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Notre Dame Football: 2016 Blue-Gold Game Preview

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This is your 2016 Blue-Gold Game preview, also including a practice report from Friday and additional info for the weekend.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, April 16, 2016

Location: Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana

Time: 12:30 PM ET

TV: NBC Sports Network

The 87th annual Notre Dame Football spring game is coming up tomorrow afternoon. It's your opportunity to see a neutered version of the team as they'll scrimmage in front of a quarter full stadium. If you'd like to attend (BUY TICKETS HERE) it only costs $12 for adult tickets and $15 if you buy on Saturday. Those 18 and under can receive admission for $8/$10 dollars.

Other Athletic Events to Watch:

Friday: Women's Tennis vs. Virginia Tech (3:30 PM), Baseball vs. Boston College (6:05 PM), Women's Soccer vs. Ball State (7:00 PM).

Saturday: Men's Golf Battle at the Warren (all day), Men's Soccer vs. Bethel (10:00 AM), Women's Lacrosse vs. Duke (12:00 PM), Baseball vs. Boston College (3:05 PM).

Sunday: Women's Soccer vs. Northwestern (1:00 PM), Baseball vs. Boston College (1:05 PM).

Info From Friday's Open Practice

The Irish practiced inside the stadium this morning as the media was able to watch the entire workout. The player getting the most love after today's performance? That would be tight end Alize Jones.

Other personnel items: Things were the same as they've been for a while on offense among the starting positions. On defense Jay Hayes was with the starters at WDE and Studstill the same at free safety. On the interior Elijah Taylor was the backup defensive tackle to Jerry Tillery.

Following the practice Brian Kelly mentioned Dexter Williams, Hunter Bivin, and Torii Hunter as the most improved on offense. Also, they like the way Dexter is running inside and he's an option as a goal line back.

Corey Robinson was in attendance but did not practice again. Kelly says his decision about whether to continue playing football due to concussions is coming soon. Of note, tight end Nic Weishar suffered a high ankle sprain and will not play tomorrow.

They are seeking more consistency from receiver Miles Boykin. Also, Bonner needs more size but he's good enough now that they will kick Rochell inside on passing downs.

News broke this afternoon that rising junior Grant Blankenship has been suspended for violation of team rules. Kelly said he doesn't know if he will be back and reading the tea leaves suggest the Texan is likely transferring after this semester.

As anticipated, Zaire and Kizer will go against each other tomorrow on separate teams. They will slow down the pace and not use any two tight end sets.

Quick Depth Chart with Player Numbers:

QB: #14 Kizer, #8 Zaire, #12 Wimbush

RB: #33 Adams, #25 Folston, #34 Williams, #11 Brent

WR: #16 Hunter, #15 Holmes, #86 St. Brown, #81 Boykin, #29 Stepherson

TE: #80 Smythe, #10 Jones, #89 Matuska

LT: #68 McGlinchey, #67 Byrne

LG: #56 Nelson, #57 Ruhland

C: #53 Mustipher, #66 Hoge

RG: #70 Bivin, #75 Harrell

RT: #71 Bars, #62 McGovern

WDE: #98 Trumbetti, #93 J. Hayes, #9 D. Hayes

DT: #99 Tillery, #58 Taylor, #97 Dew-Treadway, #77 Tiassum

NT: #94 Jones, #75 Cage, #60 Montelus, #96 Mokwuah

SDE: #90 Rochell, #55 Bonner, #53 Kareem

WLB: #27 Bilal

MLB: #5 Morgan, #30 Barajas

SLB: #17 Onwualu

CB: #36 Luke, #14 Crawford, #24 Coleman, #12 Butler, #26 White

FS: #10 Redfield, #13 Studstill, #28 Fertitta

SS: #23 Tranquill, #8 Sebastian, #31 Perry

PK: #19 Yoon

P: #85 Newsome

LS: #61 Daly

Not playing due to injury: WR Corey Robinson (concussion), CB Nick Watkins (arm), LB Greer Martini (hand), LB Te'von Coney (shoulder), RB C.J. Sanders (hip), TE Weishar (ankle).

15 Things to Watch During the Blue-Gold Game

Smooth Snapping from Mustipher

We've seen Mustipher play before in the spring and he got a handful of snaps last fall. This will be his first major audition in front of the public as the heavy favorite to start at center. He's had some issues snapping the ball in the past which appear to have been cleaned up this spring.

Bivin/Hoge/McGovern: Who Shows the Most Promise?

The Irish staff has all but officially declared their top 4 linemen already in McGlinchey, Nelson, Mustipher, and Bars. For this spring game a few candidates are battling it out for the (likely) open spot at right guard. Rising redshirt junior Hunter Bivin has had the upper hand in recent practices so can he move closer to locking down the job?

