Practice Report: Aug. 18

Get blow-by-blow coverage of Notre Dame’s open practice as the defense carried the day. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks turned in a hit-and-miss performance.

Pete Sampson: Offense

Quarterback

No way around it, Malik Zaire struggled Tuesday.

During the two-minute drill toward the end of practice Zaire threw a pick on his first attempt, a pass that came in hot to Chris Brown and slipped off his fingertips. Max Redfield was waiting, gathered the pick and returned it for what would have been a touchdown. Interesting to watch Brian Kelly stop practice for a teaching moment, reminding the defense to fall down when making a pick in an end-of-game situation with a lead. No reason to risk a turnover.

Zaire led a touchdown drive on his do-over opportunity (actually a 1:45 drill a period later), which came on fourth down and went to Will Fuller on a tunnel screen that went straight into a Brian VanGorder blitz. You’ve seen this player before. And it almost always goes for a touchdown just like this. Nice day for the Media Guide cover boy.

What was most puzzling about Zaire was his passing choices in 7-on-7 in 11-on-11. He rarely (almost never, really) went for the intermediate or deep options, consistently taking the check down.

Statistically, two periods jumped out about Zaire.

The first was the two-minute drill, where he threw that Redfield pick on his first attempt, then followed up with a 15-yard (estimated) gain to Amir Carlisle, a sack by KeiVarae Russell blitzing from the edge, a quarterback spike, then another sack for a turnover on downs.

In the 1:45 drill he hit Tyler Luatua for an 11-yard gain while under pressure, took a questionably officiated sack, threw incomplete, hit Brown for nine yards and then found Fuller for the 43-yard touchdown. It wasn’t pretty, but Zaire got Notre Dame in the end zone. That might be indicative of the season. More scratching and clawing. Less polished and efficient.

DeShone Kizer and Brandon Wimbush both had better days on intermediate and deep routes, but it’s hard to evaluate that when the safeties are lesser athletes (and less experienced) than Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian and Elijah Shumate. In other words, when it’s the starting secondary vs. the starting receivers, edge to the secondary. When it’s the backup receivers vs. the backup secondary, edge to the receivers. Kizer and Wimbush took advantage of that, especially Wimbush.

Running Back

C.J. Prosise sat out (expected) with a hip pointer that should keep him sidelined the rest of this week based on Brian Kelly’s estimates.

Not a lot to gather from the running back position with the scrimmage periods geared toward two-minute (i.e. passing) situations. Tarean Folston led the way as expected, although it was interesting to see how much work Josh Adams got. He appeared to be the No. 2 running back with Justin Brent very limited.

Hard to know what Notre Dame has in Adams just yet. At times he caught the ball well, including in the two-minute drill when he ably got out of bounds too. On others he really fought it, especially on high passes. He’s an upright runner and looks taller than his listed 6-foot-2 height. Interesting physical makeup. The initial reaction would be he’s like George Atkinson, but Adams cuts much better. Didn’t expect him to beat out Dexter Williams in camp, but based on today Adams is in the lead.

Wide Receiver

Based on today’s practice Equanimeous St. Brown has moved ahead of Corey Holmes in the rotation. Based on reps and production, it wasn’t even that close. Holmes had a bad drop in the end zone and didn’t make much happen otherwise. Meanwhile, St. Brown continually got open and took almost all the second-team work along with Corey Robinson. There were some drops in there, although that was consistent across the board. Not sure how that St. Brown/Robinson pairing works during the season, but that is an incredible amount of height to throw at defenses.

Fuller is good for a explosive touchdown play every practice. So it was again on that screen. Shaun Crawford did have a nice pass breakup against Fuller later in the practice when matched one-on-one.

C.J. Sanders and Torii Hunter both made big plays in the passing game when working with the backup quarterback. Throw Amir Carlisle into that group as the starter and Notre Dame has a wealth of potential in the slot. Sanders continues to look like one of the toughest covers on the team in short spaces.

Tight End

Durham Smythe was slightly limited (hamstring), but he appears to be getting closer to full speed.

