Michigan Wolverines: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Getting to know Jashon Cornell 

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

When you attend a school as prestigious as Cretin-Derham Hall, as No. 16-ranked recruit Jashon Cornell does, you are bound to have connections. The Minnesota school has produced its share of college and NFL players over the years, including associate dean of students Marcus Freeman, who played for Notre Dame.

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California has always fed the Pac-12 a majority of its recruits, as Southern California in particular is the recruiting hotbed for the conference. But as the Golden State is arguably the most talent-rich state in the country when it comes to high school football, programs outside the Pac-12 haven't been content to sit back and watch conference teams load up on California recruits.

Television, the internet and social media have all helped out-of-conference programs invade California looking for recruits, but nothing has aided those programs more than good old-fashioned effort, according to Fresno (Calif.) Central East assistant coach Tony Perry.

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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Thirty athletes from the West region in the ESPN Junior 300 met at Redondo Union (Calif.) High School on Sunday morning for the first Nike Football Training Camp of the spring. With hundreds of recruits in attendance, it wasn't surprising that many of the top prospects coming into the event stood out.

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The final meeting between Michigan and Notre Dame has a start time.

The Fighting Irish announced Thursday that the Sept. 6 contest, their last scheduled meeting with the Wolverines, will kick off at 7:30 ET.

The Fighting Irish also announced a 7:30 start time for their Shamrock Series battle with Purdue in Indianapolis a week later.

The school had designated their last scheduled meeting with the Wolverines as a night game back in December, when it announced its schedules through 2016.

Both the Michigan and Purdue games will be broadcast by NBC, as will the Irish's other five home games, which will all have the standard 3:30 start time.

This will mark the fourth straight year that Notre Dame Stadium hosts a night game, with Michigan and USC accounting for all four occasions. The Trojans' 2011 win at Notre Dame had been the first night contest in South Bend, Ind., in 21 years. The Irish have won both of their home night games since then.

Best B1G games of 2013: No. 9

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
We're back for another installment of our series looking at the top-10 games from the Big Ten in 2013. Remember that we're taking into account the stakes in the game, the excitement level, the quality of the performances and the atmosphere.

No game has ever had more fans in attendance than the next one on our list ...

No. 9: Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30, Sept. 7

The second-ever night game at the Big House didn't quite live up to the thriller between these two teams in 2011, but it was still a back-and-forth contest with plenty of intrigue -- and an NCAA-record crowd of 115,109.

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
Phil Ellsworth / ESPN ImagesDevin Gardner accounted for five total touchdowns in Notre Dame's last visit to Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future.
How it went down: A Blake Countess interception near the end of the first half set up a Michigan touchdown that gave the Wolverines a 27-13 halftime cushion.

But Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner helped the Irish get back in the game with an awful pick-six near his own goal line early in the fourth quarter, and a Kyle Brindza field goal with 9:15 left cut the score to just 34-30. Gardner responded by leading a touchdown drive -- aided by a pair of Notre Dame pass interference penalties -- that culminated with his four-yard scoring strike to Drew Dileo. Countess intercepted a Tommy Rees pass in the end zone on Notre Dame's final chance with 1:29 to go, and Michigan ran out the clock from there.

After the game ended, the "Chicken Dance" played over the Michigan Stadium loudspeakers, in reference to Brady Hoke's summer comments about the Irish chickening out of the series against the Wolverines. This was the last scheduled game between the two marquee programs in Ann Arbor. And if all that wasn't enough to put this game on our top-10 list, it also featured the priceless halftime exchange between Eminem and Brent Musburger..

Player of the game: Gardner -- who was wearing the No. 98 Tom Harmon legacy jersey for the first time -- threw for 294 yards, ran for 82 more and had five total touchdowns. Jeremy Gallon also starred with eight catches for 184 yards and three scores.

Stat of the game: Michigan's interior offensive line was a big question coming in and would be one of the team's main weaknesses going forward. But against a talented Notre Dame defensive front, the line allowed no sacks and paved the way for 166 rushing yards.

They said it: "It's an amazing feeling to wear that number," Gardner said about the No. 98 jersey. "I knew about all the great things that he did on the field, but there are all the other things he did. He played two years of basketball, he fought for his country and he was a great human being. It's an honor to know that his family felt I deserved to wear that jersey."

