Practice Report: April 1

Notre Dame donned full pads Friday inside the Loftus Center for its seventh of 15 spring practices.

Practice Report: Defense - Tim O'Malley

Five of Friday’s first six practice segments open to the media included unit work, but a few seven-on-seven looks revealed the following in terms of first and second team reps:

-- Defensive Line (left to right): Isaac Rochell, Jarron Jones, Jerry Tillery, Andrew Trumbetti
-- Linebacker: James Onwualu (Sam), Nyles Morgan (Mike), Asmar Bilal (Will)
-- Secondary: Nick Watkins (LCB), Drue Tranquill (SS), Devin Studstill (FS), and Cole Luke (RCB).

Backups along the defensive front today included Jonathan Bonner (Big End), Daniel Cage (NT), Elijah Taylor (DT, and early enrollee Daelin Hayes (Rush End). Redshirt-sophomore Jay Hayes repped as a Rush End as did Grant Blankenship with Pete Mokwuah and Brandon Tiassum on the nose and both Micah Dew-Treadway and John Montelus as three-technique defensive tackles.

Injured linebackers Te’Von Coney and Greer Martini continued to work without pads while senior cornerback Devin Butler donned full pads but did only drill work as he rehabs from off-season foot surgery. Cage appeared to be limping a bit after early sessions but he remained in the fray.

EARLY INSTALLATION – THE JOKER
The Irish defense offered a peak at their Dime package in the sixth and final session viewed by the media. The presence of the Dime in practice No. 7 of 15 indicates Brian VanGorder’s crew is ahead of the game in terms of installations – they didn’t begin working on that package until the tail end of the 2015 spring session.

The three-man front featured Isaac Rochell, Jerry Tillery (nose) and Andrew Trumbetti, with Nyles Morgan in the middle as a blitzing linebacker and James Onwualu to the boundary side as a linebacker (Jaylon Smith’s position in the sparingly used Dime last season).

The “Joker” was manned by Drue Tranquill as a field-side rusher/drop backer off the edge with early enrollee Spencer Perry thus taking Tranquill’s strong safety spot in the package. Devin Studstill took every rep as the first team free safety in the Dime with Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian, and Nicco Fertitta observing the entire segment from the defensive backfield.

(Redfield rotated in for Studstill during previous DB/WR drills.)

Shaun Crawford worked the Nickel (slot cornerback) with starters Nick Watkins and Cole Luke repping first, followed by Ashton White (LCB for Watkins) and Nick Coleman (RCB for Luke) taking snaps as well.

The defensive linemen did not rotate out as both Tillery and Trumbetti worked on dropping into coverage as Notre Dame’s ‘backers came on zone blitzes. (Nothing exotic yet, just timing and shooting the correct gap.)

OBSERVATIONS
Early enrollee Khalid Kareem worked at Big End and got the most out of early drill work, earning praise from defensive line coach Keith Gilmore for his efforts. (When you’re in need of a face towel 15 minutes into practice and not overweight, it’s a good thing.)

Kareem’s fellow rookie Daelin Hayes has a frame reminiscent of fellow bullet-shaped pass rusher, Justin Tuck. A healthy Hayes could do wonders for Notre Dame’s pass rush in the fall. We’ll follow up on the status of his surgically repaired shoulder with Brian Kelly following today’s practice.

-- No Irish defenders on the bikes today though senior Corey Robinson was, and not in uniform.

-- Good to see Pete Mokwuah mixing it up (we were 100 yards away from this action) during live reps against the offensive linemen. He lost, but inner fire is not an issue for Mokwuah, a player not blessed with the talents of those ahead of him such as Jerry Tillery in the interior line’s pecking order.

-- They were nearly a football field away from our balcony perch, but Tillery appeared to take a healthy dose of between-the-whistle abuse from junior center Sam Mustipher. The latter did not let up as he engaged and moved Tillery from his gap through the echo of the whistle.

-- Excellent downfield coverage by Nick Coleman vs. Corey Holmes during drill work but Holmes came down with a leaping grab nonetheless.

-- Notre Dame worked extensively against bubble screens today, which reminds me: defensive backs coach Todd Lyght was, how shall I put this? “Displeased” throughout much of today’s first six sessions. Coleman and Butler took the brunt of abuse for technique issues.

-- Nick Watkins and Shaun Crawford both offer a physical presence as tacklers vs. bubble screens and stacked formations (3 receivers vs. 2 defenders with the free safety back.)


Practice Report: Offense - Jake Brown

Notre Dame went to work inside the Loftus Sports Center on a dreary April Fool’s Day morning in South Bend. 

Malik Zaire lead the first team offense through the tempo session to get things started. He was again missing wide receiver Corey Robinson (concussion), who started the practice session on a stationary bike before moving to the sidelines to watch. 

Equanimeous St. Brown ran with the first team along with Torii Hunter at the other outside receiver spot and Corey Holmes in the slot. 

Mike McGlinchey again anchored the first team offensive line at left tackle. He partnered with Quenton Nelson (left guard). Sam Mustipher lined up at center with Hunter Bivin at right guard and Alex Bars at right tackle. Second team offensive line (left to right): Jimmy Byrne, Trevor Ruhland, Tristen Hoge, Mark Harrell, Colin McGovern. 

Mustipher appears to be solidifying himself at center while there’s still some interchange on the right side. Bivin and Bars at one point swapped spots in the middle of a tempo session. 

Bars has worked his way back up to the first team while continuing to play his way into shape following a broken ankle last season. Hoge featured at first team right guard earlier in the spring, but dropped back to his natural center spot and with the second team here. 

Nic Weishar came out with the first unit at tight end. 

DeShone Kizer quarterbacked the second unit with Justin Brent getting some of the running back reps. Receivers with the second unit were Miles Boykin, Kevin Stepherson and walk-on Chris Finke in the slot. 

C.J. Sanders is sidelined for the rest of spring after suffering a hip injury. 

Boykin (hand) returned to practice and didn’t appear to be bothered by a broken finger suffered earlier in spring practice. Later in drills, Boykin beat cornerback Nick Coleman on a back shoulder ball to which he adjusted, making a nice catch outside the hash marks. Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght had a few choice words for Coleman after that particular rep. 

Likely the best moment from the media viewing portion of practice came from Holmes — a one-handed catch down the sideline over Coleman. Although Holmes probably landed just out of bounds, it was a spectacular catch in traffic. Holmes leaped into the air over Coleman, snagged the ball with one hand then brought it into his body. 

Holmes also worked the screen game throughout media viewing. He continues to turn in a breakout spring. The speed Brian Kelly talked about after testing is starting to show up on the field and Holmes has some wiggle to weave through traffic, similar to what Irish fans remember from Will Fuller as he made his way through small seams and into the end zone on screens. 

Brandon Wimbush served as the third team quarterback. Wimbush probably has the best fast ball among the Notre Dame quarterbacks. 

Tarean Folston is the most physically impressive of the running backs and is built more stout than memory recalls. Notre Dame will have a potent trio with Folston, Josh Adams fresh off a strong freshman season and Dexter Williams. 

Former Notre Dame offensive linemen Zack Martin (Dallas Cowboys) and Chris Watt (San Diego Chargers) observed practice this morning. 

Future offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer also attended. Kraemer spent time with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand before the workout started in earnest. It appeared the duo was going over some technique. Kraemer will enroll this summer with a chance to immediately impact the depth chart. 


Practice Spotlight: Devin Studstill



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