And so the spring begins.
Notre Dame held their first spring practice on Wednesday morning and will be out on the field again Friday and Saturday doing work.
The Irish practice schedule will follow a Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday routine up through the Blue Gold Game in about a month.
Here at One Foot Down we will publish the juicy info from practices on Wednesdays and Fridays---although we may skip a day here and there depending on what information becomes available.
As always, special thanks to the men and women in South Bend covering practice for us bloggers. Without them we are just wandering in the desert.
The information below is gleaned from the sites and Twitter feeds of:
They report, we discuss. Let's get to it!
As many of you know, there was unseasonably warm weather this week in South Bend. Unseasonably warm weather doesn't do it justice---it's hot as hell in the Midwest.
Here's a good omen for the start of spring ball:
I seriously think I saw a shooting star. Never seen one before. Great way to start off the first day of my last spring! Let's go boyeeeeee!!— Manti Te'o (@MTeo_5) March 21, 2012
And if that's not good enough, I present you this instead:
Highlight of practice 1 (at least the media portion) was Cierre Wood dancing in stretching line. Nothing else was close. Wish I had video.— Bob Wieneke (@bobwienekeisr) March 21, 2012
Those two tweets combined probably equals a national title this year, right?
Okay, now on to the news and notes from actual practice (some good stuff here from BGI as well):
- USC transfer and running back/slot player Amir Carlisle was walking with crutches and a walking boot on his broken ankle. He was still sporting his new No. 3 jersey during practice though.
That's a really tough break for Carlisle and you can imagine he's pretty pissed off. Hopefully, he can learn a lot while he watches practice this spring and can jump right into the thick of things in August.
- 2014 OT Andy Bauer from St. Louis, Missouri was in attendance for the team's first spring practice.
You have to hit recruiting early and often. I wonder if Tyrone Willingham thinks this is silly?
- Tommy Rees got the first reps with the 1st team offense and was followed quickly by Andrew Hendrix.
That's what we expected.
- Everett Golson took reps with the second team as Gunner Kiel stood on the sidelines before making his way into the mix.
Of course we'll be watching like a hawk how many reps Golson takes with the 1st team. Anyone want to guess when we'll start hearing about that?
It appears Kelly may be telling Kiel to listen to some Foghat---you know, "Slow ride, take it easy" etc. etc.
- Head coach Brian Kelly devoted all of the 30-minute media viewing time to the quarterbacks.
As well he should.
- The quarterbacks were working a lot with throwing on the run.
I'm assuming that Rees was involved in these drills. Do the other players just kind of sigh to themselves?
- Golson looked the smoothest in footwork drills, with Hendrix not far behind.
Almost everyone who gets a good look at Golson has raved about his footwork. It's nice to see Hendrix improving here as well.
- Kiel passes the eye-ball test as far as size goes, and also has a very smooth throwing motion.
Kiel has an awesome skill-set and the perfect size for a college quarterback. This next month will challenge him mentally as much as anything.
- Running back George Atkinson was wearing No. 4 instead of the No. 34 jersey he wore last year.
He'll look taller in No. 4, so he has that going for him.
- The running backs were working a lot on passing routes, with Robby Toma joining them.
Can we set the over/under for Toma taking a carry from the backfield at 1.5? And who will take the over? Of all facets of his game, Cierre Wood needs to work on his hands so this better pays off for him.
- The 1st team receivers were T.J. Jones (X), Robby Toma (Z), and John Goodman (W). Daniel Smith backed up Goodman, while DaVaris Daniels and Luke Massa backed up Jones.
Kelly has gushed about Daniels (more on that below) and I hope he blows up to the point where he's starting. Still not too crazy about that W position right now.
- Troy Niklas was wearing No. 85 and is now working at tight end. He is immediately the biggest of the bunch at that position.
I'm starting to like this move more and more. I really am.
- In many drills, the tight ends were split out wide at the W receiver spot---formerly Michael Floyd's position.
Okay, we thought this might happen and it makes me feel better about that W position. Is there any way that Eifert actually takes 50% or more of his snaps on the field lined up out wide?
- Center Braxston Cave is still out while recovering from foot surgery, so the 1st team offensive line looked like this from left to right: Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Mike Golic, Christian Lombard, and Tate Nichols.
No huge surprises here, but it's noteworthy to see Lombard at guard for the time being. Nichols occupies a third of the field just by standing in one spot, but is he quick enough to protect that right side?
- The second offensive line unit was Jordan Prestwood, Bruce Heggie, Matt Hegarty, Connor Hanratty, and Nick Martin. Both units were working on zone blocking during the allotted viewing time.
Nothing major here either, except with Hegarty getting work at center. Remember when he was the future at left tackle? I think he'll make a great interior linemen though.
- Lining up on the 1st team defensive line unit was Louis Nix at nose guard flanked by Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch. The second unit saw Kona Scwhenke in the middle with Kapron Lewis-Moore and Sheldon Day.
Ah, a little intrigue! The youngsters all line up on the 1st team, with KLM down a spot. That probably has to do with his rehab as much as anything. I have no doubts that Sheldon Day is going to play often this year.
- Anthony Rabasa has been listed with the middle linebackers but was working during practice on the outside.
Rabasa could be an intriguing guy at the Dog position and at this point, why not try him out there? I wouldn't be shocked to see him bounce around a little bit within the linebacker corps for a year or two.
- Ben Councell looked noticeably bigger and has added some good weight. Schwenke and Carlo Calabrese also look noticeably leaner and trim.
There were a lot of mentions of how well the team looked physically, with many comments on how much leaner and more muscular everyone looked. Of course this is said every year, but sometimes it's true!
- Danny Spond was the 1st team player at Dog position while Prince Shembo was at the Cat position.
I'm pretty sure these two will start at these positions against Navy.
- Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood were the 1st team cornerbacks for this practice.
Also pretty much expected given the little amount of experience behind them. Most think Jackson will hang on to his spot---Lo Wood---not so much.
From the South Bend Tribune:
You can also view some really great photos from Matt Cashore right here as well.
On DaVaris Daniels:
"I would say a guy that made some catches was Daniels today," Kelly said. "He showed up. It's the first day and I'm not ready to anoint him as the next Michael Floyd; he's got a long way to go. He's extremely athletic. ... As we get deeper into film today, he'll have probably run the wrong route and made a great catch. He stood out to me."
On the corners:
"I think in one-on-one, I thought our corners came up and were pretty aggressive in man-to-man coverage because we played all cover zero today," Kelly said. "It was good to see; we wanted to see those guys track the ball. Those were a couple things. Again, we'll have to watch the film this afternoon because I focus so much on the little things with our quarterbacks and we have so much work to do there."
On Troy Niklas:
"The first thing we want him to do is be an in-line blocker for us," Kelly said. "We want to be able to run the ball effectively. Troy has got to be able to be a very good piece of that blocking up front for us. We didn't put him in there just because he's 6-7 and he can get a matchup - that's part of it, but we've got an athletic tight end in Tyler Eifert. What we were looking for is a bigger-body guy that can be a great in-line blocker, but also gives us that size element."
On Gunner Kiel:
"For him it's just understanding the language right now," Kelly said of where Kiel has to obviously grow. "That's a bit overwhelming for him, but when we can get him comfortable he's got all the tools...now it's just gonna be how much can he learn to get him to the point where he can really be in there."
On Everett Golson:
"He's got all the tools," Kelly said of Golson. "For me it's about accuracy, getting the ball out on time and, obviously, having good football intelligence. And those are the areas that he'll continue to work on, because there's no question about his footwork (and) there's no questioning his arm strength. We've gotta continue to work on those other three areas."
On Theo Riddick:
"If we're using the definition of hybrid meaning that he's a running back and a receiver all in one, that's what he is," Kelly said of Riddick. "I think you saw that against Stanford...any time that we started to get into where we wanted to go with him late in the season, he's certainly that. And that's a great advantage, you know it really is."
Player Interview Video Hyperlinks: