Rep 1: C.J. Sanders in Tempo
Here’s what happened: C.J. Sanders takes a handoff/pitch from DeShone Kizer during the Tempo Drill, which is how Notre Dame opens every practice on offense. It’s basically 11-against-air, and for the media it’s more a chance to track depth charts than anything else. Here, Kizer, Sanders, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dexter Williams, Alex Bars and Mike McGlinchey show up. This is the first-team offense for Tempo, although skill position players often sub out. Still, notable that Dexter Williams is involved.
Here’s what’s interesting: The formation and play design looks intriguing based on Sanders getting the ball straight from Kizer. It’s not like this isn’t a regular part of the playbook. Notre Dame ran this with C.J. Prosise two years ago and with Amir Carlisle last year. Yet Sanders has some natural traffic-weaving skills that those other players maybe did not. Would Sanders’ skills on kickoff and punt return translate to this kind of play call? Seems like a good bet. This could be an exciting play for 2016.
Rep 2: DeShone Kizer to Kevin Stepherson
Here’s what happened: DeShone Kizer hits Kevin Stepherson for a gain of 20-plus yards down the sideline. People who like to assign catch phrases to everything a quarterback does would call this a hole shot, basically dropping the ball in an empty spot in the zone. It’s a throw Kizer makes with ease and with consistency. It’s one of those throws he makes just a little bit better than Malik Zaire. And it’s one of those throws that the quarterback has to make in Brian Kelly’s offense. A lot.
Here’s what’s interesting: Credit Stepherson for knowing where to be against this zone defense. Kelly’s offense includes a lot of sight adjustments, meaning routes change based on coverages after the snap. That means the quarterback and the receiver have to read the same thing for the play to work. Kizer is going to read it right 99.9 percent of the time. That percentage is much less for a freshman wide out. Notice how Drue Tranquill and Cole Luke have inverted while Max Redfield is playing single high all the way at the back? I like this look. Plays well to the strengths of Tranquill (closer to the box) and Redfield (playing centerfield).
Rep 3: Drill work for Jay Hayes
Here’s what happened: Just the basics, Jay Hayes working on staying low and using his hands to get to the quarterback (just a tackling dummy). You’re looking at Notre Dame’s starting weak side end, even at 285 pounds.
Here’s what’s interesting: Maybe you’ve heard that Notre Dame needs a pass rush? No player returns with more than one sack from last season and the Irish have been poor in this department during Kelly’s six years save one season. No surprise that was the ’12 defense, which put up 33 sacks. The Irish haven’t gone beyond 26 sacks in Kelly’s other <i>five seasons</i>. Can Hayes help that? Hard to say considering how little he’s played and he’s coming off a red-shirt. But the Irish need something, anything on the weak side. And Hayes has some power that Andrew Trumbetti does not.
Rep 4: Max Redfield pass breakup
Here’s what happened: Can’t tell who’s making the throw, but it appears to be Malik Zaire. It’s not a bad toss either, more toward the inside of C.J. Sanders. But Max Redfield hammers the ball out before Sanders can come down with it, saving a touchdown.
Here’s what’s interesting: Sometimes in one-on-one reps there’s a good play and a better play at once. This is one of those reps. Sanders makes a really nice play on the ball, attacking it at its highest point. That’s essential for a player listed at 5-foot-8. It’s also not something that happens naturally for all receivers. It took T.J. Jones a few years to learn this skill. C.J. Prosise never got there. Will Fuller let the ball some into his body a lot. But Redfield’s hammer, even if he sort of clubs Sanders in the head, is exactly what a player who’s taller, bigger and more physical should do. Very nice free safety play.
Rep 5: Durham Smythe blocks Isaac Rochell
Here’s what happened: This is from a run game period of practice where the offense works on blocking fundamentals and install. The play is run away from Smythe, so all he needs to do is get a body on Rochell and prevent him from crashing down the line, which he sort of does.
Here’s what’s interesting: This looks like a four-man game for the offense of a center, right guard, right tackle and tight end. Left guard Quenton Nelson is off to the side. Maybe it’s notable that Hunter Bivin is working with Alex Bars here, which suggests the senior continues run with the first-team offensive line. Bivin sort of tapped out on Saturday with apparent heat issues.
Rep 6: Malik Zaire doing Malik Zaire things
Here’s what happened: Malik Zaire can’t find anybody open so he takes off down the field in 11-on-11. This is the kind of play that makes you think Zaire can win the job because Kizer, while very athletic, doesn’t have Zaire’s agility in the open field. Isaac Rochell in pursuit isn’t going to get the job done at full speed.
Here’s what’s interesting: Daniel Cage absolutely rocks Sam Mustipher to the ground. My goodness. That’s the kind of power Notre Dame needs at nose guard. Not sure what the offensive line composition is as Mustipher, Alex Bars, Colin McGovern and Tristen Hoge all show at the same time. Is this the second team? Don’t know about the defensive set either. The personnel is all starting lineup right until the end when Nicco Fertitta pops up.
Rep 7: Tony Jones Jr. inside run
Here’s what happened: It’s the read option/zone read, a basic of the Kelly offense last season. Here, Malik Zaire gives to Tony Jones Jr. while working behind the second-team offense line and against the second-team (or maybe third-team defense). Freshman linebacker Jonathan Jones gets off Colin McGovern to get into Tony Jones Jr.’s face. This is another run game period like Rep 5. It’s not 11-on-11 or even 7-on-7, it’s just the basics of run fundamentals.
Here’s what’s interesting: How is Notre Dame going to use all its running back talent? Yes, there are going to be injuries and Tarean Folston has yet to make it through a year without getting dinged (which can be said about any starting running back at any program, probably). But Jones Jr. is a really nice fourth option at the position behind Folston, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams.
Rep 8: Nyles Morgan pass breakup
Here’s what happened: Malik Zaire riffles a pass to Tyler Luatua in 7-on-7. That thing is a 25-yard rope to the backup tight end, but Nyles Morgan comes over the top to work the ball out. What should have been a big game is just an incompletion.
Here’s what’s interesting: Pass coverage is an underrated skill for middle linebackers and Notre Dame hasn’t had a middle linebacker who can cover like Morgan in a long time. We’re talking about true Mike linebackers, not just inside linebackers like Jaylon Smith (the best you’ll ever see in a Notre Dame uniform). Manti Te’o was a right-place-right-time guy in coverage. Morgan is a superior athlete in the pass game. Let’s not think about this matchup being Morgan vs. Alizé Jones down the field. Because that would be fun to watch.
Rep 9: Torii Hunter Jr. breaks the team down
Here’s what happened: Basic stuff, how Notre Dame opens virtually every practice, moving from stretching to actual drills. The team gathers in a circle around a player who shouts, “Count on me!” and/or leads a “We are ND football!” chant. Torii Hunter Jr. leads the line here, which is standard for seniors, particularly on a young team.
Here’s what’s interesting: To date, Hunter has had virtually no voice on the team and it’s not like Notre Dame hasn’t been trying to force it. Mike Denbrock made sure Hunter led off-season workouts when the coaches weren’t on the field. And yet Hunter wasn’t around for the entire summer and has admitted that leading vocally just isn’t his thing. Notre Dame doesn’t need a captaincy from Hunter this fall, but it needs him to develop into a Chris Brown personality at a minimum. Brown wasn’t all that vocal through three years but came out of his shell as a senior. Hunter needs to do the same.