Notre Dame Practice Report: April 6

Early morning thunderstorms relegated Notre Dame to the Loftus Center Wednesday for practice No. 10 of 15 this spring.

Practice Report: Defense - Tim Prister

Notre Dame’s 10th practice of the spring took place inside Loftus Sports Center on Meyo Field after some significant thunderstorms descended upon the South Bend area about an hour before the 7:30 a.m. EDT start time.

Injured linebackers Te’von Coney and Greer Martini were in attendance in shorts and jerseys with Coney appearing to still be favoring his shoulder as he moved gingerly through flex/warm-ups.

For the record, defensive players at the head of their respective warm-up lines included James Onwualu, Cole Luke, Jarron Jones, Max Redfield, Isaac Rochell, Devin Butler, Avery Sebastian and Drue Tranquill – the last of which was the only non-senior at the head of the pack.

Injured end Doug Randolph assisted defensive line coach Keith Gilmore as the unit went through its positional paces while defensive graduate assistant Harland Bower split tackles and ends with Gilmore for certain drills.

Early-entry freshman Daelin Hayes continues to be limited from full contact, but one can’t help but be impressed with his uncommonly impressive physical presence in a Notre Dame uniform.

Hayes has the size/frame of an athletic outside linebacker, but also looks like he could grow into a real off-the-edge presence at end, which is the position he continues to play this spring. Hayes passes the eye test with flying colors.

Another young player who fits the part in an Irish uniform is defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway, who flashes length and athleticism. The question remains: Is he a legitimate major college football player? Time will tell with four years of eligibility remaining.

Continue to be impressed with Isaac Rochell, who is said to be Notre Dame’s best defensive line pass rusher (according to Gilmore). He’s not one to lead by word but deed, and his effort on even the most mundane drills is noticeable. (Note: Hayes likely would be mentioned in this category if he were full-go this spring.)

Not to invent things because of his situation and say that Nyles Morgan is carrying himself differently now that he projects as the starting Mike linebacker…But there’s no doubt that there was a sense of urgency to everything Morgan was doing on the football field this morning. There’s a hop in his step and a wired presence to the way he’s carrying himself. His time has arrived and it looked that way this morning. He is spring-loaded when he aligns for a drill.

Interesting to see the back seven of what appeared to be Notre Dame’s nickel alignment. The No. 1 nickel remains Shaun Crawford with left cornerback Cole Luke, right cornerback Nick Coleman, linebackers Nyles Morgan and James Onwualu (Asmar Bilal comes off the field), and safeties Drue Tranquill and Devin Studstill.

One alignment had Crawford head-up on the slot receiver while another showed Tranquill in the box over the slot with Crawford about five-to-seven yards off the line of scrimmage.

The No. 2 nickel was Luke with Ashton White at left corner, Devin Butler at right corner, Josh Barajas and Asmar Bilal at linebacker, and Max Redfield and Avery Sebastian at safety.

The last observation of the six periods open to the media involved defensive backs in a tackling drill with wide receivers as the defensive backs used the sideline as an ally. The results were mixed with the inherent advantage just by the nature of the open-field drill in favor of the offensive players.

“Defensive wins” included Redfield over Kevin Stepherson, White over walk-on receiver Omar Hunter, Butler over Miles Boykin, Luke with a nice wrap-up of Equanimeous St. Brown, Nicco Fertitta with an equally nice wrap-up of Boykin, walk-on Robert Regan over walk-on Chris Finke, and White over Corey Holmes, who lost his helmet in the process.

“Bad losses” incurred by defensive players included St. Brown over Redfield, Stepherson over Studstill, and Torii Hunter, Jr. and Stepherson with decisive wins over Fertitta.

As was the case last week in the open practice to the media, defensive backs coach Todd Lyght was quite vocal during some of the missteps by players on his side of the ball.

Line of the day pre-press conference: Brian Kelly as he entered the auditorium and turned the lights on as some members of the media sat in relative darkness: “I know you guys are used to operating in the dark.”


Practice Report: Offense - Tim O'Malley

With the exception of senior Corey Robinson (concussion, on hand but in sweats) it was all hands on deck for Brian Kelly’s offense Wednesday morning.

One potential injury/recovery note to follow up: tight end Durham Smythe did not participate (with the first, second, or third unit) in the team’s opening Tempo drill. Smythe was later involved in contact drills so it could be he’s merely working his way back into the fold as he was only intermittently involved in the proceedings during our last viewing (Friday, April 1).

The first unit today was as follows: QB DeShone Kizer, offensive line (left to right) Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Sam Mustipher, Hunter Bivin, and Alex Bars. Nic Weishar was the first unit tight end flanked by Equanimeous St. Brown (W), Torii Hunter (X) and Corey Holmes (Z).

