Practice Report: April 8

Pete Sampson and Tim O’Malley break down the ins and outs of Wednesday morning’s spring practice. Who impressed and which underclassmen might be on the move up the depth chart?


Tim O'malley: Offense

FIRST UNIT REPS
Junior Malik Zaire triggered the first group offense to begin today's practice. He was joined (left-to-right) by an offensive front of Ronnie Stanley, Alex Bars, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer, and Mike McGlinchey. Bars' inclusion with the first unit was a first in terms of media viewings -- each of the four previous "tempo" drills to open practice included sophomore classmate Quenton Nelson at left guard.

The wide receivers remained consistent with previous viewings: Amir Carlisle in the slot, Will Fuller at the X and Chris Brown as the W. Durham Smythe was the tight end and Tarean Folston the running back.

Observations: The inclusion of Zaire was the first of four official media viewings in which he's led the starting unit, but it's not an actual first among previous nine practices. Bars work with the first team included a 7-on-7 inside running game drill (that was led by Everett Golson).

-- It's possible I've short-changed Bars' chance at a starting left guard job because the logical long-term forecast puts him as a starting tackle next season when the line likely loses Stanley to the NFL, but retains Elmer, McGlinchey and Nelson.

Nelson remains the odds-on favorite from my point of view (after all, this was one practice for 30 minutes of viewing) but it's nonetheless relevant that Bars is receiving a fair shake as promised by Kelly prior to the spring.

-- Greg Bryant didn't rep with either the first or second unit, but he repped with the first unit in 7-on-7, furthering the reality that there are myriad reasons different players take first-team reps to open practice.

-- Nick Martin's clearly far stronger than he was last season. His initial surge off the snap is generally a win, not a struggle to maintain his side of scrimmage.

-- The inside-running drill plays well to the strengths of this physical Irish front wall, especially Elmer who changes scrimmage, not only when asked to fire north-south off the ball, but also when asked to block laterally in the zone scheme.

SECOND, THIRD UNIT REPS
Everett Golson led the second unit to begin practice. His offensive front did not change from previous viewings with the exception of Quenton Nelson at left guard. He was flanked by Hunter Bivin at left tackle and Sam Mustipher in the pivot. John Montelus again served as the right guard and Mark Harrell filled out the line at tackle. Sophomore tight end Tyler Luatua was with the second unit as he has been for the bulk of our viewing periods.

The wide receiver group still does not include Corey Robinson -- the junior suffered a concussion at some point prior to Practice No. 5 on March 25. Robinson was in full pads and took part in drills but was not involved in the first, second, or third-team tempo drill to begin practice. (It's likely his final assimilation back prior to full contact hereafter. We'll check with Kelly and update post-practice.)

Justin Brent was the team's W in Robinson's stead with Torii Hunter, Jr. in the slot and Corey Holmes the X. Cross-trainer C.J. Prosise was the running back, later relieved by Folston. (As noted above, Bryant took first-string contact reps. It's clear all three receive plenty of first- and second-team work.)

Observations: Prosise is a head taller than any of the running backs, a tiny group otherwise that includes three walk-ons and the five-foot nine-inch tandem of Folston and Bryant. Prosise has done a good job of remaining low upon receipt of the handoff before breaking upfield with a more vertical stride.

-- Would-be fifth-year offensive guard Conor Hanratty has worked closely with his former mates at each of our practice viewings. He was working with a clipboard prior to practice and is in the trenches during drills. We'll inquire in a future press conference whether or not Hanratty will be involved after the spring sessions ends. (Hanratty decided to retire due to concussions, though that's not been officially confirmed by the program.)

-- The third-string offensive line includes just four members: left tackle Sam Bush (a preferred walk-on recruit from 2014), left guard Jimmy Byrne, center Tristen Hoge, and right guard Colin McGovern. Incoming freshman Trevor Ruhland will bring the unit to 14 scholarship players for the 2015 season, one short of a program ideal.

No scholarship receivers took reps with the third team (as noted above, Robinson sat out the drill altogether), but Nic Weishar was the tight end with 2014 preferred walk-on Keenan Centlivre a the W receiver (6'5" 220 pounds) and junior walk-on buster Sheridan the X. (I didn't take note of a slot).

DeShone Kizer led the unit at quarterback with senior walk-on Josh Anderson the runner. (Wearing #46, Anderson will likely be a workhorse in the forthcoming Blue Gold Game.)

Pete Sampson: Defense

Notre Dame worked out inside on Wednesday morning in full pads, picking up the spring practice routine after a week break for Easter. The media watched the first 30 minutes of Spring Practice #10, with the defense working on fundamentals by position group, followed by a 7-on-7 period in the run game and some 1-on-1 action with the defensive backs and receivers.

On the injury front, Andrew Trumbetti returned to practice after missing much of the past couple weeks with a virus. He worked as the second-team defensive end behind Isaac Rochell. Jarrett Grace was also back in action following a concussion, working with the second-team defense at middle linebacker.

Out of practice today was defensive end Jonathan Bonner, who had a light walking boot/cast on his right foot.

Joe Schmidt continues to be limited but moved around well during the opening periods of practice. However, when the workout moved into contact drills he left the field to train with the strength staff.

Unchanged depth chart in the front seven from previous practices, with Jarron Jones out and Sheldon Day limited. First-team defense in the front seven: Romeo Okwara, Isaac Rochell, Jerry Tillery and Jay Hayes up front; Jaylon Smith, James Onwualu and Nyles Morgan at linebacker. Second-team defense in the front seven: Andrew Trumbetti, Daniel Cage, Micah Dew-Treadway and Grant Blankenship up front; Te’Von Coney, Jarrett Grace and Greer Martini at linebacker.

Interesting to watch Todd Lyght coach the defensive backs. Very active and vocal with his position, high-energy and up-beat. Lyght had praise for Devin Butler, Nick Watkins and Matthias Farley during the 1-on-1 reps. Butler took a couple strong reps against Chris Brown, “That’s how you win at the end of a route!” Farley covered up Amir Carlisle on a route into the flat, “Great job!” When Cole Luke got cleanly beat by Will Fuller deep, Lyght hit the corner immediately with a correction about how he was using his hands (or not using his hands, in this case).

Impressed with Nick Watkins’ range for the cornerback position. He’s not somebody who’s picked up much pub in his first year here, working mostly on special teams, but he took some very good reps against Corey Holmes that ended with incompletions. Curious to hear from the staff about how close Watkins is to Devin Butler to winning the No. 3 corner job behind Cole Luke and KeiVarae Russell.

Haven’t asked Brian Kelly about Jay Hayes this spring, but the rising sophomore continues to work with the starting defensive line alongside Jerry Tillery. On Wednesday, Keith Gilmore had some praise for Hayes during the position work and Sheldon Day tried to fire up his backup as well. Impressed by Hayes’ physical ability at the point of attack and flexibility to stay low with his size.

Notre Dame’s next practice with media viewing will come Saturday, which will be open for a full two hours.


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