Practice Report 8/6

It was a hot and humid day out at Cartier Field Monday afternoon. That's where the Notre Dame football team held their first practice of fall camp. The players were in shells (shoulder pads and shorts). Here are some observations:

OFFENSE (by Colin Burns)

*As Charlie Weis stated at his press conference today, Chris Stewart will start out on the offensive side of the ball at guard. Stewart, still looking the 340 pounds the roster has him listed at, was wearing the blue jersey of the offense.

*During stretching, head coach Charlie Weis and fifth-year senior John Carlson were joking around. Weis will definately appreciate the help Carlson will give the new starting quarterback.

*The coaches seemed almost as ready as the players to kick off camp. John Latina was instructing his players during stretching while Michael Haywood was his usual intense self. Bernie Parmalee, as has been the case, was going over plays and assignments with his tight ends, specifically Will Yeatman and Mike Ragone.

*Speaking of Ragone, he's an inch or two shorter than the rest of the tight ends but still a decent size. The freshman will have to learn quickly. During bag drills, where the players run over, through and around the bags, Haywood was showing Ragone the proper way to tuck the football away.

*I did not see Ruben Mendoza at practice. His main assistant, whose name I don't know, was leading the stretches. Usually, Mendoza handles this job.

*Robert Hughes has an impressive body type for a freshman football player. When you see No. 33 on the field, instantly one can think of smash mouth football. Hughes is probably well versed in the practice order under Weis. During the spring, the Chicago native made numerous trips to South Bend to watch sessions.

*Armando Allen just looks quick. The freshman back moves easily from side-to-side during bag drills. Weis made mention of Allen in today's press conference as a speed burner. If the freshman took a long one to the house early in the season, it could really open up the Notre Dame offense.

*In addition to Ragone, Haywood was seen chirping at Hughes and Konrad Reuland in how to hold the ball during bag drills.

*FB Asaph Schwapp was not running side-to-side during the bag drills. He was running straight ahead to the side of the bags. Schwapp is coming off a knee injury last season that sidelined him for all but two games.

*As for the QB's............they did not throw one pass in the 20 minutes the media got to view. Not one. The QB's worked on handoff drills and other footwork related stuff. Maybe tomorrow, we'll see if Clausen throws a football.

*Duval Kamara looks big physically for a freshman. Kamara took Chinedum Ndukwe's old No. 18 number and with a few more pounds added in the off-season could fill out the same way. But Kamara appears to be the tallest of the wideouts. The other freshman wide receiver, Golden Tate, is taller than David Grimes or George West but might have to put on a few pounds. Tate did have trouble coming out of his breaks during a drill where the WR's run in a square and are thrown four passes on each straight section.

*The first three wide receivers in drills were Grimes, West and Robby Parris, followed by Richard Jackson, Barry Gallup and D.J. Hord. During the pass catching drill, these six were perfect with no dropped passes.

*Did I mention it was hot?

DEFENSE (by Steve Wiltfong)

Right away, I asked Notre Dame football media director Brian Hardin if correct heights and weights will be coming out soon. He said this is what they're going to go with for now, but he will ask about it down the road. However, he told me that nose tackle Pat Kuntz is now 285 pounds (up from 272), and Dwight Stephenson Jr. is 275 pounds (up from 257).

During agilities and stretching, defensive end Kallen Wade appeared to be bigger. He was also sporting a big tattoo on his right arm. Outside linebacker John Ryan looks every bit of his 6-foot-5, and Brian Smith passed the eye-ball test at 6-3. Smith looks pretty good as far as the eye ball test goes.

Weis joked around with a scout from the Minnesota Vikings. "The first day. You're here on the first day. This is a new low. You must not have anything else to do."

While stretching together, defensive line coach Jappy Oliver asked freshmen Ian Williams and Emeka Nwankwo what they weighed in at. Williams said 290 while Nwankwo said 286. Nwankwo was taller, and Williams looked compact and low to the ground.

As the defensive backs were stretching an intense Bill Lewis, not typical by the way, was talking sternly to his secondary. "Every play is the opportunity to strip the ball. Every play defense, every play." Then Lewis made his way down the line talking to the rest of the defense. "How many balls can we put on the ground. It's attitude, attitude."

Now in drills, senior linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. looked very smooth sliding and doing crossovers around the ground pylons. Jappy Oliver was all over the freshman, particularly Nwankwo and Williams to do these drills right. Those big bodies could be needed immediately and Oliver is basically letting them know that.

Cornerback Darrin Walls doesn't look as thin as he did last season as a freshman, and freshman cornerback Gary Gray was out on the practice field running around.

