The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took the practice field for their fourteenth (and final practice) 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. While today’s clip does show a fair amount of stretching and light workouts — there are some really nice moments.
Here are a few brief thoughts...
Loved seeing so many of our walking wounded back on the practice field. Kyle Hamilton, Kevin Austin, Brendon Clark, Jarrett Patterson, and Jacob Lacey all make appearances. None of them are expected to play (or even suit up) for the Blue-Gold game, but it’s nice to see the guys are on the path back to get ready for fall camp.
According to all of these clips, Lawrence Keys — A.K.A. Larry Keys — has made huge strides this spring, and I have zero doubt that he will figure to be a big part of the gameplan this fall. He even looks different.
I still don’t know what to make of the offensive line, but just as an overall thought from all of spring, I like that Notre Dame continued to adjust and try different things. I am thoroughly surprised that Blake Fisher and Rocco Spindler were consistent enough to be on what appears to be the 1st team for much of spring.
HANGING WITH BK
Brian Kelly was made available to the media to take some questions and address a few specifics regarding the Blue-Gold game itself.
Brian Kelly talked about what he wants to get out of the game as well as how he plans to handle the quarterback situation on Saturday — which includes Tyler Buchner NOT wearing a red jersey for the first half.
“We’re going to have the ability to control what we do defensively. I’ve put some controls on what we’re going to do defensively. I think that answers part of the question. If we’re not able to pass pro at the level I think we’re capable of — I don’t think I’m going to put the rosters the way I have. I think the guys that are going to be out there are going to be able to protect and put our quarterbacks in a position where they can be competitive and make some plays. Ultimately, I’m going to make sure that occurs one way or another.”
“We’re probably going to let Tyler Buchner in the first half not have a red jersey on. He hasn’t played in a year, so we’re going to use the first half to allow him to really be part of this game without a red jersey. If he’s in there, we’ll see a little bit about his escapability.”
“Taking the time to balance the roster, we’re going to play a game — Blue vs. Gold. I think I’m more interested in putting guys in competitive situations and getting an opportunity to see some guys we believe we need to count on in the fall. I thought it was important to put them in a team-like atmosphere and play the game. Now, there are some guys that we’ve got a good feeling for and you’ll see very little of them. Very strategic, but I think the emphasis is getting into a competitive situation and putting some of these key players in game-like situations so we can see how they handle themselves for the first in a more expansive role.”
When asked about the timeframe for naming the starter at Quarterback, Kelly said he will wait until fall camp to make that call between Jack Coan and Drew Pyne. I 100% disagree with him here, but I understand the argument made for his decision.
“The naming of a quarterback is really a year-to-year process. When there’s an incumbent, there’s no questions. When you don’t have an incumbent, is it better to name it after the spring? I’ve always felt when it’s clearly in the best for the team and morale and when it can influence you moving forward, you should probably name the quarterback. I don’t know if we’re in that position right now. We’re getting really good leadership from those guys. I don’t feel like that’s going to move the needle in the locker room at all at this point. I kind of like the competition that continues to go. It’s really spirited and I think I’m leaning towards making that decision in camp when we come in, more so than maybe establishing that sometime after the spring. It’s those factors that go into making those kinds of decisions.”
Finding a safety to go next to Kyle Hamilton was one of the top priorities for spring ball, and Kelly thinks both D.J. Brown and Houston Griffith have risen to the occasion. We may have also found out who two of Notre Dame’s captains will be this fall, as BK named the two captains for Saturday.
“We came into the spring and I know in my mind, not knowing. They hadn’t played a lot of football and had some questions. I don’t have any questions about either one of these guys and their ability to do the job we’re asking them to do. I’ve named captains for the Blue-Gold Game. The captains are Shayne Simon and Houston Griffith. It’s based upon the work they’ve done over the past four weeks as SWAT team members. Both of them accumulated more points than anybody on either roster. I wanted to award them accordingly. Houston has done it in the weight room and in spring ball. He’s solidified his position. What I like about DJ is he’s playing within himself. He’s playing to his strengths. With Kyle Hamilton coming back and to have those three guys in a solid position and now working towards that fourth, that’s a pretty good feeling after the spring.”
Xavier Watts is a guy that a lot of people are excited about at wide receiver, but he’s been battling some injuries this spring.
“He had been nursing a quad contusion. With ‘X’, we really like his work when he’s out there, but he’s been kind of plagued by nagging injuries. We’re hopeful he gets out there and he’s able to have a great spring game. We like his body of work and I know he’s frustrated too, but he hasn’t been consistent enough. Hopefully, the game allows him to really have some success.”
There are a couple of position changes that Brian Kelly talked a little about with Osita Ekwonu and NaNa Osafo-Mensah.
“We moved Osita to the Vyper position. We felt like there was a lot of competition at linebacker. We wanted to get a good athlete and put him in a position. It’s a very competitive situation for him and we’ll get a chance to see him in the spring game and be able to get a better evaluation in the game.”
“NaNa has done a nice job for us. We’ve cross-trained him at both defensive tackle and the defensive end position. He’s a big body guy and done a nice job in the weight room. He’s physically strong. He has some Khalid Kareem traits to him in terms of pass rush and some physicality. I think he’s had a really good spring for us.”
And it looks like we definitely have the #2 tight end moving forward with George Takacs.
“He’s now in a position where he can complement the offense. His mindset is that he can contribute and that I’m not going to Michael Mayer and that’s not who I am, but he’s a big, physical kid. He plays physical at the line of scrimmage. He can really help us as an in-line blocker. He’s a guy that has some talent catching the football. His mindset has changed quite a bit. I’m not stuck behind anybody and I’m going to be able to complement this offense. Mike is who he is and he’s a really outstanding football player. I can help this offense and I can be a great complementary piece to this offense.”
If Notre Dame uploads the whole press conference sometime soon, I’ll add that in here. Otherwise, here’s BK on his Blue-Gold game expectations.