Solidifying the Running Back Depth

Notre Dame really likes their running backs. Like, a lot. We shouldn't expect to see much of Josh Adams or Tarean Folston on Saturday which means Dexter Williams and Justin Brent should get ample opportunity to show off their tremendous athleticism and speed.

Who Shows They Have No. 2 Receiver Potential?

By all accounts, Torii Hunter has emerged as the No. 1 receiver by a wide margin. Behind him the depth has been sketchy this spring with injuries. Still, watch out for Equanimeous St. Brown, Corey Holmes, Miles Boykin, and Kevin Stepherson as they will get a ton of work and are relatively new faces who can grab significant playing time in the fall.

Alize Jones Playmaker Extraordinaire

The nation's No. 1 tight end from last year's class had a good but not eye-opening freshman season. This fall the Irish are hoping he truly breaks out, and in an effort to take advantage of his pass-catching skills, they have moved him all over the field during practice this spring. Look out for Jones to cement himself as a possible top 3 receiver after the game.

Can We See Flashes from Daelin Hayes?

We're still not sure how much the early enrollee freshman will play tomorrow and we're not certain how much contact he'll be allowed to take. At best, we may only see him pass rush off the edge and blow the whistle dead in the second half after a sack on no-contact quarterbacks. The real questions about his shoulder will come in the fall, for now we want to see his explosive burst and athleticism.

Jay Hayes' Quickness

Jay Hayes took a sophomore redshirt last year and wanted to be moved to defensive end this year. The coaches obliged and now we have ourselves a jumbo-sized weak-side defensive end on our hands. Reports from spring have been pretty positive that Hayes can move well on the perimeter at his weight and he can be a valuable asset to the edge rushing in 2016.

Inspecting Depth at Defensive Tackle

Most reviews for Jerry Tillery have come back mixed this spring. "Talented, capable of a great snap on occasion, but seems to lack focus and hunger" has been a theme in the media. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder didn't seem to contradict those thoughts on Wednesday when he told the media the 3-tech spot was wide open. For the likes of Elijah Taylor, Micah Dew-Treadway, and Brandon Tiassum this is our first good hard look at their talent level filling out the depth on the interior.

Nyles Morgan: Bench to Butkus?

It's been 16 months since we've seen Nyles Morgan in a major role for the Irish following his selection on a couple freshman All-American teams which, let's be frank, was handed to him due to a dearth of other candidates across the country. We may never know why he couldn't see the field last year but today the formerly highly-touted recruit appears ready for a major breakthrough season.

Charting the Progress of Bilal & Barajas

Thanks to injuries to Greer Martini and Te'von Coney the depth at linebacker has been brutal this spring. However, that's allowed a pair of young big-time recruits to drink from the fire hose. Neither Barajas or Bilal have picked up strong reviews this spring although Bilal was mentioned by VanGorder as one of the most improved defenders in practice. Both kids from Indiana will be participating in their first spring game.

How High is Crawford's Ceiling?

If all the hype meets reality then Shaun Crawford will be in the running for the National Freshman of the Year accolades. Yes, ornery Notre Dame technically he will be a redshirt freshman. Any way you slice it Crawford has been a tremendous playmaker in practice and offers a skill-set that could allow the Irish to improve on defense in 2016.

Redfield vs. Studstill

We saw this coming. The early enrollee freshman Devin Studstill wasted no time grabbing starting reps at free safety early in spring practice. Over the last 10 days or so we've seen Max Redfield wrestle some of that momentum back, with even VanGorder mentioning he was pleased with Redfield this spring. Who isn't ready to judge each of these player's performances on Saturday?

Will We Find Any Positive Depth at Safety?

Notre Dame coaches know what they've got in Drue Tranquill which is a nice way of saying he's limited at strong safety in pass protection. Behind him stand a 6th-year senior (Avery Sebastian) and a true freshman (Spencer Perry). We need good things to say about you guys!

Which Quarterback Adds the Momentum into Summer?

In all likelihood, both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will produce fairly even performances in the spring game which will leave us an off-season of nitpicking and Zapruder Film-level critiques of each player. If we see one vastly out play the other? Hold on to your butts.

Can Wimbush Steal the Show in the 2nd Half?

Let's not forget Brandon Wimbush as he's been languishing this spring while receiving minimal reps with the top playmakers on offense. However, he should get a huge chunk of playing time in the second half during the Blue-Gold Game. Even at a distant third-string everyone will be excited to see Wimbush perform in his first spring game and show off his talent.