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Everything you need to know about Notre Dame Football’s 13th spring practice

Getting defensive

Cam Hart
Notre Dame Football

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the practice field for their thirteenth 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. Another video full of plays from scrimmage is great, but you still may be disappointed.

Here are a few brief thoughts...

The defense really owned the clip. Active, aggressive, and flying to the ball — the front seven in particular really gave the makeshift offensive line all they could handle (and more).

Speaking of the offensive line — it wasn’t good, and that needs to be said. Still, what also needs to be said is that this spring continues to be a work in progress up front, and we still have to wait until fall to see the real scope of it all.

As much as I believe in Jack Coan (because I do at this point) I am continually impressed with the way Drew Pyne pushes the ball downfield. He’s been far better in that regard than I gave him credit for back in March.

HANGING WITH BRIAN KELLY

Brian Kelly made himself available again on Saturday to answer the media’s questions.

The Eric Hansen approved injury update from Brian Kelly had some good news in it as a we see guys progressing towards being “back” on the field.

“Run progression has started by Kyle Hamilton, so he’s running. He’s in our stretching. Kevin Austin Jr. has started his run progression and Paul Moala. All three of those guys are in their run progression. Drew White is in practice. What we do with him in the spring game, I haven’t decided yet. We’ll probably protect him. He wants to play; we’ll probably have to rock-scissor-paper that one. But he’s back in a practice setting. Brendon Clark is out, obviously, still. On the D-line, Will Schweitzer had surgery yesterday, very successful. Jacob Lacey is still out, making great progression. He was out on the field in full. He was doing 350s today, full conditioning. Gabriel Rubio had a hyper-extended elbow. We’re not sure what his status is going to be for the spring game, but he’s had a really good spring. I think that’s pretty much the major list. Josh Lugg is back. He practiced today. Of course, Jarrett Patterson is out.”

The Blue-Gold Game will be the Blue-Gold Game. It’s a new concept.

“We’re going to go Blue vs. Gold. It’ll be a traditional game. We’ve split the squads up. I think we’ve got one or two players that will have to bounce around. Aidan Keanaaina will play the shade on both sides. He’s going to do a little bit of double duty.”

One of the big questions coning into the spring was how the cornerback depth chart (and the whole secondary really) would shake out. Brian Kelly offered up an extensive analysis of the position right now.

“Cam’s making progress. A lot of this is a combination of technique and being much more of an aggressive mindset instead of a reactive, defensive mindset. That’s coming together with Cam [Hart]. He’s got the skills. He’s got length. He’s strong physically. He’s one of our strongest, if not our strongest defensive back. Really pleased with his progress. He’ll continue to get stronger, continue to work on technique. Now it’s mindset. Go get the ball; it’s yours. He’s going to be in a plus match-up physically.”

“Ramon Henderson is coming on. Both these guys have elite traits. Long, athletic. The ability to play the ball. Both of them were wide receivers. Both have excellent speed. We’re starting to see that growth from Ramon as well. When you line them up, those two look as good as anybody in the country. We’d like to see that progress in a similar fashion to Ramon, be aggressive, go get the ball.”

“Clarence Lewis is still progressing, coming on. I like what Philip Riley and Ryan Barnes are doing as well. It’s baptism by fire with those two kids.”

“Clarence is about being stronger. He was forced into playing time, probably earlier than we would have liked. That was the case. Now it’s catch-up. Catching up the weight room with the physical traits, and he’s doing a nice job. He’s got some work to do. That’s where this summer will be huge for him. We got shut down for him off and on this year for COVID. So it wasn’t the greatest year in terms of strength training and improvement for him. This will be a big year for him in terms of getting stronger because that gives him the suddenness to get in and out of breaks and the things he’s going to need to continue to grow with.”

“I would be disingenuous if I told you that we were looking for somebody in our freshmen class at corner after speaking so glowingly about Ramon and Cam. We’re not like sitting around waiting for those guys to come in. We’re excited about them. They’re really good young players, and they’ll get a chance to compete. But I don’t think the conversation with Marcus Freeman and I is, ‘We’ve got to get these guys in and get them ready right away.’ We feel pretty good about the corner position moving forward. Khari Gee, we want to see what he can do at the safety position. That’s a position we would like to continue to build depth at, certainly. I would think that one has a little bit more of our focus.”

Notre Dame’s greatest weapon in the passing game, perhaps, is sophomore tight end, Michael Mayer. Tommy Rees spoke the other day about leaning on Tyler Eifert during the 2012 season, but Brian Kelly talked about what to do if the opponent gameplans to take Mayer out of the equation.

“Conceptually, to have one guy that’s being doubled, requires you to have a secondary option that can expose a defense. So one’s not good enough. If it’s just Mayer, you can make it difficult for your offense to be explosive. We have to make teams pay if they want to try to take him out of the game. That’s why it’s so important that we have secondary options, if they are left in one-on-one situations, we can come up with some big plays. Flat-out. If it’s Michael Mayer being doubled, we have to have some other players that can make big plays one-on-one. If we don’t, we’re going to struggle.”

An offensive line question got in there, but this time it was to hear something about Quinn Carroll — a talented guy we haven’t heard much about since his arrival because of injuries.

“He’s gotten really strong, physically. I think the area he has to continue to develop is the picking up of movement. It’s been one where he’s struggled at times. We’ve moved him around to be fair with him. I really like his progress in the weight room. He’s gotten really strong. Now, the next level is going out there when we got movement, linebackers moving, and being able to pick up a lot of that movement - continue to work on his agility and change of direction. Those are the areas he has to focus on.”

There was quite a bit more to Kelly’s presser, but Notre Dame hasn’t uploaded that presser — or the ones with the players — at the time of publishing.

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