Although spring football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish started almost 3 weeks ago, things have really just got underway for the team. Let’s take a quick moment to layout the most important details.
KEVIN AUSTIN ON THE RISE
There was much made about Brian Kelly’s last press conference. While speaking with the media about the wide receivers, Kelly listed off just about every name at WR — save Kevin Austin. That’s about par for the course once one enters Kelly’s doghouse. Although Austin played quite a bit during the season as a freshman, he did not travel with the Irish during their last two road trips.
With Miles Boykin moving on to the NFL, there is a huge hole at receiver and the perceived front-runners to fill said hole, were to be Michael Young and Kevin Austin. During this last practice, Austin put on show with his size, speed, and athleticism. Given the many reported reps he received, it’s safe to say that he is squeaking out of the doghouse and back into the rotation.
THE SECONDARY IS COMING TOGETHER QUICKLY
Forget the smokescreen of position changes, and depth building for a moment. Although the group loses just one starter from last year — it’s a big loss in Julian Love. All of the pre-spring analysis had all sorts of position changes between field and boundary. It was theorized that TaRiq Bracy would be the most likely candidate to fill a corner spot opposite Troy Pride Jr.
It appears that we were completely wrong and underestimated the play of Houston Griffith. Clark Lea spoke of his talents earlier this spring, but he is starting to make a real name for himself at the boundary and is displaying those same traits we adored Love for having during his time in South Bend.
With Jalen Elliott, Alohi Gilman, Troy Pride, and Houston Griffith; the Irish secondary just might be as productive as last season. They’re still in search of that missing NICKEL but between Shaun Crawford (if healthy) and freshman Kyle Hamilton, they might be in better shape overall than in 2018.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLE
It was surprising to hear that Jarrett Patterson was basically taking over as the starting center, and as such, that meant the rest of the line should remain as it was at the end of 2018. It does appear that they are still tinkering a bit to see what they have. They have pushed Josh Lugg forward to compete with Aaron Banks as left guard, and in doing so, they give themselves more options in the future — especially when utility lineman, Trevor Ruhland heals from surgery.
The starting line is, and should eventually be: Liam Eichenberg, Aaron Banks, Jarrett Patterson, Tommy Kraemer, and Robert Hainsey — but it’s always within the team’s best interest to develop depth and options moving forward, and the Irish are doing just that.
MORE TO COME
Spring ball, as we said earlier, is really just starting to heat up. Much more will be seen and much more will be known in a few more weeks. Perhaps, like at linebacker, we won’t know the exact depth charts or personnel groupings until fall, but at least we will begin to have a much better grasp on the situation.