July 10, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame had four more players recently selected to various national award watch lists, including senior place kicker/punter Kyle Brindza (Groza), junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day (Outland), senior tight end Ben Koyack (Mackey) and senior center Nick Martin (Rimington). In addition, junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell and sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith — both up for the Bednarik Award, added Nagurski Trophy recognition as well.
Brindza, one of eight players in the FBS last season to handle place kicking, punting and kickoff duties, is littered throughout the Irish record book. He owns the top-two scoring seasons in Notre Dame place kicker history. Brindza bested his own school record of 97 points (2012) with 98 points last season. His other school records include: longest field goal (53 vs. Arizona State, Oct. 5, 2013), single-season field goals made (23, 2012), single-season (4, 2013) and career 50-yard field goals (5, 2011-), career field goal percentage (43-57, .754), single-game field goals (5, twice) and single-game points by a kicker (17 vs. Rutgers, Dec. 28, 2013).
As impressive a haul as that might be, Brindza is most known for his ability to succeed in the clutch. He’s nearly perfect (14-for-15) in game-winning, game-tying, overtime or fourth-quarter lead-extending field goals over his career. His only miss came in the fourth quarter against Temple on Aug. 31, 2013 with the Irish leading 28-6.
Brindza’s five field goals in the 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl tied the NCAA record for the most field goals made in a single bowl game.
Day, who missed significant playing time last season due to a couple injuries, appears ready for a big season under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Day will headline a young and inexperienced Irish front line. He totaled 33 tackles last fall, including five and a half for loss. Day collected seven tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in the victory over BYU in 2013.
Koyack, a three-time monogram winner, was a ’13 Mackey Award watch list selection. He spent most of last season in the shadow of Troy Niklas, who was one of 10 semifinalists for the award given to the nation’s top tight end. With Niklas departed for the NFL, Koyack’s fully capable of carrying the tradition of successful Notre Dame tight ends. He caught 10 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. Amongst players with at least 10 receptions last fall, his per catch average of 17.1 yards was tops on the Irish roster.
Martin started each of the first 11 games at center in 2013, but was lost for the season against BYU (Nov. 23) due to a knee injury. He was part of an offensive line that allowed just eight sacks and ranked second in the FBS in fewest sacks allowed last year.
Russell has already made 26 starts in his young Irish career. No player has started more games on the 2014 Notre Dame roster. He ranked fifth on the squad with 51 tackles in 2013 and led the Irish with his eight pass breakups. Russell added one and a half tackles for loss, one interception, one fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry. He collected a pair of tackles, one interception and three pass breakups in the 29-16 victory over Rutgers in the ’13 New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
As a freshman in 2012, Russell was named a freshman All-American by The Sporting News and Scout.com powered by FOX Sports NET.
In 2013, Smith became the first Notre Dame freshman linebacker to start a season opener since Kory Minor in 1995. He started all 13 games last fall and ranked third on the squad with 67 tackles while trailing only Stephon Tuitt for the team lead with 6.5 tackles for loss. Smith added one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception, one quarterback hurry and three pass breakups.
Manti Te’o, the 2012 Heisman runner-up and unanimous All-American, needed 39 career games at Notre Dame to record an interception, fumble recovery and forced fumble. Smith accomplished the same feat by his eighth career game. His 67 tackles were the third-most ever by an Irish freshman and most since Bob Golic set the rookie record with 82 in 1975.
Kyle Brindza, Sr., PK/P
Sheldon Day, Jr., DL
Everett Golson, Sr., QB
Ben Koyack, Sr., TE
Nick Martin, Sr., C
KeiVarae Russell, Jr., CB
Jaylon Smith, So., LB
Here’s a quick rundown when specific awards will release watch lists over the next week:
Fri., July 11: Jim Thorpe Award
Mon., July 14: Butkus Award/Rotary Lombardi Award
Tue., July 15: Biletnikoff Award
Wed., July 16: Davey O’Brien Award
Thurs., July 17: Doak Walker Award
Fri., July 18: Walter Camp Award
— ND —