Alize Jones made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch during one-on-periods, showing an agility most tight ends just don’t have. It’s difficult to know if Jones is working his way into first-team offense as a situational player because we haven’t seen it, but the athleticism is there. No question about that.

Solid but not spectacular days from Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua. Those guys got most of the 11-on-11 work toward the end of practice.

Offensive Line

Status quo for this group, which faced a lot of overload blitzes late in practice. Decent day in terms of picking those up, although the blitzes did affect the quarterbacks on a few snaps.

Starting group (left-to-right): Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey. Second-team offensive line (left-to-right): Hunter Bivin, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, John Montelus, Colin McGovern. Third-team offensive line (left-to-right): Trevor Ruhland, Jimmy Byrne, Tristen Hoge, Sam Bush, Mark Harrell.

Ronnie Stanley look as good at left tackle as Jaylon Smith looks at linebacker or KeiVarae Russell looks at corner.

Tim Prister: Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE
• The unit starts out a bit sluggishly, prompting defensive line coach Keith Gilmore to exclaim: “How the hell can that happen? We come outside and we forget how to hit the sled? You’re ruining my mojo.”

• Period 4 of the 21-period practice (each period is five minutes) is revealing in its personnel against option/Wishbone football. Notre Dame asked that the specifics of that period not be revealed. But the first signs of Notre Dame’s plan to improve its performance against option/Wishbone football are hinted.

• Daniel Cage shares No. 1 reps with Jerry Tillery in an 11-on-11 thud run-game drill.

• Gilmore is pleased with the two-man game played by Cage and Isaac Rochell on one running play.

• The three-man front with nickel/dime personnel in the game includes Andrew Trumbetti at right end, Isaac Rochell in the middle and Sheldon Day at left end.

• It appears that sophomore Jonathan Bonner is at least getting some reps at the three-technique after opening camp at strongside defensive end. That likely is a response to Jarron Jones’ injury, which prompted the move of Jerry Tillery to the nose after getting some reps at three-technique.

• The No. 2 nickel/dime three-man front includes Tillery at right end, Daniel Cage in the middle and Bonner on the left side.

• Considerably more action for junior defensive end Doug Randolph, who can be conspicuously absent for long stretches in practice. This was by far the most action Randolph has seen in any of the four open practices, although it should be noted that Isaac Rochell, Andrew Trumbetti and Romeo Okwara saw no action of note down the stretch of practice.

Randolph (right end) and Grant Blankenship (left end) received a ton of work late in Tuesday’s practice.

LINEBACKERS
• As noted in Irish Illustrated’s previous practice report, freshman Asmar Bilal continues to work at the Will linebacker position in fairly impressive fashion from an athleticism standpoint.

• It’s interesting to hear Mike linebacker Joe Schmidt pepper defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder with questions throughout the practice any time a potential offshoot of the defensive alignment pops into his head, or when an exception to the rule established by VanGorder occurs to Schmidt.

• Linebackers with the second nickel unit include James Onwualu, Nyles Morgan and Te’von Coney.

• During a 7-on-7 drill, VanGorder’s booming voice carries throughout the LaBar Practice Complex, but hits closer to home with freshman Will linebacker Te’von Coney.

“Come on, 4, what are you doing?”

• On the first play of two-minute drill, Redfield picks off a pass that caroms off the fingertips of Chris Brown, and Redfield gleefully returns the pick the distance. Brian Kelly stops the action, however, to emphasize the importance of adhering to the parameters of the situation.

Presumably, the scenario painted for the defense was that they were on the plus side of the scoreboard in the waning seconds. By returning the pick for a touchdown, the opposition is given another chance with the football. Better that Redfield fall down and the offense runs out the clock than return the interception for the score in that situation.
 
DEFENSIVE BACKS
• The secondary opens in a one-on-one tackling drill between cones set about five yards apart.

“If he gets outside your shoulder, move your feet,” says defensive backs coach Todd Lyght. “You’re not always going to be able to deliver a blow, so move your feet.”

Among the defensive backs that aggressively attack the ball carrier (which is another defensive back) are: Mykelti Williams, Elijah Shumate, Avery Sebastian, Max Redfield and KeiVarae Russell.

