Irish Notes: Alizé Jones to the Outside?

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly opened his practice to the media Saturday morning and it was sophomore Alizé Jones working at wide receiver that intrigued the masses.

HIS BEST POSITION? ON THE FIELD

Notre Dame’s loss of offensive firepower to graduation and early NFL entry over the off-season is difficult to overlook. Solid (Chris Brown), spectacular (C.J. Prosise) and superhuman (Will Fuller) all exited for greener pastures.

In an effort to assuage that loss of perimeter prowess another purported future NFL’er, sophomore tight end Alizé Jones, is working in dual roles this spring

“We’re trying to find where he can best impact our football team against Texas,” said Kelly of the 6’5” 240-pounder. “Is it as a hybrid player? Is it as a W receiver? Is it at tight end? I think it’s apparent from what you saw today that he’s a guy who can go down the field vertically and catch the football.”

Jones certainly looked the part of perimeter playmaker Saturday morning (practice report can be accessed here).

But likewise relevant, he’s not necessarily the best choice to start at tight end, a crucial position in Kelly’s offense and one in which in-line blocking acumen is far more important than the ability to run and catch.

“He’s got to be better, more consistent with his hands, there’s no question about it,” Kelly continued. “But he’s a big target, he’s physical and athletic, and he’s a guy that we’ve got to try to find a role for him. He can’t be in a rotation as a third tight end on the field. That’s pretty clear.

“Right now, just finding a place where we can get him in and get him on the field because he’s a talented player.”

Check out Alizé Jones in action:

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QB1 vs. QB1

The grind is upon them.

With a dozen practices down and three to go including the 87th annual Blue Gold Game next Saturday, Kelly admitted today that it might be time for change of pace.

“It’s been physical,” he said. “We’ve gone right up to the maximum contact days from an NCAA standpoint. It’s been a physical spring practice. I know our guys have benefitted from it, but I know they’re looking forward to next week and the game certainly.

“I like to create a full game-like atmosphere, from the pre-game to being in the locker room,” Kelly continued of the benefit he believes next weekend’s annual scrimmage provides. “Those (players in) first-time roles of maybe being a starter, they really get a taste of, ‘Now you’re that guy.’

“This game is that dress rehearsal for them to be in that role as a starter and go out there and be focused and be locked in.”

Also competing head-to-head, at least in terms of leading different teams: DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire.

“I think it will help them immensely,” said Kelly, noting the two would be on separate squads with Brandon Wimbush, et al backing up both. “We’ll make them live for a little bit. I don’t think it will be for the whole game. But they’ll have blue jerseys. They’ve got to be able to run a little bit. We’ll let them compete, probably just the first half.

“They run, that’s what they do, that’s the identity of our offense, the quarterback is going to be a running threat as well, so we’ll let them run a little bit.”

Kelly added that the staff plans to break the squad into two teams as much as it can be allowed, Blue vs. Gold, rather than offense vs. defense as it has been in recent seasons.

SAFETY IN NUMBERS

Freshman vs. Senior. Injured junior vs. injured sixth-year senior. A host of incoming freshmen.

That’s the state of Notre Dame’s safety unit heading into the summer months, a time frame in which those dedicated to individual improvement outside the watchful eyes of the coaching staff can gain a leg up.

“We’re going to have a lot of young guys that will be competing in there. Getting them into some of the OTAs in June, some film study, picking up the defense will be important for us,” said Kelly.

“Max (Redfield) has done some good things in the past week or two that we’re really pleased with. We hope that trend continues. We all know what (Devin) Studstill has done. (Avery) Sebastian has done some really good things. (Drue) Tranquill has been really, really good.

“We’ll have some young guys back there that we’ll get in here in June that we’ll spend some time with and look to get them ready for August.”

Hoping to aid the cause this summer are the incoming trio of Donte’ Vaughn, Jalen Elliott, and D.J. Morgan. Certain to be in the mix is the aforementioned Tranquill.

“The (necessary) area of development is playing off hash,” said Kelly of the twice injured but all-the-way-back Tranquill. “He’s a great box safety. He’s great close to the line of scrimmage. He’s a very good tackler. (Another) area of development is in our speed package -- working line games, working his pass-rush technique and he’s a very focused, studious kid. He wants to be as good as he can be.

“He’s spent extra time on that in the last week to get better at the speed package and I already saw a difference from last week to this week in his pass rush. We’re putting him a role that allows him to do a lot of things for us. He can impact the game because we’re going to feature him in a lot of different roles.”

“It’s a huge position for us, as you know,” said Kelly of the unit that was challenged in both 2014 and 2015. “The safety position at every BCS football team is crucial.”


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