Session 1 again contained group work, with the punt return options pared down slightly since our last report. The following DB, WR, and RB fielded punts from Ben Turk, Brandon Walker, and the Jugs machine: Theo Riddick (still donning a red top to his helmet signifying restricted contact), Armando Allen, Darrin Walls, John Goodman, Dan McCarthy, walk-on Dan Franco, Tai-ler Jones, Harrison Smith, E.J. Banks, and Jamoris Slaughter.
Of the group, only Goodman missed an easy offering while Harrison Smith deftly fielded the trickiest, wind-aided punt of the session.
In the opposite end zone, apparent up-back (short return) candidates fielded side-winding "kicks" from the Jugs. The group included tight ends Bobby Burger (also a FB), Mike Ragone, Tyler Eifert, and Jake Golic, as well as running backs Jonas Gray, Robert Hughes, and Cierre Wood. The wind wreaked havoc on the drill (either that or ND will have a short set of up-backs from which to choose.
Per usual, the second session was the up-tempo aerobic stretch with the only (plausible) notable occurrence an extra rep as the team was a bit lackadaisical without full pads on a Monday afternoon.
Five-to-Score PersonnelThe offense appeared to work on personnel groupings during the daily drill, with each of the three units utilizing substitutions when called out from the sideline in the no-huddle session.
Today's first unit: QB Dayne Crist, RB Armando Allen, C Braxston Cave, LT Zach Martin, LG Chris Stewart, RG Taylor Dever, RT Trevor Robinson, TE (and lined up tight today) Kyle Rudolph, 2TE (detached) Mike Ragone, WR Tai-ler Jones, WR Michael Floyd. Duval Kamara replaced Ragone on the second snap and remained for the duration. Robert Hughes replaced Allen for the 4th snap; Allen returned to replace Jones on the final snap (generally a running play) at the goal.
Jones provided the highlight with a turf tickling catch of a low ball from Crist on the second snap (his knees did not touch the ground) while Kamara dropped a catchable ball near the goal line on snap No. 4.
Cierre Wood entered for Hughes on the 5th snap to take in the TD vs. the skeleton defense.
Second Unit: QB Nate Montana, RB Jonas Gray, C Dan Wenger, LT Matt Romine, LG Andrew Nuss, RG Chris Watt, RT Alex Bullard, TE (tight) Mike Ragone, WR John Goodman, WR Shaquelle Evans, WR Theo Riddick (both Riddick and Evans appeared in the slot during the five snaps). Bobby Burger subbed in for the final snap at fullback.
Uneventful other than a mishandling of a pass (behind him) by Evans on play #4 and an assignment error by Riddick (wrong side) prior to the same snap.
Third Unit: QB Tommy Rees, RB Cierre Wood, C Mike Golic, LT Matt Romine, LG Chris Stewart, RG Taylor Dever (switched sides from Unit #1), RT Lane Clelland, TE Tyler Eifert, WR Deion Walker, WR Barry Gallup, WR (Slot) Roby Toma. Robert Hughes subbed in for Eifert at the goal line (Wood remained at RB with Hughes to FB).
Notable, of course, is the presence of Clelland back at tackle and on the offensive side of scrimmage. Quick Observation: while several offensive lineman appear to at least switch sides (if not swap from G/T over our viewing sessions) incumbent LG Chris Stewart has remained in his spot, running with (mostly) the first and (intermittently) second units. LT Matt Romine has also appeared to stay put on that side of the center, regardless of first or second unit status.
Sessions 4, 5, and 6: Group WorkWith new restrictions placed on media mobility at practice, the offense is much easier view as a whole. As a result I split my time between the quarterbacks and skill position players.
The QBs drilled footwork with offensive coordinator Charley Molnar while Brian Kelly offered one-on-one tutoring with Crist, a session that included work on three step drops and (it appeared) the proper form to shuffle forward in a shotgun pocket (there was no center, I'm assuming shotgun).
The RBs worked on pad level then stiff-arms on both sides with the emphasis on the proper steps to set up the stiff arm vs. an approaching defender.
Following standard work with ball security, the WRs split into groups, catching short crosses from position coach Tony Alford while also working in conjunction with the QB and select RB/FB/WR on set plays without the presence of an offensive line. The receivers also ran two-yard slants at the goal line with Evans providing the only curious moment…running behind the stationary defender (assistant) unlike the rest of the squad that appropriately cut in front for the 2-yard slant. (Evans, of note, is a full helmet taller than Robby Toma. Shaq might be the only WR in program history short-changed by his official listing).
In the final segment, the receivers split sides of the field with Crist and Montana while the TE and RB did the same with Rees and walk-on QBs Brian Castello and Matthew Mulvey to catch bubble screens (I'm describing it as a bubble screen for the visual, but in this case, the receivers, rather than running parallel after a quick step off the line as you saw under former head coach Charlie Weis, actually drop into a basketball style backpedal before turning upfield upon the catch).
The second drill (same set-up as above) featured 2-yard in-routes (back to the QB; thus back to the throw) with the point of emphasis of running through the football (rather than pausing to catch the pass) and turning upfield. Not surprisingly, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph excelled. If asked to pick the third best I'd choose Toma, while Tai-ler Jones made perhaps the best attempt, slightly juggling the ball but never breaking stride on a rocket pass from Crist.
One for the student body: walk-on Chris Gurries looked smooth during the drill as well, catching consecutive offerings in stride while neither was particularly well thrown.