SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Isaac Rochell joked he’s known sixth-year Irish graduate student Avery Sebastian for “like 10 years, since he’s been in college for like 10 years.”
The Notre Dame defensive end teamed up with Sebastian way back in the fall of 2010 when the pair both played for Eagle’s Landing Christian High School in the Atlanta area. Rochell is now a senior captain, but is by no means the oldest guy on the team — that would be Sebastian, who enrolled at Cal in 2011.
“Every day with mess with Avery about his age,” Rochell said. “… One thing (defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder always says is a player isn’t his best until he’s 25. Avery’s not 25 — but we’re always like, that’s Avery right now.”
Gentle ribbing aside, Notre Dame will be counting on the elder statesman of its defense quite a bit when it takes the field Sunday night to face Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. Freshman Devin Studstill may be Notre Dame’s free safety of the future, but in the present, Kelly & Co. are turning to Sebastian — a more natural in-the-box strong safety — to replace dismissed two-year starter Max Redfield.
“He's assignment correct, he makes very few errors, and that's what we like,” Kelly said. “We have two performers back there in (Drue) Tranquill and Sebastian that are assignment correct.
“Now, do they have the range maybe at times that we'd like? Probably not. But they do a lot of really good things for us, and they can play the kind of defense that we need to to be successful. So where maybe they lack some of the range of the younger players who will play and play considerable roles, they're rock solid and they're veteran players.”
The back end of Notre Dame’s defense has been plagued by errors over the last two seasons, which directly contributed to opponents racking up 30 plays of 30 or more yards against the Irish in 2015 (85th in FBS). Redfield and Elijah Shumate were an athletic duo but committed far too many errors in VanGorder’s complex scheme.
So Tranquill and Sebastian represent a departure from Redfield and Shumate in the sense that Notre Dame could be trading recruiting stars for fewer communication errors. It’s perhaps not ideal — having Redfield, who was formally charged with illegal possession of a firearm this week, back there would’ve been — but it’s what coaches view as the best option for the team heading into the season.
“That’s one of the things that we try and emphasize is, you never know when your last day is going to be and somebody’s going to have to step up,” senior cornerback Cole Luke said. “You can’t play with one safety. And Avery’s done a good job of stepping up and doing what he has to do.”
Sebastian missed all but a handful of plays in the 2015 season after breaking a bone in his foot in Notre Dame’s opener against Texas. He started seven games during his tenure at Cal (2011-2014) and has been around for so long that other members of his recruiting class included Stephon Tuitt, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham Jr., among others.
Or, to put it another way: Studstill was starting eighth grade when Sebastian began his college career.
Studstill, who enrolled early in January, had an impressive showing during spring practice but missed a good chunk of August camp due to a hamstring injury. That knock set him back, Kelly noted, but Notre Dame still probably would’ve gone with Sebastian to start given the experience gap between the two.
“I think if Devin was clearly ahead of Sebastian, we'd have Devin on the field over Sebastian,” Kelly said. “But Sebastian's had a good camp. He's been really rock solid.
“… You want to try to keep as many veterans in that starting role as possible and let those younger guys work their way into the lineup. But more than anything else, Devin put himself a little behind with the injury. He didn't put himself behind, but the injury caused him to be a little bit behind. But he's made up a lot of ground in a very short period.”
Chances are Studstill, along with fellow freshmen safeties Jalen Elliott, D.J. Morgan and Spencer Perry, will all play against Texas and throughout the season. But asking a true freshman to start in front of 100,000 people in his first college game could’ve been problematic.
So Sebastian will get the start, and Notre Dame will hope he can hold his own at free safety — and maybe avoid some of those crippling mistakes made by his predecessors.
“We call him the Grandpa, Grandpa Av,” Luke said. “He’s been around. He’s been in multiple system, he’s seen multiple looks. He just has that knowledge and that wisdom that you would expect him to have.”
Rumors surfaced on Wednesday that David Accam could be on the move this transfer window.
However, just like in the winter, the rumors didn’t lead to anything and Accam is staying with the Chicago Fire.
Taylor Twellman of ESPN first reported that French club Nantes was going after the Ghanaian. Nantes was American international Alejandro Bedoya’s club before he joined Philadelphia earlier this month. Doug McIntyre followed up with a report saying Nantes offered $3 million for Accam.
