Coach D's Thoughts: West Practice

SAN ANTONIO – The West squad had a brief but action packed practice this afternoon. The West practices are a bit easier to watch with fewer Notre Dame commitments to sift through, and with three of the four commitments being offensive players. It was a great afternoon practice if you are a Notre Dame fan.

After going through some stretching and individual periods the West skill players went through a "routes on air" period. Each quarterback would throw to a different receiver on each snap. It was rapid fire period and the quarterbacks and receivers all got a lot of quality reps.

All three of the West quarterbacks throw a nice ball but Dayne Crist clearly has the best arm of the three. He and Andrew Luck are also the most consistent of the three quarterbacks. Michael Floyd just eats up every pass. He actually didn't have many good throws in his direction during this period but he made every play. He is beginning to distance himself from Buckner as to who is the best receiver on the West squad.

I talked to a USC writer about the morning practice and his comments were that Floyd and Crist, along with Darrell Scott, are clearly the best on the West. He also mentioned to me that he spoke to D.J. Monroe and Robert Golden and they both mentioned that Floyd was the best receiver and toughest to cover.

After the individual and routes period the units broke into groups for a 7-on-7 period and an inside run period. Anthony McDonald looked real good today during the inside run period. He looked smooth and was flying to the football. He has settled in nicely to the Mike position he's learning this week.

Following the 7-on-7 period and inside run the West went into a "2 minute drill" team period. Crist, Floyd, and Trevor Robinson all started for the West squad. This led into a team period which was then followed by a goal line period to end the practice. It was a lively practice and things are starting to get chippy. The West players are clearly ready to hit somebody other than each other. Saturday is going to be very interesting.

NOTRE DAME COMMITMENTS

DAYNE CRIST, QB

There shouldn't be a question anymore as to who the best drop back quarterback is in the nation. Andrew Luck has impressed me this week with his accuracy and poise, and Blaine Gabbert has his moments, but neither player has the total package that Crist possesses. He gets better each day and won the MVP award for the morning practice. He was just as good in the afternoon practice.

Crist and Floyd are starting to get a rhythm together. He hit Michael on several occasions including a dart on a "deep slant" pass that Floyd took to the house. It was a beautiful thing. Crist followed that up with a gorgeous 40-yard bomb to Jameel Owens, who made a nice catch over his outside shoulder for a touchdown. They were able to beat Aaron Williams on the play which is impressive in its own right.

I didn't think you could get much better than that throw, but a few minutes later Crist followed that up with a gorgeous post route to D.J. Shoemate during the two-minute period for about a 40-yard touchdown. Crist threw the ball about 30 yards in the air on a rope. Shumate bobbled the ball for a split second but recovered, broke a tackle, and then raced into the end zone.

MICHAEL FLOYD, WR

As I said Floyd is beginning to separate himself from the rest of the wide receivers in the Army All-American game. He combines good height with a solid build, good speed, and great agility. He also catches everything. What impresses me the most is his ability to run through arm tackles to make big plays. I saw that on the "slant" from Crist but also on a "deep in" route he caught from Luck. Luck threw a nice ball on the "in" and Floyd caught the ball, planted, cut back outside and ran away from Golden.

What separates Floyd from the rest of the receivers is his overall skill set. There are plenty of taller players here. There are some receivers who are bigger. There are definitely receivers who are faster. But no one combines the size, speed, agility, physical style of play, and play-making ability that Floyd possesses. If he continues to work he'll have a shot to come in as a freshman and make a huge impact for the Irish.

TREVOR ROBINSON, OG

Robinson continues to dominate on the interior in the run game. During the inside run period he put a couple different defenders on their backs. He is just a nasty, physical run blocker and brings a nastiness that is much needed along the front line. He is getting stronger as the week drags along. His pass protection was better today, but he still needs to work his feet more. Robinson has been running with the first team all week and looks to start on Saturday. The West offensive line is much better than the East line, and Robinson is one of the best on the unit.

ANTHONY McDONALD, LB

The Notre Dame high standout continues to impress with his overall solid play. McDonald was able to deliver some nice blows today during the inside run period. He chased down Darrell Scott on an outside run play and gave him a pop. As I mentioned before, McDonald seems to have adjusted well to the Mike linebacker spot in the 4-3 defense the West has to employ. He continues to get good drops in the pass game and react quickly to the run. McDonald is also a solid kid who is about 6-2 and a legit 230 pounds. If he is able to mentally grasp the defense I think he'll have a chance to push for playing time next fall. He has really worked this week and shown me some good abilities.

NATIONAL PLAYERS

ANDREW LUCK, QB

Luck is not a guy who jumps out at me when I first watched him. I had him rated very low on my national rankings at the quarterback position. As I've continued to watch him this week I will be the first to admit that I am wrong. Luck showed me today he is a legit Division I quarterback and is not a player I'm looking forward to watching go against the Irish in future season. The future Stanford signal caller doesn't have the arm strength that Crist and Gabbert show, but he has a quick, although unorthodox release and is deadly accurate. He doesn't miss much and showed today he's actually a better athlete than I had anticipated. He made a gorgeous throw on an "in" route to Floyd for about a 40-yard touchdown.

DARRELL SCOTT, RB

It's rare to see a kid with his size (6-0 and about 205-210 pounds) who run as fast as Scott. He's not the juker that McGuffie, Williams, and Thomas are, but he can make people miss in the open field. He is hands down the best running back in this game. That's not a knock on the other players it's just how good he is. He hit the hole super fast today and was into the secondary before the defense knew what was happening. He is scary good.

D.J. SHOEMATE, WR

The Servite High star is an impressive athlete. When the ball is in his hands he can do some good things with it. He has a ways to go as a wide receiver but is an explosive athlete. He had two long touchdown receptions today; one from Crist and another from Gabbert. The West coaches are also doing a good job during the week of finding other ways to get him the football. In time he could be a very good weapon for the Trojans.

STEPHEN GOOD, OL

I haven't seen much of Good but what I have seen I've been impressed with. He has good footwork on the edge and will battle. He should be a good player at Oklahoma.

R.J. WASHINGTON, DE

Take everything I've said about Washington in previous days and apply it again here. He is the same guy today as he was the last two days, dominating. He needs to get stronger against the run, but as a pass rusher he is outstanding.

BAKER STEINKUHLER, DT

Steinkuhler was a five-star offensive linemen in my view. While he doesn't have the same upside at a defensive tackle, he has shown this week he is still a Top 100 caliber player on the defensive side of the ball as well. He gets off the ball quickly, is a very good athlete for his size, and fights his butt off. He made several tackles for loss during the inside run and team periods. The West guards have had some struggles keeping him contained.

MATT MAUTI, LB

Mauti dinged his knee up a bit today but still showed outstanding sideline-to-sideline speed during the practice today. He should continue the great tradition the Nittany Lions have had at the linebacker position.

ROBERT GOLDEN, CB

Golden has been outstanding all week. The only player he has struggled with this week is Michael Floyd, who just uses his size and strength to beat Golden for the football. He has excellent feet, and again today was physical in coverage. He and D.J. Monroe are very similar in style.

RAHIM MOORE, S

Moore was knocking people all over the field. I'm not sure who made him angry today, but he took it out on Dan Buckner and Austin Holt. Moore has good range to the sideline and likes to hit people.


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