Practice began as a typical practice, each unit working with their position coaches. The noticeable differences were the addition of pads and referees on the field. The mood was definitely spirited as the Irish were going to hit for the first day.
The scrimmage was closed to the media and general public so we had to get some thoughts from coaches and players.
Who better to ask about the scrimmage than linebacker Mike Goolsby. Goolsby is known to tell it like it is. "It was good," said Goolsby. "One thing that the coaches are really trying to teach is intensity and I think that's a good starting point. It was definitely intense—it was real physical out there. There's going to be mistakes. I'm excited about it. It was just fun being out there full go for the first time."
We asked Goolsby which side of the ball performed the best in the first scrimmage. "I think defense actually did. They didn't score. It was a tough game. It was real physical and I like that."
Goolsby was grinning from ear to ear from his first real contact in over a year. "Once they say no holds barred and you don't have to hold the running backs up anymore it's a load off your mind. It was just great to be out there again."
One area of concern for many Irish fans have been the defensive backfield. We asked Goolsby how they held up out there. "I like our (defensive backs). I like the talent they have. They're some young guys, but that might be a positive. They might be a little bit more hungry."
Defensive coordinator Kent Baer was also pleased with the defense for the most part. "I was pleased with the effort, intensity," said Baer. "We got a lot of guys as many reps as they can. We probably had about 45 reps today, it was pretty good."
One player missing in action was freshman nose guard Trevor Laws. "I'm not sure what the injury is," said Baer. "He didn't practice today—I think he's fine. We're just trying to get him healthy enough to where he can do something on a positive note all the time. He's just a little beat up."
We also asked Baer how his defensive backs held up under fire today. "I was," said Baer when ask if he was pleased with their play. "It's a tough day to be in. The wind is blowing so hard. It's hard on the quarterback, it's hard on the secondary, it's hard to judge things. Some of the things we were doing I thought turned out pretty well."
Baer also said to not expect starters to be named in the secondary at the end of spring ball. "I'm interested in naming the starters by the end of the second week of two-a-days but not the end of spring. Obviously Quentin Burrell is not practicing right now. Preston Jackson is not practicing right now. Mike Richardson is beat up so these are some guys who are going to be in the mix. At the end of spring we'll have a better idea of who we think has got a chance."
We also asked Baer what he was looking for in his defense in the first scrimmage. "Intensity, see if they can play the proper technique, get aligned properly and make plays once in a while. There's so much to learn, we're throwing so much at them. That's the good news about spring ball, you're not trying to beat anybody, you're just trying to get better."
The media were given some stats after practice. The scrimmage was set up in two sessions. The first session was mainly the first-team offense versus the first-team defense and the second-team defense versus the second-team defense. Ryan Grant had the longest run of the day of 24 yards. Travis Thomas also had a 21 yard run and also scored from one yard out. Marcus Freeman also made a few nice catches at tight end from Pat Dillingham.
The second session was red zone offense and defense and the Irish offense was not able to get the ball across the goal line and were forced to attempt field goals.
Sitting out the practice was right tackle Mark LeVoir, nose guard Trevor Laws, defensive ends Justin Tuck and Kyle Budinscak and defensive back Quentin Burrell. We also notice defensive backs Mike Richardson and Preston Jackson wearing casts on their hands.
Also present at the scrimmage were about 50 or so juniors and their families. The Irish held their second junior day of the year and are scheduled to have another junior day on April 24-25 to coincide with the annual Blue/Gold game.