The headline from Thursday's practice was no doubt this frightening one, just nine days before the first game of the season:
Stephon Tuiit injured in Thursday's practice with an apparent lower body injured. Left the field under his own power.— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) August 22, 2013
Everybody breathe. Relax, it's going to be ok:
BK - we are not concerned about Stephon Tuitt - he just twisted his knee - he'll be fine.— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) August 22, 2013
That's a young man that this team simply cannot afford to lose for any extended period of time. Let's not even go there.
Fellow defensive lineman Tony Springmann was on the sidelines wearing a brace, and news broke confirming the worst:
Tony Springmann is out for the season, per #NotreDame HC Brian Kelly. Will require surgery after dislocation/ligament damage to knee.— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) August 22, 2013
Tough blow for Springmann, who will likely just lose a year of football having already redshirted. That's always the worst part of this time of year.
Other injury news includes the welcome return of both offensive guards Chris Watt (concussion) and Conor Hanratty (neck). Unfortunately, they subbed in for projected starting right tackle Ronnie Stanley (concussion) and backup center Mark Harrell. Both were riding the stationary bike most of practice, and indications are that neither is seriously injured.
Joining Springmann, Stanley and Harrell on the sidelines was RB/slot Will Mahone, whose high ankle sprain likely has him out at least a few more days.
Freshman RB Tarean Folston was back (death in the family), as were junior RB Cam McDaniel and senior WR Daniel Smith who have been banged up recently.
Enough of that. Let's talk about actual football.
The pecking order is very clear at quarterback. Tommy Rees is taking darn near all the first-team snaps, Andrew Hendrix is taking most of the second-team, and freshman Malik Zaire is observing 11-on-11s.
Zaire did take over the second team for the "tempo" portion that kicks off the team practice, but it looks as though he will follow the scout team path that has been established for true freshmen quarterbacks in recent years.
The ND media is buzzing about the use of the Pistol formation this training camp, which continued today:
Also: It isn't all #NotreDame was doing, but there was enough Pistol offense work being done that it'll be in the repertoire.— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) August 22, 2013
Yes, this includes with Tommy Rees at the helm, and he even reportedly popped off a run of his own for about 5 yards. Dual threat!
There appears to be some clarity at this logjam as well, as the reps would indicate that it's George Atkinson III as the starter, and everybody else somewhere behind him.
Amir Carlisle is working primarily at RB with the second team, perhaps not cross-training at slot as much as was thought may be the case. Freshmen Greg Bryant and Folston as well as McDaniel were also rotating in liberally with the "second team", which sounds like the second, third, and fourth team the more names that are thrown in there.
The starting threesome here continues to be TJ Jones, Davaris Daniels, and Chris Brown, with the sophomore Brown looking like the slot receiver.
The second team interestingly features former safety CJ Prosise as well as two true freshmen in Corey Robinson and James Onwualu. Josh Atkinson, who recently confirmed that he was looking at transfer options this past summer but is sticking it out in South Bend, was apparently moved to wide receiver from corner:
Minor #NotreDame football note: Josh Atkinson swings over to receiver now, with Brian Kelly saying the reps just weren't there at corner.— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) August 22, 2013
Shockingly, Robinson was not universally cited as having the "play of the day", which seemed like a regularity all camp (although he had a great catch to finish the highlight video below).
Not much doing here, but Durham Smythe earned some praise today for looking the part, including accelerating at the snap and in his sharp route running.
This might have been the most interesting depth chart-related storyline of the day. Despite the return of Hanratty and absence of Stanley, Christian Lombard appears to be settled in as the starting right guard for your 2013 Fighting Irish. Freshman sensation Steve Elmer stepped into first team right tackle instead of Hanratty kicking Lombard back out to his tackle position from last season.
Assuming Stanley is healthy for Temple, the starting offensive line will undoubtedly be Martin, Watt, Martin, Lombard, and Stanley from left to right, even though Kelly would not commit to a starting five after practice.
The Tuitt injury notwithstanding, the news here is that backing up the outstanding Sheldon Day-Louis Nix-Stephon Tuitt trio are Isaac Rochell, Kona Schwenke, and Jarron Jones, with the freshman Rochell as the apparent backup to Tuitt. He's earned rave reviews this camp and, following the loss of Springmann, looks for a Sheldon Day-like impact this season:
Springmann's injury will lead to an "accelerated learning curve" for freshman DE Isaac Rochell.— Dan Murphy (@BGI_DanMurphy) August 22, 2013
5th year senior Tyler Stockton also got some run on the second team today.
-- A lot of mixing and matching of 1s, 2s and 3s during scrimmage periods, but freshman Jaylon Smith worked at No. 1 OLB and impressed.— Eric Hansen (@hansenNDInsider) August 22, 2013
He looks to have beaten out Ben Councell for the starting position, although both figure to feature prominently at this spot. This would be a welcome injection of athleticism into the starting lineup. Imagine lining up on offense and looking directly at a "front 5" of Prince Shembo, Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, Sheldon Day, and Jaylon Smith. Awesome.
Two 5th year seniors will be starting at middle linebacker, as Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese have consistently been first-teamers with Jarrett Grace only rotating in. This may disappoint some who thought Grace would fill the void left by Manti Te'o, but he will get plenty of playing time nonetheless.
Senior Austin Collinsworth took sophomore Elijah Shumate's place at first team safety next to Mathias Farley. I still expect Shumate to win the job by next weekend, but if he isn't picking up his role at the back end of the defense, the staff would sooner go with someone who has it all mentally rather than physically. Safety first, after all.
Some fun special teams notes from BK's press conference:
George Atkinson III will remain kick returner, per #NotreDame HC Brian Kelly. TJ Jones will return punts.— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) August 22, 2013
TJ Jones at punt returner makes a whole lotta sense. He's sure-handed, very quick, and has always had a good head on his shoulders. I'm surprised he hasn't had this role sooner. BK said Jones really wanted it this camp, which is not something he could say about anyone the previous three seasons, Jones included.
The kicking situation sounds...unsettled. I would imagine Tausch is the first kicker, Wulfeck the first punter, and Brindza the first kickoff man, but the way Kelly raved about Brindza's punting potential makes it seem like he will be first in line for that as well. We will see, I guess?
Notre Dame Football Practice Update - Aug. 22, 2013 (via NotreDameAthletics)
Coach Kelly Media Day Press Conference - Aug. 22, 2013 (via NotreDameAthletics)
Pumped for Temple.