Matt Cashore /

Practice Report: Offense – August 17

Notre Dame’s 14th practice of Training Camp 2016 came on the heels of its third two-a-day session in less than a week’s span.

It was DeShone Kizer’s day to lead the first unit in tempo drills. The junior was joined by (left-to-right) Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Sam Mustipher, Colin McGovern and Alex Bars. Today was the first instance in which McGovern received the lion’s share of right guard snaps rather than Tristen Hoge (or previously, Hunter Bivin).

Wide receivers lined up per usual: Torii Hunter (X), C.J. Sanders (Z) and Equanimeous St. Brown (W) with Durham Smythe at tight end and Tarean Folston in the backfield. Nic Weishar replaced Smythe and Dexter Williams entered for Folston midway through the drill.

Malik Zaire led the second group with an offensive line comprised of (left-to-right) Hunter Bivin, Trevor Ruhland, Mark Harrell, Tristen Hoge and true freshman Tommy Kraemer, who appears to have settled into a backup tackle role as the Irish approach the final stage of training camp, likely to begin preparations for Texas at the outset of next week.

Josh Adams took reps with the second unit followed by Tony Jones, Jr. Adams was not involved in contact portions of practice, still nursing a hamstring injury suffered early at Culver Academies.

-- Wide receivers running with the second unit were Kevin Stepherson (X), Miles Boykin (W) and Corey Holmes (Z) while the third unit consisted of Deon McIntosh followed by Javon McKinley (X), Chris Finke (Z) and Chase Claypool (W). Tyler Luatua was the second unit tight end while Jacob Matuksa worked with the 3s as usual.

Liam Eichenberg (LT), Parker Boudreaux (LG), walk-on Sam Bush (C), Jimmy Byrne (RG) and John Montelus filled out the third unit OL. Walk-on Josh Anderson was the runner with Justin Brent still sidelined by summer LisFranc surgery.

11-on-11 ACTION
Ample full offense vs. defense work today though at no point did the defense tackle to the ground, likely a result of yesterday’s two-a-day session.

A few observations:
-- McGovern with a huge opening pull block to put down Isaac Rochell. He then sealed James Onwualu on an ensuing run that sprung Tarean Folston. I thought the little-used senior guard had a good day though he was the main reason the offense had to take a late-practice full field lap (mental error). McGovern also was removed for either exhaustion or a blow to the head near the final gun.

-- Tony Jones Jr. made a pass protection error that drew head coach Brian Kelly’s ire – the first of many instances in which Kelly verbally challenged a player today. “Get him the hell off the field, coach!” Kelly yelled at running backs coach Autry Denson.

-- Good pulling block by Hoge for a Zaire (wearing a redshirt) designed keeper to the left. Daelin Hayes has some speed: sufficiently blocked on the play by Hunter Bivin, he nearly chased down Zaire though the latter wasn’t necessarily live on the play…

-- Frontier justice administered by Bivin on freshman Troy Pride after Pride went after Chase Claypool, punching him in the facemask while on top of him on the ground. Let’s just say the Bivin vs. Pride matchup did not go so well for the youngster, who was “thrown out” by officials (for the remainder of the drill, only).

Ready to go back at Bivin, Pride had to be restrained (from a beating) by Montgomery VanGorder and an exasperated Cole Luke. “What are you doing? Why?” Luke said to the fired up rookie.

-- Sam Mustipher struggled to keep Jarron Jones out of the backfield in early 11-on-11 action…C.J. Sanders caught in stride a post route dart from DeShone Kizer. Nice pass protection by Hoge, pulling to secure a passing lane by the rolling Kizer…

-- Chris Finke heard Avery Sebastian’s footsteps on a post route, failing to secure a well-thrown Zaire pass. Finke previously took a motioned end-around from Kizer for a substantial gain over the right side…Counted two poor shotgun snaps by Mustipher today, the first two of camp in our viewings…

-- False start by Javon McKinley, much to the dismay of Kelly (in skeleton drills)…Miles Boykin is dressed down by Denbrock, then Kelly, before receiving some “Good Cop” instruction from Corey Robinson on the sidelines…Dexter Williams dropped a well-thrown bomb in skeleton drills…Brandon Wimbush has had his reps cut back as Kelly focuses on finding a rhythm with his varsity QBs and WRs…

Make note of this: after watching the receivers today, the No. 1 guy off the bench (Hunter and Sanders are set; I think EQ is close) will be the player that doesn’t mess up. Today, there were a lot of mental mistakes by the rookies….

1-on-1 DRILLS
QBs were sharp as they should be in full-field one-on-one drills.

