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Everything you need to know about Notre Dame Football’s 11th spring practice


Kurt Hinish, Aidan Keanannia, and Howard Cross
Notre Dame Football

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the practice field for their eleventh session of the spring period on Tuesday. 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. After starting off with light (no take down) scrimmage reps, the Irish move more towards 7 on 7 action.

Here are a few quick thoughts...

It’s extremely notable that we are now sitting on 11 practices, and the makeup of the apparent starting offensive is LT Blake Fisher, LG Rocco Spindler, C Zeke Correll, RG Andrew Kristofic, and RT Tosh Baker. Brian Kelly talked on Saturday about how where they are now with their depth chart — so seeing this lineup hits a little harder. Certainly, Jarrett Patterson will figure heavily into this come fall camp, so I don’t want to overreact too much here (plus it’s still just 3 minutes of spring footage).

Right now I love everything about Lawrence Keys and I will fight anyone that dismisses him. Both Drew Pyne and Jack Coan seem to find him quite frequently, and that means he’s getting open.

Bo Bauer looks like a returning 2 year starter instead of a guy trying to become a front line player for the first time in his career. He really looks sharp out there, and more than that — fast and aggressive.

I continue to feel bad for D.J. Brown having to cover Michael Mayer. The lesson of “life ain’t fair” continues.


New Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was available to the media today, and had a lot to say (mostly because we have so many questions about what his plans on the defense are and what he’s doing on the recruiting trail.

“We’re going to continue to be the most aggressive and hardest working recruiting staff in the country. That’s a goal of mine and that’s a philosophy of mine. Let’s outwork everybody in the country. That’s in terms of evaluations, developing relationships and I think we’ve done a really good job of identifying the guys that we feel are the best players that fit Notre Dame. That’s something I said in our first press conference. I think at times it can be easy to recruit at Notre Dame because you’re Notre Dame. There’s a certain group of kids that would die to come to Notre Dame. I think for us to continue to elevate and be National Champions and be able to close that gap with Alabama, we got to continue to acquire some of the best football players in the country. Those guys might not always be dying to come to Notre Dame, but if we understand they’re the right fit and we do our research and they can be successful here at Notre Dame - our job is to convince them. To let these guys know what makes the University of Notre Dame special. It’s not hard to do once you’re here. It’s hard to convince about it because they’re not here. When you’re here, you almost wonder where else would you go. It’s our job as a staff to convince these guys there is no better place to go in the country. There’s many different ways to present that to them. We’ve identified the top 2022 prospects. Now, let’s continue every day to find ways to convince this family that the University of Notre Dame is second to none when it comes to your college experience, competitive side, the development side of you as a student-athlete. There is nowhere else in the country that compares to it. Every day we’ll continue to work at it.”

Freeman was very gracious in talking about his two predecessors in Mike Elko and Clark Lea and credits them for getting things turned around. He talks about the 4 main things that will allow the Irish to have success in 2021 and how he’s getting the team to buy into what he’s doing.

“I want to make sure I say this the right way. What Clark Lea and Mike Elko did before I got in this chair was unbelievable. They set a standard for Notre Dame’s defense that it was my job to come in here and uphold that standard. We might do things a little bit different in terms of the overall picture of the scheme, we might pressure a little more, we might move a little bit more, that doesn’t mean this scheme is better than that scheme or anything else like that. That just means it’s a different way of playing defense. What I convinced these guys is that what I think it takes to have success and what we must believe to have success has already been displayed before I ever got in this chair. That is, to me, the effort, the attitude you have to play with, the ability to get off blocks and the ability to tackle and disrupt the ball. Those four things are why we’ll have success. I make sure they understand every time I stand in front of the room, it’s not because of any scheme I brought here. It’s because of the way we play, the effort and attitude, the way we defeat blocks, the way we tackle and the way we disrupt the ball. That will be the reason we have success. We’re going to do the scheme I’m most comfortable with and they’ve all bought in, but I think they would all tell you it isn’t the scheme as much as the demands of the way you play the game, the standard of defense that they’ve already possessed. In the first unit meeting we had, I showed them what I view as a successful defense. Here are the things it takes to have success on defense. All I showed them were plays they’ve already done. These different fundamentals they’ve already displayed. If we can continue to do this at a high level, we’ll have success. It’s a lot of fun to come in here and coaches some of the best players in the country that are hungry and already possess the things it takes to have success on defense.”

One of the big questions this spring is at safety, and we all know Kyle Hamilton is the man — but he’s going to need one or two more men next to him to help make this defense successful. Freeman goes into great detail about the group and Mr. Hamilton.

