Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Notre Dame football.

Monday, September 24

Tight End Konrad Reuland To Transfer

It’s more bad publicity for Notre Dame football. Tight end Konrad Reuland has decided to transfer to another school. His departure lacks the drama associated with Demetrius Jones, who left a couple of weeks ago for Northern Illinois.

Reuland, a sophomore, was highly regarded upon arriving at Notre Dame in 2006 and was once expected to be a mainstay starting next year after the graduation of senior tight end John Carlson. But with talented young guys like Will Yeatman and Mike Ragone around, Reuland’s future prospects were uncertain.

Of course, given the 0-4 state of the Irish, uncertainty is everywhere you look. Anyway, here’s a statement by coach Charlie Weis:

“After meeting with Konrad Reuland on Sunday, he has decided he will leave the team and withdraw from Notre Dame. I appreciate all Konrad has done forNotre Dame and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Reuland leaving isn't the worst news Notre Dame could face. Still, it doesn't look good when two players leave less than a month into what looms as the worst season in school history.

Friday, September 21

Jones' Release Will Include Northern Illinois

It looks like Notre Dame finally got it right in the Demetrius Jones saga. The Irish have agreed to release the quarterback to any school he wants that does not appear on a future Irish schedule. That figures to be Northern Illinois, where Jones has been attending class for the last week.

Notre Dame released a statement Friday evening saying Jones and his family met with Irish athletic administrators earlier in the day, and that athletic director Kevin White agreed to the release.

Northern Illinois is not on the Irish schedule. Jones will sit out this season and then have three years of eligibility remaining.

Notre Dame officials could have saved themselves a lot of public relations grief by doing this sooner. Now that it’s done, the focus can return to where it needs to be –- improving play and winning games.

Irish Should Put Northern Illinois On Release List

It seems Notre Dame still doesn't understand the PR mess it's created over first not releasing, and now releasing, Demetrius Jones from his scholarship.

It's making both coach Charlie Weis and atheltic director Kevin White look bad, and potentially hurting recruiting in the talent-rich Chicago area. Do they really need that right now?

Of course they don't.

Irish officials have said they'll release Jones to any school not on their future schedule. That's not quite true. It's any school not on their future schedule -- and Northern Illinois.

Jones, of course, has already enrolled at Northern Illinois and is taking classes there. Officials are still making him pay for his poorly handled way of leaving the team.

Yes, Jones could have handled it better. But he's still young and immature and, well, acting very much his age. Especially when he was, in essence, jerked around about his true starting quarterback prospects.

Weis and White, of course, can't use the young and immature excuse. They don't need to act petty. Yes, other coaches at other programs refuse to release athletes who have left teams badly. Usually no one notices. But Notre Dame's high profile, and the national scrutiny over the quarterback situation, ensures that everyone notices.

It makes the Irish look bad, builds more sympathy for Jones and adds another negative to a season that doesn't need anymore. So put Northern Illinois on the list, let Jones go in peace and make this situation go away.

And then go and beat Michigan State.

Thursday, September 20

Jones To Get Notre Dame Release

It looks like Notre Dame will take the high road after all in regard to former quarterback Demetrius Jones. Whether this will enable him to play football at Northern Illinois is less certain, but at least it’s a start.

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White had earlier said the Irish would not grant Jones a release, thus forcing him to pay his own way to college for a year. But heavy criticism followed and White mellowed that position during a released statement Thursday night that said, “We have reached out to (Jones) to assist him and his family in ascertaining his athletic and academic future plans. It’s our hope that Demetrius can enroll at an institution at which he might be able to receiver a scholarship, possibly be eligible for the 2008 season, and continue to make progress toward his degree without interruption.”

Jones is already enrolled at Northern Illinois. However, if he wants an athletic scholarship, he might have to transfer to another school. White said in the release that, “We are helping Demetrius compile a list of prospective schools that are not on our immediate future football schedules.”

Northern Illinois is not on any future Notre Dame schedule.

For Notre Dame, Give Jones a Release, Beat Spartans

If Charlie Weis were smart, he’d do everything he could to ensure Demetrius Jones gets his release from Notre Dame so that the transfer to Northern Illinois won’t have any long-term negative recruiting implications, especially in the talent-rich Chicago area that produced Jones.

Yes, Jones could have handled it a lot better. But he’s young and admittedly immature and felt he was jerked around and treated unfairly. Which he probably was. So he decided to pay Weis back, and made himself look bad in the process.

