Kelly finally announces Notre Dame captains for 2014

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

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SOUTH BEND — After hitting the pause button a couple of times, Brian Kelly finally took to social media Tuesday night to announce Notre Dame’s 2014 football captains.

Fifth-year senior safety Austin Collinsworth, junior defensive tackle Sheldon Day, senior center Nick Martin and senior running back Cam McDaniel made the belated cut.

The delay wasn’t a matter of not having enough strong leadership candidates, per the fifth-year Irish head football coach, but rather a bounty of them.

“I want to be very careful that we select the right people and make sure that our voice is being heard across the group,” Kelly said earlier at his Tuesday press conference. “Again, this is a limited democracy, and our players know that. But I want to make sure that we're representing everybody across the board with our football players.”

Collinsworth has played in 39 games in his Notre Dame career, and Saturday’s start against Rice in No. 17 Notre Dame’s season opener with be his 12th. A total of 43 of his 68 tackles came last season. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder missed the entire 2012 season battling injuries after playing a reserve role in 2010 and 2011.

Martin succeeds brother Zack as a captain. The younger Martin started 11 games at center last season before an injury truncated his season. He played 13 games as a reserve in 2012.

Day has eight career starts, all coming in 2013 during an injury-pocked season. He played in all 13 games as a freshman reserve in 2012.

McDaniel has the fewest career starts among the captains, with four, and is the only one who isn’t guaranteed to start the opener. But Kelly loves his leadership and he did lead the Irish in yards (705) and carries (152) in 2013, working up from a minor role in 2011 and 2012.

Where are they now?

Two quarterbacks, who at one point in their college careers hoped to overtake Irish No. 1 QB Everett Golson, will finally get a chance to start.

Elsewhere.

Fifth-year senior Andrew Hendrix will be making his first college start Saturday for Miami (Ohio), when the RedHawks host Marshall. Miami will be trying to snap a 16-game losing streak that dates back to the 2012 season.

Junior Gunner Kiel, whose anointment is heavily presumed and not yet official despite earlier reports, will have to wait a little longer. His Cincinnati Bearcats team doesn’t open until Sept. 12, when the UC hosts Toledo. It will be the first game action of any kind for Kiel since playing for Columbus (Ind.) East High School in 2011.

Eight days after Cincinnati opens its season, the two ex-ND quarterbacks will face each other in Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Hendrix, ND’s No. 2 QB last season, draws a tough assignment the week before he faces Kiel, Sept. 13 at Michigan, while Kiel’s biggest challenge likely will come a week after he faces Hendrix and Miami — Sept. 27 at Ohio State.

Hendrix is coached by former ND offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. Two other Notre Dame grad school-style transfers will be in the starting lineup against Marshall, a team that thumped Miami 52-14 last season.

Alex Welch gets his first collegiate start at tight end Saturday. He had one career reception during his time at ND. Former Irish cornerback Lo Wood is listed as a starting outside linebacker on Miami’s official depth chart, which is a bit deceptive.

Wood is considered a starter, but that outside linebacker position is actually Miami’s nickelback. Saturday will be Wood’s first collegiate start as well.

Elsewhere among former ND players still bouncing around the collegiate ranks:

Chris Badger, BYU: Badger had seven tackles over 10 games for the Cougars last season after transferring from ND and obtaining a waiver for immediate eligibility. The sophomore appeared to be headed for the two-deeps at one of the Cougars’ safety positions this fall and maybe even a starting berth, but he did not make the depth chart for Friday night’s season opener at UConn (7 EDT, ESPN).

Badger, if he sees action, gets to face his former defensive coordinator, Bob Diaco, who is making his head coaching debut.

Justin Ferguson, Western Michigan: The redshirt sophomore who played wide receiver sparingly for the Irish as a freshman in 2012 had auditions at running back, wide receiver and defensive back during the year he was required to sit out (2013) to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Western Michigan was 1-11 in 2013.

He’s now ticketed to play safety for the Broncos, but not as a starter when Western Michigan opens Saturday at Purdue (noon, ESPNU). The 6-2, 185-pounder is expected to see the field on special teams.

Bruce Heggie, Ball State: He is listed as the Cardinals’ No. 2 nose tackle for Ball State’s season opener Saturday with Colgate. The now 6-5, 292-pound Heggie was recruited to Notre Dame as a defensive end, but spent most of his time at ND as a backup offensive lineman.

