Four-down territory: Notre Dame's secondary concerns
Let's take a look at what's happening across the nation on this Tuesday morning...
• The loss last week of early enrollee cornerback Tee Shepard was a huge blow to Notre Dame's secondary. But don't expect head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco or any other member of the Fighting Irish to use Shepard's departure as an excuse this spring or in the fall. If anything, it will just make Bennett Jackson and every other defensive back even more hungry as ND looks to replace both of its starting cornerbacks. The concern for Kelly and Co. is that neither Jackson, Lo Wood, Josh Atkinson or Jalen Brown -- the four corners vying for two starting spots -- have started a college game. The Irish snagged some solid safety prospects in February, but they weren't able to bring in any projected cornerbacks on National Signing Day. However, the late commitment of Davonte Neal could be the team's saving grace. While Neal was projected to make an impact at receiver, his college career could begin on the defensive side of the ball where he seemingly is needed now more than ever.
ICONHe may have had an inconsistent career up to this point, but Pitt QB Tino Sunseri could be primed for a strong finish.
• Pitt opened spring practice last Thursday with yet another new coaching staff in place, as former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst finally received his chance to be the face of a program. While the 15 practices this spring will be more about forging relationships and early installation of new schemes, it will also be Chryst's first chance to really work with quarterback Tino Sunseri, who will be the center of attention for the third straight season. While there will be an open competition under center, this more traditional offensive scheme fits Sunseri's strenghts, unlike last year's up-tempo spread attack under Todd Graham. Sunseri's a mentally tough player, as evidenced by his no-excuse mentality when the Panthers struggled in 2011. Never discount the intelligence and skill of Chryst to put his QB in a position to succeed, whether it was Scott Tolzien or Russell Wilson, just to name two, in Madison. The offensive line, however, must stay healthy, get tougher and use its inexperience last year as a building block.
• USC will be receiving a visit from one of the top running backs in the country this weekend, as Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.) will visit with the Trojans staff. The 6-3, 220-pounder has already received an offer from Lane Kiffin, but the former Tennessee head coach has serious competition for Isaac's services. The RB has offers from some of the top programs in the country, including Midwest powers Michigan and Notre Dame. This will be the first time Isaac is meeting with Kiffin and Co. face to face, so it will be interesting to see how much of an impression the Trojans can make on him as he watches the team go through spring drills on Saturday.
• Keep an eye on Northwestern receiver Christian Jones this fall. Last season as a true freshman the 6-3, 225-pounder became a starter around midseason and finished with 16 catches for 195 yards. This spring he has been moved inside to the slot receiver position which was held by clutch Jeremy Ebert the past two years. The Wildcats will also lean on Demetrius Fields, Rashad Lawrence and Tony Jones, especially if USC transfer Kyle Prater does not get eligible to play immediately. But it's Jones who could really flourish if he develops a rapport with quarterback Kain Colter.
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