More and more, Sebastian looks to be the No. 1 strong safety ahead of Elijah Shumate. This is the second straight open practice that Sebastian receives virtually all of the No. 1 work, and he looked good doing it.

• Drew Tranquill plays a significant role throughout the entire practice in multiple-defensive back alignments. It should be noted, however, that Tranquill rarely lines up more than a step off the line of scrimmage and is a threat to rush the passer, drop into coverage, set the edge, or force the issue against the run.

• An early red-zone period proves to be a tough one for the Irish safeties, who lose the battle on the first five reps before Tranquill finally records a PBU against tight end Nic Weishar, who had been abusing Notre Dame’s safeties in the second and third practices open to the media.

Open practice No. 4 starts off slowly for the secondary, but Tranquill starts a bit of a positive trend for the defense. Others on the back end of the defense who win one-on-one matchups in the red zone include Shumate over Tyler Luatua and Tranquill again against Weishar a second time.

• Not sure whether Notre Dame/VanGorder considers this nickel with an OLB on the line of scrimmage or if Tranquill qualifies as the dime. But the defense works extensively with Tranquill on the field along with defensive backs Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian, KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke and Shaun Crawford.

• Late in the practice session, the defense – most notably the secondary – is sliced and diced on a 50-yard middle screen to Will Fuller, which was a fairly common sight during the ’14 season.
 
SPECIAL TEAMS
• Candidates for punt return duties appear to have been narrowed down to three – at least Tuesday. Included are Will Fuller, C.J. Sanders and walk-on Chris Finke, a 5-9 ¼, 165-pounder out of Bishop Gorman High School in Kettering, Ohio. Finke later played a significant role late in the practice during red-zone offense.

• Still trying to zero in on the top candidates for the three-man personal protector unit for punter Tyler Newsome, who hammered most of his attempts today. One three-man protector unit included Alex Bars and Colin McGovern on the outside with Andrew Trumbetti in the middle. Another trio included Hunter Bivin and Chase Hounshell on the edge with Jerry Tillery in the middle.

• There is a calmness to the way holder DeShone Kizer and kicker Justin Yoon work together/execute their responsibilities on placekicks. Kizer has a very “quiet” approach to taking snaps from Scott Daily while Yoon lets his natural kicking technique run its course without hurrying into the kick or over-kicking.

It should be noted, however, that after Yoon drilled five straight attempts, his sixth attempt was blocked and returned. Yoon may want a tad more sense of urgency on his kicks.

Backup kicker John Chereson make 4-of-5 field-goal attempts. 

 



IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories

\r\n\r\n
Pete Sampson: Offense
\r\n

Quarterback

\r\n

No way around it, Malik Zaire struggled Tuesday.

\r\n

During the two-minute drill toward the end of practice Zaire threw a pick on his first attempt, a pass that came in hot to Chris Brown and slipped off his fingertips. Max Redfield was waiting, gathered the pick and returned it for what would have been a touchdown. Interesting to watch Brian Kelly stop practice for a teaching moment, reminding the defense to fall down when making a pick in an end-of-game situation with a lead. No reason to risk a turnover.

\r\n

Zaire led a touchdown drive on his do-over opportunity (actually a 1:45 drill a period later), which came on fourth down and went to Will Fuller on a tunnel screen that went straight into a Brian VanGorder blitz. You’ve seen this player before. And it almost always goes for a touchdown just like this. Nice day for the Media Guide cover boy.

\r\n

What was most puzzling about Zaire was his passing choices in 7-on-7 in 11-on-11. He rarely (almost never, really) went for the intermediate or deep options, consistently taking the check down.

\r\n

Statistically, two periods jumped out about Zaire.

\r\n

The first was the two-minute drill, where he threw that Redfield pick on his first attempt, then followed up with a 15-yard (estimated) gain to Amir Carlisle, a sack by KeiVarae Russell blitzing from the edge, a quarterback spike, then another sack for a turnover on downs.

\r\n

In the 1:45 drill he hit Tyler Luatua for an 11-yard gain while under pressure, took a questionably officiated sack, threw incomplete, hit Brown for nine yards and then found Fuller for the 43-yard touchdown. It wasn’t pretty, but Zaire got Notre Dame in the end zone. That might be indicative of the season. More scratching and clawing. Less polished and efficient.

