Are some of Notre Dame’s young receivers making a move? Wednesday’s practice highlights made it look that way as Kevin Stepherson, Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown all featured.
Rep 1: Kevin Stepherson touchdown catch
Here’s what happened: Kevin Stepherson gets behind Nick Coleman for a bomb touchdown, although it’s hard to tell who threw it based on the shot. What is clear is that Stepherson was working with the starting offense as C.J. Sanders popped up in the foreground. Stepherson was also working against the starting defense as Coleman, Shaun Crawford and Drue Tranquill all appeared. Context matters in these highlights, and in this case the competition is the context.
Here’s what’s interesting: Could Notre Dame really start a freshman wide out at Texas next month? That’s almost without precedent in the Brian Kelly era and requires going back to T.J. Jones to find a real example of a freshman wide out excelling in this offense. Like Stepherson, Jones enrolled early. There are obvious drawbacks to going this young, yet there’s also the clear upside about what this might mean to the offense for the coming four years.
Rep 2: Nyles Morgan rejects DeShone Kizer
Here’s what happened: Another example of Morgan in coverage, an area where the linebacker excels based on athleticism. That’s particularly true here as Morgan flashes off the edge to get in Kizer’s face. Good thing too, because Stepherson is wide open on a tunnel screen underneath. Here’s betting that what Morgan lacks in experience he’ll more than make up for in raw talent.
Here’s what’s interesting: Hard to get a full read on the personnel grouping, but clearly this is the starting offensive line with Quenton Nelson at left guard and Mike McGlinchey at left tackle. DeShone Kizer is at quarterback, but the only receivers who show up are slot Chris Finke and Stepherson. Andrew Trumbetti is in, so is Shaun Crawford and Ashton White with Morgan. Curious rotation of personnel in an 11-on-11 setting.
Rep 3: Equanimeous St. Brown big catch
Here’s what happened: Shaun Crawford gives Equanimeous St. Brown an outside release and the wide out takes it. While Crawford grabs his jersey, St. Brown fights off the cornerback to get some separation in the route, with the quarterback throwing him open. Crawford slyly gets a tap on St. Brown’s left elbow as the ball arrives, hoping to break concentration. But St. Brown sticks with it, makes a big catch and looks like a solid No. 2 wide out behind Torii Hunter Jr.
Here’s what’s interesting: Every highlight featuring St. Brown is a positive for Notre Dame and the sophomore seems to pop up every day in these highlights. For a player with one career catch, there’s a lot expected for St. Brown this fall. Curious to see how he continues to develop during training camp.
Rep 4: Malik Zaire scramble
Here’s what happened: Malik Zaire does what Malik Zaire does in 11-on-11 when there’s nothing open down the field. He takes off. If defenses play man coverage against Zaire, these are the kinds of results you can expect. Did you even see a linebacker flash into the frame on this clip? Good luck defending No. 9 with that sort of scheme. Expect a lot of 11-yars runs on 1st-and-10 if you do.
Here’s what’s interesting: Was that John Montelus playing right tackle? Tommy Kraemer is working at right guard, Mark Harrell at center and Jimmy Byrne somewhere on the left side. It looks like Jay Hayes is working in this defense, which clearly isn’t the starting group considering Khalid Kareem, Elijah Taylor and Jesse Bongiovi are out there too.
Rep 5: Troy Pride Jr. interception
Here’s what happened: A pass into the flat to Tony Jones Jr. deflects off his hands and right to Troy Pride Jr. One freshman’s mistake becomes another one’s highlight.
Here’s what’s interesting: Nothing really, although this is the kind of drop that gets players pulled from the lineup if you’re a repeat offender. There’s been nothing about the running back’s first week to make you think that he is one.
Rep 6: Tony Jones Jr. catch
Here’s what happened: Tony Jones Jr. leaks into the flat uncovered and makes a nice over-the-should grab.
Here’s what’s interesting: Between the two reps with Jones Jr., this one is more indicative of his first training camp to date. The rookie seems to have really nice hands. Good to see Cole Luke get aggressive on the tackle, going low on Jones.
Rep 7: Chase Claypool acrobatics
Here’s what happened: Freshman wide out Chase Claypool makes an incredible catch in the end zone with Ashton White draped all over him. High caliber athleticism from the Canadian.
Here’s what’s interesting: This play was a departure from Claypool’s practice back on campus Thursday morning when the freshman dropped multiple passes and didn’t feature. The juxtaposition is a reminder that highlights don’t get players on the field, consistency does. There’s a ton of upside to Claypool’s game, but watching Thursday’s practice was a sobering reminder that young players get hyped up too soon off highlights.
Rep 8: Max Redfield interception
Here’s what happened: Max Redfield shows excellent ball skills, slipping in front of Chris Finke to intercept a pass from a quarterback whose identity is not shown. Brian Kelly said after Thursday’s practice that Redfield looks like the player Notre Dame thought it was getting out of high school. Obviously, that’s a good sign.
Here’s what’s interesting: How dare Redfield intercept a pass intended for Chris Finke? But seriously, Redfield seems to be putting together a strong camp based on both in-person evaluation and highlights. If the Irish have a reliable free safety with Redfield’s athleticism that could change the dynamics of the entire defense.
Rep 9: Cole Luke forced fumble
Here’s what happened: Javon McKinley catches a slant against Notre Dame’s nickel, finding a crease between Shaun Crawford and Cole Luke. McKinley is off to the races for a 50-yard touchdown, but Luke keeps coming. At the last second Luke pops the ball out and recovers the fumble.
Here’s what’s interesting: You know the phrase, “Your welcome to college moment” in sports? McKinley just had one. It’s one thing to drop a ball, and McKinley has had a few in camp, but it’s another to lose concentration and let this happen. Notre Dame has an open receiver competition and these kinds of plays will make it hard for McKinley to rise up the ranks.