“Coach O’Leary has done a great job of being a new coach with a position that has one of the top guys not practicing in the spring. I think the entire room as a whole has performed really well for the spring. Houston Griffith is a guy that’s played here. We were able to get him to come back and he’s done a great job as our boundary safety and sometimes our field safety in some packages. DJ Brown has done a really good job of being consistent and understanding the details of the position. KJ Wallace has had a great spring. He’s shown up. He can play nickel and safety. The freshman has stepped up, Justin Walters. He’s getting better. You just see it throughout practices. Litchfield Ajavon — those guys get better throughout the spring. That’s something we’ve been talking about. For guys that have been playing, each week has kind of been a motto. What’s the motto of the first week, and it was their freshman year, it’s a new defense and we’re excited to learn. The second week was their sophomore year. You make the biggest jump from your freshman to sophomore year. Then their junior was this is the grit — the week we really had to have grit, fight and grind through that third week. Now, we’re in the fourth week, which is going into their senior year, is what I say. You’re a fourth-year senior and this is where we’ll have some attention to detail and we have to make sure we know the expectations, know how to practice, know the scheme and now we really have to focus on the attention to detail this week. I use that analogy as I talked about the safeties, but the entire defense in that they all made leaps and bounds from week one. They’re all improving. This is a big week for us to have that attention to detail and understand don’t get comfortable within the scheme. That’s in terms of getting relaxed. Don’t get relaxed within the things we’re doing. Understand what it takes to be successful, understand the way you’re demanded to play at practice and the standard that’s been set. Let’s continue to enhance that.”

“You look at Kyle and you can tell the skill-set that he brings. The length he brings to our defense is second to none. You can watch the film from last year, but until you see this guy live and in-person, you don’t realize how long and how much space he can take up. The hardest thing for him is we have to continue to push him when he’s not practicing. This would have been a great spring for him because I’ve been trying to use some of those guys everyone respects that have played a lot of ball — the Kurt Hinish, Myron’s, Drew White’s — I’ve used them as an example in our unit meetings to say they’re performing to the standard or they’re not. Kyle would have been perfect for that situation. He’s a film junkie. He and coach O’Leary are always watching film. He’s always trying to find ways to improve. He’s like a coach sometimes back there. I see him coaching those young safeties up. That’s what he’s got to do. You can’t physically be out there, but mentally you have to strain your mind and push yourself to work. He’s done a really good job. I’m excited to get him back for the fall.”

There are a lot of us that would love to see Bo Bauer and Drew White on the field at the same time. Marcus Freeman says that’s an absolute possibility as he is cross training the linebackers and will put the best three players out on the field — which could very well mean White and Bauer at the same time.

“As we get into fall, we’ll start with the best three linebackers and put them on the field. I don’t care what position. I’m trying to cross-train those guys at multiple positions just so we can figure out who is the best three for this package. Bo and Drew are two guys I can see being on the field at the same time. Drew’s done a great job in terms of not only his production, he’s always been a productive linebacker, you watch him play football last year, and he was productive. I’ve seen his leadership step up a little bit, especially in the linebacker room. Not having Drew out there, you miss some of that leadership and some of the confidence to get guys lined up and always make the right calls. That’s what I’m seeing Bo take major strides in doing. He’s done a great job and had a great spring. He’s getting better day to day. I’m excited for these last four practices to see how he continues to develop.”

Lou Somogyi would love that we are all talking about Marcus Freeman wanting to be aggressive. Would he have the job if he said he wanted to be passive?

“We want to be aggressive in what we do. I think sometimes giving those guys the opportunity to cut loose and be disruptive is kind of what they’re talking about. It still has to fit within the scheme. I think once they continue to get to know the scheme and know exactly what we’re looking for — there’s some freedom within there to be a football player. I believe in we’re going to play football. I tell them all the time, ‘Let’s be football players, not fit-ball players.’ Sometimes it’s not going to be perfect, but if you continue to play with great effort and attitude and you’re disruptive, good things will happen.”

It’s been a chore to begin to figure out what Freeman plans to do at Notre Dame, but we do know that he wants to be very multiple with his fronts. It’s important to him — which makes it important for this defense to be successful.

“Our whole philosophy is front multiplicity, coverage consistency. Within each package, four defensive linemen, three defensive linemen, we still have to be multiple up front. That’s something we’ll spend time trying to continue to develop and expand the package. We want to continue to be multiple in the fronts, multiple in the movements up front, multiple in ways we blitz linebackers to create four or five-man fronts. We still have to have consistency in the way we play our coverages. I don’t want to have to only do it by personnel. I want to do it within each personnel and be multiple in our multiple fronts, pressure packages, but then still have a lot of consistency in the way we cover and the different coverages we do play.”

Believe it or not... Marcus Freeman goes into detail about much, much more. You can watch that full presser in the player below.