The atmosphere was loose, a lot of players were joking around with each other and coaches, and smiles were everywhere as the team was doing agilities and then stretching to get things underway.
Irish Eyes had a lot of eyes at practice this afternoon. Here is what our staff saw.
During stretching, head coach Charlie Weis began making the rounds on defense, stopping and talking with each set of players for a second. On the other side, Rob Ianello went right over to freshman offensive lineman Trevor Robinson, one of two early enrollees along with Sean Cwynar, and said something and gave him a love tap on the helmet.
Quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus looked like he was talking routes and reads with sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen, motioning his hands all over the place during the discussion.
Incoming freshman linebacker Steve Filer was at practice, and appeared to be very much included as possible. Ianello and the Chicago product talked for a minute or two. He took in what Weis said to the team before breaking into position drills.
Suspended tight end Will Yeatman was also practice in street clothes.
I mainly focused on the offense when they split up by position.
"Leave the bags alone, you're killing the bags," tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee said.
"Squeeze the ball, get that elbow tight," offensive coordinator Mike Haywood reminded them. "You guys are rusty.
"Eyes, eyes, eyes up, burst!"
Weis headed over with the o-line. They were also doing agility-type bag drills, with offensive line coach John Latina constantly reminding them to bend their knees.
The tight ends were doing one-on-one blocking drills after they split up with the running backs. Mike Ragone looks bigger than last year, but still looks more like a wide receiver.
"Slow dance with him," Parmalee instructed Ragone as he was blocking. "Haven't you ever slow danced before?"
The WRs were catching balls and then running through guys holding pads. They also ran through the guys holding pads and then caught a pass. There were no drops when I was watching.
The QBs were doing light tossing. I also saw the RBs catching short passes.
I kind of walked all around the place looking for interesting things. Didn't see a ton of interesting things, but here is what I saw.
Jimmy Clausen definitely is thicker in the chest, arms, mid section. He doesn't look like he's going to break in two anymore. Looks about like where Evan Sharpley was to start last season.
I noticed a much thinner Asaph Schwapp, but he's still pretty cut and muscular, but he's thinner, mostly in the mid section and lower body.
Eric Olsen has really redistributed his weight. He looked almost skinny, which is quite impressive for him compared to last year. Can't really tell mass as their shirts are real big, but not the gut you saw last year.....says the man with the gut.
Trevor Robinson looks as big as the other guards right now, but he'll need to redistribute some weight in the mid section. He's just a big kid now. The extra time working with the team will definitely help him a great deal.
Armando Allen looks to have added a few pounds, but he didn't look that much bigger than last year.
Holy cow is James Aldridge jacked up. Very, very thick arms, but still looks athletic. He looks bigger than 222 to me. Didn't look much smaller than Robert Hughes, who is also very cut. They're both about on par in the muscular department with Asaph now.
I checked out Darrin Walls. He doesn't look like he's added much weight, if any. He's still really thin for his height. Hopefully he can get closer to 190 by the season's start.
David Bruton also is still pretty skinny, but he does look to be in great shape.
Gary Gray looks like he's done a little lifting as well. Looked thicker than I expected. Also looks at least 5-10 if not 5-11.
Justin Brown has gained considerable weight. He looks every bit of 271. He looked almost as big as Emeka Nwankwo. Watching Emeka and Brown run through the drills I couldn't see a lot of difference between the two athletically. Emeka moves pretty well for his size. Paddy Mullen also looks thicker, but couldn't tell if it was good weight or bad weight. He doesn't move as well as Emeka does, but gave it some hustle out there.
Kerry Neal and Brian Smith looked to be about the same size out there. Neal looks a little thicker upper body while Smith looked thicker lower body. They looked like they weighed about the same. Not sure it's 240, but it's close.
Morrice Richardson didn't look that much bigger than either Smith or Neal. I was quite a distance away, so I'd have to check closer, but he didn't look that much thicker.
I liked what I saw in Ian Williams. He's a compact, thick kid. Not sure his lower body is as strong as he'd like it right now, most likely he was limited lifting lower body due to the ankle infection Weis mentioned.
That's about it for today.
I did notice the RBs doing different drills today. A lot of drills with hand placement and striking. A lot with proper stance with hand placement and striking.
OL also doing different drills with hand placements.
Coach Weis and the other coaches were going around talking with the players and Coach Powlus spent three or four minutes talking and explaining something to Jimmy Clausen. There was a lot of chatter by the players at this time. When the players broke into their specialty groups, the quarterbacks and receivers were doing agility drills around and over the bags. First without a ball and then with a ball. The quarterbacks then broke away and loosened up with nerf-type balls; then progressed with footballs to 10-15 yard soft throws.
The defensive backs started their position drills with several bag agility drills and then moved on to individual drills with defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. A lot of these were reaction-type drills with and without the ball. It is difficult to point out any one particular player's performance on the first day of practice. As we were leaving practice, Coach Brian Polian was observed talking with the kickers and having them demonstrate their kicking approach.
Some observations. Clausen is definitely bigger and more mature-looking than last year. There is a shortage of quarterbacks and will continue that way until Sharpley reports for practice. It is easy to see that some of the "big uglies" have gotten bigger since the end of last season.
Just a few quick notes on today's practice:
Long-time ND fan Keith Penrod was in attendance, watching the players go through their drills.
As soon as we walked in, one of the players let out a loud "WHOOOOOO" to get the spring started.
During stretching, coach Powlus was paying extra attention to Jimmy Clausen, who definitely has packed on some muscle and looks every bit of the 212 lbs. Weis spoke about in his press conference.
Weis moved around during stretching, looked like he meant business today.
Trevor Robinson looks huge standing next to some of the other O-linemen.
Sam Young has gotten noticeably bigger and was pushing around some of the other linemen in their drills.
Coach Parmalee seemed to be pleased with the tight ends, offering words of encouragement. Mike Ragone's physical progress is impressive. Luke Schmidt looked pretty solid pushing the other tight ends in some light contact drills.
David Grimes took a spill during footwork drills causing the other players to joke around and get on him a bit.
The wide receivers looked a bit rusty catching the ball. There were some early drops. West and Grimes both dropped a few catches. Robbie Parris showed good hands early on.
Richard Jackson was motivating the receivers in the catching drills. After West made a good catch he said, "Nice catch, G." Right before Parris was about to take his turn, he said, "Go get 'em, Robbie."