\r\n

DeShone Kizer and Brandon Wimbush both had better days on intermediate and deep routes, but it’s hard to evaluate that when the safeties are lesser athletes (and less experienced) than Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian and Elijah Shumate. In other words, when it’s the starting secondary vs. the starting receivers, edge to the secondary. When it’s the backup receivers vs. the backup secondary, edge to the receivers. Kizer and Wimbush took advantage of that, especially Wimbush.

\r\n

Running Back

\r\n

C.J. Prosise sat out (expected) with a hip pointer that should keep him sidelined the rest of this week based on Brian Kelly’s estimates.

\r\n

Not a lot to gather from the running back position with the scrimmage periods geared toward two-minute (i.e. passing) situations. Tarean Folston led the way as expected, although it was interesting to see how much work Josh Adams got. He appeared to be the No. 2 running back with Justin Brent very limited.

\r\n

Hard to know what Notre Dame has in Adams just yet. At times he caught the ball well, including in the two-minute drill when he ably got out of bounds too. On others he really fought it, especially on high passes. He’s an upright runner and looks taller than his listed 6-foot-2 height. Interesting physical makeup. The initial reaction would be he’s like George Atkinson, but Adams cuts much better. Didn’t expect him to beat out Dexter Williams in camp, but based on today Adams is in the lead.

\r\n

Wide Receiver

\r\n

Based on today’s practice Equanimeous St. Brown has moved ahead of Corey Holmes in the rotation. Based on reps and production, it wasn’t even that close. Holmes had a bad drop in the end zone and didn’t make much happen otherwise. Meanwhile, St. Brown continually got open and took almost all the second-team work along with Corey Robinson. There were some drops in there, although that was consistent across the board. Not sure how that St. Brown/Robinson pairing works during the season, but that is an incredible amount of height to throw at defenses.

\r\n

Fuller is good for a explosive touchdown play every practice. So it was again on that screen. Shaun Crawford did have a nice pass breakup against Fuller later in the practice when matched one-on-one.

\r\n

C.J. Sanders and Torii Hunter both made big plays in the passing game when working with the backup quarterback. Throw Amir Carlisle into that group as the starter and Notre Dame has a wealth of potential in the slot. Sanders continues to look like one of the toughest covers on the team in short spaces.

\r\n

Tight End

\r\n

Durham Smythe was slightly limited (hamstring), but he appears to be getting closer to full speed.

\r\n

Alize Jones made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch during one-on-periods, showing an agility most tight ends just don’t have. It’s difficult to know if Jones is working his way into first-team offense as a situational player because we haven’t seen it, but the athleticism is there. No question about that.

\r\n

Solid but not spectacular days from Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua. Those guys got most of the 11-on-11 work toward the end of practice.

\r\n

Offensive Line

\r\n

Status quo for this group, which faced a lot of overload blitzes late in practice. Decent day in terms of picking those up, although the blitzes did affect the quarterbacks on a few snaps.

\r\n

Starting group (left-to-right): Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey. Second-team offensive line (left-to-right): Hunter Bivin, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, John Montelus, Colin McGovern. Third-team offensive line (left-to-right): Trevor Ruhland, Jimmy Byrne, Tristen Hoge, Sam Bush, Mark Harrell.

\r\n

Ronnie Stanley look as good at left tackle as Jaylon Smith looks at linebacker or KeiVarae Russell looks at corner.

\r\n
Tim Prister: Defense
\r\n

DEFENSIVE LINE
\r\n• The unit starts out a bit sluggishly, prompting defensive line coach Keith Gilmore to exclaim: “How the hell can that happen? We come outside and we forget how to hit the sled? You’re ruining my mojo.”

\r\n

• Period 4 of the 21-period practice (each period is five minutes) is revealing in its personnel against option/Wishbone football. Notre Dame asked that the specifics of that period not be revealed. But the first signs of Notre Dame’s plan to improve its performance against option/Wishbone football are hinted.