It also didn't help Weis' suddenly vulnerable image. The guy could use all the friends he can get these days, especially if one of those friends develops into superstar offensively lineman in the years ahead.

For now, Weis says he’s not part of any official release decision. He did say he talked with Jones Monday night. Weis and an assistant coach finally tracked Jones down after Jones didn’t return his phone call.

“I said, let’s run him down and get this over with,” Weis said. “Am I supposed to chase him down? The right thing would be for him to call me.”

Weis described the conversation as “cordial.” “We cleared up what was going on. He said he’s moved on. I wished him well and that was about it.”

Weis said he would have considered moving Jones to another position if Jones was receptive. That never happened.

“I told him when we were recruiting him that we were recruiting him as a quarterback. If he wanted to play another position, that wasn’t a problem. I told him I’d never lie to him. I didn’t want to bring him here to make him a safety.

“He could have played another position, but that’s not what he wanted to do.”

The Irish, of course, have more pressing matters than a guy who’s no longer part of the program. Beating Michigan State Saturday is huge. It would finally be a reward after three weeks of misery, and show the return-to-training camp approach was a good idea.

But if Notre Dame gets smashed again, to make it six straight lopsided losses and the first 0-4 start in school history, well, who knows how much more misery awaits.

Monday, September 17

Jones Talks About Transfer

Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune did a great job in tracking down the elusive Demetrius Jones and getting the sophomore quarterback's take on his decision to transfer to Northern Illinois. Jones admitted he should have handled the departure better, but he felt it was in his best interests to move on. He and coach Charlie Weis have yet to talk, and they have to before he can get his official release and be able to talk to Northern Illinois coaches. Jones has enrolled at the school and starts classes today.

As far as the Irish, Weis canceled his weekly Sunday press conference to focus on his return to training camp mode -- a return to fundamentals as it was the first few days of training camp. He's also canceled his weekly Tuesday press conference and won't be available to discuss Saturday's Michigan State game until Thursday. Perhaps by then he'll have a better indication on whether this approach, and yes it borders on desperation, will work. In fact, it had better if Notre Dame is to salvage this season and avoid what could be the worst season in school history.

Saturday, September 15

Jones To Northern Illinois?

It looks like Notre Dame quarterback Demetrius Jones will transfer to Northern Illinois, and it makes perfect sense.

Nothing is official, but if Jones enrolls at the DeKalb, Ill., school by Wednesday, he will be able to redshirt this season and be eligible for next season. It has to do with a NCAA rule that you must enroll within the first 12 days of the start of class. Plus, Jones will be close to his Chicago home town, and he’ll most likely be the starter for the next three years.

That wasn’t going to happen at Notre Dame. Freshman Jimmy Clausen will be the guy for the foreseeable future. Jones likely had dropped to third string behind Evan Sharpley.

In truth, Jones never had a chance at Notre Dame. Clausen was No. 1 coming out of spring, a fact coach Charlie Weis never told anyone. At least, he didn’t tell anyone publicly. What was said behind closed doors remains as murky as a Bill Belichick press conference.

Weis had a good reason to keep things vague -- he didn’t know how Clausen would recover from elbow surgery and he wanted to make sure he had solid candidates in case Clausen couldn’t go. That left Sharpley and Jones still in the hunt for No. 1 and ensured they wouldn’t transfer.

Anyway, Jones started against Georgia Tech, but was benched by halftime. He likely wasn’t going to play ever again at Notre Dame (although there was some speculation he might see action against Michigan because of his running ability; that ended when Jones didn't make the bus trip to Ann Arbor on Friday, although he did practice during the week) unless he changed positions.

This move, if it is finalized, would be in Jones’ best interest. And it won’t hurt Notre Dame except, perhaps, for public relation reasons. The Irish, of course, have far more pressing issues than that.

Monday, September 3

More Notre Dame Misery Looms

Not to be depressing, but if you look at Notre Dame's schedule over the next seven weeks, if you consider the ineptitude of its play in the 33-3 season-opening loss to Georgia Tech, well, an 0-8 start is more likely than 3-5.

The Irish play at Penn State and at Michigan the next two weeks. Yes, that's the same Michigan that just got stunned by Appalachian State, the one directed by soon-to-be-ex-coach Lloyd Carr. Still, figure the Wolverines will bounce back strong, especially at home.

After that Notre Dame hosts Michigan State (which always seems to win at Notre Dame Stadium). Then it travels to Purdue and UCLA. Then it hosts Boston College (which always beats the Irish) and No. 1 USC.

