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Everything you need to know about Notre Dame Football’s 9th spring practice

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Some quick facts are still hard truths

Kurt Hinish
Notre Dame Football

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the practice field for their ninth session of the spring period on Thursday. 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. We are, however, starting to get more drill footage than scrimmage footage over the past couple of practices... so like 85% lean (whatever that means)?

A few quick thoughts... I had a really busy day, and am extremely late to the party — so this will be very, very quick.

Drill work is drill work — but at least we get to see these guys in space a bit more, so that’s a nice thing.

Lorenzo Styles has a very fluid way in which he operates. Translation: he looks athletic enough and big enough to be a part of the offense and special teams in 2021. Just putting that out there.

Really liked Isaiah Pryor’s aggressiveness with his endzone INT. A LB playing like a safety generally works well for us.

Obligatory Joe Wilkins touchdown. He’s making a strong case for spring hero of 2021.

Bo Bauer looks quicker than I remember. In fact... that entire front 7 looks very quick — which may be a byproduct of Freeman’s scheme that is, again, more aggressive than we’ve had in the past. Really hoping we will be seeing a Drew White/Bo Bauer combo on the field in 2021.

K.J. Wallace appears to be a good option at nickel. A corner turned safety, and he’s much more physical than we saw with past options — especially compared to a similar scenario with Houston Griffith as a freshman.

TaRiq Bracy stole an interception against Joe Wilkins AND I AM HERE FIST PUMPING LIKE CRAZY. For real... it was gorgeous, and I am here for it.

HANGING WITH MIKEY E

Mike Elston was made available to speak with the media.

We’ve talked a lot about Marcus Freeman’s multiple fronts, so have the defensive line coach give a little more information about it is quite interesting.

“I love it. Our guys love it. We’re able to get in and out of different fronts more than we did a year ago, more than we did the last four years. The other cool thing is Isaiah Foskey, we can move him all over the field now. We can put him at our Vyper position. We can play him at the boundary end position. We can play him to the field or play him inside at three-technique. We can do that with quite a few guys. We’re moving Jordan Botelho around. Justin Ademilola is having a great spring, so we’re moving him around.The multiple front and the fluidness of the coach Freeman’s package is really fun to work with and add to. We’ve added some things to it and it’s been really fun.”

A little more about the Vyper position:

“It’s a little more multiple in coverage. We do a lot with that position now. We didn’t do as much dropping that guy and a lot of it was zone or some type of matchup. Now there’s a lot of different coverage we execute with him. It’s cool, but it’s a lot of work. They’re excited about it. It’s a challenge for them. I would say it’s a little more multiple in coverage. It’s still a stand-up position like it was a year ago and it’s at the line of scrimmage for the most part. We do back him up some and play at the second level linebacker which is new. That would be the two nuances. He’s at a different level at times and he drops into coverage.”

I don’t remember Jordan Botelho being sent home at one point last year, but that was a real thing, and Mike Elston talked about it.

“Jordan had a long way to go in maturity and accountability. He was sent home. He realized that we’re here about a holistic development and this isn’t just about him getting sacks on Saturday, which he’s going to be able to do because he’s a very talented player, but not to compromise the rest of our group and coach Kelly’s culture inside the program. We sent him home and it was a reality check. He came back and had a few bumps in the road. He and I had a really good heart to heart. I shared a story with him, a personal story, and honestly from that moment forward, Jordan has just turned the corner. He’s not on any lists of bad decisions and he’s taking care of his business off the field in schoolwork. He’s not a finished product yet, but the maturity is showing through and I’m super proud of him and I love him for it. The connection we have because we’ve gone through the trials and tribulations together, and more to come, but he’s a very special young man. He’s made a lot of growth and I’m excited for him.”

One of Notre Dame’s strengths over the last few years has been their defensive line depth, and their ability to rotate players. Elston expanded on how that rotation is implemented.

“Number one, when I think back to when I was a player, the thing that agitated me the most was you’re lying in bed on Friday night before the game and you don’t know what your your role is going to be. You don’t know whether they’re going to the coach is going to put you in. A lot of guys do, starters know, right, but the second teamers and the other guys, the rep guys, they put in the same amount of work during the the game week. So, what we do, the culture that we’ve created and being able to create at the defensive line is that if you work hard during the week and you can play winning football, we’re going to try to find a way to get you on the field. Some guys can’t play at the level as the other guys at this point in their career, so they won’t play as much. But I don’t want to take a guy off the field and we have a drop off. If we can do it, if we can give Kurt Hinish or Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa or Jayson Ademilola, if we can give them a rest and put a guy in that can go in and play the same level of winning football, then we’re going to do it if they’ve worked hard during the week. On every meeting on Friday, we go through series one of the game, here’s who’s gonna run out there for series one, here are the four guys that, if it goes over four plays, are going to rally and we call it our rally group. When you see the guys run in, they spin their hands, ‘rally, rally, rally,’ all four guys in, those four guys that were out there, out. We go through the second series, who’s going to start the second series, who is going to be the rally group. Sometimes Kurt Hinish, who is a starter, is in the rally group. Howard Cross would run out and start the drive. I tried to script it where the starters are going to get more reps, but if we’re even at a position, like we’ve been at defensive tackle like Myron and Jayson, if we finished the game and one guy had 49 reps and the other guy had 48 reps or 50 reps, that’s a win. That’s good. There’s been some positions where we’ve played three guys. Then you add in our sub packages like nickel and dime and penny and different things. We’re going to play hopefully 10, 11, 12 guys and what that does is the culture that you create, the buy in during the week, the effort and energy they put into the practices and the meetings, everybody’s bought in because they know that they have a chance to play. Now, if we come to Friday and you haven’t put in that work, then you’re not going to play. You’re not going to have that role that we talked about. It’s an accountability piece, that’s great, but it’s also a reward. ‘Hey, if I work hard and I can play winning football, coach is gonna try and find a way to play me.”

Elston was asked about a wide variety of other things — especially when it comes to recruiting as he takes over the recruiting coordinator role once again. You can watch the full video below.

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