Wednesday Practice Report: Part I

The first of two IrishEyes practice reports to be sandwiched around tonight's interviews.

Consistent winds blowing from the south made a 75-degree day comfortable for the Irish players who attacked practice No. 4 of the Brian Kelly era in full pads.

Of note: Kerry Neal's well-publicized booted foot passed briefly as a message board news point following Monday's practice. Today the senior outside linebacker was in attendance sans boot…and without pads as well, instead wearing a protective black sleeve over what appears to be an injured right calf.

As noted previously, the Irish no longer begin practice with a (painfully) extended stretching period, and today moved immediately to positional (group) instruction.

A host of Irish DB, WR, and RB fielded punts (into the wind) at the outset, the list includes: Cierre Wood, Barry Gallup, Theo Riddick (donning a red sleeve on his helmet denoting limited contact), John Goodman, Dan McCarthy, Armando Allen, Robert Blanton, (walk-on) Dan Franco, Tai-ler Jones, Darrin Walls, Jamoris Slaughter, Lo Wood, E.J. Banks, Spencer Boyd, Roby Toma, Shaquelle Evans, Zeke Motta, Harrison Smith, and Gary Gray.

The gusting winds made a few of the punts an adventure, Darrin Walls appeared to deftly handle a (deep) errant punt, but was offered technical correction from special teams coordinator Mike Elston:

"Darrin, be square, don't turn to the sidelines." (Further proof that we're not coaches, as Walls could not have looked more athletic and fluid chasing down the punt 10 yards over his head.)

Outside linebackers coach Kerry Cooks (also monitoring the drill) offered a "Where are you going, Blanton?" to the cornerback who drifted far too deep for his second rep, a comment that drew laughter from freshman Lo Wood.

The squad next gathered for its aerobic-style stretching session, including segments of light jogging the width of the field, followed by the same formation and jog with the addition of a hop/explosion off one foot (still-recovering QB Dayne Crist jogged through this segment without leaping), and finally, a backpedal-turn-and run – an act which illustrates the distinct athletic gap that exists among the players.

Five Snaps with the Offense

The players broke for a team segment, with the first team offense traveling 80(?) yards in five snaps at full-speed vs. a skeleton defense.

Today's first unit consisted of Zach Martin and Andrew Nuss on the left side; Braxston Cave at center, with Trevor Robinson and Taylor Dever lined up to his right. Crist manned the offense with Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, John Goodman, and Duval Kamara as his targets and Armando Allen in the backfield.

Typical of what we've seen from practice to date, the session was run at full speed with each player sprinting to his position and attempting to adjust to line calls by Crist and/or Coach Kelly (who lined up as the Mike linebacker). The first unit was anything but spotless, forgetting at least one assignment (Floyd and Rudolph on snap No. 4 and Goodman on snap No. 5) while dropping a high pass (Kamara).

Robert Hughes subbed in for an off-set I fullback look at the goal line to "score" finishing the set.

The second unit comprised Matt Romine and Chris Stewart left of center; Dan Wenger snapping, with Chris Watt and Alex Bullard to his right. Nate Montana ran the show from the shotgun with Shaquelle Evans, Roby Toma and Mike Ragone as his targets; Bobby Burger offset at fullback and then slotted with Jonas Gray as the running back (Cierre Wood subbed in for Gray during the five-snap march downfield).

Barry Gallup subbed late (for Ragone) and lined up on the incorrect side, drawing Kelly's ire. Both Shaq Evans (a tad high) and Roby Toma (slightly behind) dropped passes. Shaq's drop was the cardinal sin - the slant pass that deflects high off a receiver's hands into the shallow zone occupied by opposing linebackers. Burger "scored" the set finishing TD from his fullback spot.

Note: Part II of our practice report – to be published following today's post-practice interviews – will include a look at individual and group work with the quarterbacks and receivers, as well as the punt return group; a few choice words from Coach Kelly regarding the initial direction of practice, and another team segement with the offense.


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