last season (Florida State was significantly lower).

If Notre Dame can improve in these two areas, then the schedule does set up well for the Irish to remain in the playoff discussion into November, but there are some significant hurdles along the way. Notre Dame opens the season at home in primetime against Texas, but the Longhorns are still in a bit of a rebuild state right now under Charlie Strong. Georgia Tech can be a stingy test early on for the Irish as well, but the defending ACC Coastal champs are on the road in week three. Notre Dame plays at Clemson in the first weekend in October, followed by a home game against Navy and another home game against USC. The Trojans could be dangerous, but you never know what will happen when they visit South Bend. A road game at Pittsburgh could also be tricky given the offensive talent the Panthers have (James Conner and  Tyler Boyd are among the best at their positions in the ACC, if not the country). Notre Dame’s season ends with games in Fenway Park against Boston College and on the road against always tough Stanford.

Under the new College Football Playoff model, one loss is not nearly as catastrophic as it may have been before for Notre Dame, but the margin for error is still small. The Irish not playing a conference championship game could lead to a similar fate as last season’s Big 12 co-champions from Baylor and TCU (although the Big 12’s strength of schedule was also a fair target, one that may not apply for Notre Dame).

Is Notre Dame for real in 2015? Yeah, they could be, but we will have a much better idea of what to make of Notre Dame by mid-October. If Notre Dame is 7-0 or 6-1, get ready for a Notre Dame playoff push coming down the stretch of the regular season.

Ishaq Williams closer to returning to Notre Dame defense

7 Comments

This much we know about Notre Dame defensive end Ishaq Williams. He is back in classes in South Bend and working out in the football weight room. Beyond that, there is still some ground to make up before Williams returns to play a key role on Notre Dame’s defense in 2015.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly confirmed as much Tuesday night when speaking to the media before a charity event.

“I know he’s back in school because he told me, he’s in workouts because I’ve seen him,” Kelly said according to the Associated Press. “Those two things I know for sure. All the other stuff is NCAA eligibility stuff that is a lot more complicated. It has to do with missed terms and hours and appeals and things like that. A lot more complicated.”

Kelly also said Williams remains on scholarship at Notre Dame despite being suspended from the program amid academic infractions along with four teammates last year. It was reported last week Williams had re-enrolled in classes at Notre Dame. However, because he had not enrolled in classes elsewhere during his time away from the campus, his academic standing in the eyes of the NCAA remained a bit more of a question than it may for teammates KeiVarae Russell. Russell enrolled in classes back home while serving his time with the Irish, announcing his return himself.

Williams and Russell, if ruled academically eligible for the fall, should jump right back into key roles on the defense for Notre Dame, much like quarterback Everett Golson did last fall after missing the 2013 season. Golson, of course, has since transferred to Florida State for the 2015 season.

Notre Dame safety Eilar Hardy cleared by NCAA

2 Comments

Notre Dame received some good news regarding one of the handful of players previously suspended during an academic investigation. Safety Eilar Hardy has been cleared by the NCAA and is now eligible to participate on the field for the Fighting Irish.

Last week we learned Hardy was going to be allowed to return to practice in late October. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in mid-October there was still some work to be done by Hardy before he can return to play a role on the football field, but allowing him to return to practices seemed like an optimistic direction to be heading with regard to his eligibility. Hardy is the only player out of the five suspended players to be eligible to play this season.

There is no word on whether or not Hardy will be back on the field for this weekend’s game at Arizona State. However, if he has been practicing with the team the last few weeks, one might assume he is ready to take the field now if needed. If he does play, it might be in a limited capacity at the most. He has not been added to the two-deep depth chart just yet.

KeiVarae Russell plans to return to the Irish in 2015. Ishaq Williams is hoping to do the same. Barring any unforeseen changes, DaVaris Daniels and Kendall Moore will no longer be a part of the Notre Dame program.

Notre Dame LB Kendall Moore says he is done

11 Comments

Notre Dame linebacker Kendall Moore has made his fate public. In an Instagram post Tuesday evening Moore announced he is leaving Notre Dame following the ruling from his hearing having an unfortunate outcome.

Moore already has a degree from Notre Dame and was hoping to play with one final year of eligibility this season. That will no longer be the case, and Moore will now move on from football it would seem.

Moore is the third player among Notre Dame’s so-called Frozen Five to confirm his fate. Defensive end Ishaq Williams and defensive back KeiVarae Russell each informed Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly of their hearing outcomes. Russell intends to return to Notre Dame in 2015. Another of the suspended players, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, is reportedly moving on from Notre Dame as well, although it is unknown if he will look to play football elsewhere. Kelly was unaware of Daniels’ decision earlier on Tuesday.

It is unknown at this time what the story is for the fifth player suspended while the academic investigation was ongoing at Notre Dame. Defensive back Eilar Hardy was the fifth player suspended.

Loading

Notre Dame has rendered its decision. While it is disappointing, I will respectfully leave my alma mater as a proud May 2014 graduate of the institution that I have respectfully loved and given my best efforts during my college career. Regardless of this announced outcome, my personal and ethical integrity remain intact and I have honored my collegiate journey from the beginning straight through to this end and I will take on the next chapters in my life with the same progressive commitment to excellence, hard work and relentless determination toward unlimited success. I was raised to excel on every level and I want to thank my parents for their unwavering support and belief in me; their powerful words of love, encouragement and faith helped to sustain me through this process. I thank my family, friends and fans for the support. I want to thank Notre Dame for the opportunity and I wish my teammates and this program all of the success in the world.

View on Instagram