***Offense (by Colin Burns)
There were a few notable faces watching practice. Charlie Weis, Jr. was there, holding some type of handout and viewing the running backs. Athletic Director Kevin White was also there as was prized recruit Dayne Crist. The high school quarterback from California passes the eye test. Crist has the size and build of a junior in college.
Maurice Stovall was known to loosen practice up during stretching with his jokes and singing. This year, that could be the job of Demetrius Jones on offense and Ambrose Wooden on defense, who were seen playfully joking with teammates before stretching commenced.
Head coach Charlie Weis and Brian Polian had a lengthy conversation during stretching but because of the loud fans inside the humid Loftus Center, none of it could be deciphered.
Surprise, surprise: the quarterbacks were throwing today. Demetrius Jones and Evan Sharpley were throwing with one another while QB coach Ron Powlus was tossing with Jimmy Clausen. But Clausen did not look like he was throwing the ball with his best velocity. The other quarterbacks were zipping the ball. Clausen was throwing but taking it easy.
If you've been reading the offensive reports, it's a common theme that RB coach Michael Haywood has been on Robert Hughes. Not yelling but more instructive. Today, Haywood told Hughes, "That's better" during the side-to-side portion of bag drills. When hitting the sled, Haywood made Hughes do it twice.
From the wide receiver group, George West appears to be the most shifty of the bunch. West comes out of his breaks well and could be a deep threat in the passing game. Robby Parris also looks good and is smooth out of his breaks.
The tight ends are an impressive group. Everyone knows about John Carlson. But Konrad Reuland and Will Yeatman are physically impressive. All three hit the blocking bags with full steam and drive through. It's good to have a guy like Carlson, who is an extremely hard worker, leading the group and showing the younger guys the ropes for the second year. There's no lack of effort in the tight end group.
***Defense (by Steve Wiltfong)
Before watching the defense I got a good look at quarterback commit Dayne Crist, who was in from Sherman Oaks, Calif. He was talking with quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus. He already has the look of a starting college QB. He looks older than a high school kid, he is tall, and he isn't thin like Jimmy Clausen was at the same time. He is developed physically and appears to be quite a recruiting catch.
Inside the Loftus Center, it's nearly impossible to hear with fans blowing so loudly. Weis and Corwin Brown talked for a few minutes during stretching. Then Weis met with outside linebackers coach Brian Polian. One thing I've noticed during stretching was that the defensive backs are a lot bigger than last year. Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls aren't thin freshmen anymore. Ambrose Wooden is well put together and Terrail Lambert is the thickest of the corners. Munir Prince's arms have gotten bigger, and the only small scholarship player of the bunch is Gary Gray, who looks bigger than he did when I saw him daily for a week at the U.S. Army All-American game. With David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy adding size, all the safeties look good.
Defensive backs coach Bill Lewis talked with McCarthy for several minutes during stretching.
As the players gathered for agilities with the bags, I noticed how quick Paddy Mullen is for a big man. The coaches are always barking for these drills to be done quick and efficiently. In one instance when the players were snaking through the bags, Steve Quinn dropped a quick pass and Pat Kuntz had to slow down a little and Mullen blowing through almost ran Kuntz over. Mullen is all of the 285 pounds listed on the roster, and with his athleticism, the former tight end should find a place in the rotation.
I went with the inside linebackers first, as the players broke up by position. I wanted to get a better look at freshmen Steve Paskorz and Aaron Nagel as the guys lined up to hit the sled. All of a sudden I hear a thwack and see Joe Brockington putting it on the sled. He is bigger than I've ever seen him. When Toryan Smith went to hit the sled, he didn't hit it square so I didn't see the big guy pummel the machine like I heard he can.
Paskorz looks the part, and he looked okay during agilities. As far as I could tell, Nagel is the smallest scholarship linebacker. The converted safety is a pretty good athlete judging by agilities and his arms are pretty big, and at 6-1 has the frame to add another 20 pounds and get up to the 235-240 range.
