Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2018

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

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10 FEBRUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME Kevin Stepherson And C.J. Holmes Suspended Indefinitely The travails of Notre Dame sophomore game-breaking wide receiver Kevin Stepherson continued this December. On Dec. 14, per court records, Stepherson was pulled over by law enforcement in Indiana's Marshall County after driving 80 miles per hour in a 60-mph zone, and added to it were misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession and driving without a valid license. One day later at the University Park Mall in Mishawaka, Ind., Stepherson and Fighting Irish freshman running back C.J. Holmes were arrested for shoplifting sweatpants from Macy's. Per a report from local news station WNDU, Stepherson was picked up walking out of the store wearing a $59 pair of Nautica sweatpants he allegedly did not purchase. Also, Holmes had a $79 North Face coat in a bag as he departed the store that he did not buy. Exacerbating the situation for Stepherson was this was not his debut with law infraction, and he already was on probation because of a plea deal for misdemeanor possession of marijuana after an arrest, with four other teammates, in Rochester, Ind., in August 2016. That eventually resulted in the dismissal of senior safety Max Redfield. Both Stepherson and Holmes were placed on indefinite suspension by head coach Brian Kelly, mean- ing they cannot partake in football activities, including practice or attending the Citrus Bowl. "We ask our players to be smart and make good choices," Kelly said when asked about the suspen- sions. "You're always disappointed … I don't go into this business expecting our kids to be perfect. We expect our kids to make good choices, and when they don't they have to be held accountable. "There's always going to be growing experiences, and the most important thing is to hold them accountable." Despite that arrest in August 2016, Stepherson played as a freshman and was the third-leading re- ceiver (25 catches for 462 yards and five touchdowns). Last spring, though, he did not work with the top two units, or even the top three on occasion, while needing to work on certain "traits," per Kelly. Then, Stepherson did not play in the first four games in 2017 reportedly because of a violation of team rules, although the university would neither confirm nor deny that they occurred. Still, he ended up leading the team in touchdown catches with five while averaging 18.9 yards on his 19 catches. "If I could explain 18- to 21-year-olds and their thought process after being in it for 27 years, I would have written that book already," Kelly lamented. "We try to expose our kids to the foundational principles of making good decisions, and if they don't — they broke one of our commandments: you can't steal, and they did. "I can tolerate a lot of things, but I can't tolerate stealing. That's why they're suspended indefinitely, and they put themselves in jeopardy." While preparing for the Citrus Bowl, Kelly said he was not going to decide on Stepherson's future until after the game. "He's clearly a young man that has made a poor choice, and it's not his first," Kelly stated. "… Whether you're in the football program or whether you've been dismissed from the university — he's not going to be dismissed from the university — if I wasn't to have him back in the football program we want him to maintain his eligibility and stay here at Notre Dame so he can transfer to another program." When asked why he wasn't reacting as quickly with Stepherson as he did with senior Redfield in 2016 — who was arrested with Stepherson that August while also charged with possession of a fire- arm — Kelly replied it was because of "the severity of the situation" with Redfield. ALIZÉ MACK SUSPENDED FOR BOWL GAME One day after the University of Notre Dame announced that sopho- more wide receiver Kevin Stepher- son and freshman running back C.J. Holmes were suspended indefinitely from team activities because of a shoplifting arrest, head coach Brian Kelly added junior tight end Alizé Mack to the list. Mack was academically ineligible in 2016, but this time it's not related to scholastic work. "All of our players are eligible aca- demically," Kelly emphasized. "It's an internal team matter [with Mack]." Furthermore, Mack is not on indefi- nite suspension as Stepherson and Holmes are, although Mack likewise was not permitted to travel with the team to the Citrus Bowl versus LSU Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla. Mack finished the 2017 season tied with Stepherson for third in recep- tions (19) on the team, with Stepher- son accumulating 359 yards to Mack's 166. Mack also caught his first career touchdown pass. Stepherson hauled in a team-high five touchdown receptions despite not playing in the first four games of the season, but his future with the Irish program is in serious jeopardy after two more run-ins with the law in December. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN SCHEDULE CHANGE Head coach Brian Kelly was coy with his response about Notre Dame's administrative decision to shift next year's Nov. 17 home game versus Syracuse to New York's Yankee Stadium in order to have a Shamrock Series outing. The Shamrock Series was played each season from 2009-16, including at Yankee Stadium versus Army in 2010, but had a hiatus this past season. The goal was to restore that game, but Syracuse was the lone viable option and it cost the Irish a home contest. "I coach the team," Kelly replied. "I play wherever they tell me to play." Kelly said he was consulted about the decision in which options were provided only with the Orange. "Syracuse was only one with flexibility to move around," he said. "The others pretty much were locked in. … Here are the kind of scenarios for you, which one don't you want?" One option Kelly said he least wanted was to play a spread team such as Syracuse indoors. Another was to not play at night (kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. ET), and the third was to be as close to South Bend as possible. With the move, it means Notre Dame will travel on four of its last five games in 2018: to San Diego versus Navy (Oct. 27), at Northwestern (Nov. 3), home versus Florida State (Nov. 10), the Syracuse game at Yankee Stadium (Nov. 17) and then at USC (Nov. 24).

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