Going Live

Irisheyes.com was at LaBar Practice Complex today to watch the final 20 minutes of scrimmage for Brian Kelly's second unit competitors.

Temperatures in the mid-80s and the arrival of Notre Dame's graduating class of 2015 coincided with the 18th training camp practice for Brian Kelly's Irish Friday morning.

Joining a short-list of injured Irish is junior tight end Jake Golic, who will have surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm.

Today's media viewing offered the final 20 minutes of practice and the opportunity to see live 11-on-11 work between the Irish backup units.

11-on-11 2nd Unit O vs. D

Taking reps with the second unit upon the media's entrance was senior quarterback, Dayne Crist.

Crist was joined in the backfield by freshman Cam McDaniel and later, classmate George Atkinson. The offensive line from left to right featured Nick Martin, Chris Watt, Mike Golic, Conor Hanratty, and Christian Lombard.

Robby Toma, DaVaris Daniels, and Luke Massa worked at wide receiver while Alex Welch and Ben Koyack alternated at tight end.

(Aside from Crist and Watt, no potential starter participated today during the media viewing session. Consider Jonas Gray's absence from the proceedings an indication that he has, to the surprise of none, won the backup job behind Cierre Wood.)

The defense featured a heavy rotation of youth, and though the units will be described in 3-4 terminology to give readers a better idea of the depth chart, the Irish featured more 4-3 looks than 3-4 sets in today's special situation scrimmage work. In each instance, the "Cat" linebacker reduced down to defensive end, moving DEs Aaron Lynch or Chase Hounshell to the interior tackle spots:

Defensive Line: Aaron Lynch, Louis Nix, and Stephon Tuitt. The trio was later replaced by Chase Hounshell, Hafis Williams, and Kona Schwenke.

Linebackers: Anthony McDonald and Carlo Calabrese inside with Ishaq Williams and Danny Spond at Cat and Dog, respectively. Steve Filer subbed in for Williams during the drive.

Defensive Backs: Danny McCarthy and walk-on Chris Salvi manned the second unit safety positions with sophomore Bennett Jackson and Lo Woo on the corners. Since safety competitors Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta are easily 1A/1B at this point, neither was involved in second unit work.

Walk-ons Chris Salvi and Nick Lezynski took most of the team's second unit safety reps, with Lezynski recording two interceptions on tipped ball.

Drive highlights:

  • A brutal blitz from Ishaq Williams in which he de-cleated freshman running back George Atkinson with a shot to the chest.
  • A "sack" from Aaron Lynch on a strong inside move vs. either Lombard or Hanratty (I fell into the bad habit of watching the quarterback on the play). Lynch held up as Crist was off-limits with the designated red jersey.
  • Bennett Jackson with a pass break-up on a slant to Luke Massa
  • Lo Wood staying home to break-up an end zone throw to DaVaris Daniels…from slot receiver Robby Toma, who caught a backwards pass from Crist near the 20-yard line (red zone) and fired down the far sideline to the streaking freshman.
  • Offensive Line coach Ed Warinner to freshman Conor Hanratty: "Don't limp, you're fine."
  • Running Backs coach Tim Hinton telling Atkinson to "Put your face on him" noting that he needs to square up in pass protection
  • Chase Hounshell with a "sack" as well
  • Crist missed DaVaris Daniels on a slant

Of note: The second unit defensive front seven is light years ahead of the second unit offensive line. Had we witnessed 15 minutes rather than a few drives (as described below), the carnage would have been unmistakable.

Third Unit O vs. D

With most second and third unit defenders subbing regularly, the following is my best estimate at the third unit defense for Practice #18:

Defensive Line (Left to Right): Chase Hounshell, Hafis Williams, Kona Schwenke
Linebackers: Kendall Moore and David Posluszny inside; Troy Niklas (Dog) and Steve Filer (Cat) outside. Justin Utupo rotated inside as did Ishaq Williams at the Cat.
Defensive backfield: Chris Salvi and Nick Lezynski at safety with freshmen Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson on the corners.

The offense saw Everett Golson at quarterback with Ben Koyack at tight end; walk-on Patrick Coughlin and George Atkinson at running back; Deion Walker at wide receiver; freshman Matthias Farley in the slot; and I believe it was walk-on Ryan Sharpley – brother of former Irish QB Evan – at the other wideout spot.

Offensive Line (left to right): Jordan Prestwood, Matt Hegarty, Bruce Heggie, Brad Carrico, walk-on Dennis Mahoney

Highlights included:

  • A swing pass to McDaniel gains 20 yards with the freshman finishing the run physically on the sideline, delivering and absorbing a blow from safety Chris Salvi
  • A read-option fake by Golson that sucked Filer inside and allowed running back George Atkinson a sideline path and two broken tackles, to boot.
  • A leaping, twisting one-handed grab by Farley on an under thrown deep ball from a rolling Golson. Golson escaped pressure, sprinted right, and fired 40 yards downfield to Farley who made a one-handed outstretched grab look natural.
  • The first of two tipped ball interceptions by walk-on safety Nick Lezynski.

Andrew Hendrix took over at quarterback following the interception. Hendrix had Walker, Atkinson, Farley, Welch, and Daniels with him as skill position players; Koyack and McDaniel subbed in at TE and RB during the drive.

The offensive line saw Martin replace Mahoney at right tackle with Hegarty, Heggie, Carrico and Prestwood returning. Ben Councell came in to play the Cat position. Freshmen corners Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown remained (and starred) while Utupo and Posluszny manned the interior linebacker spots with Salvi and Lezynski (who wasn't done yet) at safety.

Anthony Rabasa, Jarrett Grace, and preferred walk-on Joe Schmidt rotated as inside linebacker subs while Kona Schwenke and Chase Hounshell came in at defensive and Tony Springmann worked at nose guard.

Highlights covering three separate drives included:

  • A brutal pass rush by Stephon Tuitt through Prestwood and an ensuing chase-down sack of a rolling Hendrix. Tuitt is a half-man, half-mountain, and can cover 10 yards at an alarming rate.
  • Jarrett Grace, subbing for Justin Utupo inside, nearly corralled on stretching one-handed interception of a middle zone post pass
  • An elusive George Atkinson finds a seam over the left guard and twists for a solid 10-yard gain through the second level
  • Josh Atkinson came off the corner to drop his brother George for a fighting-it-all-the-way 8-yard loss. George noted during player interviews after practice that Josh eventually received help on the play.
  • Fellow freshman CB Jalen Brown quickly diagnosed a sloppy slant from DaVaris Daniels and cracked his classmate squarely in the back to break-up the play.
  • Both Atkinson and Brown showed a physical nature defending the second and third unit offenses.
  • Following a lecture from Brian Kelly, Daniels is coached for his body language from his position coach Tony Alford.
  • Lezysnki picks off tipped pass #2, this time at Hendrix's expense and returns the offering 25 yards before getting popped by Cam McDaniel.
  • Hendrix completes a 3rd and 20 pass down the sidelines to a streaking Deion Walker. Walker beat Atkinson and Salvi on the go-route.
  • Golson has a second pass tipped (not picked)
  • Golson outruns Ben Councell to the corner for about a 20-yard touchdown
  • Attempting to avoid outside pressure, Golson spins and fumbles (recovered) without contact for a QB sack
  • WR Luke Massa is beaten to the spot by Brown on a low slant from Golson
  • Atkinson ran through a tackle after receiving an option pitch from Golson
  • Troy Niklas stunts inside to drill Atkinson in the backfield, emitting an audible roar following the big hit
  • Practice ends with a nice deep throw from Golson falling two yards past the wide receiver (I believe Sharpley, #85), who made the mistake of slowing on his go-route.

Note: Check our Football Forum for more player observations from today's 20-minute scrimmage viewing. A wrap-up column regarding Brian Kelly's post-practice comments will be posted this afternoon on the home page.

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