Practice Report 8/7

The Notre Dame football team practiced indoors this afternoon at the Loftus Center. It was the second day of fall camp for the Irish. It was almost as humid in the Loftus Center as it was outside. The players were in shorts and jerseys. Here are some observations:

***Offense (by Colin Burns)

QB coach Ron Powlus was talking with all his signal callers during stretching. This is a feature a lot of coaches do in this period. Powlus was probably going over the schedule and assignments for the day. Demetrius Jones stretches with Evan Sharpley while Jimmy Clausen does the same with Darrin Bragg.

It was tough to hear any banter from anyone inside the Loftus Center. Fans were going to try to cool down the place but they were incredibly loud.

For the second straight day during stretching, head coach Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Corwin Brown talked for a minute or two. Weis usually makes the rounds during stretching to a lot of the assistants and football personnel.

I did not see Ruben Mendoza again today. His assistant was once again leading the exercises.

Asaph Schwapp, with a brace on his left knee, was running over the bags and did do some side-to-side work during the bag drills. Someone in attendance mentioned that Schwapp's arm was as big as his thigh. The man is a monster.

RB coach Michael Haywood was once again instructing freshman Robert Hughes on how to go through the bags, stay low and hold the football.

It's easy to see why back in spring ball, Weis mentioned that John Carlson and Travis Thomas were the two hardest workers in the off-season. These two fifth-year seniors go through every drill full speed and set a good example to the younger players.

Offensive lineman Sam Young did have a protective cast on his right hand. It didn't hinder Young from competing at all in practice. It looked more precautionary than anything serious.

Speaking of the offensive linemen, it just looks like a big group. Young is huge. His other classmates aren't far behind. If the offensive line can win the line of scrimmage, it may help the team exceed expectations in 2007.

Freshman wide receiver Golden Tate was much better out of his breaks during a pass catching drill. Yesterday, it appeared as if he was struggling with it. Today, much better, although he did drop the fourth pass thrown to him.

Once again, the quarterbacks did not throw a single pass in the 20 minutes the media got to observe. Could it be 3-for-3 tomorrow?

David Grimes definitely has sure hands. If he can create separation with the defensive backs, Grimes will have a solid junior season.

***Defense (by Steve Wiltfong)

During agilities before stretching, the defensive players were in a good mood. They were very chatty, clowning around amongst each other. Cornerback Ambrose Wooden appeared to be having the most fun, and when the offense and defense were running at each other en route to their stretching spots, Wooden kicked an imaginary football that Evan Sharpley jumped up and pretended to block.

Defensive backs coach Bill Lewis was louder than usual when speaking to his players during the 20-minute media viewing time. His voice was hoarse sounding today as he talked to managers and his defensive backs.

While stretching, you could tell that Harrison Smith won't be kept off the field this season based off of size. He looks the part, but the freshman safety is competing at a deep position. Like I said yesterday, cornerbacks Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil look significantly bigger than last year. Both are listed at 6-foot, but McNeil looks a littler taller than that.

After the team broke up from agilities and stretching into positions, defensive coordinator Corwin Brown went with the specialists as the other players zigged and zagged around pylons. Freshman kicker Brandon Walker, at 6-foot-3, is a lot taller than Ryan Burkhart (5-11) and Nate Whitaker (5-9), the two guys he will be competing against. Special Teams coach Brian Polian said on Media Day that one of the first things he noticed on film about Walker is his size. We'll see soon if that translates into his leg.

Senior captain Tom Zbikowski his group of the defense in the pylon agility drills. He looked very very smooth. Maybe the best on the team. A close second to Zbikowski in the short time I watched appeared to be Sergio Brown. Like Harrison Smith, the sophomore safety has a lot of talent to compete with for playing time.

Another kid who passed the eye-ball test is Kerry Neal. His arms were significantly bigger than Harrison Smith's. The staff is hoping he could be that hybrid player in Corwin Brown's 3-4 defense.

Pat Kuntz is sporting his 285 pounds well. He also got a new hair cut. A mo-hawk with a little design in the back. Paddy Mullen looks impressive as well. If Kuntz is 285, Mullen is bigger than the 285 he is listed at. The defensive end could be that 300-pound body Weis and company want as their defensive ends.

Jappy Oliver was pretty intense in leading the defensive linemen in sled drills. "Crisp stance," he yelled. "Don't waste reps. Punch with some power!"

Raeshon McNeil was showing Harrison Smith the correct back-pedal steps off to the side that the defensive backs were working. A sign of leadership from the sophomore.

The linebackers were doing the same things as yesterday. Outside linebackers were dropping into coverage and the inside linebackers were working on steps in tight spaces.

***Mike's Take

Spent most of the day checking out the defense. Here are a few notes I took from Tuesday's practice.

Munir Prince looked to be in excellent shape and showing the kind of quickness we've heard about. He backpedals pretty effortlessly, and shows the kind of smoothness you're looking for out of his backpedal. He seems to turn quite well left and right. I didn't get to see any coverage, but he looks like he could be a guy who could make some noise.

Darrin Walls still is tall and skinny, but he's added some nice muscle. Not a lot, but definitely looks thicker than last year.

Ambrose Wooden continues to add upper body strength. He looks downright stocky now. Still shows the nice feet and quickness. When the first unit backpedaled together, he looked the most natural out there.

Raeshon McNeil looks to be one of the thicker corners. His strength rivals those of Wooden and Lambert, but he's not there yet. Lambert and Wooden look like players Corwin Brown wants, but McNeil, from a size standpoint, certainly looks to be in good physical shape. He's not as smooth coming out of his backpedal as Wooden, but he seems comparable to Lambert.

Terrail Lambert just looks thick. He's still very quick, but definitely thicker, especially his upper body. You can tell that is an area this unit seemed to focus on—the upper body.

Freshman Harrison Smith is really put together nicely. He's a big kid. All of 6-2, and looks to be at least 210 if not 215. He stood next to Kerry Neal and looked just as tall, and wasn't that far off in thickness compared to Neal. I only watched him backpedal once, and he has some quick feet and looked like a real natural athlete, but wasn't as nimble as the corners on his feet, but that's to be expected as a safety. He's definitely passes the eye test.

David Bruton also seems to have added some thickness. He's all of 6-2 and looks to be at least 2 inches taller than Zibby. You instantly notice how athletic he is, but he isn't as smooth as say Ambrose, again, to be expected. You can tell he's getting more and more confident though and putting forth great effort on every rep.

I watched Kerry Neal for a good clip. I watched him in the agility drills and he moves with the best of them. I thought he'd be 6-3, but he looks closer to 6-2. Still, he definitely has added some nice size. He's easily as big as Morrice Richardson, who also looked pretty good in pass drops. The backers were doing pass drops and you could tell Neal had been coached pretty well because he was doing the same drill as effortless as the older guys. He seemed to turn very well from side to side.

Morrice Richardson also impressed me with his quickness. He moves quite well for a kid his size, as well as any LB out there.

John Ryan has plenty of size over the rest of the linebackers, but he didn't look as athletic as the other backers when moving left to right in certain pass drops.

I also took a look at Ian Williams. He's got a big, squatty body. He's very thick in his lower body. He seemed pretty quick for a guy his size and seemed to move through the bags pretty effortlessly. He's a better athlete than most would probably think. Defensive line coach Jappy Oliver had to remind him a few times to stay low, but he looked pretty good out there.

I also looked at Andrew Nuss. He's much bigger than when I saw him last year standing outside the Gug. They have him listed at 6-5, not sure about that, but he looks to be all of 285. He's very wide. Didn't seem as quick or athletic as Williams, but seemed to be doing fine out there.


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