\r\n

• Daniel Cage shares No. 1 reps with Jerry Tillery in an 11-on-11 thud run-game drill.

\r\n

• Gilmore is pleased with the two-man game played by Cage and Isaac Rochell on one running play.

\r\n

• The three-man front with nickel/dime personnel in the game includes Andrew Trumbetti at right end, Isaac Rochell in the middle and Sheldon Day at left end.

\r\n

• It appears that sophomore Jonathan Bonner is at least getting some reps at the three-technique after opening camp at strongside defensive end. That likely is a response to Jarron Jones’ injury, which prompted the move of Jerry Tillery to the nose after getting some reps at three-technique.

\r\n

• The No. 2 nickel/dime three-man front includes Tillery at right end, Daniel Cage in the middle and Bonner on the left side.

\r\n

• Considerably more action for junior defensive end Doug Randolph, who can be conspicuously absent for long stretches in practice. This was by far the most action Randolph has seen in any of the four open practices, although it should be noted that Isaac Rochell, Andrew Trumbetti and Romeo Okwara saw no action of note down the stretch of practice.

\r\n

Randolph (right end) and Grant Blankenship (left end) received a ton of work late in Tuesday’s practice.

\r\n

LINEBACKERS
\r\n • As noted in Irish Illustrated’s previous practice report, freshman Asmar Bilal continues to work at the Will linebacker position in fairly impressive fashion from an athleticism standpoint.

\r\n

• It’s interesting to hear Mike linebacker Joe Schmidt pepper defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder with questions throughout the practice any time a potential offshoot of the defensive alignment pops into his head, or when an exception to the rule established by VanGorder occurs to Schmidt.

\r\n

• Linebackers with the second nickel unit include James Onwualu, Nyles Morgan and Te’von Coney.

\r\n

• During a 7-on-7 drill, VanGorder’s booming voice carries throughout the LaBar Practice Complex, but hits closer to home with freshman Will linebacker Te’von Coney.

\r\n

“Come on, 4, what are you doing?”

\r\n

• On the first play of two-minute drill, Redfield picks off a pass that caroms off the fingertips of Chris Brown, and Redfield gleefully returns the pick the distance. Brian Kelly stops the action, however, to emphasize the importance of adhering to the parameters of the situation.

\r\n

Presumably, the scenario painted for the defense was that they were on the plus side of the scoreboard in the waning seconds. By returning the pick for a touchdown, the opposition is given another chance with the football. Better that Redfield fall down and the offense runs out the clock than return the interception for the score in that situation.
\r\n  
\r\n DEFENSIVE BACKS
\r\n • The secondary opens in a one-on-one tackling drill between cones set about five yards apart.

\r\n

“If he gets outside your shoulder, move your feet,” says defensive backs coach Todd Lyght. “You’re not always going to be able to deliver a blow, so move your feet.”

\r\n

Among the defensive backs that aggressively attack the ball carrier (which is another defensive back) are: Mykelti Williams, Elijah Shumate, Avery Sebastian, Max Redfield and KeiVarae Russell.

\r\n

More and more, Sebastian looks to be the No. 1 strong safety ahead of Elijah Shumate. This is the second straight open practice that Sebastian receives virtually all of the No. 1 work, and he looked good doing it.

\r\n

• Drew Tranquill plays a significant role throughout the entire practice in multiple-defensive back alignments. It should be noted, however, that Tranquill rarely lines up more than a step off the line of scrimmage and is a threat to rush the passer, drop into coverage, set the edge, or force the issue against the run.

\r\n

• An early red-zone period proves to be a tough one for the Irish safeties, who lose the battle on the first five reps before Tranquill finally records a PBU against tight end Nic Weishar, who had been abusing Notre Dame’s safeties in the second and third practices open to the media.

\r\n

Open practice No. 4 starts off slowly for the secondary, but Tranquill starts a bit of a positive trend for the defense. Others on the back end of the defense who win one-on-one matchups in the red zone include Shumate over Tyler Luatua and Tranquill again against Weishar a second time.

