Notre Dame notes: Kelly stumps for Te'o, says Golson 'still cooking'

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Notre Dame notes: Kelly stumps for Te'o, says Golson 'still cooking'

In ESPN's latest Heisman Watch, Manti Te'o sits eighth, ahead of Oregon running back Kenjon Barner and USC quarterback Matt Barkley, among others. But in coach Brian Kelly's mind, Notre Dame's star inside linebacker should be closer to the top.

"What is the definition of a Heisman Trophy candidate?" Kelly asked rhetorically on Tuesday. "If you go with he has to be a quarterback or an offensive player, well, I don't think he plays on offense. But if you're looking for one of the best, if not the best college football players that impacts your program look, if you said it was the MVP, does it have to be an offensive player MVP? Sure. He's got to have some offensive numbers or statistics.

"But you're also judged by how you impact your team and what you do on the defensive side of the ball. So Heisman Trophy, MVP, top collegiate player, we think he fits those categories."

Kelly's known as an offense-first guy, a reputation he built while his Cincinnati teams torched Big East defenses. But he's said since coming to Notre Dame that the Irish need a stout defense to win, and Te'o's led that charge this year as the Irish surged to 4-0.

It's still early, and Te'o's chances are slim for the reasons Kelly discussed -- it's mainly an offensive award. Charles Woodson was the last defensive player to win the Heisman, although he played a significant role as a punt returner for Michigan in the late 90s. Before him, defensive ends Leon Hart (1949, Notre Dame) and Larry Kelley (1936, Yale) were the only two other non-offensive players to garner the award.

So Te'o already is an outside shot, and when you consider the three guys leading the Heisman watch -- West Virginia, Florida State and Kansas State quarterbacks Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel and Collin Klein -- there may not be an opening for an inside linebacker.

But perhaps if Te'o continues to lead a defense that remains one of the best in the nation, he'll at least be rewarded with a trip to New York for the ceremony.

Bye week allows Te'o to get closure

With Notre Dame off last weekend, Te'o was able to return home with fellow Hawaii native Robby Toma about two weeks after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend.

Te'o could've gone to Hawaii and been with his family the week of Notre Dame's game against Michigan State, but opted to stay with his team and play the next two weeks. Te'o totaled 20 tackles and picked off two passes against Michigan State and Michigan, leading a defense that allowed just nine points in those two games.

"Any time you get a chance to be around family at that time, there is probably some closure to it which allows you to continue on in the grieving process," Kelly said. "So I think it's just another step for Manti, and Robby being there, obviously, close to the family. I think they were able to bring some closure and move on to the next challenge."

In the kitchen

Both Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin hinted quarterback Everett Golson had a lot of his plate leading up to his rough performance against Michigan, and the Notre Dame quarterback hasn't been made available to the media during the week in nearly a month.

With that in mind, Kelly said Golson hasn't been walled off because of concerns about prying questions into the team's quarterback dynamic.

"I think he's got a very difficult schedule this year," Kelly said. "We've had a hard time managing him out of practice, getting something to eat, all of those things. He's got a really difficult schedule. The last few weeks have been heavy because we're getting close to midterms. So a lot of those factors."

"We're not trying to hide him. But yet on the other hand, I'm not going to make him available to you every day as well because he's got so much going on being the quarterback and a freshman at Notre Dame."

Kelly's liked to discuss his team's quarterback situation in baseball terms, calling Golson his starter and Tommy Rees his reliever. But with regards to Golson's development, maybe Kelly switched the channel from MLB Network to the Food Channel.

"It's work in progress," Kelly said. "An analogy that I like to use is he's still cooking. We've taken him out of the oven. He's still learning all of the things that are not necessarily visible from game film. He's still learning how to effectively communicate, and how he's able to lead, and all of those things."

That discussion of Golson doesn't sound like one that's going on among many top-10 teams. NBC Sports' Keith Arnold had a good read addressing the Golson-Rees dynamic, wondering how much longer the Irish can actually stick with Golson's development if the Irish keep winning as the season goes on.

It's definitely something to chew on as Notre Dame barrels toward matchups against top defenses in Stanford and BYU, and arguably its most intimidating road environment at Oklahoma.

