Notre Dame notebook: Wrapping up the week in South Florida

977371.png

Notre Dame notebook: Wrapping up the week in South Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It's taken what feels like eons, but Notre Dame will play its first football game since Nov. 24 tonight. Wrapping up a few notes from the week in South Florida:
How much progress has Golson made?
Everett Golson has the respect of an Alabama defense that knows what it's like to be stung by a mobile quarterback. He's nowhere near the level of Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, but from a basic standpoint Alabama wants to do to him what they couldn't do against the eventual Heisman Trophy winner.
The unknown here, at least for those outside of Notre Dame's players and coaches, is how much Golson has improved in these last six weeks. After guiding Notre Dame to a win at Oklahoma in late October, Golson's confidence -- and his team's confidence in him -- took off. It didn't hurt, either, that he faced a string of below-average defenses after OU.
At the least, Golson's done a good job taking care of the football this year. But he'll have to do more than that against Alabama, and may even be tasked with winning the game for Notre Dame.
Whatever improvements Golson has made -- namely, in the ability to run an expanded playbook, with plenty of looks Alabama hasn't seen on tape -- may be key if Notre Dame has a shot at winning tonight.
A chance to show off for Wood
Cierre Wood's goal is to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball, since he hardly gets the consistent carries he's pined for all season. If this is Wood's final game in a Notre Dame uniform -- he said he'll decide whether to enter the NFL Draft after the BCS Championship -- he could certainly help his stock with a few gouging runs against Alabama's defense.
This is as prominent of a stage as he'll get. And not only could he show off for NFL teams, he could leave plenty of analysts scratching their heads as to why Wood didn't get more carries during the season.
Wood's a confident guy, whose swagger only grows every time he touches the ball. This is the same Wood who said of Manti Te'o earlier in the season: "He thinks he can guard me, but he cant. I dont care how good he is, he cant guard me."
Against Alabama, that same level of bravado could be a mental edge for whenever he touches the ball.
"I believe there isnt nobody out there that can tackle me, there isnt nobody out there that I havent faced that Im not better than," Wood previously boasted. "So with that being said, I go into every run that I get or every play, period, thinking that Im the baddest."
One last hurrah for Te'o
Te'o graduated last month and has one more game left in his collegiate career before his next journey begins. He's been as transcendent a player as Notre Dame has seen in a long time, someone whose tenure in South Bend will be remembered fondly whether or not the Irish win tonight.
Back in August on the outset of the 2012 season, coach Brian Kelly said Te'o "has unfinished business as it relates to this football team." Nobody figured that unfinished business would've been a trip to South Florida for the National Championship, but here we are. A Notre Dame win tonight would cement Te'o among the most legendary players in program history, a legacy few have had the chance to attain.
"I hope my legacy is just a guy who gave Notre Dame his all, a guy who really committed himself to the school, and I really feel fortunate to play under the Golden Dome and receive an education there," Te'o said Friday, selling himself short. "Just one who really gave everything he had."
A final thought
Notre Dame's secondary has done a fine job of limiting big plays this year, but it hasn't been all by their own doing. Consider this: The first -- and maybe only, save one deep ball to Marqise Lee -- team to really gouge Notre Dame's secondary was Miami. The problem was Philip Dorsett dropped two sure-fire touchdowns, setting the tone for a sloppy effort by the 'Canes in a 41-6 loss.
If A.J. McCarron and, say, Amari Cooper get the same chance Stephen Morris and Dorsett did, Notre Dame may not be so lucky. The Irish have successfully turned most every opposing offense they've faced into a one-dimensional unit, and this is a defense good enough to stop the run or pass as long as the threat of the other isn't there.
On the flip side, Alabama's defense looked beatable against two elite offenses in Georgia and Texas A&M. Those games have received plenty of focus in the last few weeks, but it's worth noting Alabama shut down two other solid offenses in Tennessee (13 points) and Michigan (14 points). Notre Dame is closer to those two offenses than Georgia and Texas A&M, although the Irish offense may need to play as well as the Bulldogs or Aggies to have a chance tonight.

Handing out Notre Dame’s 2016 awards and superlatives

12-6deshonekizer.jpg
USA Today

Handing out Notre Dame’s 2016 awards and superlatives

Notre Dame’s annual Echoes awards show is this week, and while the team’s 4-8 record wasn’t worth celebrating, a few individual performances certainly were. 

With that in mind, Mike Monaco and I ran down our own awards and superlatives for Notre Dame’s 2016 season on the Still Independent podcast this week. Listen at the link here or in the embedded player below:

A quick rundown of who I picked for each of our awards, which Mike and I further explained in the podcast:

Team MVP - QB DeShone Kizer

Defensive MVP - LB James Onwualu

Offensive MVP - WR Equanimeous St. Brown

Best play - Equanimeous St. Brown’s somersault touchdown against Texas

Best game - Jarron Jones (six tackles for a loss) vs. Miami

Defensive newcomer of the year - CB Julian Love

Offensive newcomer of the year - WR Kevin Stepherson

Biggest disappointment - Notre Dame’s defense under Brian VanGorder for the season’s first four games

Unsung stars - WR Torii Hunter Jr. and DE Isaac Rochell

Wide receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame

Wide receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame

Redshirt sophomore receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame after graduating in the spring, joining offensive lineman John Montelus and quarterback Malik Zaire in leaving South Bend after earning their degrees.

Holmes, a former four-star recruit from Pembroke Pines, Fla., was the fifth-most targeted wide receiver on Notre Dame in 2016 (21 targets) and caught 11 passes for 96 yards. Holmes played in two games as a true freshman in 2014 but redshirted in 2015.

[SHOP: Get your Notre Dame gear]

Holmes posted this message to Twitter Saturday afternoon:

Holmes had offered from a number of top programs coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in South Florida, including Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Stanford and Wisconsin.