The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the practice field for their fourth session of the spring period on Saturday. There is no media allowed for any practice this spring, but Notre Dame has provided us with photos and video to pass along to our readers. The videos aren’t the normal type of hype footage we normally see from Notre Dame on their social accounts — as there is a lot more meat on this 3 minute bone.
Here are a few quick thoughts...
Since I forgot to come back to this before I published — we’ll make this nice and quick.
It’s unfair because of the extremely small sample size, but barring a transfer into South Bend, the two starting cornerbacks will likely be TaRiq Bracy and Cam Hart. Clarence Lewis has had a tough spring by the looks of it, and as Greg Flammang pointed out to me — Lewis only started in 2020 because Bracy became damn near unplayable.
Lawrence Keys man... it’s not just that reception from Drew Pyne (which was a perfect toss) it’s all the little bits that we’ve seen. He looks different and looks like a real difference maker.
I love that they showed a beauty screen to Kyren Williams — but I wish I knew what that flag was for on the play.
Every time I see Coan hit Michael Mayer, I think... that’s going to happen about 60 times in 2021.
The defensive line is incredibly active. Three guys that continue to stand out to me are Jayson Ademilola, Rylie Mills, and Jordan Botelho. I’m excited to see more of Isaiah Foskey in this new type of Vyper role, which sounds like it took a bit for him to get adjusted to the number of snaps he’s standing up and in coverage.
HANGING OUT WITH BRIAN KELLY
It’s a Saturday so we got a few minutes with Brian Kelly.
The Notre Dame offensive line lost four starters from last year’s squad, but according to Brian Kelly — they have options. One of those options is to actually use the options on hand. This is why he was noncommittal about saying Zeke Correll is the starter at center, and why we are seeing Blake Fisher and Rocco Spindler running with the first team (part of the reason).
“I don’t want to give Zeke the starting job at center because I want to keep competition. Zeke’s not given that offensive position. He’s not the starting center yet. Jarrett Patterson can both play that center position and we’re good football team, and I’m not just saying that to get it out in the media and you guys can say, ‘Oh, coach Kelly’s saying....’ It’s true. I’ve got to keep him growing and getting better. He’s got a lot to work on and I’m not ready to tell coach Quinn that we’re penciling him in in the fall. Patterson can go play that position in a heartbeat and we know what we’re going to get. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of Rocco Spindler at guard. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of Andrew Kristofic and Dillan Gibbons and guys of that nature. We’re keeping our options open.”
One of our great hopes for the 2021 Irish defense is that Kyle Hamilton gets an upgrade next to him at the other safety spot. Houston Griffith has all of the physical tools to be that guy this year.
“I’ve felt like two things needed to happen for Houston, right? Opportunity and then making the best of the opportunity. What is making the best? What is that equal? For me — I think a lot of that has been just the awareness of the situation that he’s in and using what I think is outstanding athletic ability and applying it to the particular situations. I think he’s doing that very well this year. I think at times he was using a hammer when he needed to use a screwdriver on particular plays. Here, where we’re at now, I just feel like he’s playing the game with a high football IQ, and to me, it just is coming easier to him. Making plays on the ball. We’ve always seen the physical tools that he’s had. I just think he’s a lot more confident. He has the opportunity, so he’s getting a lot of work and a lot of reps.”
He was also asked about how they were able to bring Griffith out of the transfer portal and stay in South Bend.
“Houston and I had a conversation. There were no promises. We didn’t promise him a starting position. All we said was that we believe that this is the right place for you and we want you to be here. I think this was much more about Houston’s decision to want to be here and then then our articulating to him are want to be here. That was not only me, but Marcus had the same conversation. Myself and Marcus talked to him on the phone and said, ‘We want you to be part of what we’re doing here in 2021.’ Both of us being really clear that he’s part of our plans and then him making the decision that, ‘Okay, if they want me and I’m part of the plans, then I’m gonna be staying at Notre Dame.’ That’s kind of how that went down.”
Cam Hart really has stood out this spring, and it’s not just his enviable length and size as a cornerback. Throughout all of these clips that Notre Dame has released, Hart has looked every bit a starter — and the best man out there in the secondary. BK knows...
“The guy that’s really standing out for me is Cam Hart. He was very raw last year, as you know he was playing with a bad shoulder so there was some limitations. He had the shoulder repaired in the offseason. He’s really coming into his own. He’s elite in terms of his length, he’s got a really strong skill set, and to play the corner with that kind of size and athletic ability, he can be a really, really good football player. He’s still learning, there are still parts of his game that he’s got to clean up, but as I sit here today and six practices in, he’s making really good progress at that position.”
Kelly was asked about the front seven on defense this spring, and he raved about the work ethic and development of much of the group — especially the defensive lineman like Jordan Borelho, Justin Ademilola, Jayson Ademilola, and Kurt Hinish.
