We’re a week into fall camp and there are plenty of interesting story lines surrounding the Irish. Here are my thoughts on these headlines from the first week of camp.
To little or no surprise there has been no separation in the race between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. We all know that both are quality football players and that this was a competition that would probably take some time to sort out. With that being said, I don’t think Kelly is going to let this thing drag out to days before the first game. Expect him to have a decision by the end of the second week or the beginning of the third week of camp. If there continues to be no separation that should bode well for Kizer. He’ll get the nod on any ties or close calls, but as I said yesterday, Kelly can’t really go wrong with either guy.
Daelin Hayes: Impact Freshman?
The freshman Hayes is already turning heads in practice. Just yesterday Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated tweeted out that Hayes got a sack on DeShone Kizer and that he could “count the number of times that’s happened in practice in the past seven years on one hand.”
Daelin Hayes sacked DeShone Kizer to the ground. Can count the number of times that’s happened in practice the past 7 years on one hand.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) August 11, 2016
"He’s that hybrid guy that can drop and come off the edge. He’s been impressive." Brian Kelly said of Hayes after practice on Thursday.
I don’t know about you but that description of Hayes reminds me a lot of Jaylon Smith. I don’t want to put that type of expectation on a freshman, because Smith was an absolute animal and it’d be hard to replicate the types of things he did. But Hayes seems to play a similar type of game as Smith, and that’s a guy who can drop and play coverage and also put his hand in the ground and rush the passer. Look for Hayes to make an impact this season for the Irish.
Freshman DB’s Impressing
One of the best units recruited in the 2016 class was the defensive backfield. Kelly brought in seven quality DBs, and through the first part of camp, a few of them are opening up some eyes. We all should know by now who Devin Studstill is, as he impressed in spring ball. He should see plenty of time at free safety this season
My favorite guy from the class, Troy Pride Jr., has been making plays thus far in practice. He’s in competition at cornerback, but that’s suddenly a position that has kind of a logjam so I wouldn’t expect him to come away with the job.
Donte’ Vaughn is also in competition for the right cornerback spot. My prediction is that junior Nick Coleman wins the job, but sophomore Ashton White will give him a run for his money when it’s all said and done.
Julian Love has been receiving reps as the back up nickel to Shaun Crawford.
D.J Morgan, Spencer Perry and Jalen Elliot are all seeing reps at safety, but with guys like Studstill, Max Redfield and Drue Tranquill in front of them don’t expect any of them to see any meaningful time this season. Although sixth-year senior Avery Sebastian has been limited in practice so far, so maybe one of them will be able to break into the two-deep this season.
Redfield finally coming around?
After practice on Thursday Kelly said that Redfield is finally playing like the guy they were expecting to get out of high school. He went as far as saying Redfield was playing at an “elite level.” This should be promising to Irish fans because Redfield was a highly touted recruit and Irish fans were expecting big things from him the past few seasons.
BK: “I’ve been very pleased with Max Redfield.” Said he’s elevated to a consistent performer. At an “elite level,” BK said.— Matt Jones (@BGI_MattJones) August 11, 2016
It’s great to hear that Redfield is finally coming around in practice, but this is something that I’ll believe it when I see it. To me, he’s just been too inconsistent of a player to date and until he shows consistency in game situations I’m going to be a little cautious on him.
Could walk-on Chris Finke get a shot?
This is a name that I’ve seen floated around the Irish interwebs since spring practice and it’s name I’ve never taken too seriously because well after all he is a walk on and is 5’9”. But he may have a shot to grab some reps this season. The wide receiver position behind Torii Hunter Jr. is in flux right now. There are a number of names that could grab hold of playing time, but none of them have done that to this point. Finke has impressed so far in practice. In fact, I was listening to an ND podcast earlier and the reporters were saying that he was repeatedly getting opening against Notre Dame’s promising young defensive backs.
Finke did go to high school with Zaire, so if Zaire wins the job there will already be a rapport there.
Kelly with great praise for WR Chris Finke. Says he's earned more reps. "He's Robby Toma with more speed." Jokes he hopes Toma sees quote— Angelo Di Carlo (@angdicarlowndu) August 11, 2016
Kelly compared Finke to former ND wide receiver Robby Toma, saying that, “he’s Robby Toma with speed.” If Finke can be a guy like Toma that has a reliable set of hands that you can count on every time you throw him the ball, he could be a nice addition to the Irish offense.
Nyles Morgan appears to be poised for a big year
There hasn’t been anything but good things coming out of Irish camp about Nyles Morgan. The junior seems to have full grasp of the defensive scheme and is ready to lead the Irish in 2016. If that turns out to be the case, Morgan will be nothing but an upgrade at middle linebacker. I have nothing but respect for Joe Schmidt because he worked his butt off to get to where got, but Morgan will be a bigger, faster and more psychical than Schmidt. Morgan is one of the reasons to be optimistic about the Irish defense this season.
No loss of leadership
The Irish lost five really good leaders from last year’s team with Joe Schmidt, Nick Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Jaylon Smith and Chris Brown, and despite those losses the 2016 will not lack in that department. James Onwualu, Cole Luke and Isaac Rochell are all ready to step up and lead on defense. On the offensive side of the ball Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson and whoever is tabbed at the starter will be exceptional leaders. So the Irish are losing some great leaders from last year’s team, but they’re also replacing them with some as well.
Competition breeds success
If you look everywhere on the field for Notre Dame this fall camp there is some type of competition going on. On offense obviously you got it at quarterback. You got it at running back, receiver and offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball you got it at corner, safety and linebacker. There are only a handful of positions where you have a guy who is a lock.
I’ve always been a believer of the notion that competition only elevates the performance of a player, and with so many position battles going on in camp the play will be elevated across the board for the Irish.
So far it’s been a busy and story filled week of camp, and luckily for us it’s just week one! Many more stories will unfold as camp progresses and more positions will get sorted out. Be sure to keep up with us at One Foot Down for everything Notre Dame football.