Practice Report: Defense

A detailed look at the Irish defensive as Notre Dame opened its 2014 training camp today at Culver Academes.

Notre Dame

Click here to read Part I and a comprehensive review of the offense.

Notre Dame's new look defense included one two-deep competitor that will challenge for starting roles at two positions, as Florida transfer Cody Riggs brings a wealth of experience at both nickel and corner. Riggs is noticeably shorter than his fellow cornerbacks in South Bend, but he's by no mean's slight.

First Unit:
DL: Ishaq Williams, Jarron Jones, Sheldon Day, Romeo Okwara
LB: John Turner, Joe Schmidt, Jaylon Smith
DB: Keivarae Russell (RC), Cole Luke (LC), Austin Collinsworth (SS), and Max Redfield (FS)

Redfield leapt over a chain link fence in a single bound when transitioning from the offensive field to the defensive field.

Second Unit:
DL: Andrew Trumbetti, Justin Utupo, Jacob Matuska, Isaac Rochell
LB: James Onwualu, Michael Deeb, and Doug Randolph
DB: Devin Butler (RC), Cody Riggs (LC), Elijah Shumate (SS), and Matthias Farley (FS)

Third Unit:
DL: Jay Hayes, Daniel Cage, Chase Hounshell, and Anthony Rabasa
LB: Ben Councell, Nyles Morgan, and walk-on Austin Larkin
DB: Josh Atkinson (RC), Nick Watkins (LC), Nicky Baratti (SS) and Eilar Hardy (FS)

I didn't catch the entire fourth unit but a few notables were freshmen Drue Tranquill (S), Jhonthan Williams (DE), Pete Mokwuah (NT), 5th-year senior linebacker Kendall Moore, senior cornerback Jalen Brown, and a host of freshmen including Jonathan Bonner and Kolin Hill, who both worked with the linebackers, with Hill in the will position. Bonner won't be there long. He's destined for defensive end duty.

Defensive Tidbits

-- It's Day One, but the defensive ends aligned as such: Williams (1st), Rochell, Hayes, Blankenship. Opposite side: Okwara, Trumbetti, Rabasa, and Williams.

-- It's clear that Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith not only drive the defensive bus, but also decide where to park, gas-up, and stop for lunch. The pair is in constant communication and will rarely come off the field in September.

-- Schmidt broke on a slant route in 7-on-7 drills and dropped what would have been a highlight reel touchdown (he scored two touchdowns in our spring practice viewings, as a point of reference.) Said Schmidt of the missed opportunity post-practice: (Head in his hands) "I CANNOT believe I missed that."

-- Senior Jarrett Grace took part in precious few contact drills but he had an active role, leading the linebackers (as a coach) in pass drop drills and also serving as a roll-out quarterback in a drill designed to move the back seven when in zone coverage. Keeping active appeared to be his goal whenever possible. Kendall Moore also performed the task at times.

-- Grace's classmate Ben Councell still seemed a bit gimpy to my untrained eye, but he participated throughout.

-- The secondary -- coached often by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder -- practice quarters coverage early (the deep secondary is divided into quarters). It's a necessity for a defense with as many stunts as the Irish front seven is expected to show this fall.

-- Matthias Farley spent a great deal of time behind the defense talking to secondary coach Kerry Cooks. Farley spent the spring learning the nickel position and will have to brush up on a new scheme at safety.

-- Senior Josh Atkinson mugged (in a good way) freshman Corey Holmes in a one-on-one drill, then proceeded to remind the rookie what had just happened. Atkinson concluded the rep with a pass breakup and added another, albeit against a walk-on. It's notable, however, that he did not rep in the team's 11-on-11 action. (The corners were Russell, Luke, Riggs, Butler, and Watkins.)

-- Riggs delivered a shot to Chris Brown on a slant route. No pads, remember.

-- Farley registered a PD on an under thrown ball to C.J. Prosise. Farley repped later with the second unit at safety in 11-on-11 action.

-- Freshman Jhonathan Williams isn't as tall as offered by recruiting services, but he added plenty of muscle to his frame and fills out the #33 well. He looks like it's his second year in the program, not his first day.

-- Fellow rookie Nick Watkins obviously relishes the challenge of press coverage, often lining up inches away from his man. His tutor, KeiVarae Russell, offered some advice (through the media), that Watkins might want to allow for a little breathing room as the freshman opens up his stance upon the snap, anyway.

-- Early enrollee frosh Andrew Trumbetti was the only defensive player not wearing protective gloves. Unrelated, he batted down a pair of balls in 11-on-11 action.

-- Freshmen interior linemen Daniel Cage and Pete Mokwuah are every bit of the 325 pounds they're listed. Cage is built like a hedgehog at a touch over six-feet. Mokwuah was buried in an 11-on-11 rep by classmate Sam Mustipher and the former reacted as he should -- angrily. But he'll have to get the best of Mustipher another day.

-- Cage concluded practice (for everyone) by losing his breakfast on the Oliver Field turf.


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