Notre Dame

Special teams improvement a necessity for Notre Dame in 2017

Special teams improvement a necessity for Notre Dame in 2017

How does a team that does so many things right — enough to be ranked in the S&P+ top 25 — wind up going 4-8?

There are plenty of over-arching reasons why Notre Dame plummeted to its worst season since 2007 this fall, be it strange coaching decisions or poor late-game execution. But special teams gaffes were at the forefront of Notre Dame’s issues, too. 

So this week, Notre Dame fired special teams and tight ends coach Scott Booker, as first reported by Irish Illustrated and according to multiple reports. The move was necessary given those special teams struggles, even if it does remove an ace recruiter from Brian Kelly’s coaching staff. 

Since being elevated from an intern to a full-time coaching staff member in 2012, Booker recruited a number of blue-chip high schoolers to South Bend. Among them: Defensive end Isaac Rochell, tight end Alize Jones, wide receivers C.J. Sanders and Kevin Stepherson and safety Jalen Elliott. Notre Dame’s two four-star tight ends in its 2017 recruiting class both were recruited by Booker, too, in Cole Kmet (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and Brock Wright (Cypress, Texas), though both are expected to stay with their commitments to Notre Dame. 

But the special teams issues, combined with Notre Dame’s tight ends only having 33 catches over the last two seasons — which lost the school its self-described “Tight End U” moniker — negated whatever recruiting advantages Booker brought to the table. 

Notre Dame ranked 79th in special teams S&P+, and opponents had an average starting field position of the 28.7-yard line, 53rd in FBS. Outside of Sanders’ pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns and Jarron Jones’ pair of blocked extra points, there wasn’t much that went right for this unit. Duke, N.C. State, Miami and USC all scored touchdowns against Booker’s special teams unit, with a blocked Tyler Newsome punt being the deciding score in Hurricane Matthew’s wrath in Raleigh. A muffed punt against Michigan State sparked the Spartans’ 36-point surge, and a too many men on the field penalty against Navy eliminated any shot of the Irish gaining momentum in that one-point loss (while a flag shouldn’t have been thrown, that Devin Studstill was that close to getting off the field in time was a problem). 

Kelly said after Notre Dame’s season-ending loss to USC that he would search for the right blend of continuity and change with his coaching staff, allowing that “everything’s on the table.” Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford is reportedly bound for Western Kentucky, while Kelly reportedly will interview an outside candidate in Wake Forest’s Mike Elko for the open defensive coordinator position this week, too. And with Booker on his way out, that right blend may lean more toward change than continuity. 

Notre Dame will play for ACC conference championship in 2020 football season

Notre Dame will play for ACC conference championship in 2020 football season

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will compete for the ACC crown this football season.

The conference announced their updated slate of games on Wednesday, with the Fighting Irish as a de facto conference member for the 2020 season.

Included in that schedule is a marquee matchup against the defending champion Clemson Tigers, however there will be no revival of the rivalry between Miami and Notre Dame.

Notre Dame will also play one non-ACC opponent at some point this season, but that opponent has yet to be determined. Notre Dame typically plays USC and Stanford every season, but those games won’t be played since the Pac-12 previously said it will only play in-conference this season.

To go with their honorary status in the ACC, if Notre Dame wins the ACC championship game but is not selected for the College Football Playoff, they will be eligible for an Orange Bowl bid.

RELATED: Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'


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Notre Dame - Navy football game scheduled in Dublin moved back to U.S.

Notre Dame - Navy football game scheduled in Dublin moved back to U.S.

The Navy-Notre Dame football game that was set to be played in Ireland has been relocated to the United States, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Notre Dame announced on Tuesday that the game which was originally going to take place in Dublin on Aug. 29 will “likely” be played over Labor Day weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday.

The teams plan on playing at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which will be a first in the 94-year rivalry history. Every previous matchup hosted by Navy has been played at a neutral site.

“We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August,” said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. “But, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved.

“I am expecting that we will still be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large.”

Jack Swarbrick, Vice President of Notre Dame, and James E. Rorh, Director of Athletics at Notre made a joint statement as well.

“Our student-athletes have had great experiences competing in Ireland and are very disappointed not to be returning to Dublin in 2020,” they said. “The change of venue has been a very difficult decision for our colleagues at the Naval Academy, but we are in full support of their choice. We are also grateful for everything our partners in Ireland have done to make this a smooth transition. We look forward to going back to Ireland for a game in the not too distant future.”

RELATED: Notre Dame will allow students back on campus this fall

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