QB Observations: Hendrix and Kiel

A review of junior Andrew Hendrix and freshman Gunner Kiel during their goal line, 7-on-7, 11-on-11, and scrimmage action at Wednesday's open practice.

For a look at Wednesday's pass-by-pass review of Everett Golson's practice, Click Here.

The vast majority of junior Andrew Hendrix's work included the second string offensive line: LT Ronnie Stanley, LG Conor Hanratty, C Matt Hegarty, RG Nick Martin, and RT Tate Nichols. With the exception of Nichols, each has four or more seasons of eligibility remaining at the program (Nichols, who has yet to play for the Irish due to redshirt and injury, has three).

Hendrix, like Everett Golson whom we reviewed yesterday, and freshman Gunner Kiel, enjoyed a healthy rotation of first, second, and third string wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs throughout all 7-on-7, 11-on-11, and scrimmage action.

Hendrix and Kiel both showed the (minimal) attention to detail needed to complete uncontested throws when head coach Brian Kelly ran the trio through route adjustments. In a drill where the quarterback breaks the pocket and each of the five downfield passing targets simultaneously adjust their routes, only Golson missed…twice. However, thereafter in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work that follows, Golson was repeatedly the most accurate and confident passer.

Hendrix and Kiel: Goal Line Passes

Hendrix began a goal line segment (passes from the 5-yard line) throwing wide on a flag route. He next fired behind DaVaris Daniels who was fairly well covered with contact. After watching his competitors throw touchdown passes, Hendrix lofted a beautiful fade route to 6'4" junior Daniel Smith for a score. His next throw was a short post thrown purposely high where only tight end Ben Koyack could get it. After Koyack secured the pass at the top of his leap, offensive coordinator Chuck Martin noted, "He'll catch everything around him. THAT'S how you throw it to him."

Hendrix hit on another touchdown, this time on an out route but followed with a poorly thrown fade out of bounds to the deep corner. Said Martin of the pass that fell errant, wide, and deep of Davaris Daniels: "Andrew, next time tell DaVaris you're join to throw the ball way out of bounds so he doesn't have to fight like hell to break free."

Kiel's second-most impressive passing session was in the goal line situation (more on his best efforts later). He first threw high on a fade to Koyack, likely intentionally because of solid physical press coverage from Jamoris Slaughter. Kiel then fired an out-route touchdown to T.J. Jones: a perfect pass thrown low and away from coverage -- no chance for an interception and Jones barely had to crouch. Another fade and another touchdown, this time to 6'2" (and long-armed) Chris Brown who easily out-jumped 5'9" Cam McDaniel.

Kiel followed those beauties with a terrible fade pass to Justin Ferguson. After John Goodman ripped a would-be pick-turned-touchdown pass away from Elijah Shumate (from Golson), Kiel hit Eifert in stride on a quick slant that beat Zeke Motta for a score. Motta's attempt to hold Eifert was met with a well-placed wrist slap that did the trick. Kiel ended his reps throwing wide of walk-on Eric Lee.

Hendrix: 11-on-11

Competing against the first unit defense (Golson faced the 2s), Hendrix was chased for the pocket for a short gain with 6'6" 300-pound terror Stephon Tuitt baring down. Tuitt's roar when Hendrix ducked out of bounds was audible 50 yards away on the opposite sidelines. Hendrix's next pass was his worst and likely most frustrating, a corner route between the safety and cornerback that was picked off by a leaping Bennett Jackson. Jackson baited Hendrix into the throw by pressing up on a short receiver and immediately dropping deeper to secure the theft.

Hendrix answered with a deep out route to Daniel Smith who secured the throw despite tight coverage from Lo Wood. A decent (maybe a touch late) seam pass to Eifert was dropped as Jamoris Slaughter delivered a blow, giving the defense and defensive sideline a chance to hoot and holler that the best DB won vs the best offensive player. Hendrix answered with a check down swing to George Atkinson and what appeared to be a motion penalty on the offense for his final rep: freshman Will Mahone took a shot as he slowed up during the whistle…the defense did not.

After Golson's reps, Hendrix returned and was greeted by a bad (high) shotgun snap. He snared the ball with one hand, rolled away from pressure, but has his short route batted down by Carlo Calabrese. Another scramble from the pass rush followed, then a short out route to Koyack to slow the groove of the defensive front seven. Hendrix hit a perfectly thrown back shoulder seam to Chris Brown vs. Bennett Jackson who had solid coverage. Nearly any other throw would have been picked off by the even Jackson.

Hendrix followed with what can only be described as "the correct throw" -- a lofted wheel route to senior running back Cierre Wood who was somehow expertly covered by freshman linebacker Romeo Okwara a solid 15-18 yards downfield. Okwara broke up the play prompting Martin to opine: "We can't have the OLB take the ball from our RB…"

Hendrix's final pass, another out, fell incomplete as well.

