Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 12, 2016

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

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8 SEPT. 12, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME Jim McLaughlin is in the second season of his rebuild of the Notre Dame volleyball program. The Irish opened the 2016 campaign by notching their first 3‑0 start in five years, with a trio of sweeps in the Golden Dome Invitational Aug. 26‑27. McLaughlin is the only person ever to lead both men's and women's volleyball teams to an NCAA Championship. He was named the National Coach of the Year during his time with the Washington women's team, a program that he led to one na‑ tional championship and four national semifinal appearances. BGI: What's the biggest difference going from year one to year two with the program? McLaughlin: "It's just more familiar. The staff knows the players better; the players know the staff better. They under‑ stand learning better, which is a big deal. "As you start to improve because of those things you feel better about yourself in terms of confidence and feel bet‑ ter about the expectations we have here, which are pretty daunting." BGI: Where is this team compared to your national cham‑ pion Washington team? McLaughlin: "It's hard to compare teams, but as you de‑ velop people change and the team changes. It's just this learning cycle we are in. … We're in the beginning stages. "Athletically we are comparable. These guys just aren't the volleyball players yet that those girls were. After we've played some matches the girls have a higher understanding of the training and what it really takes to get it right on game day." BGI: You've had a good start to the season, but how do you see this team progressing throughout the year? McLaughlin: "What I know is we've made progress. There's questions that we've got to answer; you don't get the answer to them until you get to the answer. There were teams along the way, even the championship team … you don't know until you are going and doing it. "I'm not disappointed with where we are at … we just have a long way to go." BGI: How difficult is it to recruit at a place like Notre Dame? McLaughlin: "We're one of the few schools you get the best of both worlds. … We're not even good yet and we're having good recruiting. I put on a little 'ND' and people will talk to me because it's Notre Dame. "We're going to tell them how much we can help them and this is how we can help them. But, the demands are signifi‑ cant and some kids want that and some don't. I want kids who want the high demand." BGI: What has been the biggest challenge of the job so far? McLaughlin: "Coaching is hard. You demand so much of these kids and the demands of a student‑athlete are so much more significant than when I went to school. You put some pressure on them to some degree and you're demanding to some degree — then all of sudden it shifts and they become very demanding of themselves. "They are understanding focus is an intangible you have to acquire and learn." — Corey Bodden Five Questions With … VOLLEYBALL COACH JIM MCLAUGHLIN Pass Rusher By Corey Bodden At 17 commitments, Notre Dame's 2017 class is close to filling up, but sev‑ eral major targets remain. With a few high‑profile prospects still considering the Irish, one question arises: who is the most important? There are a few different answers and I am going to cheat a little and go with one position, but not one player — pass rusher. Notre Dame is in need of adding consistent pass rushers, and with the loss of Los Angeles Cathedral defensive end Hunter Echols to USC, another blow to finding an edge rusher was dealt. But the Irish are still in good position to find a disruptive defender, whether it's at defen‑ sive end or an outside linebacker. I will also cheat a little again and give two play‑ ers who should be at the top of Notre Dame's board: linebackers Jacob Phillips of Nashville (Tenn.) East Nashville Magnet and Justin Foster of Shelby (N.C.) Crest. While both are linebackers, both Phillips and Foster have said Notre Dame has pitched the idea of being able to come off the edge, similar to current freshman Daelin Hayes. I think it would be better for the Irish to land Phillips over Foster if pass‑ rushing abilities are taken into account. Phillips is about 20 pounds lighter than Foster and has a good first twitch. He would bring a much‑needed presence on the edge for the Irish and can cover, bringing the best of both worlds and completing an already solid linebacker corps. Offensive Tackle By Bryan Driskell Notre Dame's current roster is loaded at offensive tackle, with senior Mike McGlinchey being named a Pro Football Focus preseason All‑American and junior Alex Bars ready to have a breakout season of his own. Current freshmen Liam Eichenberg and Tommy Kraemer were highly ranked and have bright futures. The problem for the Irish at this point is McGlinchey could be done at Notre Dame as early as the end of this season, and Bars will be a senior by the time the 2017 class arrives on campus. Notre Dame has a commitment from Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny offensive tackle Joshua Lugg, an extremely talented young blocker. How‑ ever, its other two pledges along the offensive line — Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy's Robert Hainsey and Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic's Dillan Gibbons — are ideally suited for interior positions. The Irish offense is built around having a domi‑ nant line, and right now the numbers for the future are low. Notre Dame is after a pair of elite offensive tackles. Graham (Wash.) Graham‑ Kapowsin's Foster Sarell is Rivals' No. 3 overall player. He will visit Notre Dame the weekend of Oct. 15 when the Irish take on Stanford. Jackson (Tenn.) Uni‑ versity School's Trey Smith is ranked by ESPN as the nation's top player. Smith is an elite athlete that perfectly fits the Irish offense. Landing one of these two players is an absolute must for Notre Dame to continue its recent string of top production at offensive tackle. Point ✦ Counterpoint: WHAT POSITION IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR NOTRE DAME TO FINISH WITH IN THE 2017 RECRUITING CLASS? JACOB PHILLIPS FOSTER SARELL McLaughlin's second Irish team posted the program's first 3‑0 start since 2011. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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