Gameday is almost here. We’re all chomping at the bit to see this supposedly new and improved Notre Dame team. On Sunday, we got a little tease as Notre Dame held an open practice to public. They also opened up the whole stadium for fans to tour. I was fortunate to attend the event. Here are my thoughts on both the team on the field and the the stadium updates.
Takeaways On the Play of the Team
Brandon Wimbush looks like the real deal
- I thought he looked real well in the pocket. They didn’t allow him or any other QBs get hit, so it’s hard to judge how he’ll react to being hit or his escapability. All the reports of Wimbush having a strong arm can be confirmed. He made some spectacular throws, but one really sticks out to me. On one play, the pocket kind of broke down, so Wimbush had to scramble to his right a little. So he throw it off his back foot, but was still able to throw a dart across the field to Equanimeous St. Brown on a 20-25 yard out route. Wimbush finished the day 14/18 for 168 yards.
Daelin Hayes is going to be a beast
- Hayes has garnered some praise during fall camp so far, and on Sunday we saw why. He was consistently getting good pressure on the quarterback. There was one play where he beat both the right tackle (Tommy Kraemer) and the running back (Tony Jones Jr.) for a sack. I won’t be surprised if he ends up leading the team in sacks this season.
Chase Claypool needs to play
- Claypool looked awfully good on Sunday. He might be the one that left the biggest impression on me. He had a 46-yard touchdown catch that was wiped out because the officials said it would have been a sack, but on that play Claypool ran right by the secondary like they were standing still. He and Wimbush also ran a double-move to perfection. They burnt Julian Love for a huge gain. If Wimbush would have hit him in stride, it most likely would have been a touchdown. Count me in on the Chase Claypool bandwagon.
Defense looked improved
- Now it’s really hard to get a feel for these things during scrimmages, but from what I could tell they looked better. For the first couple of series the offense kind of moved the ball as they pleased, but the D quickly tightened things up and got some three and outs. Kelly has said this fall camp that normally one group is ahead of the other, but I think it’s fair to say at this moment both units are about even.
Justin Yoon was a little shaky
- To be fair, two of the field goal attempts I saw Yoon attempt were about 55 yards out, but he missed them both and wasn’t really close on either. The first one was short and wide left, the other had the distance, but was wide left again.
Ian Book looked more than capable
- No knock against, but hopefully we don’t have to see Book play this season. But if he is pressed into action, Irish fans should feel pretty good about him running the show. He looked really confident out there. He doesn’t have the same arm as Wimbush, but he made all the throws. Book had a real nice touchdown pass to Dexter Williams. He perfectly dropped it in there in the corner of the endzone for the score. He even showed off his mobility and decision making skills when he took off for a 20-25 gain after having nothing down field.
THEY WENT UNDER CENTER!!!
- On Friday Brian Kelly took calls from Irish fans on WSBT Weekday SportsBeat. One fan asked Kelly about goal line formations. He answered to the effect that going under center was the way to go and we would see it this season. We saw it on Sunday when Wimbush lined up under center on the first touchdown of the game — a 1-yard run by Josh Adams. Even better, the Irish went under center from the 40(!!!)-yard line and used a fullback to boot! Not that Notre Dame will run this formation 30 times a game, but this should be a welcomed change.
Thoughts on the Stadium Updates
The club level was a bit much
- I’ll admit this criticism may be a bit much since most fans will never sit here. That being said, the club level to me seemed like a country club or some fancy hotel. It didn’t feel like you were at a football game. But like I said, unless I win the lottery I’ll never sit there, so I don’t have to worry about it.
The new videoboard actually isn’t that bad
- My worry about the board was that you’d get fixated on it, instead of the actual game on the field. I was at Michigan Stadium for the 2011 Notre Dame game and I remember catching myself just staring at the video board. I didn’t experience that on Sunday.
- I do expect the board to create a better atmosphere in the stadium. I expect we’ll see some awesome hype videos to pump up the crowd. They did show some video on Sunday, but I couldn’t tell which would mainstays for gamedays. Also when they honor players and teams on the field, they don’t just have to talk about the accomplishments, but they can compliment them with video. I am excited for this.
- The board has very good resolution — a very super clear picture.
- The only knock I had against the board, and this is something I assume they’ll address before gameday, is that the audio wasn’t on track with the video. So if somebody was talking on the board, the audio lagged by a few split seconds.
- I didn’t get to sample every concession stand, but from the ones I walked by there was a new selection. Some things that I saw that I hadn’t seen before were; slices of pizza instead of individual ones, pot roast sandwich, Italian beef, footlong hot dogs and italian sausages and something called a “Hail Mary, which is a footlong Italian sausage topped with Italian beef and giardiniera. It also looks like they’ll be serving Nelson’s chicken in the stadium this year, which if you’re from Michiana or ever been to a ND game, you know it is FLAME.
Sound system is MUCH better
- One huge knock about Notre Dame Stadium before the renovations was it’s sound system. That shouldn’t be the case anymore. Everything sounded great, the piped in music wasn’t too loud, it was just right. We parked in the library lot, and you could hear the PA system from there perfectly.
New visitor’s tunnel
- During my career as an ND fan, Notre Dame Stadium never has been known as a really uncomfortable place to play for opposing teams like it was back in the day. Now part of that is the team, but that is a conversation for another time.
Give Notre Dame credit though. Some of the changes they have made to the stadium should make the opposing team a little more uncomfortable, most notably the new visitor’s tunnel. As you can see in the pictures above it is NARROW. Two guys, at most, may be able to come out at a time, but you might see a single file line “storming” out of there. It’ll be hard for teams to make a grand entrance onto the field now.
No scoreboard in the north end zone
- Fans will undoubtedly complain about this, but it is not that bad. The ribbon board on the press boxes show the score and time clearly. Also, you get a clear look at Touchdown Jesus from the south end zone now.
The concourses are awesome
- The renovated concourses might be my favorite part of the updates. The art deco font on all the sections/concessions/entryways looks very good. They now use throwback programs of old Notre Dame games as part of the section signs. The old school lighting looks very cool. And they also refinished the brick from the original Notre Dame Stadium. It has a really cool throwback feel to it and I am very much a fan.