However, the transfer deadline for the big leagues in Europe closed tonight and Accam is still with the Fire. Accam is currently with Ghana’s national team for a African Cup of Nations qualifier.
Interest in Accam is no surprise and nothing new. When healthy, Accam has been the Fire’s most dangerous attacker and is the most valuable asset on the team.
This winter rumors started of a possible move for Accam after he trained with English Premier League club Stoke City. Accam has expressed interest in moving to Europe, specifically England, at some point in his career.
The sticking point for a move to England is that he would not be able to get a work permit without going through the tricky appeal process. Accam does not hold an EU passport so he would need to get a work permit to play in England. The only way to get a waiver for one is to have played a certain percentage of games with your national team in a given period. Accam is with Ghana now, but missed the last international window due to injury.
Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez is hosting a media roundtable, the second one of the season, on Thursday. While the Accam move didn’t happen, it will be brought up for Rodriguez to comment on.
Hello all, this is my first official article for CSNChicago.com, and what better way than by telling you about places in Austin for those traveling to Texas to watch the Fighting Irish play the Longhorns? While the video segment — check it out above — from JJ Stankevitz and I was more focused on tacos and humor, here are some more places to use as a reference guide for visiting the lovely city in Central Texas.
Whole Foods Flagship, 6th and Lamar: breakfast tacos, and a general odyssey of food with built-in restaurants and fun stuff, along with Austin souvenirs.
South Congress Café: you have not had Migas until you’ve had these.
Juan in a Million: the famous “Don Juan” breakfast taco is the mother of them all. Expect a wait but prepare to be amazed. Order one with extra tortillas. Just trust me.
Matt’s El Rancho: home to the mother of all queso, the “Bob Armstrong Dip.”
La Condesa: it’s one of those cool kid spots. You’ll feel cool.
Fonda San Miguel: a favorite amongst Austinites for its more authentic fare. Excellent brunch as well.
Torchy’s Tacos: their creative tacos leave you wanting unlimited space for a variety of tacos, from breakfast to dinner. Their queso is also excellent.
Lambert’s: a more formal setting in downtown Austin.
Rudy’s: the opposite of Lambert's, informal fast barbecue served on butcher paper.
Franklin Barbecue: be prepared to get in line as early as 6 a.m. for this popular restaurant, which sells out fast.
The Salt Lick: it needs no introduction but it’s amazing. The original location is about 45 minutes west of Austin, and there’s one in Round Rock too, near the Dell Diamond.
Sophia: located in the former Bess Bistro spot on West 6th street, this new and inventive Italian restaurant is run by the BDG group from Chicago and features the executive chef of Prosecco in Chicago heading up cuisine.
Galaxy Café/Zocalo: a pair of quick and tasty restaurants just west of downtown Austin.
Whataburger: it’s not in Chicago. The burgers are great. Breakfast starts at 11 p.m. Look into the taquitos.
[SHOP NOTRE DAME: Get your Fighting Irish gear right here]
Sixth Street, just east of downtown, west of I-35: home to many college bars. It’s what people think of when they think of 6th street in Austin. The natives call it “Dirty Sixth.”
West Sixth Street: this is considered the more “mature” side of 6th street. Lots of bars as well, just a little older on average than “Dirty Sixth.”
East Sixth Street: the cool kids go there. I’d say “hipster” but that’s not doing it justice. It’s a growing district with great restaurants as well.
South Congress: home to the aforementioned South Congress Café. It also features Allen’s Boots — mentioned in video — along with a variety of shops and restaurants and a very scenic stroll with the Capital Building in the distance. The Congress Avenue Bridge is home to many bats, which you can see emerge at sunset to go eat mosquitos. Hopefully lots of mosquitos.
Barton Springs: a natural swimming hole in the middle of town, this spring-fed pool is an oasis.
Zilker Park: not the only oasis in downtown Austin! Zilker Park is home to countless events and people wanting some daily recreation.
Lady Bird Lake Trail: the trail around the “lake” in downtown Austin is a favorite for runners, walkers and bikers alike.
Rainey Street: a growing spot just east of downtown which is home to a variety of bars and restaurants.
The Dell Diamond: home to the Round Rock Express, the enjoyable minor league park hosts the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A club and is a good place for Cubs fans to get their revenge for Longhorns singing “Texas Fight” at Wrigley last year.
These are just a few of my recommendations in Austin. Enjoy and have a great time.