-- A stutter-go by Stepherson vs. Pride results in a long gain (Kizer)…Deon McIntosh with a dropped comeback route…Corey Holmes drops a dig route…Zaire throws way too deep for Dexter Williams who beat Drue Tranquill late in the route. That’s not Fuller out there, Malik…Torii Hunter with a great comeback route to beat Nick Coleman on a perfect throw by Zaire. Good coverage by Coleman…Hunter later beat Coleman on a slant from Kizer…

-- Quality downfield coverage by Shaun Crawford vs. Holmes who ran a post, then to the corner, then to the post in a 1-on-1 drill…Tarean Folston beats Spencer Perry on a deep corner and taps his toes to stay in bounds. Folston was never open by more than a yard but calmly reeled in the quality throw from Zaire, regardless…Alligator arms from C.J. Sanders who would have been murdered by Drue Tranquill had he not short-armed the pass from Kizer…

RED ZONE REPS (10-Yard Line)
With no defensive line (7-on-7), Zaire took a mild step back after looking very sharp in 1-on-1s, hitting Sanders for a skinny post TD, but then throwing away, missing way high on a slant, and finally hitting Hunter for a TD but on a rep that would have been blown dead in live action…

In response, Kizer rebounded from what I noted as a poor showing in 1-on-1s to connect on four straight touchdown passes: skinny post to Smythe, backline thrown to St. Brown, a slant to Stepherson and a remarkable out route to Hunter, though like Zaire’s final rep, it took way too long to develop.

Requisite pancake block by Quenton Nelson, this time at Jonathan Bonner’s expense…A Javon McKinley fumble leads to an 80-yard Jarron Jones touchdown. (Which is just fun to type.)

-- Tarean Folston takes an option pitch from Kizer in red zone action for a score. Folston was lit up (a touch late) by Nyles Morgan and responded by popping up immediately and barely reacting to the late hit by his teammate.

As noted by colleagues next to me: Kelly addressed Morgan, but didn’t remove him from the next rep, because you need that edge from your Mike ‘backer against everyone except his teammates.

-- Kevin Stepherson receives the wrath of Kelly for breaking the huddle early, then jogging post play: “I’ve been doing this a long time, son. I don’t are if you’re the best player in America, you won’t play a second with that (stuff). Torii Hunter, are you kidding me? You want him to play you better get his act together.”

Plenty of 11-on-11 (no tackling, but otherwise full contact) late including Red Zone Work (from the 25-yardline), beginning with Zaire leading the second unit offense against the first unit Nickel.

-- 1st Down: Immediate pressure by half the defensive front on an exotic blitz forces Zaire to escape with the play blown dead
-- 2nd Down: Incomplete slant to Boykin
-- 3rd Down: McKinley’s aforementioned fumble and subsequent Jones sprint.
-- Justin Yoon nails a 45-yarder

Playing with the first team offense against the second team base D, Kizer led a seven-play drive from the defenses 25 but one that also resulted in a field goal. Two short-gain runs resulted in a third-down completion (the only conversion of four Red Zone drills in this practice segment) from Kizer to Sanders who sat down against zone coverage.

But a missed out route and a short keeper was followed with Kizer trying to hit Smythe in a tight window – the senior tight end couldn’t make the difficult, heavily contested goal line catch (credit to Avery Sebastian).

-- Kizer stayed on the field and took his turn with the second unit against the first Nickel – a Corey Holmes drop on third and long was the notable play before Yoon pushed a 40-yard field goal wide.

-- Zaire’s turn with the first unit OL against the #2 Base D. The rep ended with a field goal despite an 8-yard run by Dexter Williams on first down (nice block by Mustipher and McGovern to spring him) as a third down slant to Corey Holmes was a touch low due in part to solid defense by Sebastian again. (A high throw would have been picked off.)

In summation: No touchdowns, regardless of the QB/1st or 2nd Unit combinations. So there’s that.

Telling situation late in practice. With the offense given the ball at its own 2-yard line, McGovern (and perhaps Bars) was flagged for a false start. A full-field lap was thus demanded by Kelly and led by Kizer. But

Kizer rounded off the first leg of a team-wide 200-yard slow jog at the one-yard line, and was in front of the entire offense (all starters, backups and walk-ons in tow) on a labored jog back to Kelly and his awaiting defense.

An exasperated Kelly greeted Kizer: “Who are the leaders out here? You can’t finish a lap #14?”  

(It’s likewise notable that Zaire was last from beginning to end, which likely didn’t help Kelly’s mood.)

Safe to say a quarterback won’t be named today during Media Day festivities… Top Stories