Saturday's two-hour practice was open to the media, and after taking in individual drills, 7 on 7, and a full team scrimmage, plenty of guys stood out as the Irish have almost completed a full spring season coming off of their national championship run.
Prosise not precise… yet
DOG linebacker/safety turned slot C.J. Prosise
is a work in progress, but he showed flashes today why he's capable of being an impact player. Prosise was in motion on the read option toss featuring the first team and Golson. He also practiced with the running backs when they ran their bubble comeback passing patterns, and his execution there was natural.
The play of the day came from Prosise in the scrimmage, and it more than likely was not by design. Around the 50-yard line, Prosise came back for the ball after Golson was forced to scramble. He caught about a 15-yard pass on what looked like a modified slant route and beat Keivarae Russell
and Nick Baratti streaking to the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown. Here's where inconsistency came into play; shortly after the touchdown, Prosise showed great physicality and separated himself from the corner on an out route, only to have the ball go right through his hands after jumping too soon for the catch and not timing the pass correctly. Earlier, he dropped one on the left hash when he was being used as a receiver on the outside (Kelly noted after practice his work on the outside was mostly due to lack of numbers). Prosise looked somewhat awkward planting his foot in the turf and turning his head, as Kelly also noted afterward. Kelly also said of Prosise: "It's evident he's going to be a very good player, but he needs a lot more work."
Early enrollee Corey Robinson
stole the show during 7 on 7 when he streaked down the right sideline and caught a diving one-handed grab going against corner Josh Atkinson
. Robinson was a little slow getting up, and it looked like his shoulder was the issue. He was looked at by a trainer for a short time and given a wrap, but after sitting out for the next few drills, he was back in for the scrimmage at the end. Putting on more weight will make Robinson even more dangerous, and he's already getting a head start on that in the weight room this spring.
Sophomore DaVaris Daniels
just fits that mold of throwing the ball up and ‘may the most athletic man win.' He beat Josh Atkinson back-to-back on that route today, and both times Atkinson was called for pass interference. Daniels got in mostly with the second team, only because he's missed some practice time. He had two tremendous grabs on curl routes, one being a one-handed grab. Daniels looked very physical today and his ability to get yards after the catch is evident.
Early enrollee freshman James Onwualu
didn't look extremely athletic to me at first, but that's also probably because he doesn't have everything committed to muscle memory just yet. Onwulau was mostly practicing on the outside today. He stood out in individual drills for how hard he got after it. At one point during the scrimmage, Kelly stopped play and called Onwualu over to instruct him on what looked like line alignment.
First play the first-team offense ran in the redzone during the scrimmage was a 20-yard pass from the read option to Ben Koyac running towards the hashes. Troy Niklas
can really turn up the field quickly and early enrollee Mike Heuerman
certainly looked the part and got a good number of reps. But, the most impressive tight end to me today was Alex Welch
. He had the coaches fired up after executing perfect hook route, turning back up field, and catching an over-the-shoulder pass, placed perfectly by Golson. Also, twice Welch showed great hands on passes thrown too far out in front. His most impressive play today was beating double coverage on an out route for a 15-20-yard gain.
One thing I was watching for today was how natural Cam McDaniel
caught the ball out of the backfield. During 7 on 7, McDaniel looked really out in the flat and catching passes. That's where he's going to thrive in my opinion, along with downhill running and bursting into space. During 1 v 1, it looked obvious that McDaniel doesn't thrive in down-field situations. He was out-physicaled and his small frame doesn't do well for getting separation.
Also questioned for his catching ability has been running back George Atkinson
. The junior didn't have one drop today that I noticed, and he was very smooth catching out of the backfield. Kelly noted that on Monday they're going to give Atkinson more catching responsibility and "consider some new things" in the passing game with him going forward. Kelly also said Atkinson's ability to catch the ball is by and large his biggest improvement this spring. Particularly, Atkinson looked great running a short curl route, and he and Golson pretty much nailed the timing correctly each time. Atkinson had it rough during the scrimmage though, getting hit hard three times, twice by Elijah Shumate and once by Louis Nix
. The last hit by Nix sidelined Atkinson for the rest of practice, but nothing points to it being serious or anything other than taking a good ol' beating on a good hit.
Atkinson and Amir Carlisle
both worked receiving punts. Even limited with a clavicle injury, Carlisle was extremely speedy. He didn't try to go lateral today, but just his straight-end speed was very impressive.
Early enrollee Malik Zaire
didn't look extremely accurate today. First throw that stood out was when he rolled left and tried to find Mike Heuerman, but badly underthrew it, and the ball hit the ground before Heuerman could make the grab. He also had a few throws that were too high and well out of reach for the receivers. Rees didn't look all that accurate today either; he hit the back of jerseys a few times and had some timing issues on routes with wide receivers. Golson's chemistry with T.J. Jones and DaVaris Daniels jumps out, as does his scrambling ability and pure quickness.