Since our last update on Wednesday, the Irish practiced on Friday with the media watching for the start of the workout while the reporters got to see the entirety of Saturday's practice. Let's get to the report!
Wrapping up Spring Practice #7 with some 11v11's inside Loftus Field House. pic.twitter.com/8C8tO32t31— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) March 28, 2015
Quick impressions from Saturday’s practice: Golson ahead of Zaire, Nelson over Bars, Nyles Morgan has some Jaylon athleticism in his game.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) March 28, 2015
Everett Golson once again started at quarterback with the first team offense which has been the case for all media viewing this spring. However, head coach Brian Kelly did mention after the practice that the reps have been pretty even during this spring session.
The opinions on the quarterback battle are ranging from a few "it's pretty close" statements to the more popular "Golson is the clear leader."
Brian Kelly on the QBs: "It’s 50/50. Everett was in the first group today. Malik started yesterday. It’s been balanced." #NotreDame— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) March 28, 2015
Nearly all reports state Golson's passing abilities continue to excel over Zaire's as the latter struggles with consistency and accuracy while the former has been very sharp and accurate.
The big question moving forward into the summer session is just how much Zaire will be able to make up when the quarterbacks go live and he's able to show off his running and physicality more better. Right now, in the spring as new quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford works with the players and re-establishes fundamentals it appears Golson is majorly locked in.
A note on third string quarterback DeShone Kizer who does not appear to be getting any reps with the second team and has exclusively stayed with the third team.
Still not much going on at running back where Folston, Bryant, and Prosise are all looking good. Though it's expected that Prosise will go back to the slot in the fall he's continuing to log serious minutes at running back and several have remarked about his special athletic gifts with the ball in his hands.
During Saturday's practice the theme for the receivers was drops. Lots of passes were dropped all throughout the receiver roster. Probably not a big deal but it's still an area of improvement for several wideouts.
With Corey Robinson still out of practice (suffering from a concussion & should be back next week) that's bumped Justin Brent up to the second team and he received some very positive reviews during the full media viewing session yesterday. It's still not going to be easy to get reps during the fall but you have to like Brent answering what felt like a very strong challenge from Kelly to open spring ball.
Even if many expect Chase Hounshell to ultimately transfer for his graduate year with scholarship numbers so tight it's clear he's not going down without a fight. Through injuries and a lack of size for defensive line Hounshell was never able to become part of the mix on that side of the ball but is fighting hard at tight end.
Converted defensive tackle @chasehounshell made a great toe-tapping catch on the side line today. Productive practice for the new #18.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) March 28, 2015
Things are starting to come into focus with the top three tight ends of Smythe, Luatua, and Weishar. That's the established depth chart and it's unlikely there's a shakeup until fall camp.
Smythe especially looks to be developing nicely and following the long tradition at this position: big, athletic, with good hands.
It should be mentioned that Mike Heuerman was not even lining up at tight end during Saturday's practice but receiver instead.
We're seeing the maturation of Ronnie Stanley who still has two years of eligibility left and could still come back in 2016. Nah, he's leaving for the NFL after this fall.
Kelly said Ronnie Stanley has continued to build on strong finish. More of a vocal leader now. He's engaged in a level he hasnt before— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 28, 2015
Kelly made it clear during his post-practice presser that Nelson and Bars are fighting for just that one left guard spot. That means Stanley (LT), Martin (C), Elmer (RG), and McGlinchey (RT) have seemingly locked up starting spots.
According to most reports Nelson has a big leg up at left guard.
Kelly said, based upon what he’s seen, Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson are competing for one spot. Wouldn’t move one to another starting role.— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) March 28, 2015
It's hard to believe that Steve Elmer is already a junior, right? He was singled out by Kelly after practice and generally impressed the media during the workout. As an underclassman Elmer wasn't overwhelming but it'll be exciting to see him develop as an upperclassman.
Kelly noted he was pleased with Steve Elmer's improvements at guard— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 28, 2015
The lineup wasn't changed on Saturday from all other viewings: Nelson with the four starters above and the second line of Bivin (LT), Bars (LG), Mustipher (C), Montelus (RG), and Harrell (RT). Colin McGovern also got some work at guard with the second team.
