The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are done with practice number seven, with seven more to go plus the annual Blue-Gold Spring Football game. It’s a difficult task to try and evaluate a team based on so little media availability, but there are a handful of things we can declare about this team this spring (but maybe not quite for the fall).
We were all digging in and preparing for a quarterback battle this spring, and although both Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush are competing for the job, this whole thing feels more like it’s Wimbush’s job to lose, and Book is there to basically turn the pressure up. Kelly said before spring ball that Wimbush is the starting quarterback, and that still looks to be true.
Notre Dame needed Dexter Williams to step up this spring, and by most accounts he has done so. Williams is far and away the best running back on the roster, but issues such as not knowing the playbook held him back from getting the carries last year that we all wanted him to get. Tony Jones Jr., Jafar Armstrong, and Jahmir Smith have all done enough to make this a solid unit so far this spring.
With the injuries to Brock Wright and Nic Weishar, as well as the double duty for pitcher Cole Kmet, most of the tight end focus has been on Alize Mack this spring. Mack has raised a lot of eyebrows with what he has accomplished so far in practice, and we are all crossing our fingers that this dilligence pays off this fall.
There is no question that Miles Boykin has now vaulted to the top of the boards at this position. An incredible bowl game performance, and hard work this offseason has put him there. The question is what Notre Dame does with the rest. Brian Kelly seems comfortable enough with the rotations that they have been working with which includes: Chase Claypool, Michael Young, Chris Finke, Freddy Canteen, and Javon McKinley. The additions of freshmen Kevin Austin, Braden Lenzy, and Lawrence Keys in the fall could set this group up for a dynamic year.
As promised, Notre Dame has been tinkering with the offensive line linup all spring. Really the only two spots that are set in concrete are at center with Sam Mustipher and at right guard with Alex Bars. The Irish have done a little bit of everything, but in my opinion, the best five with the most potential would be a linup like this:
- LT Liam Eichenberg
- LG Tommy Kraemer
- C Sam Mustipher
- RG Alex Bars
- RT Robert Hainsey
The biggest weakness last spring was the defensive line, and that quickly changed completely this fall. The line will be solid against the run, but it will still need to improve its ability to create a pass rush off the edge. Daelin Hayes, Jerry Tillery, Jonathan Bonner, and Jay Hayes make a really nice 1st string, but what sets this position group apart is that the second team of Ade Ogundeji, Myron Tagovailola-Amosa, Kurt Hinish, and Khalid Kareem creates depth at the group that we haven’t seen at Notre Dame in quite some time. Tons of potential this year.
Te’von Coney is in absolute beast mode right now and Drue Tranquill’s move to the BUCK is looking seamless. Between the two of them, the Irish are in excellent shape here. The most important piece right now, is proabably the man that will back both guys up in Jonathon Jones. Jones has received some high praise from the staff and the media this spring, and he will be expected to deliver this fall.
Wiuth the move of Drue Tranquill to the BUCK, the Rover position is very much in a state of transition. Senior Asmar Bilal steps into the role and is emerging as the leader over redshirt freshman Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Before the spring, many thought incoming freshman Shayne Simon would have a great shot at starting this year. Right now, I think that feeling is being reduced to “a shot” from “a great shot.”
Notre Dame knows what it has right now with its corners and look to be in really good shape. Julian Love, Shaun Crawford, Nick Watkins, and Troy Pride Jr. form a solid bunch, and are far enough along that the staff is moving them around to get time at both the boundry and the field spots.
Unlike the cornerback position, safety is a complete mess. Your clubhouse leaders at the moment are probably Alohi Gilman and Nick Coleman, but we still see Jalen Elliott in the fold - as well as Jordan Genmark Heath. In practice 7, Houston Griffith moved over to safety as well. I don’t think there is anything that resembles an “ending” coming this spring, and freshman Derrik Allen could figure into the mix this fall as well.
The team seems to be moving in the right direction, but obviously nothing will be completely known until game one against Michigan. I like that Brian Kelly is leaning on Brandon Wimbush at quarterback, and I like that Dexter Williams appears to have finally stepped into that RB1 role. I love our defensive line, and I worry about my children’s future with the issues at safety.
The team is basically injury free (minus the ones that were hurt entering spring) and there is continuation on both sides of the ball with Chip Long at offensive coordinator and Clark Lea as the defensive coordinator.
I like what I’ve seen so far, but I can’t wait to find out more in the coming weeks and this August.