Kiel did not participate in this 11-on-11 segment.

Hendrix and Kiel: 7-on-7

Hendrix began with a wide-field comeback route to Daniel Smith who secured the catch despite decent coverage from Lo Wood and help from Zeke Motta. Hendrix's next ball was picked off by Jamoris Slaughter -- a corner route thrown too deep and tracked by the 5th-year senior safety.

Kiel began his set with an under thrown post route to a wide open Justin Ferguson. The freshman fought the ball in the air with an awkward sideways dive, but he secured the reception. Kiel then tossed a perfect fade/corner route to John Goodman on the left side.

After Golson's reps, Hendrix followed with a deep out to Daniel Smith for another connection, then a check down pass to DaVaris Daniels. Kiel fired an out to a slipping Ferguson that was broken p by Keivarae Russell -- the converted freshman running back had excellent coverage on the play. Kiel's next pass was complete to Goodman on a short sideline route vs. Shumate.

In a later 7-on-7 segment, Hendrix rolled and scooted out of bounds, a wise choice due to solid downfield coverage. He intentionally threw it away again, though this time Cierre Wood was open on the backside of the play. Hendrix was the victim of a drop by Davaris Daniels, in traffic and thus picked off by Matthias Farley. It was a fine throw, not great. A check down to Jones followed as did a pass behind Atkinson on the following snap.

Kiel had on turn in the rotation skipped for Golson, but later got a final set of reps, hitting Jones for a sideline check down, throwing high on a slant to Chris Brown in heavy traffic, and then again to Koyack, who dropped an easy check down pass. Kiel ended with a completion to Tyler Eifert on an option route (Kiel read Eifert's late move) vs. Joe Schmidt.

Hendrix and Kiel: Skeleton Route Observations

The drill includes two receivers running combo routes on the boundary side of the field, with three assistant coaches dropping to cover one of the pair, thus requiring the QB to make a read and throw to the other.

Not 20 seconds after I offered to three other writers standing next to me that: "Golson throws the best ball by far…by far," Kiel repeatedly began to drop corner routes into the waiting arms of receivers 25 yards downfield. Perfect arc, speed, and ball placement on several such throws. Gunner Kiel has nice touch.

Golson wasn't great in the combo-route segment, losing the ball once, throwing behind Toma, and also throwing too far and late on a fade which made Martin utter, "You can throw the ball anywhere, why force that?"

Kiel seemed to make the right read on a seam route that fell incomplete as Martin noted to the intended receiver: "You have to do about 1/5 of what they (the QBs) have going on back there. Come on…"

Kiel hit Eifert, Jones, and Chris Brown on perfect fade routes, then Golson ended the drill with a perfectly thrown deep fade to Daniels. I noted Hendrix for one notable corner route and one perfect bullet on a dig route that was dropped by Daniel Smith.

Hendrix and Kiel: Scrimmage

The offense (and media throng) trotted down to the far field for an 11-on-11 scrimmage on grass. Following Golson's 2-6/INT effort in his first set of downs, and again operating with the second unit offensive line, Hendrix escaped pressure up the gut only to have the play blown dead (the QBs were live, but this wasn't going to end well if Hendrix didn't slide -- he'd have gained at least 7 yards on the escape). His first pass was dropped by Wood who was obviously spooked by Calabrese closing in on the target. Wood was serenaded by the defensive sideline with a taunting, "Ciiiiiiiiieeeeeeeerrrrrrrre" on his obvious short-arm effort.

After a running play that went nowhere (Okwara and others on the stop), Brown caught a quick look from Hendrix and sprinted 25 yards down the sidelines for a first down. (Brown will be a player by 2013.)

Atkinson was limited to two yards but Hendrix then hit Koyack on a quick out for 7 and Wood on a screen for 12 yards on third and short for another first down. After Atkinson gained three up the gut, Hendrix escaped backside pressure from outside 'backer Anthony Rabasa, who chased the QB out of bounds for no gain (Hendrix out-ran a potential sack). Said Hendrix to Rabasa on the way back to the huddle: "You're fast, but you 'aint that fast…."

After a short run, Dan Fox helped Wood drop a fourth-down pass with a timely hit, ending Hendrix's first and only series.

Kiel took over after Golson's second set of downs and was greeted with a knockout shot by unblocked walk-on linebacker Connor LIttle. Kiel joked with the press later: "I guess I should have checked to a different blitz pick-up," adding that the hit, "felt good."

He completed his two other throws vs. the third-string defense including a flare pass to freshman Will Mahone who showed pretty quick feet on a cut-back inside.

Next in our observations series: A look at the Irish defensive backs and wide receivers.

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