Practice Report

Notre Dame began its fourth spring session under head coach Brian Kelly indoors on Meyo Field at the Loftus Center.

Last March, Notre Dame began spring ball 2012 on the heels of back-to-back five-loss seasons, but under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-70s.

Spring session 2013? How about a 50 degree temperature differential and far removed from the mediocrity of seasons past.

Media watched the first 30 minutes of Notre Dame's initial spring practice. Below are observations from the west balcony, one located near the defense but a full 50 to 100 yards away from the offense's practice.

First Unit: Defensive Line

With sophomore Stephon Tuitt riding an exercise bike and senior Kona Schwenke absent, the first and second unit defenses appeared as follows:

Defensive end Sheldon Day, nose guard Louis Nix, defensive end Tony Springmann. They were backed respectively by junior Chase Hounshell, 5th-year senior Tyler Stockton, and redshirt-freshman Jarron Jones.

Beefed up to 281 pounds, six-foot senior Justin Utupo also worked with position coach Mike Elston and the defensive linemen.

Observations: Nix put on noticeable weight, his new jersey number #1 resembling a thin stripe of paint across a massive white canvas. The senior nose guard measures 6'2 1/2" 347 pounds.

Opposite of Nix's monstrous build is the slimmed down Springmann, less 16 pounds to 284 and at 6'5 1/2" its likely the junior's days of rotating at nose guard are over. Look for Springmann to work exclusively at defensive end in base packages.

Jones officially lost four pounds from his August 2012 listing, now at 295 and 6'5 1/4". He was scolded by Elston during hand placement drills for his second mistake with Elston lamenting a lack of "attention to detail" by the redshirt-frosh.

He didn't officially grow, but the 6'2" 286-pound Day seems to carry his weight better than last fall.

Of note: technically, Day and Tuitt were on one end together (and in that order) during a tutoring session with Springmann the lead end opposite. Reading into that for practice No. 1 is useless, of course.

Linebackers

Senior Danny Spond and junior Ben Councell served as the 1-2 Dog 'backers as expected, with senior Prince Shembo, junior Ishaq Williams, and sophomore Romeo Okwara as the Cats. Okwara gained 19 pounds from August, now listed at 6'3 3/4" 258. Shembo weighed in the same, up from 250 last season.

Williams gained six pounds to 261, an imposing figure sprinting between drills.

As noted yesterday, Councell is up to 248 from 240 last season, though he lost three-quarters of an inch (must have been a pretty big hit).

A Cat linebacker in 2012, Councell's classmate Anthony Rabasa appeared to be working as the No. 3 Mike 'backer behind Jarrett Grace and Dan Fox. Fox was relegated to the exercise bike during early drills but stood at the front of the Mike line during tutoring sessions. Filling out the inside 'backers were Carlo Calabrese, Kendall Moore, and preferred walk-on Joe Schmidt as Wills (weak side).

(Its likely the dispersal of inside 'backers at this point is for reps: Fox has not moved to the Mike per Kelly's comments yesterday.)

Like Councell, Grace is up eight pounds to 248, but it was much more obvious on Councell as he moved quickly in open space.

Defensive Backs

The safeties delineation caught my eye: incumbent Matthias Farley was backed during tutoring session by only Austin Collinsworth. Opposite to the field side were Elijah Shumate, Nicky Baratti, Eilar Hardy, and John Turner.

Shumate ran out with the first unit while Baratti rode an exercise bike (off-season shoulder surgery).

The first string cornerbacks were Lo Wood (field) and Keivarae Russell (boundary). The were backed by Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown, respectively. Brown's new 6'0" 207-pound frame was noticeable, he appeared to gain far more than the eight pounds of muscle Kelly discussed Tuesday.

Also looking stronger was Wood, technically down a pound to 194 from last season.

Josh Atkinson gained 12 pounds to 197 though he must carry it well. He still seems far shorter than his 5'11 1/2" listing upon first blush.

Senior Bennett Jackson spent active drills on an exercise back due to off-season shoulder surgery. He stood with Wood and Atkinson during tutoring.

KeiVarae Russell is up to 190 from 182. He still looks like a compact running back prospect, though his presence in congress with Wood and Jackson gives the Irish a major advantage at cornerback over last fall, when the squad was fortunate no additional injuries occurred (Jackson played injured the entire season).

Quick Hitters -- Defense

Don't have time to digest everything above? Here's the Cliff's Notes version:

First team defense at a glance: Day, Nix, Springmann, Spond, Calabrese, Grace, Shembo, Wood, Russell, Farley, and Shumate.

Second team: Jones, Stockton, Hounshell, Councell, Rabasa (Will), Moore (Mike), I. Williams, Atkinson, Brown, Hardy, Collinsworth.

Third Team: Utupo (DE), Okwara (Cat), Turner (S) and walkons.

Fox, Tuitt, Jackson, Baratti on exercise bikes. Schwenke absent.

2012 Scout Team Safety C.J. Prosise practiced with the wide receivers today. He's up 12 pounds to 220, at just over six-feet tall as a redshirt-freshman.


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