The Notre Dame Fighting Irish restarted their spring football practice schedule after a week off, and are ready to put the pads on and pound it out. The media was on hand to see some of the practice, but it was pretty much limited to positional drills.
So... we honestly have little to hang our hats on (per usual). There are, however, a few nuggets we can circle and keep an eye on for the future.
Outside of the quarterback competition, there are 3 things that I am particularly interested in at the moment, and you should be too.
FRONT LINE OFFENSIVE LINE
I haphazardly put together a depth chart at the beginning of spring football with a disclaimer that things will be very fluid for the next month or so. According to Brian Kelly, the starting offensive line, for example, was going to see a wide variety of looks.
On Tuesday, the 1st group looked like this:
- LT Robert Hainsey
- LG Trevor Ruhland
- C Sam Mustipher
- RG Alex Bars
- RT Tommy Kraemer
The only difference is that Ruhland was in place for Josh Lugg. By all accounts, Ruhland is firmly entrenched as the backup at center to Mustipher with Colin Grunhard behind Ruhland. It’s also known that the staff believes that Lugg has the highest ceiling of anyone on the offensive line. Is Ruhland’s appearance on the 1st team just for exploration, or is there a possibility that he wins the job over Lugg?
When speaking with Brian Kelly, there were no questions asked by the media in regards to the offensive line.
WHO’S THAT RECEIVER?
One of the more interesting situations that will remain very much a mystery from now until September, is who steps up at wide receiver. Miles Boykin is being propped up as THE #1 right now, and after a great bowl game (more than just that one catch) and his physical improvements over the offseason - it’s an easy sell.
That doesn’t mean Boykin sits alone in our hopes. Chase Claypool, Michael Young, and Chris Finke all have enough experience and talent to improve and make a difference for 2018. There’s also Javon McKinley whose size and athleticism are comparable to Claypool’s. How does he fit in after a redshirt year?
Brian Kelly spoke about the receivers when he was asked about his confidence in them:
Miles Boykin. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence. Now with EQ (St. Brown) moving on has that opportunity to really shine and he’s had three really good practices. I think that’s a guy that now ascends.
I think everybody else is in that process of developing to that next level: Chase Claypool, Chris Finke, Michael Young. Javon McKinley is going to have to now step and up and show ‘Count on Me’ this spring. And as you know, we have a host of young freshmen that are now going to come in and have a chance to compete for playing time.
I’d say McKinley right now. Cole Kmet looks outstanding. I know he’s getting a lot of coverage in terms of what he’s doing in baseball but equally impressive in spring ball from a football standpoint.
HOW’S THAT BIG BUCK MOVE?
The defense returns an incredible amount of talent in 2018. One of the most talented players is, of course, Drue Tranquill. Last year, Tranquill played the ROVER position brilliantly, but will move up to the BUCK linebacker position for 2018.
I think most people believe that Drue will do well at the BUCK, but there may not be as much confidence in the ROVER. This spring will see Asmar Bilal and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah battle it out before the arrival of Shayne Simon in the summer.
Will this move of Tranquill be worth it? Were the options to fill the BUCK so much less than the options to fill the ROVER?
I guess it doesn’t matter much anymore. Brian Kelly is confident that Tranquill will stay at the BUCK, and as he threw some confidence towards Bilal, he also suggested that there are options available:
I think the two inside ‘backers with Tranquill and (Te’von) Coney, that’s a solid two guys right there.
Right now (the Rover) we feel great about Asmar (Bilal) if you’re lining up a tight end and he can stand over the top of a tight end. If you want to get into a detached game with four wide (receivers), we can nickel out as an option, or we can look at another Rover that maybe has the ability to cover that No. 2 receiver down the field.
We have some other options there. I don’t think it needs to come to, ‘Alright, this has to happen in the spring.’ I think the Nickel position will help us decide the Rover position. We know what we have in Asmar against the tight end there, and then we just keep working some young guys.