Josh Adams opened in the backfield and was relieved mid-drill by senior Tarean Folston.

-- The second unit was comprised of Malik Zaire at QB, with an offensive line (left to right) showing Jimmy Byrne, Trevor Ruhland, Tristen Hoge, Mark Harrell, and Colin McGovern. Sophomore Aliz’e Jones was the tight end accompanied by wideouts Miles Boykin (W), Kevin Stepherson (X), and walk-on Chris Finke in the slot.

Redshirt-sophomore Justin Brent opened as the running back before being replaced by Dexter Williams. Today’s practice was the first I can recall Brent running with the second unit.

-- The third string remains a spring skeleton crew, with sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush throwing to walk-ons Keenan Centlivre, I believe Buster Sheridan (number obscured by a tucked jersey) and Austin Webster (slot), and fifth-year senior, former walk-on Josh Anderson in the backfield. Wimbush’s three offensive linemen were transfer Logan Plantz, long-time walk-on Sam Bush, and long-snapper Scott Daly as the center.

Converted DE Jacob Matuska took third team tight end reps per usual.

SPECIAL TEAMS TWEAK?
Practice began with kicker Justin Yoon and the No. 1 field goal unit going live against a field goal block defense. Yoon was accompanied by a new holder, junior Montgomery VanGorder. It was the first time we’ve seen anyone other than Kizer hold for Yoon since the two paired last season. Kizer later repped with the second unit to hold for long-time walk-on John Chereson.

Yoon struggled a bit with the new battery, missing three of seven kicks, hooking two left and pushing one to the right. He drilled both of his final offerings after a 2-for-5 start.

With five months before the first kick matters it will be interesting to see if Kelly and special teams coach Scott Booker decide to stick with VanGorder instead of Kizer as the latter clearly has other responsibilities over the summer and through August camp.

OBSERVATIONS
(For the best line by a head coach at our expense, check out Tim Prister’s defensive practice review above).

While the rest of the Irish position groups eased into practice with the requisite non-contact drills, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s unit approached its first group work at full bore, smashing pads against each other before they had the opportunity to hit defensive players.

A little birdie told me Hiestand was in mid-season form PRE-Practice as he gathered his troops for a one-sided discussion. The talk paid off, because Notre Dame’s front was on point during our final viewing period, clearly winning their battle against front seven defenders in a three-on-three blocking drill.

We were 110 yards away from the proceedings but my binoculars allowed for the following:

-- Quenton Nelson murdering two would-be tacklers on consecutive reps, planting one into the turf (hate to cite the player because it was too far away to be sure, but I believe it was a starter of note) and riding the other 10 yards out of the play. Nelson won a third rep later and frankly, every time I couldn’t make out the player that bulldozed a defender out of the way, I’ve decided it’s safe to assume it’s indeed the brutish Nelson.

-- Mike McGlinchey winning two early reps, first riding his defender to the sideline on an outside zone run and later striking with enough force that the pads could be heard from my perch in the opposite end zone balcony.

-- Backup offensive guard (he was a tackle today) Colin McGovern winning handily at the point, sealing his defender outside for an inside zone run.

-- Jerry Tillery showing well on one rep, standing up his blocker to hold the point of attack.

-- Jay Hayes notched a victory on the outside, refusing to let a stretch run to the left outside of his responsibility. Josh Barajas did the same on the right, fighting to hold his edge until help arrived.

-- Ever wonder who leads Notre Dame’s 18 stretching lines? (Even if you never did before, you might care hereafter).

With three lines sans leaders – spots I assume are reserved for Corey Robinson who arrived during, not at the outset of practice, Durham Smythe, plus medical casualty Doug Randolph – the remaining 15 were as follows: James Onwualu, Cole Luke, Devin Butler, Jarron Jones, Max Redfield, Avery Sebastian, Isaac Rochell, and junior Drue Tranquill defensively, plus Scott Daly, Josh Anderson, Mike McGlinchey, Mark Harrell, Torii Hunter, Jr., Malik Zaire, and junior DeShone Kizer for the offense.  

Tranquill and Kizer are the only juniors among the group.

-- The Irish opened practice today to the musical stylings of Third-Eye Blind’s, Semi-Charmed Life…only the second song I recognized among the early morning practice viewings this spring.  (I don’t listen to country or new rap, which makes up about 95 percent of the general selections.)

Off-topic (sort of), the “best “selection over the last five seasons was clearly Theo Riddick’s choice of Rapper’s Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang in the Spring of 2012 – the long version, all 14 minutes of it.

The Irish won 12 games en route to No. 1 thereafter, which I assume is not a coincidence…




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