He didn’t specifically mention any of the linebackers by name, and I was unable to ask about the status of Drew White — to get an official word.
“Really pleased with the depth there and there’s so much stuff that that linebacker position as well. I think Marcus is very pleased with that front seven in terms of what they’re able to provide for us on downs and it allows him to be really multiple in what we’re seeing from four down to three down.”
Kelly doesn’t play freshmen — right? That’s the ridiculous line of thought that some fans and media members have pushed over the years despite many examples in the contrary. Kelly was asked about prominent snaps by the early enrollees in the secondary, but his answer extended out and enveloped all of the current early enrollees.
“I told our staff as a group, I’m not interested in bringing in midyears to see them on the sidelines, or let’s not bring them in. So, we’re going to sacrifice even reps for veteran players to make sure that we give these kids even more reps than they’ve earned. Because, look, if you’re going to bring them in at midyear and you’re going to put them in a grinder, if you will, in terms of they should be in high school but they’re now in a college academic setting as elite as Notre Dame and you’ve already put them in the weight room and we’ve pushed them hard, let’s let him get out on the football field and get reps. This is what they love to do. If they can enjoy playing football, why bring them in at midyear? We’re just piling on reps and they’re loving playing football. They haven’t earned all the reps, but that doesn’t really matter. I want them to have so many reps that when they come into camp, it’s like they’ve had a full year. I know you’re seeing a lot of them. I don’t want to mislead anybody by watching the film and say, ‘Boy, they must be ready to start for Notre Dame.’ We’re just trying to give him as much work as possible. They’re all making progress, but I wouldn’t read too much into it and saying, ‘Well, this guy’s ready to start, or this guy’s ready to do this or that.’ We just really want to make sure they get a ton of work, so we can put them in a good position.”
“The mid year is kind of, where I alluded to a few minutes ago, that they need to come in here obviously and get their feet wet. But I want to make sure that they leave the spring going, ‘Man, I got I got a lot of football and I know where I need to go to if I want to be part of a championship football program.’ So, it’s important that they get a lot of work and we’re making sure that that happens.”
We’ve seen the defensive line be more aggressive this spring, and a lot of that is because of how active Marcus Freeman’s multiple front is in design and in how it changes.
“In years past, it wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we’re moving the front so much. We haven’t moved the front as much in my time here as much as we move it now. So, what does that mean? If you didn’t move the front in three down, those inside backers got to take the guards on straight on. It’s bully ball, it’s big boy ball up front so aggressively. Those backers then become single gap players again, much like out of a four down front. So, it doesn’t matter whether it’s three down or four down, because we’re moving the front, manipulating it up front so much, and with that kind of movement, those backers can be single gap players and it doesn’t matter whether they’re in three or four down.”
There’s a “quarterback battle,” right? Well Kelly was asked about the signal callers and has a lot of good things to say about each of them.
“I think the guy, if you want to say who’s made the most progress, it’s probably Tyler Buchner, just because he hasn’t played or hadn’t played a lot when he got here. His motion is really fluid. He’s throwing the ball very well. But he’s learning a lot, right? He’s got a lot to learn about our offensive structure and just the nuances now. He knows football. He’s very smart. I mean, tremendously smart by the way. You tell him something in a meeting and his recall is quite amazing. But just because you know it, it doesn’t happen naturally. He needs reps, but he’s made a lot of progress. I think Drew’s done very, very well. Jack has been what we thought, Tommy and I, what we thought when we got him. Here’s a guy that’s played a lot of Big 10 football, played in the Rose Bowl, sees the field very well, stronger arm probably than I thought, and sees the field exceedingly well, especially from the pocket. He’s a guy that stays in the pocket, hangs in there, throws a ball, delivers it and manages himself extremely well. We’re really pleased with where we are and where we’re moving with the quarterback position. Ronnie Powlus got a lot of work today, made some nice throws. So all in all, we’re really happy.”
Aaaaand... Kelly was asked about the Masters because why not. He sidestepped the golf talk, but was pressed by Josh Bates with Notre Dame Football’s communication team. We got our quote:
“When I play there, I shoot under par every time.” – Brian Kelly on The Masters— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) April 10, 2021
“I’m obviously full of shit, too."
Notre Dame brought out Jay Bramblett, Isaiah Foskey, Houston Griffith, and Zeke Correll.
- Del Alexander Notre Dame Athletics
- Isaiah Foskey and Jordan Botelho Notre Dame Athletics
- Tyler Buchner Notre Dame Athletics
- Jack Coan Notre Dame Athletics
- Isaiah Foskey and Jordan Botelho Notre Dame Athletics
- Isaiah Foskey Notre Dame Athletics
- Cam Hart Notre Dame Athletics
- Jordan Johnson Notre Dame Athletics
- Clarance Lewis Notre Dame Athletics
- Drew Pyne Notre Dame Athletics
- Xavier Watts Notre Dame Athletics