Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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8 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI N otre Dame sophomore Alizé Jones — one of 45 players selected to the 2016 watch list for the Mackey Award, which is presented to the na- tion's top tight end — was declared academically ineligible by Notre Dame at the end of summer school and the start of preseason practice Aug. 6. Jones caught 13 passes for 190 yards as a freshman, highlighted by vital 35- and 45-yard grabs during game-winning drives versus USC and Temple in back-to-back weeks. Jones announced the news via his Twitter account. Wrote Jones: "Notre Dame is a spe- cial place and playing football for the Irish is a privilege. With this oppor- tunity comes academic responsibil- ity, and unfortunately, I didn't meet that responsibility. I love Notre Dame and everything about it. Obviously, I'm disappointed at myself, but I'm going to make the best of the situa- tion. I'm going to remain a student at Notre Dame and work even harder. I'm going to grow from this. I'm go- ing to be a better student, teammate, player and man. While I won't be able to help my brothers on Satur- days, I'll do whatever I can to help this team achieve its goal of winning a national championship." Jones still can dress and practice with the team — he can be a heck of a scout team tight end — and his at- titude through the first three weeks of practice was encouraging while cheering loudly for scholarship se- niors Durham Smythe (sidelined the last 10 regular-season games of 2015 with injuries) and Jacob Matuska (a converted defensive lineman) plus juniors Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua, who has monogrammed twice but was not with the team this spring. "It just goes to show you how he is as a person being out here with so much energy, being the loudest guy out here," Smythe said of Jones. "I've gained so much respect for him … that's going to be huge for us all year, having a guy that can bring that energy." Head coach Brian Kelly also has been impressed with the way Jones has taken ownership. "I'm proud of Alizé and him tak- ing full accountability," Kelly said. "That's what we ask our players to do. They are accountable for their actions in the classroom, on the foot- ball field and in the community. … He understands his shortcomings and what he's got to work on. He's a young man that is maturing and growing, and he's got a bright fu- ture. … He'll practice and continue to develop." It was the fourth straight year Notre Dame had at least one high- profile academic casualty. The late running back Greg Bryant was ruled ineligible in 2015. Like Jones, he could have still practiced but opted to transfer to UAB. He was tragically killed by gunfire in his native Florida May 8. In August 2014, junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell along with four se- niors — wide receiver DaVaris Dan- iels, defensive end Ishaq Williams, safety Eilar Hardy and linebacker Kendall Moore — were all penalized from playing because of academics. UNDER THE DOME THE GRADING CURVE Sophomore tight end Alizé Jones is academically ineligible in 2016 Jones led the Irish tight ends in receptions as a freshman with 13 for 190 yards. PHOTO BY ANDREW IVINS GRANT BLANKENSHIP TRANSFERS TO OU Junior defensive end Grant Blankenship, who was suspended from all Notre Dame team activities during the final week of spring drills because of an undisclosed violation of team rules, has transferred to the University of Oklahoma. Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly left the door open for Blankenship to return this August if he met a certain list of criteria — but he opted to enroll at OU, where he will be eligible in 2017 with two seasons of eligibility remain- ing. The 6-5, 278-pound Blankenship was recruited to Notre Dame by 2010-14 defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, now the secondary coach for the Sooners. As a 2014 freshman, Blankenship appeared in 11 games and was credited with 12 tackles. Last year, though, he totaled only 24 snaps (17 of them against UMass) in three games and recorded one tackle. This spring he worked behind senior Isaac Rochell and junior Jonathan Bonner at strongside end, where freshman Khalid Kareem also is aligned. — Lou Somogyi GRANT BLANKENSHIP

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