\r\n

• Not sure whether Notre Dame/VanGorder considers this nickel with an OLB on the line of scrimmage or if Tranquill qualifies as the dime. But the defense works extensively with Tranquill on the field along with defensive backs Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian, KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke and Shaun Crawford.

\r\n

• Late in the practice session, the defense – most notably the secondary – is sliced and diced on a 50-yard middle screen to Will Fuller, which was a fairly common sight during the ’14 season.
\r\n  
\r\n SPECIAL TEAMS
\r\n • Candidates for punt return duties appear to have been narrowed down to three – at least Tuesday. Included are Will Fuller, C.J. Sanders and walk-on Chris Finke, a 5-9 ¼, 165-pounder out of Bishop Gorman High School in Kettering, Ohio. Finke later played a significant role late in the practice during red-zone offense.

\r\n

• Still trying to zero in on the top candidates for the three-man personal protector unit for punter Tyler Newsome, who hammered most of his attempts today. One three-man protector unit included Alex Bars and Colin McGovern on the outside with Andrew Trumbetti in the middle. Another trio included Hunter Bivin and Chase Hounshell on the edge with Jerry Tillery in the middle.

\r\n

• There is a calmness to the way holder DeShone Kizer and kicker Justin Yoon work together/execute their responsibilities on placekicks. Kizer has a very “quiet” approach to taking snaps from Scott Daily while Yoon lets his natural kicking technique run its course without hurrying into the kick or over-kicking.

\r\n

It should be noted, however, that after Yoon drilled five straight attempts, his sixth attempt was blocked and returned. Yoon may want a tad more sense of urgency on his kicks.

\r\n

Backup kicker John Chereson make 4-of-5 field-goal attempts. 

\r\n

 


\r\n\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

See what Notre Dame fans are saying here

\r\n","mobileBody":"
[MEDIA:MzAsNTY3MzM4]
Pete Sampson: Offense

Quarterback

No way around it, Malik Zaire struggled Tuesday.

During the two-minute drill toward the end of practice Zaire threw a pick on his first attempt, a pass that came in hot to Chris Brown and slipped off his fingertips. Max Redfield was waiting, gathered the pick and returned it for what would have been a touchdown. Interesting to watch Brian Kelly stop practice for a teaching moment, reminding the defense to fall down when making a pick in an end-of-game situation with a lead. No reason to risk a turnover.

Zaire led a touchdown drive on his do-over opportunity (actually a 1:45 drill a period later), which came on fourth down and went to Will Fuller on a tunnel screen that went straight into a Brian VanGorder blitz. You’ve seen this player before. And it almost always goes for a touchdown just like this. Nice day for the Media Guide cover boy.

What was most puzzling about Zaire was his passing choices in 7-on-7 in 11-on-11. He rarely (almost never, really) went for the intermediate or deep options, consistently taking the check down.

Statistically, two periods jumped out about Zaire.

The first was the two-minute drill, where he threw that Redfield pick on his first attempt, then followed up with a 15-yard (estimated) gain to Amir Carlisle, a sack by KeiVarae Russell blitzing from the edge, a quarterback spike, then another sack for a turnover on downs.

In the 1:45 drill he hit Tyler Luatua for an 11-yard gain while under pressure, took a questionably officiated sack, threw incomplete, hit Brown for nine yards and then found Fuller for the 43-yard touchdown. It wasn’t pretty, but Zaire got Notre Dame in the end zone. That might be indicative of the season. More scratching and clawing. Less polished and efficient.

DeShone Kizer and Brandon Wimbush both had better days on intermediate and deep routes, but it’s hard to evaluate that when the safeties are lesser athletes (and less experienced) than Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian and Elijah Shumate. In other words, when it’s the starting secondary vs. the starting receivers, edge to the secondary. When it’s the backup receivers vs. the backup secondary, edge to the receivers. Kizer and Wimbush took advantage of that, especially Wimbush.

Running Back

C.J. Prosise sat out (expected) with a hip pointer that should keep him sidelined the rest of this week based on Brian Kelly’s estimates.

Not a lot to gather from the running back position with the scrimmage periods geared toward two-minute (i.e. passing) situations. Tarean Folston led the way as expected, although it was interesting to see how much work Josh Adams got. He appeared to be the No. 2 running back with Justin Brent very limited.

