A heavy rotation permeates each position group, but other than Greg Bryant and Malik Zaire, it's fair to say no 2014 backup has made a major push to unseat a returning starter -- and that's not a bad thing considering the ascent of the team's sophomores last fall.
QB: Everett Golson, Malik Zaire, DeShone Kizer, Montgomery VanGorder
Notes: Irish head coach Brian Kelly offered that the Golson/Zaire rotation is 50/50 if taken over the entire course of spring ball to date. (From a media perspective it seems Golson receives more first-team action.) As expected, Golson remains well ahead of Zaire as a passer whereas Zaire's athletic, rugged talents struggle to shine through at times as he's limited by a red jersey signifying no contact.
RB: Tarean Folston OR Greg Bryant, C.J. Prosise
Notes: Bryant worked often with the first unit over the weekend and dating back to last Wednesday (March 25) -- that's never been the case previously with media in attendance. Prosise has worked exclusively with the running backs in our five hours of viewing though he noted that he often takes part in 7-on-7 action with the wide receivers as well.
With the above in mind, it's likewise true Folston doesn't require as many first-team reps as do his competitors.
Field ("X") WR: Will Fuller, Corey Holmes
Notes: Fuller continues to drop passes he should catch (that was the case last spring and he proceeded to lead the team in drops in the fall, too. Of course, he also led them in everything else…)
Holmes is getting quality work behind Holmes though Kelly noted Wednesday that Torii Hunter (below) is more an X receiver candidate than any other position.
Boundary ("W") WR: Chris Brown, Corey Robinson, Justin Brent
Notes: Robinson has been out for at least the last three practices due to a concussion. He's expected to resume activities Monday. Brent has earned ample reps in his stead with mixed results -- not major errors, but moments along the lines of getting out-played/fought by Connor Cavalaris for a deep fade in scrimmage, etc. There was also a "10 players on the field" issue to which Brent joined the fray thereafter.
Brown has looked the part of senior starter throughout our viewings. He and Robinson will likely conclude spring ball as 1A and 1B as they were for most of 2014. (Brown 11 starts, 39 receptions on 72 targets; Robinson 2 starts, 40 receptions on 75 targets.)
Slot ("Z") WR: Amir Carlisle, Torii Hunter
Notes: With Prosise almost exclusively with the running backs for the spring, no drill, 7-on-7 rep, or scrimmage situation we've seen has included anyone but Carlisle as the No. 1 slot receiver. The fifth-year senior has fared well throughout with the exception of a point-blank, to-the-chest drop suffered in 7-on-7 Saturday. His ability to remain at full speed through the ball and into traffic is impressive for a converted running back.
(One writer's opinion, but I think Prosise will be nearly full-time as a slot receiver in the fall -- he'll just run the ball more than he did last season.)
TE: Durham Smythe, Tyler Luatua, Nic Weishar, Mike Heuerman, Chase Hounshell
Notes: The delineation in terms of reps and roles (listed above) is pretty clear this spring. Of note: Hounshell showed well in a few skeleton drills, including a toe-tapping catch on the sidelines during which he in no way resembled a former defensive end.
Smythe and Weishar are held-and-shoulders above the Luatua/Hounshell pair as pass-catchers. We haven't see enough jumbo package situations to rate Luatua/Hounshell as in-line blockers as of yet.
Mike Heuerman took some reps as a slot receiver.
Five starting spots for six competitors. Barring injury, it's clear that no player other than Alex Bars listed among the backups has a realistic shot at a starting role, but the second unit will remain in flux through the middle of August camp. If Bivin could cement a role as a trusted backup tackle it would help the unit should the group suffer injuries.
LT: Ronnie Stanley, Hunter Bivin
LG: Quenton Nelson, Alex Bars, Jimmy Byrne
C: Nick Martin, Sam Mustipher, Tristen Hoge
RG: Steve Elmer, John Montelus OR Colin McGovern
RT: Mike McGlinchey, Mark Harrell
Notes: At present, it seems Bars would be the first tackle and the first guard off the bench for Notre Dame in 2015 should injury occur, at least for a long-term plan. Montelus and McGovern both had second-team reps Saturday in an open practice -- good to see Montelus involved.
The physicality of the Irish offensive line is one of my spring takeaways to date. An inherent meanness seems to have permeated the group and it starts with Stanley, who's anything but off the field.
As an aside, Mustipher struggled with the shotgun snap throughout Saturday's practice though he did fair well once the pads started popping thereafter. McGovern, it should be noted, could likely serve as the No. 2 right tackle as we approach the season.
With the exception of punting, kickoffs and kickoff returns, work on special teams has been extensive in recent media viewings. The reality of the spring is that these units can't crystallize until August when rookies join the fray.
K: Tyler Newsome, John Chereson (2013 preferred walk-on). Both are keeping the spot warm for incoming freshman Justin Yoon. As Kelly noted Saturday, John Turner might have had the best kick at practice Saturday…and that was a penalty.
PR: Will Fuller and Greg Bryant fielded punts in our recent viewing periods
KR: Amir Carlisle (we haven't watched a kick return rep)
Holder: DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire
LS: Scott Daly, Hunter Smith
P: Tyler Newsome -- haven't seen a punt with the Irish relegated indoors
Of note, Notre Dame could practice outdoors Wednesday (and could have moved outside today) with spring weather returning to South Bend.