The good news for Irish fans is that a few of their prospects will be on special teams for the West, at least as of today, and that is Shaquelle Evans on kickoff coverage, and running back Cierre Wood as a kick returner.
The bad news is the drills were run half speed, which is understandable, but we didn't really get to see them run a great deal during special teams practices.
We saw kickoff return. We saw some kick coverage. We saw punts. We did see some goal-line, which was somewhat entertaining if you like defense.
I watched Shaq Evans for awhile today and I noticed a few things. He's not as tall as I thought. He's probably 6-foot-1, and he's not quite as thick as I once thought. He is a great athlete, however. Evans has been slowed much of this practice, and the last all-star game he was in, by a strained muscle in his leg. Shaq told us after practice that it's just sore, and he's not injured for this game, but the two-a-days got to him a bit since he hasn't been in two-a-days since August.
He wasn't practicing much at all during the practice, but we did get to see him run a few times, and when he turned on the speed, he looked to have plenty of acceleration. I was pleasantly surprised as he appears to be a bit faster than I originally thought. He only played a bit in one-on-ones, and the throws by the quarterbacks were pretty off all day, so we didn't see him catch much, but he used his hands well at the line of scrimmage and got off the line pretty quickly in the limited action we were able to see.
I spent some time watching Cierre Wood as well. Or, I should say I spent time watching Cierre run for his life, as did all the West running backs and quarterbacks today. The West offensive line has quite a ways to go.
I also didn't see the same fire in the West and attention to detail as I saw in the East squad. The West coaches were having a hard time getting players to volunteer for the scout teams in special teams, and some just didn't seem to be paying much attention to them.
Back to Wood…..I've got nothing for you. Sorry. He didn't find any creases in the action he had. He was wide open on one wheel route, which was severely under-thrown. He looked very fast on that route, but that's pretty much all we saw today other than him trying to avoid multiple tacklers in the backfield in most of his carries. It's hard to really see what he can do under those circumstances. He is taller than I thought. He might be 6-foot-2. He's somewhat skinny, but he's got as much size as most of the other backs, if not more. He's a very smooth athlete. I'm looking forward to watching him tomorrow during the scrimmage.
Chris Watt did impress me today most of the time, but let me qualify this as saying I'm not an expert on offensive line play. First, he has that nasty streak you're looking for. He got after it and fired off the ball. He told me on Monday that he was only 270 and he looked it out there. He's not quite as big as some of the other guys as he's been playing basketball all winter.
He stayed with his man quite well. He pass protected better than I thought he would, but there were limited plays of that. He's playing right guard for the West and appears to be the first-team guard for them right now. At times he needs to stay lower as a few opposing players got leverage on him. He also had trouble once with the spin move from a defender, but it seemed more like a technique thing as he had his hands too close together and wasn't able to get a punch on the outside shoulder when the defender spun.
He can definitely get to the second level, but sometimes he needs to stay with his initial block a little longer before going to the second level. He moves pretty well. I'd say he's a little quicker than Trevor Robinson, but not nearly as strong at this point.
He did a real nice job on Jamarkus McFarland a couple of times in pass protection, and he also stonewalled Nick Kasa on an inside twist, which was impressive. Watt certainly looks to be a good pickup for the Irish. He may not dominate in this game because he's not as strong as some, but he should hold his own with most. His future looks very bright though.
That was about it for the West Irish prospects. There just weren't many opportunities to see much from these three due to the practice schedule and what they were working on.
A couple of notes on players the Irish recruited that likely won't end up at Notre Dame.
The players that impressed me the most today were Xavier Nixon, Nick Kasa, T.J. McDonald, Brennan Williams, Eric Shrive, Dorian Bell, Justin Green and some guy who didn't have a number today from the East squad playing a 5 technique. That guy is a very good prospect, whoever he is. It's hard to see everyone the first day, so some others will jump out at me, but this was the best of the bunch that I saw today. I'd definitely throw Tyler Stockton and Chris Watt in that bunch. For the others, they weren't in a position to really shine today.
It appears the East has the better O-line, and they have some good D-line prospects. The East also has the better quarterbacks, but not by a long shot. I'd say the East should win, so that means the West will with my luck. Remember, I'm a Lions and Cubs fan.
Tomorrow both teams scrimmage, so there should be more to see tomorrow.
Day 2: West Practice Report
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