I watched a good bit on the defensive side of the ball for this morning's practice. After the usual stretching the units broke down to work individual drills with their position coaches.
The linebackers worked with coach Polian hitting a sled, then getting off the sled with an underneath swim move to get off a block. All seemed to do quite well with this drill without getting much heat from coach Polian.
Coach Brown worked with Bill Lewis and the defensive backs for the first session. The defensive backs focused much of the early part of practice on backpedal, moving laterally, and moving in and out of breaks. Ambrose Wooden and Terrail Lambert looked the most fluid in what I saw. I watched Munir Prince quite a bit and he seemed to have very fluid hips. He seems to be able to turn to either side with ease and was moving as well as any cornerback out there. There's much to learn, but he seems to have the physical tools.
I was very surprised by how big Jasaad Gaines and Sergio Brown are. They both have very good size for safeties. Kyle McCarthy looks to have added a lot of strength. He's cut pretty well right now.
The second individual had the D-line and outside linebackers working on pass rush—mainly getting off the line of scrimmage. It was encouraging seeing the quickness of Anthony Vernagila, Morrice Richardson and John Ryan.
The inside backers worked on pass routes and covering potential backs and tight ends out of the backfield. I thought all moved pretty well. Toryan Smith looks lighter on his feet. Maurice Crum looks bigger in stature.
The next drill I watched was the inside backers versus Notre Dame's running backs in pass routes. This was very interesting to watch. Toryan Smith made a very nice interception on the first drill. Armando Allen was shown the difference between high school linebackers and college linebackers when he couldn't get out into his pattern and Brockington stoned him.
One player who really impressed me was Luke Schmidt. He's a big man, and he was throwing some linebackers around. He made a nice one-handed grab over Toryan Smith. Made a couple of other nice grabs and the linebackers simply couldn't cover him as he was too big. He's a real nice looking athlete.
Then Asaph Schwapp came out and used his big body to knock Crum on the ground and then make a nice grab that would've gone for a big play.
Travis Thomas showed a major burst of speed to blow by Joe Brockington on a nice wheel route that would've likely gone for a TD.
James Aldridge had an excellent pattern on Toryan Smith that left Smith grasping at air.
Steve Quinn got torched by Armando Allen's speed on another route.
One thing is certain, this is the most athletic group of running backs I've seen at Notre Dame in a long time. I was very encouraged by their speed and athletic ability. Quite an impressive group.
The defense then got together as a unit and went through a bunch of situational stuff. First unit was:
Trevor Laws, Pat Kuntz, John Ryan, Anthony Vernaglia, Joe Brockington, Maurice Crum, Ambrose Wooden, Terrail Lambert, Tom Zbikowski, David Bruton.
Second unit was: Justin Brown, Derrell Hand, Kallen Wade, Morrice Richardson, Scott Smith, Steve Quinn, Toryan Smith, Raeshon McNeil, Darrin Walls, Kyle McCarthy, Ray Herring.
The Irish then went to work on some special teams stuff, and the rains came pouring down. We had the cameras, so we had to take cover and leave the practice. It sounded like we didn't miss much. There was no offense versus defense on Saturday, but we did get a look at a lot of players.
Overall I'd say the defense has some talent, but they're still a work in progress, as to be expected. There's a good amount of young talent on the team, mixed in with some nice veteran players. Depth and experienced depth could be a problem, however.
Saturday's Practice: Defense
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