Practice Observations: Offense

Detailed observations of Notre Dame's offense from today's two-hour long practice open to the media.


Starter Tommy Rees looked extremely accurate and sharp today, especially in the red zone. By my count, he was four of six in that area, with touchdown completions to tight ends Alex Welch and Troy Niklas and freshmen wide receivers Corey Robinson and James Onwualu. He would have been five-of-six had freshman cornerback Cole Luke not made a terrific effort to the bat the ball out of wide receiver DaVaris Daniels' hands in the end zone. Of note during the scrimmage, Rees completed passes to wide receiver DaVaris Daniels on the boundary for a pick up of about 15 and to T.J. Jones in traffic for a pick up of about 20. A couple of his deep balls fell short, particularly to Prosise and Robinson. To summarize, his mid-range game over the middle and to the boundary could not have been better today, and his red zone efficiency was impressive. However, the long ball/timing with his receivers could use some fine-tuning before Aug. 31.

Something's still not clicking with Andrew Hendrix. He looked too inconsistent today, often throwing the ball to empty space, much to the chagrin of offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. He took a sack after holding onto the ball too long (says Martin) and followed that play with a gift to inside linebacker Dan Fox, who dropped what should have been an easy INT. However, he did have nice passes to freshman Corey Robinson for big gains (discussed further in wide receivers). Freshman quarterback Malik Zaire wasn't given many opportunities today, but he did have a nice throw to running back George Atkinson III in which he threaded the ball in between double coverage in the flats for a gain of about seven.

Wide receiver/ Tight End

I don't want to talk up a player too much that has yet to play a college down (learning from Tim), but freshman wide receiver Corey Robinson was basically unstoppable today. On back-to-back plays he beat senior Bennett Jackson. On a situational third and five inside the offense's own 40-yard line, Robinson had an impressive grab below the knees to beat Jackson for a nice gain. On the very next play, he jumped over No. 2 to meet the ball at his highest point in the the air for at least 25. Robinson also beat cornerback Lo Wood for a touchdown grab in the end zone, and he made fellow freshman Cole Luke look unathletic in a 20-yard catch in the air over the middle.

Freshman wide receiver James Onwualu looks like he benefited a lot from a spring on campus under his belt. Not only does he look big (6'1", 215), but his routes were fluid and he showed some nice moves against the first team defensive backs today.

Wide receiver Chris Brown, who sat last Saturday's practice due to injury, practiced with the one's today (Rees, Atkinson III, Jones, Daniels), and he made a few nice catches in the flats. Particularly, one that comes to mind was on a slant route going one-on-one against cornerback Lo Wood for a gain of about six. Wide receivers' coach Mike Denbrock was very complementary of Brown today.

Tight end Troy Niklas proved in practice today he's not just suited as a blocker. He can beat linebackers down the field or safeties in the air and he looks like a natural in-line or in motion. During red zone play, Rees found Niklas after the 6-foot-5 tight end cleared safety Mathias Farley with a simple jam at the goal line in order to face up and make the grab for an easy six. He also beat Farley earlier in the day on the outside. I find it hard to believe he only has five career game catches, but that will certainly change quickly as he's going to be utilized a lot this season.

Tight ends Alex Welch and Ben Koyack each had nice catches today and found themselves much involved in the second team offense. Towards the end of the scrimmage, Koyack had a terrific over-the-shoulder grab for a 20-yard completion going up against inside linebacker Jarrett Grace. Welch caught a completion from Rees and turned his way up field for a gain of about 15 before being rocked by safety Elijah Shumate along the hashes.

Before the scrimmage, the wide receivers practiced a lot of catching in the red zone, including turning their shoulders and bringing down the ball on fade routes.

On the receiving end today, bar none, Troy and Robinson impressed me the most. I believe this year's wide receiver unit (including the trio at tight end) is truly underrated. They are going to surprise some people with such a nice mix of experience, quickness, athleticism and consistency. It doesn't hurt that Rees looked so on point today either.

Running back

Senior George Atkinson III looked much smoother and agile today in comparison to last week. He took all the first team reps, with Greg Bryant and Amir Carlisle spending time with the 2's (though Carlisle received a noticeable more amount of reps on the day than freshman Bryant). Carlisle looked explosive against the first team defense. I don't think you can underestimate his big play ability and capability of being an X-factor on the offense this season.

Sophomore running back Will Mahone watched from the sideline today in a boot that covered from his right foot to his upper thigh. Kelly called it an high ankle sprain, and the head coach said he will most likely miss 10-14 days. Though his boot offered the impression the injury called for significant recovery time, I did overhear Mahone say during practice it was an MCL and ankle sprain, but that he expected to be back on the field in a week.

Freshman running back Tarean Folston was excused from practice today due to a death in the family.

Offensive line

Most notably, right guard Conor Hanratty and left guard Chris Watt sat out today with minor injuries. As a result, sophomore Ronnie Stanley saw time with the one's as a right tackle, and senior Christian Lombard moved inside as right guard while freshman utility man Steve Elmer saw first team reps at left guard.

Second team tackles today - senior Bruce Heggie (left) and freshman Mike McGlinchey (right)

Second team guards - freshman Hunter Bivin (left) and sophomore Mark Harrell (right)

Kelly noted after practice today that freshman offensive lineman Colin McGovern played for the first time today after suffering an MCL injury and receiving surgery last year. Fellow freshman lineman John Montelus received praise from Kelly today for his progress recovering from shoulder surgery. Top Stories