Rashad Kinlaw, ASA Community College: Listed as a freshman wide receiver for ASA College, a juco in Brooklyn, the former Irish cornerback who redshirted in 2013 is expected to be a starter once he gets past some nagging injuries.

The Avengers, ranked No. 7 in the NJCAA poll after a 9-1 season in 2013, open their season Sept. 6 at Erie Community College.

Will Mahone, Youngstown State: Youngstown, Ohio, TV station WKBN was the first to report Tuesday that the former Irish running back and wide receiver has landed at YSU near his hometown of Austintown as a walk-on.

Mahone, who left ND this summer after a June arrest, has enrolled at the school but had not yet practiced with the football team. The FCS school opens its season Saturday against Illinois.

The junior was sentenced to 10 days in jail on July 23 after pleading guilty to four misdemeanor charges.

DaVonte’ Neal, Arizona: The redshirt sophomore has since uppercased the V in his first name since leaving Notre Dame. He is an either/or starting candidate at slot receiver, sharing the billing with fellow sophomore Nate Phillips. The 5-10, 173-pounder is also listed as the Wildcats’ top punt returner. Arizona opens Friday night at home in a 10:30 EDT ESPN game vs. UNLV.

Tee Shepard, Ole Miss: The cornerback who hoped to be part of ND’s 2012 freshman class left the school in March of that year roughly two months after enrolling early, reportedly after getting flagged by the NCAA Clearinghouse for test score issues.

Had he been able to stay at ND and compete for a starting cornerback spot, it’s possible the Irish coaching staff would have kept KeiVarae Russell on offense as either a running back or slot receiver instead of flipping him to cornerback.

Shepard, meanwhile, sat out the 2012 season, then played last season at Holmes (Miss.) Community College. He verbally committed to Mississippi State, but flipped to rival Ole Miss on signing day last February.

He was in the mix to start for the Rebels this fall, but he suffered a torn tendon in his big toe earlier this month and recently underwent season-ending surgery. Because Shepard’s NCAA clock started in 2012, he will have two seasons of eligibility at Ole Miss beginning in 2015.

Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA: The sophomore defensive lineman signed with, but never enrolled, at ND. He started seven games and played in all 13 in 2013 as a freshman. His 11 tackles against Stanford are the most by a UCLA defensive lineman in a game since 1992. He also has more career offensive touchdowns (2) than any of ND’s three starting wide receivers.

He scored one on a run and the other on a pass reception. UCLA opens Saturday (noon EDT, ESPN) at Virginia.

Squibs

• A year after the Notre Dame players voted to sing the Alma Mater at home games on the field only after wins, they’ve pulled a reverse of sorts.

The team will go back to serenading the student section win or lose.

“The players didn't bring it to me,” Kelly said. “I brought it to the players, just like I brought it to the players last year. We have a unity council. I addressed it last year with the unity council. We decided as a team that's not what we wanted to do.

“This year we brought it back up to the unity council, and they voted that's something that they wanted to do. So I'm all for what my team wants to do, and we will make that work.”

• Sophomore wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., is progressing faster than expected from a torn groin injury, per Kelly, and could be ready to resume practicing next Monday in some capacity.

Hunter, who took a medical redshirt year as a freshman in 2013, suffered the injury during the first week of training camp at Culver, Ind., in early August.

• CBSSports.com’s Tony Moss recently rated the 128 FBS coaches from 1 to 128, but with a twist — based on their playing careers.

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly came in 120th, eight sports ahead of his predecessor — Charlie Weis — now at Kansas. No. 1 was South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, followed by Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.

Coaches with ND playing and/or coaching connections include No. 16 Bob Diaco at Connecticut, No. 62 Steve Addazio at Boston College, No. 76 Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech, No. 86 Trent Miles at Georgia State, No. 88 Charlie Strong at Texas, No. 90 Urban Meyer at Ohio State, No. 92 Bob Davie at New Mexico, No. 106 Chuck Martin at Miami (Ohio), No. 108 Brian Polian at Nevada, No. 11 Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and No. 118 George O’Leary at UCF.

Other notables: Kelly’s counterpart Saturday — Rice’s David Bailiff (82), Alabama’s Nick Saban (47), Michigan’s Brady Hoke (23) and the coach of defending national champion Florida State, Jimbo Fisher (100).

Junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day is one of four Notre Dame players named as a captain Tuesday for the 2014 season. He's joined by safety Austin Collinsworth, running back Cam McDaniel and center Nick Martin. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)