Practice Report 8/11

There was a little buzz around Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, as Irish head coach Charlie Weis opened up practice to fans and media. The weather started off comfortable in the morning and heated up as the afternoon approached.

The player I was most impressed with today was Evan Sharpley. The junior quarterback has good velocity on his throws and looked very accurate. A couple great balls he threw was about a 25-yard pass to John Carlson who found a soft spot in the defense's zone, and a deep ball to David Grimes, who got behind Munir Prince. Sharpley hit him in stride.

Jones has a lot of velocity on his throws, but he is very inconsistent. There was really no comparison between him and Sharpley on Saturday. But it's just one practice so who knows how much you can read into it.

In 11-on-11 drills, the Notre Dame offense dominated the new 3-4 defense. They ran the ball at will, receivers easily got open. All the running backs look good. Robert Hughes really stood out as a guy that isn't going to go down on the first hit. He had one run where he made a juke move to bounce outside for a nice gain of about 20 yards. The rotation went Travis Thomas, James Aldridge, Armando Allen, Hughes and Junior Jabbie.

Here are some observations from practice.

*Practice began with kickoff return and punt return walk thru. George West and Armando Allen appear to be the starting kick returners. Darrin Walls, Barry Gallup, Golden Tate and D.J. Hord also lined up back there. Asaph Schwapp and Scott Smith are the blockers closest to the return men in the first unit. Later in the day, Allen almost broke a kickoff for a score, but Harrison Smith saved the day with a tackle from behind. The Notre Dame return game and backfield has seen a player of Allen's burst since Julius Jones. He will be a big factor in the field-position game.

*It looked like Ryan Burkhart is running first as far as kickoffs go. Freshman Brandon Walker was second.

*Tom Zbikowski, David Grimes, West and Allen also lined up at punt returner. Later in the practice, Zbikowski got loose on a punt return and showboated to the end zone. Allen got free on a punt return, and linebacker coach Brian Polian jumped into the play out of nowhere and looked fast in cutting off Allen.

*While the walk thru was going on, Ron Powlus was working with the quarterbacks in the corner of the end zone where the band hangs out. He was really working with Jones on his play fakes.

*Quarterback commit Dayne Crist is still on campus and hung out with the quarterbacks all morning.

*While the quarterbacks were working on their play fakes, Powlus would call in a play. Jones was the guy calling out the play every time.

*There was a scout from the Miami Dolphins at practice.

*The first team offensive line was John Sullivan at center, Dan Wenger and Mike Turkovich at guard, and Paul Duncan and Sam Young at the tackles. The second unit was Thomas Bemenderfer at center. Matt Carufel and Eric Olsen at guard. The tackles were Taylor Dever and Matt Romine. Romine was the left tackle and Olsen was the left guard.

*One of the plays the offense ran against no defense was a reverse to Golden Tate. It looked like the play West scored his first career touchdown on last season.

*Grimes and West are the top two receivers. It looks like Robby Parris is the No. 3. The order the receivers went through drills in was Grimes, West, Parris, Gallup, Richard Jackson, D.J. Hord, Tate and Duval Kamara.

*The normally sure-handed Parris had a tough time in the drill where was asked to get out of his breaks fast and catch four balls. He dropped two. "I'll throw it softer for you next time," receivers coach Rob Ianello joked.

*Ianello told Kamara he needs to get out of his breaks faster.

*D.J. Hord looks a lot better than he did in the spring. Not only did he catch all the balls thrown to him during the receiver drills, but he made a couple nice grabs in one-on-one drills and 11-on-11.

*Weis spent most of his time around the quarterbacks. As they were loosening up, he joked around with Powlus about throwing the ball too soft. Powlus laughed and said his arm hurt.

*The quarterbacks were again working on their play fakes and Weis reminded them not to drift. He told his guys that they should never be wider than the guard and that they should actually be in the center-guard gap.

*Prince had a tough time in one-on-one drills. He is fast and always in the picture, but the receivers ended up catching the ball and not him.

*Notre Dame showed a two tight end package during 11-on-11s. Get used to seeing that this fall, with all four tight ends likely seeing playing time.

*At one point, the defense only had 10 men on the field. Weis pointed that out angrily and made the whole defense run a lap around the field.

*Clausen was throwing, but I never saw him unload. He threw a couple screens in 11-on-11, and he rolled out a couple times and made a short throw to the tight end in the flat.

*Golden Tate looks fast, but he isn't as fast as Allen. On one play, Tate fumbled a reverse, but he picked it back up, reversed field with defenders in his face and made a 10-yard loss an 8-yard gain.

*During 11-on-11s, the offense was working against a play clock.

*Outside linebacker John Ryan came up gingerly on a play, but he ran off the field and it doesn't appear to be serious.

*Evan Sharpley was the holder for Burkhart. Walker is left-footed.


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