Notre Dame football was back on the field this Wednesday morning for the 6th practice of the spring session. The Fighting Irish concluded the first part of spring practice today and will now head into a week-long Easter break.
Wednesday morning was the second time the media was allowed to view practice this spring and today's 30 minutes were especially humdrum as the team focused on positional work. Alas, we should be grateful that Brian Kelly spoke to the media following the workout and gave us something more to talk about!
Nothing major to report at this all-important position. Kelly did mention that Zaire and Kizer are basically splitting reps and that the leftover snaps for Brandon Wimbush are really minimal. In a perfect world Wimbush could get more snaps but it's just not realistic right now.
At some point, the quarterbacks will be going live during the spring. Kelly is unsure when that will be and also whether or not they will be allowed to be hit during the Blue Gold Game. The head coach also mentioned that Zaire remains a little rusty in game management and moving the offense quickly which I suppose is to be expected.
Quite literally nothing to report at running back. Folston appears to be 100% healthy or very close to it and has been splitting 1st-team reps with Josh Adams. Rising sophomore Dexter Williams looks to have a pretty tight grip on the third back spot with Justin Brent behind him.
The injury bug has infected the wideouts. Late yesterday we found out that sophomore C.J. Sanders will be out for the rest of spring with an injury. Kelly clarified this morning that it is a hip flexor strain that could keep Sanders out up to 4 months. That would be just in time for the start of fall camp. The decision to have surgery or not hasn't been made yet, per Kelly.
In Sanders' absence spring standout walk-on Chris Finke will return punts. Kelly mentioned they are still looking at a committee of players to step up at kick returner.
Corey Robinson and Miles Boykin were also not dressed for practice today. Robinson was recovering from a concussion while Boykin had surgery on a broken finger. They hope to have both back after the Easter break.
The lack of options left Hunter, Holmes, and St. Brown working as the 1st-team receivers with Holmes moving into the slot. Kelly brought up that they want to keep Holmes in the slot so he might benefit tremendously from Sanders' injury. Also, Stepherson was believed to be a slot receiver but Kelly said he'll work on the outside.
From the little action the media has seen it appears a real rotation has emerged at the tight end spot. On Wednesday it was Durham Smythe and Nic Weishar who were rotating with the 1st team while Alize Jones worked with the backups.
Colin McGovern missed practice with a concussion which moved redshirt freshman Tristen Hoge up to the first-team on Wednesday. The starters included, McGlinchey (LT), Nelson (LG), Mustipher (C), Hoge (RG), and Bivin (RT).
Following the workout Kelly mentioned that Mustipher is "good" at center and that McGovern/Hoge/Bars/Bivin are fighting it out for the two starting spots on the right side of the line. He also threw in that Bars is focused on tackle more than guard.
Virtually everyone expects Bars to start once he is 100% healthy which means it's probably down to a Hoge vs. McGovern battle at right guard. The second unit consisted of Byrne (LT), Ruhland (LG), Harrell (C), walk-on Bush (RG), and Bars (RT). The graduate season for Harrell appears to be focused on filling holes as he's already switched from guard to center after one week following a backup role at tackle last year.
A few bits of news on the D-line where Kelly officially proclaimed today that redshirt sophomore Jay Hayes has moved to defensive end--at his size presumably strong-side defensive end. Notably, Kelly mentioned that Elijah Taylor will play at the 3-tech when referencing the move of Hayes so they may feel good about the rising redshirt freshman's progress.
Further, while true freshman Daelin Hayes is not taking contact and folks are wondering how much he'll be able to progress this spring Kelly said that they feel good about him being able to produce when the fall comes around.
Nyles Morgan received praise for doing a good job leading and communicating for the defense. See, it can be done from someone else!
Kelly also singled out Asmar Bilal who is receiving a great learning experience this spring while he takes 1st-team reps at the weak-side position. Numerous media members have pointed out that Bilal looks very, very athletic and powerful now that he's carrying 230 pounds.
As Devin Butler works his way back from a foot injury he continues to work on the third-team. The corners ahead of him remain Luke & Watkins plus Crawford & Coleman.
Shaun Crawford, yet again, received effusive praise from Kelly following the workout calling him "outstanding." Those who focus on him in practice are quick to point out how impressive he looks, as well.
In case you didn't see yet redshirt freshman Mykelti Williams is no longer on the team and is presumably transferring to another school. The Indianapolis native was dressed for the first media practice last week but was not in attendance today.
The biggest news from the playing field on Wednesday was Kelly telling the media that true freshman Devin Studstill has been running with the 1st-team at free safety. With the caveat that it's early in spring football and this could be motivation for other players as much as anything else that's still an early enrollee true freshman getting reps over senior Max Redfield.
"He's [Studstill] running with our first group right now. He's been really good. We've been very pleased with what he's been doing and very happy with the way he's picked up our defense. Excellent ball skills, excellent retention. He's been probably the guy that's done the most back there.
"He wouldn't be out there working with the first group unless he had a natural ability to pick up what we're sending him. He's been able to pick it up as a mid-year enrollee in spring ball and he's making plays, and getting lined up and getting guys in the right position. We've been very pleased."