Hard to know what Notre Dame has in Adams just yet. At times he caught the ball well, including in the two-minute drill when he ably got out of bounds too. On others he really fought it, especially on high passes. He’s an upright runner and looks taller than his listed 6-foot-2 height. Interesting physical makeup. The initial reaction would be he’s like George Atkinson, but Adams cuts much better. Didn’t expect him to beat out Dexter Williams in camp, but based on today Adams is in the lead.

Wide Receiver

Based on today’s practice Equanimeous St. Brown has moved ahead of Corey Holmes in the rotation. Based on reps and production, it wasn’t even that close. Holmes had a bad drop in the end zone and didn’t make much happen otherwise. Meanwhile, St. Brown continually got open and took almost all the second-team work along with Corey Robinson. There were some drops in there, although that was consistent across the board. Not sure how that St. Brown/Robinson pairing works during the season, but that is an incredible amount of height to throw at defenses.

Fuller is good for a explosive touchdown play every practice. So it was again on that screen. Shaun Crawford did have a nice pass breakup against Fuller later in the practice when matched one-on-one.

C.J. Sanders and Torii Hunter both made big plays in the passing game when working with the backup quarterback. Throw Amir Carlisle into that group as the starter and Notre Dame has a wealth of potential in the slot. Sanders continues to look like one of the toughest covers on the team in short spaces.

Tight End

Durham Smythe was slightly limited (hamstring), but he appears to be getting closer to full speed.

Alize Jones made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch during one-on-periods, showing an agility most tight ends just don’t have. It’s difficult to know if Jones is working his way into first-team offense as a situational player because we haven’t seen it, but the athleticism is there. No question about that.

Solid but not spectacular days from Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua. Those guys got most of the 11-on-11 work toward the end of practice.

Offensive Line

Status quo for this group, which faced a lot of overload blitzes late in practice. Decent day in terms of picking those up, although the blitzes did affect the quarterbacks on a few snaps.

Starting group (left-to-right): Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey. Second-team offensive line (left-to-right): Hunter Bivin, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, John Montelus, Colin McGovern. Third-team offensive line (left-to-right): Trevor Ruhland, Jimmy Byrne, Tristen Hoge, Sam Bush, Mark Harrell.

Ronnie Stanley look as good at left tackle as Jaylon Smith looks at linebacker or KeiVarae Russell looks at corner.

Tim Prister: Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE
• The unit starts out a bit sluggishly, prompting defensive line coach Keith Gilmore to exclaim: “How the hell can that happen? We come outside and we forget how to hit the sled? You’re ruining my mojo.”

• Period 4 of the 21-period practice (each period is five minutes) is revealing in its personnel against option/Wishbone football. Notre Dame asked that the specifics of that period not be revealed. But the first signs of Notre Dame’s plan to improve its performance against option/Wishbone football are hinted.

• Daniel Cage shares No. 1 reps with Jerry Tillery in an 11-on-11 thud run-game drill.

• Gilmore is pleased with the two-man game played by Cage and Isaac Rochell on one running play.

• The three-man front with nickel/dime personnel in the game includes Andrew Trumbetti at right end, Isaac Rochell in the middle and Sheldon Day at left end.

• It appears that sophomore Jonathan Bonner is at least getting some reps at the three-technique after opening camp at strongside defensive end. That likely is a response to Jarron Jones’ injury, which prompted the move of Jerry Tillery to the nose after getting some reps at three-technique.

• The No. 2 nickel/dime three-man front includes Tillery at right end, Daniel Cage in the middle and Bonner on the left side.

• Considerably more action for junior defensive end Doug Randolph, who can be conspicuously absent for long stretches in practice. This was by far the most action Randolph has seen in any of the four open practices, although it should be noted that Isaac Rochell, Andrew Trumbetti and Romeo Okwara saw no action of note down the stretch of practice.

Randolph (right end) and Grant Blankenship (left end) received a ton of work late in Tuesday’s practice.

LINEBACKERS
• As noted in Irish Illustrated’s previous practice report, freshman Asmar Bilal continues to work at the Will linebacker position in fairly impressive fashion from an athleticism standpoint.