In fact, Notre Dame might not be favored in any of those games. And while much of the focus is on quarterback uncertainty, the real key involves the offensive line. The Irish couldn't handle Georgia Tech's blitzing, so figure everybody will blitz them until that changes. And if it doesn't change, well, Saturday's miserable showing will be repeated for the next two months.

Sure, the problems can be fixed. But it has to happen fast. This schedule doesn't allow for extra development time.

Hey, it could be worse. Charlie Weis could be walking in Carr's shoes this week.

Saturday, September 1

Skip The Secrecy Next Time

All that quarterback secrecy was a big waste of time. Georgia Tech stuffed the Notre Dame offense behind starter Demetrius Jones into first-half futility.

This wasn't necessarily Jones' fault. Georgia Tech has a strong defense and wasn't about to let the Irish get into any offensive rhythm. All coach Charlie Weis did by keeping everyone guessing about who would replace Brady Quinn was, it seemed, confuse the Irish.

Weis made his reputation as an offensive guru via the pass. But you'd have never known it in the first quarter. Jones only tried one pass in the first 14 minutes, which was incomplete. By comparison, he ran four times.

The result was an offense that went nowhere. However, a bend-but-don't-break defense (helped by blocking a Georgia Tech field goal) kept the Irish in the game, trailing 6-0.

Seeking A Sign

Here we are, about 20 minutes before kickoff and still no definitive sign on who will start at quarterback for Notre Dame against Georgia Tech. The three contenders -- Demetrius Jones, Evan Sharpley and Jimmy Clausen -- all took about the same number of pre-game snaps. They did this under the watchful eye of coach Charlie Weis.

They also, we can assume, did it under the watchful eye of at least one Georgia Tech coach. Still, you wonder if all the elaborate secrecy is worth the effort. The Yellow Jackets have a veteran staff. They have it covered. This won't decide the game. The ND defense will decide this game -- along with the Georgia Tech defense.

Thursday, August 23

Keeping The ND QB Secret

You’ve got to hand it to Charlie Weis. The guy knows how to keep a secret.

Weis admitted after Thursday's practice that he knows who the starting Notre Dame quarterback will be. In fact, he’s known for at least a week.

The interesting part is Weis hasn’t told the quarterback yet. Or, it seems, anyone outside of the coaching staff, and we’re really not sure about the staff.

Weis wants the starter to be a surprise for Georgia Tech in the Sept. 1 season opener. He wants Tech to prepare for all three candidates -– Demetrius Jones, Evan Sharpley and Jimmy Clausen.

The only way to keep a secret, or keep the players from lying about it, is to not tell anyone. All three quarterbacks continue to work with the first team, although you figure the starter is getting more reps. It’s hard to know for sure because practices are closed except for the first 15 minutes or so, and most of that time is devoted to stretching and drills.

Figure Jones will play because of his athleticism and dual-threat capability, although he might not start. Instinct suggests that Sharpley will be the other quarterback to play, and the most likely starter. He is, in fact, the quarterback with the most experience.

Remember, of course, that the first-game starter might not make it through the season. That will depend on individual performance as well as victories. Winning remains paramount, and that won’t change, even if the quarterbacks do.

Tuesday, August 21

Spotlight Finds Clausen

No, Jimmy Clausen is not football’s version of Britney and Lindsay or even Amy (as in Winehouse, the British soul singer) and heading toward a path of damnation.

Yes, the Notre Dame freshman quarterback did get a citation for transporting alcohol as a minor, which made the major news circuits for those who follow the Irish.

But if you listen to coach Charlie Weis, and we do, there was no evil intent, no reckless behavior. There was, however, ignorance of the Indiana law that bans minors from driving with alcohol in the vehicle unless accompanied by a parent.

“Did he have bad judgment in being at the wrong place at the wrong time? Absolutely,” Weis said. “But I think it was out of ignorance, and by ignorance I mean lack of knowledge (about the law). I don't think he defiantly was trying to get himself in trouble with the law."

Clausen unwanted spotlight time reflects the attention Notre Dame quarterbacks get, even ones who have yet to play a game.

"That’s the way it is,” Weis said. “You have to roll with the punches. You won’t like everything that comes with it. When you’re the quarterback or the head coach at Notre Dame, when things go good you get more credit than you deserve. When they go bad you get more blame than you deserve.”

So now you know that. But did you know that (how’s this for a great transition), that Notre Dame ranks second in the nation in sales of college sports merchandise. At least that’s the result of research done by Collegiate Licensing Co. Texas is No. 1 for the second straight year. Florida jumped from No. 6 to No. 3.