Ready to Roll

Irisheyes.com was on hand for the season's opening, rain-soaked practice at the LaBar Practice Complex.

Humid air and gray skies greeted the Irish for their first practice of 2011.

Minutes later that humidity was replaced by warm but heavy rains that wreaked early havoc on the focus and precision head coach Brian Kelly was likely in search of in a no-pads opening practice.

Opening Offensive Depth Chart

With 30 minutes of practice viewing and only one team period included therein, the depth chart observations below were gleaned solely from the second period's skeleton drill.

First Unit: No surprises with Dayne Crist receiving opening snaps before yielding to Tommy Rees during the series.

Wide Receivers: Michael Floyd, T.J. Jones, and Theo Riddick (slot). Tight end Tyler Eifert, replaced midway through the series by Mike Ragone.
Running Back: Cierre Wood
Offensive Line: (Left to Right) – Zack Martin, Andrew Nuss, Braxston Cave, Trevor Robinson and Taylor Dever

Second Unit: Quarterback Andrew Hendrix took the initial snaps before ceding to freshman Everett Golson.

Wide Receivers: Daniel Smith, John Goodman, and Robby Toma (slot) with Alex Welch at tight end, replaced midway through the series by Jake Golic.
Running Back: Jonas Gray
Offensive Line: (Left to Right) – Tate Nichols, Chris Watt, Mike Golic, Brad Carrico and Christian Lombard

Third Unit:

Wide Receivers: Deion Walker, DaVaris Daniels and Matthias Farley (slotted) with Ben Koyack at tight end.
Running Back: Freshman George Atkinson replaced midway by classmate Cam McDaniel
Offensive Line: (Left to Right) – Jordan Prestwood, Matt Hegarty, Bruce Heggie, Conor Hanratty, Nick Martin

Cosmetically speaking

The following Irish sported shoulder-length locks at camp's outset:

5th-year senior Taylor Dever; senior walk-on Chris Salvi; juniors Dan Fox, Tyler Eifert, and Jake Golic; freshman Ishaq Williams.

(If you can play, you'll be referred to as colorful or eccentric – a la Jeff Samardzija. If you can't, fans generally opine you should cut your hair…just like Lombardi intended.

First impressions of the team's newcomers:

Most imposing: Defensive end Stephon Tuitt (and it's not close). You could tell me Tuitt is actually 6'8" 315 and I'd believe you.

Room to grow: Defensive end Troy Niklas – He's every bit of 6'6 ½ but at 250, still looks more small forward than collegiate defensive linemen. One word to describe Niklas' frame sans pads: "Trim"

Grizzled vet? Defensive end Aaron Lynch walked like a seasoned veteran of 15 practices (half-joking, but Lynch has a definite advantage on his cohorts for the opening weeks. The 6'6" 265-pound Lynch, like Niklas, looks like a basketball player standing next to senior Ethan Johnson (6'4" 300). Tuitt, conversely, looks like he's been in a college program for two years, though sported a bit more around the middle than the Niklas/Lynch duo.

Can you reach that for me? George Atkinson was helmet higher than fellow running backs Cierre Wood, Jonas Gray, Cam McDaniel, and walk-ons Pat Coughlin and Tyler Plantz…Atkinson is actually a couple helmets higher than Plantz.

Step ahead: Slot receiver Matthias Farley seemed at home in the team's skeleton drills. Summer (un-official) workouts definitely benefit modern-day freshmen as there's no chance a newcomer could handle the pace/requirements of a full-speed offense without early assimilation in the summer months.

Camp Fodder

Helmets weren't the only protective gear for the Irish linemen, as both those on the offensive and defensive side of scrimmage sported the apparently requisite pair of knee braces for opening day.

Junior Tyler Stockton and senior Sean Cwynar both ran through aerobic stretching without a noticeable limp – the latter endured off-season foot surgery while Stockton missed the spring session with a sprained PCL in his left knee. Cwynar also had surgery on his back while Stockton had his shoulder cleaned up last December.

In the media's final viewing period, "W" wide receivers Michael Floyd, Daniel Smith, Deion Walker, and Luke Massa practiced receiving reverse pitches from the running backs unit. The heavy rains and subsequently slick pigskins resulted in an exercise in futility with more pitches dropped or flubbed than executed over a four-minute span.

Note: Irisheyes.com will have more from today's opening practice following post-practice interviews with Brian Kelly and select Irish players.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories