Notre Dame was back on the practice field Wednesday morning and the media had a chance to view the beginning of the workout and talk with head coach Brian Kelly. Here's our recap of what's happening in South Bend...
Not a whole lot of juicy details are emerging on the quarterbacks this spring. Once again in the media viewing portion to begin practice it was Everett Golson who trotted out with the first team offense.
Kelly said both Golson and Zaire are competing and working well in the classroom.— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
Brian Kelly says Chuck Martin developed QB protections, Matt LaFleuer concepts and now Mike Sanford fundamentals. #NotreDame— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) March 25, 2015
Granted this is mostly just inane coachspeak but the fact that fundamentals came third in that pecking order is worthy of a chuckle. This looks like it could bring us a few days of internet bickering about Kelly's philosophies on offense.
The big news at tailback was Tarean Folston NOT working with the first team in favor of Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise getting reps but that screams rest day for Notre Dame's returning leading rusher.
I really like feeding Prosise more reps at running back for a few reasons. One, he just flat out needs to touch the ball more from that position whether through motioning or shifting. He had 10 carries last year and should triple that amount in 2014. Two, this provides more depth in the spring where, let's face it, with only Bryant and Folston it was needed badly. Three, with Prosise spending more time with the running backs it's allowing the competition at slot (specifically in regards to Amir Carlisle) to breath a little bit more.
The starting unit at wideout remained the same as last week as Will Fuller and Chris Brown are working the outsides and Amir Carlisle in the slot. Rising junior Corey Robinson sat out practice with a non-serious injury.
The second unit consisted of Justin Brent and Corey Holmes on the outside with Torii Hunter in the slot. Speaking of Hunter, it was mentioned by Kelly that their doing a good job working with his baseball schedule, plus they're moving Hunter around a little bit.
Kelly says there has been good communication between himself and baseball coach Mik Aoki on Torii Hunter splitting his time between sports.— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) March 25, 2015
Kelly says Torii Hunter Jr. is starting to lock into two spots....has been playing Z a lot during spring, also can play X— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
That's a good sign for a receiver in Kelly's offense. If they are moving you around they want you on the field no matter what so Hunter should be feeling real good this spring.
Unlike last week it was Tyler Luatua working with the first team during the media viewing, however, Kelly mentioned after practice that Smythe was atop the group right now.
Kelly describes tight ends, Smythe, Luatua and Weishar in that order. Mentions Hounshell fourth. No mention of Heuerman.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) March 25, 2015
Brian Kelly said he feels confident in TE Durham Smythe as a pass-catcher, needs to see more consistency in in-line blocking.— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) March 25, 2015
Tyler Luatua has more strength and size but has not established himself as the same kind of pass catcher as Smythe— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
Kelly said Nic Weishar continues to get bigger and stronger, very impressive pass catcher, just needs to get stronger and bigger still— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
As mentioned in our last practice update things are not looking up for rising redshirt sophomore Mike Heuerman who appears stuck at the bottom of the tight end depth chart. With 5-star freshman Alize Jones coming this summer it's not going to be any easier for Heuerman. Unfortunately, if Heuerman wants to play football he's probably going to have to look elsewhere. He's about as likely of a post-spring transfer as anyone on the roster.
Nothing has changed with the lineups at offensive line. Your starters continue to be Ronnie Stanley (LT), Quenton Nelson (LG), Nick Martin (C), Steve Elmer (RG), and Mike McGlinchey (RT). The second unit is Hunter Bivin (LT), Alex Bars (LG), Sam Mustipher (C), John Montelus (RG), and Mark Harrell (RT).
The talk after practice mostly revolved around the battle of titans for the starting left guard spot between Nelson and Bars. This is fun stuff.
Kelly said both Bars and Nelson will have to play. Will find a role for one of them— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
At LG, Nelson can by physically dominant while Bars is so efficient and technically advanced. Both will play, with Bars at tackle too.— Lou Somogyi (@BGI_LouSomogyi) March 25, 2015
Kelly says Quenton Nelson is an extremely explosive and strong player that can overwhelm defenders. Bars is efficient and technically sound— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
Although they are both young it's very clear that Nelson and Bars are The Future of the program up front and that future is going to be here very quickly. Even if Nelson ultimately wins the starting left guard spot--as it has been trending--it looks as though Bars might hold down that versatile and highly coveted 6th lineman spot and be the first player off the bench.
Earlier this week new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore was interviewed and talked a lot about the players he's working with now at Notre Dame. You can read a good recap of his thoughts HERE from Irish Illustrated and I'll mention some of them below.
Today's practice was a giant Jerry Tillery love fest. For all of those who believed that moving the freshman to defensive line (me included) was the wrong decision it's looking like we were way, way off.
Kelly said he is leery about talking about freshmen, but Tillery is special and unique.— Lou Somogyi (@BGI_LouSomogyi) March 25, 2015
Kelly said Tillery has a unique ability at a young age to use his hands. Received incredible teaching in high school. Mentioned Pete Jenkins— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
Kelly: "Far and away the story is Jerry Tillery. He's just a unique player." Running with first-team defense, he adds.— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) March 25, 2015
First team reps during the spring isn't a huge deal but it is for an early enrollee at this point. Granted, the starter at his position isn't practicing and the other players are having some consistency issues (see below) but things are shaping up for Tillery to definitely get into the rotation in 2015.
Your starters for Wednesday's practice: Romeo Okwara (DE), Sheldon Day (DT), Jacob Matuska (DT), and Isaac Rochell (DE). The backups were: Jhonny Williams (DE), Jay Hayes (DT), Jerry Tillery (DT), and Grant Blankenship (DE).
Andrew Trumbetti missed practice with an injury. Gilmore said he's been playing like an upperclassman and praised his strength.
Gilmore mentioned that Okwara has been very consistent, while Day is the motivator and leader of the group. Isaac Rochell has been singled out as someone who has stepped up and so has Jay Hayes. Gilmore has also been impressed with Johnathan Bonner who is getting some work at strong-side defensive end. He's been surprised with Bonner's strength there.
Gilmore did use some caution when talking about Jhonny Williams, Pete Mokwuah, and Daniel Cage. The latter two tackles appear to still have some conditioning issues, while Williams is still figuring out how to be an all-around edge player and not just someone with a great first step and athleticism.
The heartening story of Jarrett Grace's return from injury hit a little snag as the rising 5th-year senior sat out practice with a concussion. However, for about the 15th time this spring Brian Kelly heaped praise upon the middle linebacker.
Kelly said Jarrett Grace was out with a concussion. Said prior to that he had been "impressive"— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
Nothing changed with the starters at linebacker. James Onwualu was working at SAM, Nyles Morgan at MIKE, and Jaylon Smith at WILL.
No position has been quieter than corner where Devin Butler continues to work with the first-team offense along side Cole Luke. Not surprisingly, earlier this week new DB coach Todd Lyght called Luke the team's best corner.
The development of Nick Watkins continues to be one of my personal focuses this spring. We haven't heard much from him thus far.
Warning: positive updates at safety! Could it be? Is it possible? Are Notre Dame's safeties actually starting to develop and reach their potential? It's spring so let's revel in the updates...
BK on Shumate/Redfield: "Their development is clearly evident. So much different than where we were last year anytime during the season."— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) March 25, 2015
It was noted during the viewing period that Matthias Farley was one of the wounded on the stationary bike but like all the injuries it isn't believed to be serious.
Both Nicky Baratti and Drue Tranquill were seen running around looking healthy, or at least, not suffering any ill effects from their past injuries.
Rising senior walk-on Hunter Smith is listed as a long-snapper but after losing his job as the holder last year it looks like the team is moving in another direction and he won't win his job back.
Brian Kelly said the focus on special teams has been on technique work so far. DeShone Kizer has been the holder this spring.— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) March 25, 2015
Kelly says they've opened up the return job to all players. Will hone in on that once they get outside— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
The Irish haven't had the opportunity to practice outside yet which typically neuters the special teams' units. For now, it looks like Kelly is calling it an open competition for the returners. I'll take C.J. Prosise at kick returner and Will Fuller at punt returner.