One on One

Notre Dame's open practice included an always popular pad-popping, full contact drill designed to teach technique, toughness, and leg drive among its combatants.

Long-referred to at the program as the Irish Eyes drill (sometimes in this space as "Rodeo"), the concept is simple:

Five stations with one defensive lineman/linebacker in a three-point stance vs. an offensive lineman/tight end, and a quarterback and running back behind them. The quarterback hands off and the running back attempts to burst through narrow pylons and the line of scrimmage to either side of his blocker.

The entire team lines up to root for their side of scrimmage when not involved in the hitting. Considering the setup (a running back plus offensive lineman in short space vs. one defender) the drill is of course bent to favor the offense and challenge the defender in his stance.

From 50 yards away, we can't always accurately portray a winner…but the following list is pretty close (I missed one of the 20 matchups while taking notes):

  • Chris Watt vs. Manti Te'o: Watt technically wins, but the collision was a draw with Watt allowing his ‘back some room for gain…

  • Zack Martin vs. Kapron Lewis-Moore: Martin strikes, controls, and pancakes Lewis-Moore, drawing a roar from the team and crowd of coaches/media in attendance…

  • Tyler Eifert vs. Ishaq Williams: Controlled by Williams' powerful initial strike, Eifert earns a comeback win (in my opinion) by sticking with the block and somewhat sealing Williams at its conclusion…

  • Matt Hegarty vs. Louis Nix: The redshirt-freshman wins with pad level and fight…(Note: I missed Nix's next rep as noted above and he annihilated someone according to the writer next to me, but since I didn't see it, I won't include the offensive player's name.)

  • Christian Lombard vs. Carlo Calabrese: Lombard pins and turns Calabrese with power and leg drive following his huge initial strike (Calabrese absorbed the first contact pretty well)…

  • Sheldon Day vs. Tate Nichols: The early enrollee freshman draws a few raised eyebrows by getting lower pad level and moving Nichols out of the way to make an actual clean tackle (a rarity in this drill) vs. the ball-carrier with barely any forward progress…

  • Alex Welch vs. Ben Councell: Welch pushes Councell from the gap for the victory. Nice initial pop, too…

  • Conor Hanratty vs. Kona Schwenke: I have Hanratty down for the victory in my notes. (Sorry I can't be more descriptive on this matchup but these fire off one after another from 50 yards away.) Hanratty earns a check mark next to his name

  • Stephon Tuitt vs. Nick Martin: Tuitt absolutely dominates his classmate from the whistle in an ugly matchup. If you lose the initial hit vs. Tuitt, its over.

  • Ben Koyack vs. Danny Spond: Decisive win by Koyack over the Dog linebacker competitor

  • Dennis Mahoney vs. Kevin Carr: Mahoney, a long-time walk-on competitor for the Irish offensive line, defeats the massive (6'7" 320-pound) fellow walk-on (Carr is in his first spring with the program) with a decisive pancake block. The 6'7" 294-pound Mahoney is a grad student who was with the team in the Weis era as well.

  • Chris Watt vs. Jarrett Grace: Watt destroys the Mike linebacker competitor, taking him for a ride completely out of the drills vertical lines…

  • Jordan Prestwood vs. Tyler Stockton: Prestwood gained early control but I have two check marks and the words "fight off/recovery" next to Stockton's name, giving the little-used senior defensive lineman a win in the rep…

  • Jake Golic vs. Kendall Moore: Golic wins a tight battle at the end and Moore hears it from his position coach…

  • Louis Nix vs. Mike Golic: Nix wins though Golic recovers nicely after the initial hit…

  • Christian Lombard vs. Joe Schmidt: The likely 2012 starting right guard absolutely buries the preferred walk-on linebacker, though Schmidt will earn significant special teams playing time during his career…

  • Ben Koyack vs. Anthony Rabasa: Not close as Koyack goes two for two from my vantage point…

  • Kona Schwenke vs. Matt Hegarty: Not only does Schwenke win, he actually forces a fumble vs. (I believe) Theo Riddick…you can imagine the reaction from Coach Kelly and Coach Alford, Riddick's position coach of four seasons.

  • Jarrett Grace vs. Bruce Heggie: Grace saves face from his previous rep with complete destruction of the backup junior interior lineman…

(That was an odd pairing with which to end the drill…)

A few thoughts on the drill: While tenacity and pad level are key to the drill, sometimes a starting offensive guard is simply going to win vs. a backup linebacker: don't read too much into who wins one isolated matchup…Braxston Cave did not participate (no reason to tax his recovery from foot surgery), nor did inside linebacker Dan Fox (sidelined with a PCL sprain) or tight end Troy Niklas (intestinal issue). Fox and Cave were standouts in our viewing of this drill last spring…I'm only 90 percent sure that was Riddick that fumbled; regardless, he's had a phenomenal spring as a runner/receiver…

Next in our review of recent practices: 7-on-7 notes...


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