More best games

No. 10: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24
Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers

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As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One thing is for sure for all the 2014 Under Armour All-Americans: This isn’t high school anymore. Day 1 is about gauging the competition. Some guys dive right in and some test the waters with their big toe, but by the end of the first day of practice, all those in attendance have a pretty good idea of where they stand and what they need to do to compete and get better.

Given that it is Day 1, the playbook is introduced (Team Nitro is going no huddle with wrist bands and limited plays), and there can be sloppy moments of indecision and uncertainty. With each rep, most, if not all, prospects began to get a better feel for what is expected. Most importantly, the center-quarterback exchanges were very good for the most part, which is generally the biggest worry. Upon completion of the first practice, here are some observations and things to look for over the week:

Top Performers

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Michigan boosts schedule without Irish

December, 19, 2013
Michigan didn't want the annual Notre Dame series to end. Whether the Irish chickened out or not is a matter of opinion.

What's not is that Michigan has responded by adding some beef to its non-league schedule.

The school on Thursday announced it will play Florida in the 2017 season opener at the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas. Michigan will make its second appearance in the game after facing Alabama in the 2012 opener. The teams will play Sept. 2, 2017, at AT&T Stadium.

Michigan twice has played Florida in bowl games, most recently in the 2008 Capital One Bowl, Lloyd Carr's final game as Wolverines coach. Florida will venture out of the Sunshine State to play a non-conference game for the first time since 1991 (!).

"This is a great way to reach our fan base in the South and to continue to expand our recruiting efforts in the state of Texas," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in a prepared statement. "Our goal is to have as many Michigan fans at the game as possible. Florida has been one of college football's best programs over the past 20 years, and we are excited to face the Gators in a regular season football game for the first time ever."

All good points from Hoke, especially the one about recruiting in the fertile state of Texas. Florida was a mess this past season but should once again be among the nation's elite by 2017. There are too many resources in Gainesville for the program not to be great again.

This is the type of game that can help Michigan in its quest to make the College Football Playoff, which is the program's ultimate goal, Brandon told me this spring. Then ask yourself: How often have recent wins against Notre Dame really helped Michigan? Games against Notre Dame typically have a lose-lose feel for Big Ten teams. Beat the Irish, and the national spin is that Notre Dame is down. Lose to the Irish, and you might be out of the playoff picture.

Wins against SEC teams matter more, perception wise. That's just the way it is. Michigan has given itself a chance for a big one to open the 2017 campaign.

The Wolverines' 2017 schedule is now complete, with home games against both Cincinnati and Air Force, as well as nine Big Ten contests, including home games against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, and road tests against both Wisconsin and Penn State.

That's the type of schedule that should impress the Playoff selection committee.

Some Michigan fans undoubtedly would prefer a home-and-home against Florida, but looking at the Gators' reluctance to go anywhere for non-league games, that possibility seemed slim. Although Michigan's last trip to Jerry World didn't go well, the opportunity to play on the national stage against a marquee team is extremely valuable.

"We have a lot of work to do to regain our footing in terms of playing competition that's going to be attractive to our fans, help us build our programs and help us compete at the national level," Brandon told me in May. "I'm a big believer that we should be strengthening our schedule and working hard to go out and fill those nonconference positions with the kinds of programs that are going to excite our fans, bring a lot of attention to us as we are broadcast on television and ultimately put in a position where we're going to have better football programs."

From a local/regional perspective, the end of the Michigan-Notre Dame series is a bummer. But it opened up different doors for Michigan, and the Wolverines walked through one Thursday.

Michigan’s top ranked commitment in 2014, Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), tweeted on Tuesday about a change of plans.

The No. 2-ranked prospect committed to the Wolverines on ESPN back in May. At the time LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers were among the schools he was considering. It now seems Peppers will be reevaluating schools.

This is significant because Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his staff have a no-visit policy for their commitments. Any prospect who commits to Michigan is not allowed to take other visits.

If a prospect does take a visit to a different program then they are no longer considered a Michigan commit. That doesn’t preclude the Michigan staff from still recruiting that prospect, it just means they are no longer committed to Michigan.

Peppers is a five-star prospect and badly needed in Ann Arbor, Mich., so this proves to be a bad situation for Hoke if these visits do come to fruition. Peppers, however, did state he is still committed to the Wolverines.

"I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college," Peppers said. "With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS."

Peppers’ high school coach, Chris Partridge, said he had not heard anything about the potential visits from his star athlete.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: After missing out on Da'Shawn Hand, Michigan didn’t waste time trying to fill its need at defensive end; can Texas become a factor for the nation’s No. 1 prospect?, and how many elite players are still up for grabs?

