Of note on the injury front was sophomore wide receiver and South Bend native Daniel Smith, still sidelined by a nagging hamstring strain suffered in spring's first week.
The team's requisite tempo drill – a skeleton offense designed to travel 50 yards toward the goal line in five plays – featured the team's "12" (two tight end) personnel.
Today's starters included: QB Dayne Crist, replaced late in the first set of reps by sophomore Tommy Rees; (RB) Cierre Wood, replaced late by Jonas Gray; and an O-line from left to right of Zack Martin, Andrew Nuss, Braxston Cave, Trevor Robinson, and Taylor Dever.
Tight ends featured a motioned Mike Ragone with Tyler Eifert detached to the near right; slot receiver Theo Riddick and outside competitor Tai-ler Jones. When the Irish switched to their "11" personnel, senior wide receiver John Goodman entered for Ragone.
Also included was the goal line presence of Andrew Hendrix who was again joined in the backfield by Riddick and Gray.
The second unit – also in the 12 personnel grouping – featured Everett Golson (replaced by Hendrix), walk-on running back Patrick Coughlin, and an offensive front from left to right comprised of Tate Nichols, Chris Watt, Mike Golic, Lane Clelland, and Christian Lombard. The set's tight ends were Alex Welch and Jake Golic who were joined by Deion Walker (split wide) and slot receiver Robby Toma.
The 11 personnel grouping saw Luke Massa enter for Golic while Hendrix once again ran the goal line package, this time with Toma and Gray flanked to his sides in the shotgun backfield.
The third rep ended with Hendrix throwing high and incomplete to Alex Welch (who miss-timed his leap) much to the chagrin of Coach Kelly, situated a few yards away in the end zone.
Irish Eyes DrillRequisite unit work included QBs enduring ball security through the running back's gauntlet of tires (apparently the "last tire gets you" as noted by a trio of QBs upon completion) while running backs worked on lead blocks from a three-point stance; the O-Line drilled to stay low coming out of their sets and the team's tight ends paired to work on drive blocking technique.
Shortly thereafter, a disinterested media contingent witnessed a treat for its final viewing period – the physical, one-on-one, Irish Eyes drill. Four sets of pylons lined across the field, four groups of offensive linemen/tight ends line up to smash into four groups of defensive linemen/linebackers with a running back attempting to pick a side and squeeze by a crease (or in some cases, gaping hole) made by his lead blocker.
Head-to-Head: The ‘backs, though relevant to the coaches monitoring the drill, weren't my focus as they were generally the untouched competitor.
- Junior offensive tackle Zack Martin leads off with a win over Ethan Johnson (great technique and leverage by Martin)
- 5th-year senior tight end Mike Ragone handles Darius Fleming, paving an easy running lane
- Massive sophomore nose guard Louis Nix could not be moved by Braxston Cave
- Junior inside ‘backer Dan Fox slams audibly into Chris Watt, and though Watt hung with his block to give the runner a lane, Fox power at the point would have been a great team defensive play in a game-setting
- Senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore destroys Taylor Dever, burying the back beneath the two of them for no gain
- Senior linebacker Steve Filer wins vs. Alex Welch, though not after an extended effort by the sophomore tight end
- 5th-year senior guard Andrew Nuss handles Brandon Newman, moving him out of the gap after a decent initial hit by the senior nose guard
- Senior guard Lane Clelland wins by knockout over senior linebacker David Posluszny
- Sophomore tackle Tate Nichols controls classmate Kona Schwenke
- Junior tight end Jake Golic beats sophomore ‘backer Prince Shembo handily in their first matchup
- Braxston Cave and Hafis Williams battle with Williams bouncing back at the end to tackle the runner after about a yard. Nice recovering by Williams, though that might have been a bad read by the running back
- Early Enrollee freshman offensive tackle Brad Carrico beats linebacker Kendall Moore in their first battle
- Carrico's fellow semester enrollee Aaron Lynch absolutely tosses sophomore left tackle Christian Lombard aside to make the play after a yard gain. (I had looked down at my notebook during this rep, so had to take the word of colleagues around me for this one, but audible, "whoaaa" allows me to trust their collective judgment).
- Fleming fights Ragone to a stalemate
- Senior center Mike Golic wins handily over sophomore defensive end Bruce Heggie
- Senior guard Trevor Robinson pancakes sophomore inside ‘backer Justin Utupo (took me awhile to even see what number was underneath Robinson after the block)
- Zack Martin again wins a battle of wills vs. Ethan Johnson
- Alex Welch takes down early enrollee Ishaq Williams after a decent struggle
- Chris Watt hammers inside ‘backer Carlo Calabrese
- Kapron Lewis-Moore again buries Dever. That's 2-0 for KLM in what is generally a tougher matchup
- Sophomore Danny Spond absorbs, then runs through Jake Golic to drill the ball carrier for what appeared to be a loss at the edge of the pylon (we're 50 yards away). Incredible recovery by Spond who looked blocked for a full second
- Senior center Braxston Cave wins handily over classmate Brandon Newman
- Dan Fox emerges as the default winner over Lane Clelland (basically my judgment, this time; Clelland fared well.)
- Kona Schwenke bounces back with a relative win over his classmate, Tate Nichols
- Mike Ragone again handles Darius Fleming to conclude the drill.
The above observations can't be taken as gospel, as coaches look for better indicators than do I (especially from an opposite sideline), but with the exception of a running back's mistake (which can make the offensive blocker look bad), I tried to find a "winner" for each rep.
The highlights: Fox's first collision with Watt; Lewis-Moore with two decisive wins vs. starting right tackle Taylor Dever; an immovable Louis Nix, especially in a second-rep victory vs. Andrew Nuss; Jake Golic looking the part in his first rep vs. Prince Shembo; Aaron Lynch (second-hand info) completely tossing aside Lombard; Trevor Robinson burying Utupo; Danny Spond just blowing up Golic after an initial stalemate and looking athletic in the process; Cave handling Newman; Mike Ragone earning a 2-0-1 (two wins and a draw) decision vs. one of the team's best in Darius Fleming.
We'll have more on today's practice after a conversation with head coach Brian Kelly at its conclusion.