Practice Report 8/8

The Notre Dame football team practiced outdoors on Wednesday. It was the third session of training camp. The weather in South Bend was disgustinly hot and humid. The team was in shorts and shoulder pads. Here are some observations:

OFFENSE (by Colin Burns)

*Strength and conditioning coach Ruben Mendoza was back at practice today leading stretches after being absent the first two days.

*Head coach Charlie Weis was overheard saying, "I was counting on it being a little hotter today."

*Running backs coach Michael Haywood really lets his feelings be known. Haywood is always barking at his players, both good and bad. Today, for the third straight say, Haywood was on freshman back Robert Hughes. At one points, Haywood told Hughes, "Look at 34," referencing James Aldridge. Hughes was also seen getting instruction on how to best hit the sled.

*While Haywood was doing his yelling, a smiling Weis said, "You don't want to hurt their feelings." In the bag drills with the running backs, the tight ends also join in. Fifth-year senior John Carlson actaully fumbled the ball while going through the bags and Haywood said, "He didn't have it on the top shelf."

*For the third straight day, the quarterbacks did not throw a pass, although they were working on footwork drills while being pounded with padded bags by their fellow signal callers. Weis didn't like the way the other quarterbacks were pounding the bags. So the head coach took a bag, told them what he wanted and showed them by hitting one of the quarterbacks with the bag. On the next time through the drill, the message got through as the pounding level picked up.

*Asaph Schwapp is a big boy. But so is fellow fullback Luke Schmidt, listed at 255 pounds on the roster. Schmidt is a few inches taller than Schwapp but is a big, physical presence.

*The tight ends were working on combination blocks. Weis said earlier today that the offense would be working on multiple tight end sets.

*Freshman wideout Golden Tate was getting loud instructions from WR coach Rob Ianello. Tate looks athletic and we all know has speed but appears to be adjusting to the fundamentals of the position. Ianello made Tate do a drill over and the freshman followed it up by dropping the ball.

DEFENSE (by Steve Wiltfong)

While the defense was doing agilities, the first thing I noticed today was how thick Brian Smith is. The freshman linebacker looks good. He was just as thick as defensive end Kallen Wade, but a little shorter. He physically could get on the field this year.

When the players sat down to stretch, head coach Charlie Weis walked by and said "I wish these clouds would burn off. I was anticipating it being a lot hotter out here." I think it was plenty hot.

A few minutes later, Weis was messing with nose tackle Pat Kuntz. "You know you've hit a new low if the only thing they want to talk to you about is your haircut." The junior is sporting a brand new mohawk with some kind of design coming off the back.

Following stretching, the defense headed to the north field and split up. Defensive line and inside linebackers in one group, outside linebackers and defensive backs in the other. They went into the typical bag work, shifting around, going over speed and agility drills. "Finish, don't touch those bags, pick your feet up," defensive backs coach Bill Lewis yelled.

Freshman defensive end Emeka Nwankwo looks better doing this drill on day three. "Finish big dog," defensive line coach Jappy Oliver said to him. He wasn't lying about the big part. Nwankwo is a big human being, and he is getting smoother by the day.

Maurice Crum Jr. was the most impressive linebacker going through the bags. He changes direction very well, is quick and fast.

At the sound of a horn, the players divided up and went with their position coaches. Brian Polian took the inside linebackers and they instantly went to working on movements in small spaces. Reading the running back or quarterback with your eyes and making movements. "Good feet, no false steps, no wasted movement," Polian said in approval after a rep.

The outside linebackers were with Corwin Brown. They were working on coverage, and also had passes thrown to them. For the most part, everyone showed good hands. Kevin Washington, Morrice Richardson and Kerry Neal had a drop. "Don't fight it Kerry Neal, it's not going to hurt you," Brown said. Brown could also be heard saying to his guys, "Creature of habits."

The defensive linemen were down on their knees hitting the sled. Jappy Oliver yelled "move this damn thing," standing on the back of it.