Kelly continued to gush about freshman Jerry Tillery following practice and those in attendance joined in as well. It's still really early (for crying out loud Tillery has been on campus for 2 months) but he's making a strong case to be among the often used backups in the fall. That's no small feat with the bodies available on the line.
Jerry Tillery continues to impress, amazing how low he gets as a pass rusher. Quenton Nelson did demolish him on one rep. Flat on his back.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) March 28, 2015
Notre Dame freshman defensive tackle Jerry Tillery took every snap with the first team defense today. At least from what I saw.— Andrew Ivins (@BGI_aivins) March 28, 2015
Brian Kelly said the one guy who has separated himself from the younger players is Jerry Tillery. #NotreDame— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) March 28, 2015
Tillery isn't the only player to have a breakout spring. You can add Jonathan Bonner's name to that list as the redshirt freshman has made a move and found some favor with the coaching staff. The NFL combine level athleticism should probably be taking with a grain of salt but is highly encouraging anyway.
Kelly impressed with Jonathan Bonner in the past week, said measurables at NFL combine levels, football IQ now catching up.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) March 28, 2015
Kelly said Jonathan Bonner is starting to emerge. Can give defense a potential pass rusher.— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 28, 2015
Bonner has shown himself good enough to work with the first team pass rushing nickel set with Hayes, Rochell, and Kolin Hill.
Andrew Trumbetti remains sideline with a virus while Sheldon Day is continuing to be held in bubble wrap and not participating a whole lot even though he's healthy. This led to a starting unit of Okwara (DE), Hayes (DT), Tillery (DT), and Rochell (DE) during the scrimmage on Saturday.
The second team consisted of Bonner (DE), Cage (DT), Mokwuah (DT), and Randolph (DE). No word on what the deal was with Jacob Matuska who had been working with the first team at tackle.
Jarron Jones remains out for spring while he's recovering from foot surgery but he was seen again on Saturday doing some light running. That's a positive sign.
Everyone is wondering what is going to happen at middle linebacker where several players are going to be vying for playing time during the fall. Apparently, Brian Kelly is happy with the situation!
Brian Kelly on MLBs (Joe Schmidt, Jarrett Grace & Nyles Morgan): "We’re going to have a real good problem there."— Rachel Terlep (@eTruth_Irish) March 28, 2015
Kelly said there will likely be a committee of players at Mike Linebacker— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 28, 2015
In an era where it's more difficult than ever to substitute players--and with the Mike linebacker spot typically being one that isn't traditionally rotated--using two or three bodies there would be fascinating and slightly terrifying.
Grace was still recovering from a concussion but will be back next week. The starters remained the same with Onwualu (Sam), Morgan (Mike), and Smith (Will). The athleticism of Nyles Morgan was mentioned by several reporters during the weekend.
The backups were Martini (Sam), Deeb (Mike), and Larkin (Will). Freshman Tevon Coney has been nursing a little bit of an ankle injury so that's why Larkin was in his spot.
After a full practice we're finally getting some good stuff on the corners. Oddly enough, Devin Butler received some of the highest praise out of anyone on the team over the weekend and is acquitting himself rather well for someone who nearly everyone thought would move to safety due to his size and lack of ability in man coverage.
Then again, Nick Watkins also impressed and got some time working with the first team too. Assuming KeiVarae Russell comes back as one of the top two corners we could finally get ourselves a nice long battle for the third corner spot between Butler and Watkins.
No change among the starters as Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate are (fingers crossed!) improving and taking command of the back end. Like many, I'll be in show me mode come fall time.
An interesting note from the weekend is that Farley is working exclusively with the safeties this spring even though he's expected to go back to nickel corner during the fall. However, Baratti and Turner were the second string safeties on Saturday which likely means Farley is getting some rest--he wasn't healthy during the mid-week practice.
Connor Cavalaris has been filling in at nickel corner and Drue Tranquill is running around but still not taking contact.
A+ hair from Redfield.
There was some punt return work on Saturday with Fuller and Bryant getting the nod for that job.
Something that stuck out over the weekend was the poor placekicking.
Also, Justin Yoon should be Notre Dame’s freshman MVP this fall. Kickers struggled on anything outside 25 yards.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) March 28, 2015
When Pete says the kickers struggled outside 25 yards what he really means is that Newsome and Chereson missed all of their kicks from that distance and out. Yikes.