Irish Notes: Spring Football Commences

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly offers updates on his early enrollees, injury casualties, and an eye-opening 40-yard dash from a yet-to-contribute junior pass-catcher.

TANTALIZING TEST SCORE

It happens every spring.

A head college football coach greets the media to open a new season and in doing offers a rundown of individuals that have improved most since the parties last convened. But the name offered by Irish head coach Brian Kelly came as a surprise to everyone in attendance today at the Guglielmino Athletics Center:

Corey Holmes.

Junior wide receiver…zero games played as a sophomore…two as a freshman…no career receptions…4.39 40-yard dash and a ridiculous 41-inch vertical leap.

“We’re going to use this spring to figure out where we want Corey Holmes to play,” said Kelly of the wide receiver who did not play at all as a true sophomore last season. “Corey Holmes’ numbers were freakish. We’re not making this stuff up…we have to figure out if he’s an X or a Z.”

Other 40-yard dash times of note include:
-- Senior WR Torii Hunter, Jr.: 4.42
-- Sophomore WR C.J. Sanders 4.49
-- Early Enrollee freshman WR Kevin Stepherson and sophomore WR Equanimeous St. Brown 4.50 apiece
-- Sophomore RB Dexter Williams 4.51 (205 pounds)
-- Redshirt-freshman Shaun Crawford: 4.52 (Crawford had ACL surgery in August)
-- Sophomore TE Aliz’e Jones: 4.62 (245 pounds)
-- Redshirt-freshman WR Miles Boykin: 4.7 (225 pounds)
-- Senior QB Malik Zaire registered a 30-inch vertical leap just six months after surgery on his broken ankle.

And offered by Kelly, a 4.9 flat covered by former defensive lineman turned tight end Jacob Matuska. Down from 295 pounds in August 2015 to 271 at present, Matuska was part of the annual Scout 300 as a tight end prospect in the class of 2013. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining and with the scrimmage switch will be afforded the opportunity to fill the void left by transfer Tyler Luatua and graduate transfer Chase Hounshell as the team’s in-line blocker at the position.

Joining Matuska in a scrimmage flip position switch is classmate John Montelus, moving from backup offensive guard to the defensive line and dropping 15 pounds (325 to 310) in the process. Additionally, redshirt-freshman cornerback Ashton White moved from cornerback to safety.

MEET THE NEW GUYS

The inclusion of Stepherson’s 4.5-flat 40-yard dash time above wasn’t the only metric offered among Notre Dame’s quintet of early enrollees. At six-foot-three and- ½-inch, 257 pounds, defensive end Daelin Hayes clocked at 4.8-flat while recording a 32-inch vertical leap. Hayes will be used sparingly this spring as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

“A pretty impressive athlete,” said Kelly of Hayes. “His numbers were pretty impressive for us, across the board. There’s a guy that jumps out at you right away.”

Also testing was safety/OLB prospect Spencer Perry, impressing Kelly with a 4.78 40-yard dash time at six-foot-two, 204 pounds. Fellow freshman Devin Studstill did not run because of a calf strain but previously recorded a 32-inch vertical at six-feet, 190 pounds. 

Rookie defensive lineman Khalid Kareem begins his college career at six-foot-three and ¾-inches, 270 pounds.

The rookie competitors will get their first taste of practice (with a football present) beginning tomorrow. They’ll be joined by a handful of new graduate assistants as well:

-- Harland Bauer: Formerly the linebackers coach at Central Arkansas, Bauer will serve as a defensive grad assist focusing on the outside linebackers.
-- Clay Bignell: Another addition to the defensive staff. Bignell was previously a grad assistant at Northwestern. He replaces former Irish captain Mo Crum who earned an official coaching staff position at Indiana State.
-- Pryce Tracy: An intern last season, Tracy was on staff last season as a special teams analyst. He’ll now serve as an offensive grad assistant.
-- Matt Biagi: Replaces Tracy as the special teams analyst. Biagi served as cornerbacks coach at South Dakota last season and prior was the special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach at Southern.

Long-time trusted Kelly aid Jeff Quinn remains with the program, changing his role from Offensive Analyst last season to Assistant Strength & Conditioning coach this fall.  

STILL INJURED IRISH

Recovery if not rest awaits a handful of surgically repaired Irish competitors. No longer among that group is senior defensive end Doug Randolph whose career is over due to what Kelly offered was a narrowing of the spine that will not allow him to compete.

Randolph suffered multiple injuries and subsequent surgery including an early career shoulder injury.

“Doug is not cleared for competition,” said Kelly. “His career is over here and he will be a student assistant…similar to the role Tony Springmann had for us (2014). Randolph will assist the defensive line.”

Kelly added the following participation breakdown of his recovering roster members:

“No load at all for Daelin Hayes (shoulder surgery) but he’ll be involved in noncontact activities. Devin Butler will be increasing his load from his foot surgery but you won’t see him in contact. (Linebackers) Te’Von Coney and Greer Martini would be the only two out of spring practice. Pretty much all drill work. Everyone else will have some sort of role in the spring but with limited contact.”

Coney and Martini are shelved following off-season shoulder surgeries.

Kelly later added that junior offensive lineman Alex Bars is cleared for partial participation after October ankle surgery. He’ll begin at guard but could move to tackle pending the development of others (namely senior OT Hunter Bivin) on the outside.

Junior Drue Tranquill, he of the two ACL tears including one last September, appears fully cleared as does freshman Shaun Crawford following August ACL surgery. Neither is likely to encounter contact or tackling, nor will senior running back Tarean Folston (September ACL surgery).

Sophomore wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (November shoulder surgery) is fully cleared for spring ball.


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