For the third straight day, the defensive backs were working on their back pedal and breaking on the ball. Lewis throws a ball up to be intercepted. If he throws a bad ball or it's dropped, it becomes a fumble. "Scoop and score," Lewis yells, when that happens.

MIKE FRANK'S REPORT

Let me always preface my comments by saying this is just 20 minutes of one practice. I wouldn't take any of these comments as gospel as to how good, bad, or well someone projects on the football field. These comments are simply my observations from watching 20 minutes of practice.

Someone asked me today to take a look at Brian Smith. He's quite an impressive looking kid. He looks all of 6-3, and he looks to be around 230 already. Funnily, he looks like he could be a good inside backer, but he's an outside backer because you can see he has a body that can add a lot more weight without losing his athleticism. He's a big kid now without being overly muscular.

I watched him move today as well and he looks pretty smooth. Nice quickness and burst—seems to be very light on his feet. Would love to check him out in coverage. He seemed to turn left and right effortlessly, so he should be able to do the job, but without seeing the coverage stuff, it's hard to really know. But he certainly looks like a guy who can get after the QB.

I also took a longer look at Emeka Nwankwo. I was closer to him today, and I was a little bit off on him. He actually is more fit than I gave him credit for. Almost trim for a kid who was an O-lineman coming out of high school. I can see why they have him at defensive end. He's "long," meaning he's somewhat tall with long arms. He moved pretty well, actually. I'd have to see him more in action to see if he really has a chance at D-line, but he doesn't look like an O-lineman playing D-line.

I watched some of the wide receivers as well again. The receivers were working on driving through a lot of pads and then catching the ball and making a cut as soon as they caught the ball and exploding out of their cuts. Not the most exciting thing, but something obviously needed.

Once again, I still think Duval Kamara has by far the most upside out of this group. I'd be very surprised if he didn't play a great amount of reps this year. He has excellent size. He's already thicker than Samardzija ever was. He's not quite as big as Stovall, but he'll get there. Great hands. Just looks like a real natural.

Robby Parris continues to impress. Nice hands. Seems to get out of his cuts pretty well. A good, not great burst. I believe he can be very effective and a real weapon for ND if he can become a great route runner. He has very dependable hands and enough speed to get away from people. I do think he needs more size and to play more physical.

Richard Jackson has more size, but didn't show the same quickness out of his breaks. He didn't plant hard and explode like Parris, Kamara and others. He's another guy who could help if he becomes a good route runner.

Golden Tate once again showed the quick burst, but bobbled a couple. He'll need to be more consistent before he's ready, but you can see the potential there. He appears to have as much, if not more, upside than any of the other smaller receivers out there. The other smaller receivers are more consistent though.

I've been curious about D.J. Hord since watching him the first day. I watched him again. He did everything right and seemed to show the same burst I saw the first day. He has very nice quickness. He has a nicely developed lower body, and his upper body is becoming more developed. For D.J., it's probably just being more consistent, and probably being more physical out there. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance.

I didn't really see much of Grimes or West today. I'll take a look at them next time I watch receivers.

I did make it over to check out the running backs as well. You can tell Robert Hughes wants to be great. He really works hard through every rep. So does Armando Allen for a freshman.

Today they mainly ran through the bags as usual. Armando definitely had the quickest feet with Junior Jabbie coming in behind Armando. But Armando just zips through the side to side stuff and bursts out once through the obstacles quite a bit faster than anyone.

James Aldridge and Travis Thomas were who they've always been. Hard working guys. Do everything well.

Asaph Schwapp appears to be doing fine. He did all the drills I saw, including being very impressive on the blocking sled.

Haywood had them all hitting the sled towards the end. Asaph was definitely the most powerful. Luke Schmidt also brought the hammer. Out of the halfbacks it was Travis hitting with the most authority. James was no far behind. Armando hit it surprisingly hard. Robert Hughes didn't show the best technique at first, but later corrected that to give the sled a good whack.

Overall, nothing too exciting today. Hopefully we'll see a bit more when the pads come on soon.


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