NINE THAT CAUGHT MY EYE

The 86th-annual Blue Gold Game included 92 snaps. The nine below are relevant going forward.

JUSTIN BRENT’S BIG PLAY (2:24 1st Q)
Faced with 3rd-and-13 on quarterback Malik Zaire’s opening series, the enigmatic Irish sophomore collects a bullet down the post for a 29-yard touchdown. A field-level view of Brent shows an imposing, long-armed (I’d never noticed that attribute prior) picture of athleticism.

This fall, Notre Dame will have more capable/potential standout wide receivers on its roster than at any point in program history. But inevitably, at least one if not more from this 11-player collection will become lost in the shuffle over the next two to three seasons and fail to make his mark at the program.

It’s crucial Brent is not among them. There’s too much promise and untapped potential in his six-foot-one, 205-pound frame.

GOLSON’S BALL PLACEMENT (1:30 1st Q)
Flushed by Jarrett Grace who came free up the gut on a third-and-8 blitz, Everett Golson takes a handful of steps to his right where he’s encountered by defensive end Isaac Rochell (who kept containment to the outside). Golson gathers his feet and fires a short crossing route to Corey Robinson who beat Cole Luke across the field for first-down yardage.

A low throw is likely not catchable for Robinson while a pass too far inside would have been deflected or worse – instead, it’s nearly ideal ball placement for Golson who saw Robinson with an extra step on Luke and threw high and to his helmet (not too far out or in) as a result.  It’s the type of play – difficult but not dazzling -- necessary to keep standard drives alive in the college game.

ZAIRE ON THE ROLL (9:00 2nd Q)
Flushed to his right on 3rd-and-7, Malik Zaire’s check down target C.J. Prosise breaks open down the right sideline as defender Te’Von Coney is caught in no-man’s-land -- forced to stay with Prosise and allow Zaire to run for first-down yardage, or charge the quarterback, forcing a throw to a wide-open Prosise.

Coney does the latter and Zaire’s awkward throw (rolling right as a lefty) bounces well short of Prosise. Though the throw was poor (short-armed), Prosise did Zaire no favors – he could have stopped completely to present an easier target.

It’s a chain-moving opportunity that can’t be missed by a team that hopes to contend.

ZAIRE DEEP TO FULLER (8:00 2nd Q)
And when I say “deep” I mean DEEP. 62 yards in the air as junior Will Fuller ran by sophomore Nick Watkins for a 68-yard touchdown. As the saying goes, when Fuller is even, he’s leavin’ – few college corners can run with the fleet-footed Fuller down the post and Watkins is no exception. (Nor will be KeiVarae Russell…nor was Florida State’s Ronald Darby, etc.)

Zaire had perfect pass protection and was able to step into the throw, one that not only showed off his arm but deep ball touch. If Notre Dame commits to the running game with Zaire this fall, this type of vertical route will be weapon 1B.

GREG BRYANT’S ONE-ARMED EFFORT (2:30 2nd Q)
Faced with 3rd-and-5 from his own 37-yard line, Zaire launches a 39-yard rainbow down the left side to running back Greg Bryant, who beat Coney on a wheel route from the slot. The pass was a half-foot too far in front of Bryant, who instead of running through at full speed – or extending two arms and taking the play to the ground – attempts a one-handed grab on the run.

The ball glances off Bryant’s left hand to the turf and the offense is forced to punt.

It wasn’t an easy catch, but it was definitively a weak effort by Bryant who coincidentally failed to come up with a makeable big play as former Irish playmaker and backfield star Theo Riddick looked on from a few yards away.

Bryant received instruction from running backs coach Autry Denson post-play as Denson noted Bryant could have accelerated late and extended both arms (right over left, not in a basket position) to make the catch.

MAX REDFIELD SHUTS IT DOWN (1st Play 2nd Half)
Head coach Brian Kelly’s “You Call the Play” social media gesture to the Irish fan base elicits a doozy: Quarterback Malik Zaire teamed with slot receiver Everett Golson. A handoff from Zaire to Tarean Folston is followed by a reverse from Folston to Golson, who after wheeling back to his left, unleashes a rocket to a sprinting Zaire – only to be shut down by uber-athlete Max Redfield.

In an enjoyable moment to begin the second half, I have three semi-relevant observations:

  1. Gotta love a safety that decides the offense doesn’t have to be the showcase group, even in a moment of levity…
  2. That was Max Redfield being Max Redfield. In every way. I mean that as a compliment…mostly.
  3. Comeuppance fittingly followed for Redfield in the form of C.J. Prosise (below).

NYLES MORGAN LIMPS BACK IN
Sophomore mike linebacker Nyles Morgan tweaked his ankle in the first quarter of Saturday’s scrimmage. For many starters and key reserves in a Blue Gold Game situation, that would be the end of the day.

Not for Morgan, who though showed little thereafter in terms of production and game impact (and also took a vicious crack-back block from Amir Carlisle at the 12:05 mark of the third quarter for his efforts), nonetheless illustrated Brian Kelly’s November 2014 and spring 2015 assertion that his promising middle ‘backer simply “loves the game.”

Morgan won’t be the best middle linebacker for Notre Dame in August camp, but he might be by season’s end. 

TORII HUNTER HANGS ON (8:09 3rd Q)
It hasn’t been a breakout spring for Notre Dame’s two-sport participant, and at some point early in the third quarter of Saturday’s contest, I offered to Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister, “Hunter doesn’t do much, does he…?”

Minutes later, the junior slot receiver collected a leaping stab of an Everett Golson pass and took a massive shoulder-to-helmet hit from backup safety John Turner in the process.

Hunter’s twisting catch and courage over the middle serves as the best showcase to date of the promise Kelly offered Hunter possessed last August, a time after which he suffered a significant groin injury, causing him to miss the bulk of camp and early September.

Hunter is at present Notre Dame’s sixth-most trusted receiver (Fuller, Robinson, Brown, Carlisle, Prosise -- choose your order after Fuller).

A breakout summer is likely necessary.

C.J. PROSISE RUNS THROUGH REDFIELD (3:24 3rd Q)
It was a matchup of the spring’s top offensive player vs. the spring’s top defender not named Jaylon Smith.

And in this instance, Prosise won. Taking a handoff over the right side and with a full head of steam 16 yards later, Prosise ran through Redfield’s sideline tackle attempt and deposited his “confident” teammate on the LaBar Practice Complex turf for good measure.

The run illustrated Prosise’s raw speed and power, and it was one the soft-spoken slot/running back likely enjoyed it more than he let on in a post-game interview when Prosise offered of the post-play interaction he had with Redfield, “Just a little friendly conversation.”

The play put a bow on a pair of breakout spring sessions by two of Notre Dame’s best athletes and served as a final fitting highlight for spring ball 2015.


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