• It’s interesting to hear Mike linebacker Joe Schmidt pepper defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder with questions throughout the practice any time a potential offshoot of the defensive alignment pops into his head, or when an exception to the rule established by VanGorder occurs to Schmidt.

• Linebackers with the second nickel unit include James Onwualu, Nyles Morgan and Te’von Coney.

• During a 7-on-7 drill, VanGorder’s booming voice carries throughout the LaBar Practice Complex, but hits closer to home with freshman Will linebacker Te’von Coney.

“Come on, 4, what are you doing?”

• On the first play of two-minute drill, Redfield picks off a pass that caroms off the fingertips of Chris Brown, and Redfield gleefully returns the pick the distance. Brian Kelly stops the action, however, to emphasize the importance of adhering to the parameters of the situation.

Presumably, the scenario painted for the defense was that they were on the plus side of the scoreboard in the waning seconds. By returning the pick for a touchdown, the opposition is given another chance with the football. Better that Redfield fall down and the offense runs out the clock than return the interception for the score in that situation.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
• The secondary opens in a one-on-one tackling drill between cones set about five yards apart.

“If he gets outside your shoulder, move your feet,” says defensive backs coach Todd Lyght. “You’re not always going to be able to deliver a blow, so move your feet.”

Among the defensive backs that aggressively attack the ball carrier (which is another defensive back) are: Mykelti Williams, Elijah Shumate, Avery Sebastian, Max Redfield and KeiVarae Russell.

More and more, Sebastian looks to be the No. 1 strong safety ahead of Elijah Shumate. This is the second straight open practice that Sebastian receives virtually all of the No. 1 work, and he looked good doing it.

• Drew Tranquill plays a significant role throughout the entire practice in multiple-defensive back alignments. It should be noted, however, that Tranquill rarely lines up more than a step off the line of scrimmage and is a threat to rush the passer, drop into coverage, set the edge, or force the issue against the run.

• An early red-zone period proves to be a tough one for the Irish safeties, who lose the battle on the first five reps before Tranquill finally records a PBU against tight end Nic Weishar, who had been abusing Notre Dame’s safeties in the second and third practices open to the media.

Open practice No. 4 starts off slowly for the secondary, but Tranquill starts a bit of a positive trend for the defense. Others on the back end of the defense who win one-on-one matchups in the red zone include Shumate over Tyler Luatua and Tranquill again against Weishar a second time.

• Not sure whether Notre Dame/VanGorder considers this nickel with an OLB on the line of scrimmage or if Tranquill qualifies as the dime. But the defense works extensively with Tranquill on the field along with defensive backs Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian, KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke and Shaun Crawford.

• Late in the practice session, the defense – most notably the secondary – is sliced and diced on a 50-yard middle screen to Will Fuller, which was a fairly common sight during the ’14 season.

SPECIAL TEAMS
• Candidates for punt return duties appear to have been narrowed down to three – at least Tuesday. Included are Will Fuller, C.J. Sanders and walk-on Chris Finke, a 5-9 ¼, 165-pounder out of Bishop Gorman High School in Kettering, Ohio. Finke later played a significant role late in the practice during red-zone offense.

• Still trying to zero in on the top candidates for the three-man personal protector unit for punter Tyler Newsome, who hammered most of his attempts today. One three-man protector unit included Alex Bars and Colin McGovern on the outside with Andrew Trumbetti in the middle. Another trio included Hunter Bivin and Chase Hounshell on the edge with Jerry Tillery in the middle.

• There is a calmness to the way holder DeShone Kizer and kicker Justin Yoon work together/execute their responsibilities on placekicks. Kizer has a very “quiet” approach to taking snaps from Scott Daily while Yoon lets his natural kicking technique run its course without hurrying into the kick or over-kicking.

It should be noted, however, that after Yoon drilled five straight attempts, his sixth attempt was blocked and returned. Yoon may want a tad more sense of urgency on his kicks.

Backup kicker John Chereson make 4-of-5 field-goal attempts.

 


See what Notre Dame fans are saying here

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