Wednesday's fourth session featured three sets of players lined up from left to right: a center, a shotgun quarterback, and the lot of tight ends and wide receivers running short hitch routes to a specifically-placed cone…at least that was the plan.
Errant cone placement elicited head coach Brian Kelly's wrath, fewer than 20 minutes into the two-hour practice:
"Managers, you (messed) up the drill! Are you kidding me?"
(For those of you scoring at home: Braxston Cave snapped to Dayne Crist; Mike Golic, Jr. to Nate Montana, and Dan Wenger to Tommy Rees during the course of the drill. The host of receivers and tight ends sprinted from one set of C/QB to the next throughout.)
While Kelly was displeased with the cone placement, he was noticeably more upset when his whistle did not immediately result in halted action throughout the set of offensive drills:
"I blew the whistle. I'm talking, you stop! Pick this up; sprint through the cones! This is a terrible start."
Apparently the offense's struggles continued, as Kelly noted post-practice that the unit suffered through a sloppy final practice prior to the team's seven-day break over the Easter holiday.
"We're just so from where we need to be in terms of attention to detail," he began. "This was a step back for us today. I want to be sure to make clear that I like what I saw defensively, but we have to do this thing together."
Kelly later offered disgust at his need to motivate the squad. "You're 18-19-20-years old…and you're playing at Notre Dame and it's 70 degrees and (Kelly has to bring the energy)."
Special Teams Focus: The squad then broke down for more team sessions. I followed the semi-live action between the team's No. 1 punt return unit and largely walk-ons on the punt team. In order of appearance, Irish punt return candidates included Armando Allen, John Goodman, Theo Riddick, Jamoris Slaughter, and Harrison Smith.
The punt return team's defensive corners were Robert Blanton and Darrin Walls on the first unit (fellow CB Gary Gray was on the line rushing the punter); followed by Spencer Boyd and E.J. Banks with the second unit.
(Blanton, as he did in practice last year, generally mixed it up pretty well vs. his opposing gunner).
Freshman Lo Wood took Gray's spot on the line with Unit No. 2, though first ran out to the cornerback position before being reprimanded to his correct placement.
I'd comment on the quality punts throughout the seesion but they each had the benefit of heavy winds behind them. (Note: The punter appeared to be Brandon Walker, but I'll check this next week. Also, the punt coverage group was not the team's first unit – thus, Ben Turk's presence in the drill wasn't mandatory.)
QB Notes: Irish quarterbacks worked on shuffle-passes (option-pitches) with both hands, as well as a drill in which, after receiving a shotgun snap, each pivots and throws rolling to his right on the fifth step.
None of the quarterbacks mastered the necessary footwork though Crist fired off an initial first offering to the near sideline that was pretty crisp.
Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar corrected Montana's footwork, noting a false pivot step after receiving the snap caused a breakdown in timing and subsequent errant throw.
Crist was told to use his weight (forward momentum) to carry the throw toward the sideline better.
The final drill prior to the media's exit was a skeleton offense with Dayne Crist in the shotgun and John Goodman, Duval Kamara, Kyle Rudolph, and Michael Floyd as his targets. Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray took turns as the halfback.
The second unit featured Montana, Shaq Evans and Barry Gallup wide, with Mike Ragone and Roby Toma in the slot (Riddick subbed for Toma in rep No. 2). Armando Allen and Riddick each took a rep at halfback in the drill, one that was otherwise uneventful with the exception of Evans running the wrong route shortly after being chewed out by Molnar for a lazy set-up prior to the snap: "Is that a stance?" Molnar questioned, stopping the drill.
Of Interest: Kerry Neal jogged gingerly (and deliberately) off the field with his calf wrapped, following practice. Neal reportedly suffered the injury Monday afternoon.
IrishEyes will have complete coverage of the Kelly post-practice interview tomorrow morning, as well as stories covering Matt Romine, Braxston Cave, Armando Allen, Manti Te'o, and Jamoris Slaughter through the Easter Holiday.
The Irish do not practice again until next Wednesday, April 7.
Finally, don't look for a repeat performance by defending Bookstore Basketball champions "Hallelujah Holla Back" a team that included Dayne Crist (a given) and Jonas Gray (as well as former Irish tight end Joseph Fauria) in 2010.
Coach Kelly has reportedly instructed Irish football players from participating in the annual event this spring.