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From Wisconsin moving up in the polls to a few schools moving down, it was a busy week in the Big Ten and the class rankings reflect that.

Here’s a look at what conference recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren saw and some trends to follow in the upcoming weeks:

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- If there’s anything this game has taught us recently it’s that it’s not over until the clock reads zeros. No. 17 Michigan held a 14-point advantage over No. 14 Notre Dame heading in to the fourth quarter but fate wouldn’t let that stand. How could it when the Wolverines would need to one-up the fourth quarter from two years ago under the lights?

But even with some really poor decisions and a few clutch plays made on offense and defense, Michigan was able to pull off the win over Notre Dame, 41-30. The victory keeps Michigan coach Brady Hoke undefeated in Michigan Stadium in his third year at the helm of the Wolverines.

It was over when: In most instances, an 11-point lead with less than five minutes remaining would feel pretty safe. But nothing really felt safe for the Wolverines -- especially against this Notre Dame team -- until Blake Countess intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone with 1:29 remaining in the game.

Game ball goes to: Jeremy Gallon. The wide receiver made catch after catch that he was seemingly too short or too covered to make. His three touchdowns on eight receptions, however, led the Wolverines, and his 184 yards were a career high. With quarterback Devin Gardner at the helm of this Michigan offense, it is allowing playmakers like Gallon to really come in to their own, and the senior's performance against the Irish showed just that.

Stat of the game: Louis Nix III recorded just four tackles and two of them (including the one for a loss) came when the game was already out of hand. Not once did Notre Dame’s stud defensive lineman -- who was going up against three interior offensive linemen from Michigan who all saw their first starts just a week ago -- get to Gardner.

Unsung hero: Fitzgerald Toussaint. Because of the nature of Gallon’s big performance, Toussaint’s 71 yards on 22 carries will largely go unnoticed. However, it is because of his ability to get short yardage and hit holes that the passing lanes were open for guys like Gallon, Drew Dileo and Devin Funchess. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has always said he wants a featured back in his offense and 22 carries is within their desired range.

Second-guessing: A safety isn’t the worst possible thing. And no, it’s not ideal either. But the only thing worse would be exactly what Gardner did -- incidentally throwing it to the other team as three Irish defenders closed in on him. It was a huge dent on a game that was relatively empty of errors on the quarterback’s part. But that play completely shifted the momentum of the game and what could’ve been a small dent in the game turned this game into the dogfight that it became.

Dig of the game: Michigan Stadium played “The Chicken Dance” following the win, which is a reference back to last May when Hoke said that Notre Dame was chickening out of the rivalry.

Tuitt looking forward to challenge

September, 6, 2013
Stephon TuittChris Williams/Icon SMIStephon Tuitt is looking forward to making memories at the Big House on Saturday.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Stephon Tuitt's memories of Notre Dame's last trip to Michigan are, well, colorful.

"I just remember it was a big ol' stadium with a lot of yellow pompoms," Tuitt said. "That's it."

Tuitt traveled to the Big House in 2011, but he never played a snap. Both he and Aaron Lynch, prized freshmen ends with one college game under their belts at the time, were held out of the 35-31 loss to the Wolverines as coach Brian Kelly deemed them not ready.

Tuitt's role has ballooned in the two years since, as the 6-foot-6, 322-pounder will stand eye-to-eye this Saturday with a fellow All-American, left tackle Taylor Lewan.

Well, almost eye to eye.

"He's 6-8 and can move really good," Tuitt said. "We watch his film. He's a great tackle. He backs up well. He has great strength. … Me going against that is a great matchup and a great opportunity for me to really showcase the things that I worked on this summer, and a great opportunity for him to showcase what he worked on this summer, and I'm expecting a great matchup between me and him."

It is a showdown of probable first-round draft picks next spring. Lewan passed on that opportunity for a fifth and final season with the Wolverines, much like the other measuring stick Tuitt gets to see every day in practice in Zack Martin, who has helped with the preparation for the challenge that awaits this weekend.

"That's the thing about it," Tuitt said. "You've got one of the best tackles on our team, one of the best tackles in the country. It makes you better. It makes your confidence way higher, too."

Tuitt will inevitably have a decision of his own at the end of this season as the prized junior looks to build off a 12-sack 2012 campaign that he had previously deemed a "learning year." Playing in just his seventh year of organized football, the behemoth from Monroe, Ga., has learned to harness his big frame and become more than just a quarterback hunter.