The linebackers joined up and one hit another while he is holding a pad. The most impressive two that I saw during this was Scott Smith and Paskorz. I missed a few guys like Brockington and Smith.
Corwin Brown went with the safeties today. They were working on picking up a receiver in the slot that's running a fly route. This is about the deepest position on the team. All of them from Zbikowski down to Jashaad Gaines and Leonard Gordon looked good in their backpedal and swiveling around into a dead sprint.
The defensive line was hitting the sled as usual, and the cornerbacks were working on pushing the WR to the sideline or into the middle of the field.
Mike Frank's Take
I spent a lot of time today checking out the O-linemen.
First guy that impressed was Thomas Bemenderfer. He's a solid prospect. I was really impressed with his physique and how he came off the snap and into the sled. He's a lot bigger than last spring. He looks like a guy who could give ND some quality minutes if his name is called on.
Mike Turkovich is just a big guy. He's really a big boy now. Huge arms and lower body. Moves quite well for a big guy, and he's got that nastiness about him, which I like. His attitude seems different. He's carrying himself like a starter now.
Paul Duncan also looks thicker, but still very trim. Easily the lightest on his feet among the O-linemen. He was ripping through the bags effortlessly. Still could add more weight to his frame. He and Turk seem to have a very good bond amongst each other. They're always high-fiving each other. Seems like these two want to be good.
Carufel was probably the quickest guard from what I watched today. He seemed to move very well for his size. Once he adds a bit more strength, he should be a great player. Can't really see much about technique as all we see them do is run the bags and hit the sled or work on drive blocking.
Wenger moves quite well for a center. Surprised by his feet. Pretty strong kid as well for his 285 pounds. He seems to progressing nicely. Again, without watching them actually hit people, hard to really know what they're good at.
Chris Stewart looks to have lost a few pounds. I'd say the 340 is pretty accurate or maybe he's a little under. Not a big gut at all. When he hits the sled, look out because it's moving. Just a powerful man. Also showed some nice feet during the bag drills for such a big guy. Graduate assistant Shane Waldron had to correct Stewart to stay low, but when he hits the sled, he moves it quickly and far. He's surprisingly quick off the snap into the sled. Pass protection might be his stumbling block at this point, but he's shaping into a nice player.
Like you, I've heard the rumbling about Sullivan maybe not being 100 percent. He looked just fine today. Moved very well and had zero problems whatsoever in all the drills I saw. Definitely an effort kid. Looks better than I've ever seen him.
I also took a look at both freshmen Matt Romine and Taylor Dever. Both kids seem to have potential. Both also appear to be learning. Neither hits the sled as hard as the upper classmen, but that's to be expected. Both move pretty well for their size. Neither are huge guys. Both are listed at 275, and I'd say that looks to be about right. Both were giving good effort.
I also checked out the tight ends. Will Yeatman is a big guy as well. He looks to be as big as Carlson. Bernie Parmalee was working with his unit in pass blocking drops and getting a good blocking base. Yeatman looked to be the best. Always in sound position. Always gave a nice initial blow. Carlson might not weigh much more, but he's definitely more muscular. He looks like a guy getting ready for the next level. Konrad Reuland was noticeably smaller than Yeatman, but still did a nice job in setting up to block. He did get back on his heels one time, but the other times I watched he set up nicely.
I also checked out Mike Ragone. He's actually a little thicker than what I thought I saw the first day. He looks to be a legit 220, maybe 225. I don't think he'll have any problem adding weight and still keeping his speed. He looks like he can add 30 pounds no problem. Bernie worked quite a bit with Mike on getting a solid base. He was on his heels too often and would be easily pushed over based on the 3-4 reps I saw. He definitely looked like he was taking it all in and improved a bit. His feet weren't apart enough at first and he fixed that.
That's about it for today.