92 Days to Kickoff: Sandburg

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92 Days to Kickoff: Sandburg

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Sandburg Eagles

Head coach: Scott Peters

Assistant coaches: Marty Balle (LB), Kevin Clark (DL), Larry Sheppard (DB/Co-defensive coordinator), Matt Barrett (assistant DL), Bill Mulchrone (assistant LB), Kevin Fahey (OC), Jim Zimmer (OL), Tom Lally (QB), Shane Meyer (WR), Jon Bergin (RB), Mark Lenkiewicz (assistant OL), Darren Monnet (K)

How they fared in 2015: 6-4 (5-2) Southwest Suburban Blue. The Eagles made the Class 8A playoff field, but lost to Palatine in the opening round.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Eagles reload with a new head coach?

Names to watch this season: LB Pat Brucki, DE Mike Murphy, DT Malik Skates

Biggest holes to fill: The Eagles need to replace 11 graduated starters on offense this season. 

EDGY's early take: Peters takes over a Sandburg program that has been winning games but hasn't made a deep state playoff run since the early 2000s. The Eagles bring back just three starters and will need to get up to speed in a hurry this fall, but this school always has talent in the building.

Check out this season's second episode of Chicago Fire All Access

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Check out this season's second episode of Chicago Fire All Access

Check out the second episode of the second season of Chicago Fire All Access.

In this episode, the team helps out in the Chicagoland community, talks about finding comfort foods in Chicago and life on the road in the MLS. 

Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

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Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

Sometimes you really do have to just appreciate the attitude. Because Bears coaches do, in ways of significance in what kind of team the 2016 Bears will become.

Ka’Deem Carey has been a backup his first two Bears seasons, yet now finds himself with more games played in a Bears uniform than any other Chicago running back. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick accordingly has set one very lofty 2016 objective for himself:

“Just being a leader, really trying to focus on that,” Carey said during the team’s OTA this week. “We’ve still got a young team, I’m vocal, coaches like the way I run the ball, and sometimes the way I play out there, the coaches like that and want to pass that on to teammates.

“So I’m just trying to be a leader to these young guys.”

Somehow the notion of a 23-year-old talking about setting an example for “these” young guys shouldn’t be dismissed. At all. Because Carey is representative of something developing within the current team.

Leadership is a popular, near-annual topic for Bears teams, no less so early this offseason as the 2016 team takes shape without 40 percent of its elected – and veteran – captains from the 2015 season.

Players elect five captains: two for offense, two defense and one special teams. Coach John Fox names a sixth captain each based on merit from the previous week.

The problem for the Bears is that two of the 2015 five elected captains – running back Matt Forte, safety Antrel Rolle – were not brought back by the organization this offseason. Veterans were added in free agency, but headcount does not translate into instant chemistry, cohesion or leadership.

That falls to a Carey to infuse. Elsewhere, guard Matt Slauson, a popular leader in the offensive-line room and huddle, was released, as was left tackle Jermon Bushrod. After just three NFL seasons, Kyle Long abruptly becomes the offensive lineman with more games in a Bears uniform than anyone else in the O-line room.

Indeed, longevity is no criterion whatsoever for a Bears “leadership” role. Teammates elected Pernell McPhee one of the defensive co-captains last year, his first as a Bear. And linebacker Danny Trevathan, brought in from Super Bowl champion Denver, could emerge as one in his first, using precisely the same calling card that McPhee did.

“I'm just going out there and being an example,” Trevathan said. “It's not hard, you know, I've just got to go out and play the game that I know how to play but also get guys to come along and speak and communicate and be on one page with these guys.”

The key is the “horizontal” leadership concept – leading not from a few at the top, but from multiple strong individuals in a leadership layer.

“Obviously missing Matt Slauson, missing guys like Slauson and Forte, there are large voids to be filled,” Long said. “But this team has been built on horizontal leadership and we’ve done a great job bringing in the right people, defensively, offensively and the special teams unit.

“I love the coaches, I love the guys on this team, I don’t think that will be an issue, so I don’t really have to take on that much bigger of a role because of the guys that we have in our room. Everybody is kind of accountable themselves.”