Or, as linebacker Jarrett Grace described it: "He doesn't just have to be Godzilla out there throwing everyone around. He can be Godzilla focused in one area taking everyone out, because we've got other great guys on the defensive line that are also working their technique."

So Tuitt's only chance in Ann Arbor might also serve as his last chance against the Wolverines, with the attention surrounding the Big House's second night game only raising the stakes as he faces his stiffest individual test.

"No more going back, so I've got to leave it all," Tuitt said. "Leave it all out there."

Game capsule: Notre Dame-Michigan

September, 6, 2013
On Saturday, the final (scheduled) clash between Michigan and Notre Dame in the Big House is set to kick off shortly after 8 p.m. (ESPN/WatchESPN). It’s sure to be an electric atmosphere and if past be present, the game should be one to remember. Here are a few story lines to look for as the 14th-ranked Irish take the field against the 17th-ranked Wolverines.

1. Louis Nix III vs. Michigan’s interior linemen.

The Wolverines’ offensive line looked good against Central Michigan. But let’s be serious, they should’ve looked good. A much bigger test comes this weekend for the three interior guys -- Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller and Kyle Kalis -- who all picked up their first starts seven days ago. Nix is a 342-pound anchor who easily outweighs each of Michigan’s interior O-linemen (and still would even if the Michigan O-linemen put sand bags on their backs). Nix is on nearly every watch list a defensive lineman can be on and he’s considered the top defensive tackle in this season’s NFL draft. He’ll be a tough task for Michigan’s young front. It’s not out of the question that the Wolverines can hold up against Nix, but the advantage here definitely leans toward Notre Dame.

2. Battle of the quarterbacks.

Over the last few seasons this has been a game that has given quarterbacks the opportunity to shine … or tank. Tommy Rees had an impressive showing against Temple. He finished the day 16-of-23 for 346 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Devin Gardner on the other hand, threw two picks against Central Michigan, but finished 10-of-15 for 162 yards and touchdown, while also adding 52 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Much of Gardner’s productivity could be dependent on how his three interior linemen do against Nix, because if they can’t contain the pocket, he’ll be forced to make decisions on the move. And while he has shown that he’s an effective scrambler, Notre Dame’s front seven is stout and they could draw him into costly mistakes. Michigan’s defensive line is still somewhat of an unknown commodity since it’s unsure whether they’ll still look as good against a sizeable offensive line. But I don’t think we scratched the surface of Greg Mattison’s blitzes. Expect him to throw a few early ones at Rees, just to get the senior on his heels.

3. Can both teams avoid turnovers?

No matter what Michigan says, the memory of last season remains. There’s no way to completely erase a six-turnover game or the chip that kind of a night leaves on your shoulders. It’s still early enough in the season that neither coach is completely happy with his defense (and they’ll say they never really are), but it’s likely that whichever teams forces the most turnovers will also be the one victorious at the end of the day. Whether it’s the secondary picking off passes or the front seven forcing fumbles, both defenses are going to be on the prowl for creating turnovers so they can win that battle.

4. Taylor Lewan vs. Stephon Tuitt.

Can we get a camera set up just on these two the entire game? This is going to be a matchup to watch. NFL scouts will be in the press box just to see these two go after it (as well as a few other guys). But really, it’s two top-10 NFL picks going head-to-head on a huge stage with a lot on the line. Lewan passed up the NFL so he could play in matchups like this one while wearing maize and blue.

5. Which Michigan running back will get the most snaps?

Fitzgerald Toussaint is the starter. We get it. But in a week, true freshman Derrick Green jumped from fifth-string RB to primary backup. Not too shabby. Notre Dame’s front seven is talented, even without Manti Te’o, and the Wolverines will have to find a way to run against it. Last season, Toussaint rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries against Notre Dame. But take out his 31-yard jaunt and Toussaint averaged just over two yards per carry. That’s not going to cut it. On Saturday Michigan could use both Toussaint and Green just to put different paces on the field, but it will be very interesting -- and very telling -- to see which running back ultimately takes the most snaps by the end of the game. Al Borges has been very adamant about having a featured back at Michigan but he has recently said that he wouldn’t count anything out. Perhaps a two-back system (or something like it) could be utilized against the Irish.


Michigan Outlook: 2014
Brian Bennett discusses the outlook for the Michigan Wolverines' football program in 2014.Tags: Michigan Wolverines, Braxton MIller, Brian Bennett, Devin Gardner