Irish assistant Brian Polian took the inside linebackers, and they worked on footwork within their zone. "We have to be able to work in tight spaces," Polian said. Freshman Steve Paskorz is a big boy, bigger than fellow freshman Aaron Nagel. And Nagel didn't appear to be small. Crum, Brockington and Toryan Smith really know what they're doing as far as this drill went, while the others were coached a bit.

Defensive coordinator Corwin Brown took the outside linebackers. They were pushing off a blocker and backing up into different zone coverages. First they pushed off and went into the flat area, then they pushed off and went about five yards deep near the hash mark. Senior Anthony Vernaglia was told he was doing a good job a couple times by Brown. Vernaglia is in the mix to start with Scott Smith. Freshman Kerry Neal did the second coverage wrong, and Brown came out and showed him exactly what he was looking for. Another case of a young guy the coaches are counting on early.

The secondary worked on breaking on the ball in the air. Safety Kyle McCarthy looks bigger than last season. He was running with the second unit with Ray Herring as the other safety, and sophomore Raeshon McNeil and Walls at the corners. The first unit secondary was Terrail Lambert and Ambrose Wooden at the corners, and Tom Zbikowski and David Bruton as the safeties.

The defensive line was hitting the low sled on the other side of the field and I couldn't really see them.

MIKE'S THOUGHTS

Emeka Nwankwo is a pretty big boy. Surprised they have him listed at defensive end. He's going to need to redistribute some weight, and probably get into a little bit better shape, but he has nice size to build on. I'm not sure how athletic he is as they weren't doing a ton of agility stuff. He did have a nice frame to build upon.

Mike Ragone was wearing a knee brace. He's pretty skinny. He looked closer to a wide receiver than a tight end at this point. He looks to be 220.

Duval Kamara already looks like a junior in size. He's a thick kid without being overly muscular. He's just got a big body. He looks as big as Richard Jackson already. He's a smooth athlete and came in and out of his cuts quickly in the four cone drill. Nice hands, although he dropped one, but he definitely looks like a kid who can compete this year. He's just a natural receiver and looks to have as much athletic ability at WR as anyone I've seen at ND in awhile.

Golden Tate is taller than I thought he'd be. He looks to be at least 2 inches taller than George West, and I'm certain West is 5-10. Tate showed very quick feet, but also needs to come out of his cuts quicker. They're also not as sharp as they'll need to be. He looked to have soft hands, quick feet, and will need to get bigger. Didn't have a lot of thickness to him, but seemed to be as thick as West or Grimes.

Robby Parris looked quicker than I remember last year. His feet were quicker. He also showed some nice ability to come in and out of his cuts in the four cone drill. Nice hands. Didn't drop a ball.

I was also impressed with the quickness of DJ Hord. His feet looked very quick coming in and out of his cuts. I'd say he's fully healed because I haven't seen him move like that for a long time. He also didn't drop a ball that I saw, which is encouraging. Maybe he can help out this year.

By the way, Charlie looks a lot thinner. Looks to have lost some weight.

Kallen Wade looks to be 260 right now or bigger. His arms look like a true defensive lineman now. You can tell he's really filling out. He's going to get a lot bigger. He looked to be in fantastic shape. You can tell he took the off season seriously.

Justin Brown also appears to be approaching 270. He's not quite there yet, but he looks to be getting close to that number. He also looks to be in great shape.

I also talked with Jappy Oliver earlier and he mentioned that Dwight Stephenson had added some good size and strength. His arms are just HUGE. He appears to be around 265 right now and Oliver said he's a lot stronger than a lot of people think. He looks like he's preparing to play a lot this season.

I was really impressed with the physique of all the offensive linemen. They all look to be in outstanding condition. You don't see guts on these guys. They all look big, but thin. I was really impressed with all of them. Turkovich looks to be over 300. Duncan looks to be at 300. Sam Young is just plain huge. Has to be over 310. All the guards looks to be around 300 or over with room to grow.

Ian Williams has another nice frame to add weight to. He's got a wide frame and a big lower body. He'll be thicker than Trevor Laws for certain. He can easily get over 300. He looks to be in pretty good shape and around 285 right about now. He probably needs to redistribute a little, but not as much as Emeka at this point.

Haywood was getting into the running backs as usual. They were doing the usual stuff we see every time we video. I was impressed by the size of all the backs. Travis Thomas and James Aldridge look very thick and ready for the season. Robert Hughes definitely looks ready to play. He's got a very thick lower frame and seems to be a little bigger than Aldridge at this point and about the same size or a little bigger than Travis.


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