Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Notre Dame Football Spring Practice Highlights March 8 2017

Notre Dame football officially kicked off 2017 spring practice today.  Here are some video highlights courtesy of BlueandGold.com



With a new strength and conditioning program led by Matt Balis and a revamped coaching staff minus head coach Brian Kelly who remains despite the 4-8 disaster of 2016 the team is looking to be more energetic, more up tempo and more fundamentally sound.  From most media accounts it did just that.

Kelly says not to take too much into account about the depth chart this early in spring practice as it will be fluid and of course change as new offensive coordinator Chip Long sees fit.  Fingers crossed Long gets to mold this offense into using more of a run game/get the ball to the tight end which was seriously lacking in 2016.  Tight ends combined for 13 catches all season in 2016.  That's unacceptable.

Here is how the offense lined up today in practice:

OFFENSE
FIRST-TEAM
LT: Mike McGlinchey; LG: Quenton Nelson; C: Sam Mustipher; RG: Alex Bars; RT: Tommy Kraemer
QB: Brandon Wimbush
RB: Josh Adams
TE: Durham Smythe
W: Equanimeous St. Brown
X: C.J. Sanders
Z: Chris Finke
SECOND-TEAM
LT: Aaron Banks; LG: Robert Hainsey; C: Tristen Hoge; RG: Trevor Ruhland; RT: Liam Eichenberg
QB: Montgomery VanGorder
RB: Dexter Williams
TE: Nic Weishar
W: Miles Boykin
X: Chase Claypool
Z: Austin Webster
THIRD-TEAM
LT: Hunter Bivin; LG: Logan Plantz; C: Parker Boudreaux; RG: Jimmy Byrne; RT: Sam Bush
QB: Ian Book
RB: Tony Jones Jr.
TE: Aliz'e Jones
W: Javon McKinley
X: Kevin Stepherson
Z: Deon McIntosh

First thing that shocked me was seeing Stepherson on the third team after his productive freshman season.  As Kelly mentioned don't be too worried this early about the depth chart but after hearing rumors all offseason about Stepherson possibly being in the doghouse/transferring this doesn't do much to dispel the notion that he could be on thin ice.  Guys like walk-on's Chris Finke and Austin Webster shouldn't be getting more reps at this point but then again Kelly did stress he wants to keep Stepherson at the X receiver slot and both of those guys play the Z.  

But overall if you look at the totality of the offensive depth chart it has to be one of the most impressive during the Kelly era.  The offensive line is stacked with experience, talent and depth.  Getting McGlinchey and Nelson back is huge for protecting the QB's blindside and both of those guys should dominate during their senior season with more strength and endurance with the help of Balis.  

The QB position should be excellent this season with redshirt sophomore Brandon Wimbush going into his third season of college football off season training and by most media and coaching accounts the most talented of the QBs during the Kelly era.  

Tailbacks are stacked with Josh "The Gazelle" Adams getting the majority of carries with Dexter Williams and Tony Jones looking to get 40% of the load.  

The receiving core which was inexperienced last season comes back as a strength especially with the tight ends included.  Any time you get talents like Equanimeous St. Brown, Chase Claypool and academic suspended tight end Aliz'e Jones back on the field it's a good thing.  Wimbush will have plenty of weapons to choose from.  Even though he isn't listed on the depth chart watch out for early enrollee Brock Wright at the tight end position.  Wright provided a lot of oh's and awe's today.

Overall the tempo and energy of the offense was improved from what we saw last spring and it appears to everybody that Wimbush is the clear cut leader at the QB position.  Hopefully this helps the team's leadership and cohesion because it was a clusterfuck last year with Deshone Kizer and Malik Zaire battling it out.

Here is how the defense lined up today in practice:

DEFENSE

FIRST-TEAM
DE: Andrew Trumbetti, Daelin Hayes
DT: Jerry Tillery, Jonathan Bonner
LB: Nyles Morgan, Green Martini
ROVER: Asmar Bilal
CB: Julian Love, Nick Watkins
SS: Drue Tranquill
FS: Nick Coleman

SECOND-TEAM
DE: Jay Hayes, Julian Okwara
DT: Micah Dew-Treadway, Elijah Taylor
LB: Jonathan Jones, Te'von Coney
ROVER: Robert Regan
CB: Troy Pride, Donte Vaughn
SS: Devin Studstill
FS: Jalen Elliott

THIRD-TEAM
DE: Khalid Kareem, Adetokunbo Ogundeji
DT: Pete Mokwuah, Brandon Tiassum
LB: Jamir Jones, Josh Barajas
ROVER: Devyn Spruell

If Notre Dame is going to field a legit defense under first year coordinator Mike Elko they got to get pressure and push up front with their big linemen.  Looking at the personnel it is clearly the weakest link on the depth chart.  Trumbetti has to have a break out senior season.  Hayes has to stay healthy and both turned heads today in practice with their performances.  Daniel Cage didn't practice and there are still concerns about his concussions even though he has been cleared to play according to Kelly during yesterday's press conference.   Not sure why he wasn't out there because he would start next to Tillery.  You can't really tell much about the defense early on especially with the linemen but it did appear to be a more physical unit and hopefully will get stronger under the tutelage of Balis and play better with Mike Elston now moving back to defensive line coach.

Bilal is the early leader to play the ROVER position and he looked OK out there.  His speed and athleticism is good enough for him to cover RB's and slot receivers but he still tends to over think instead of just playing.  The linebacker core is solid but not spectacular.  Morgan should be a beast but Coney and Barajas are too highly recruited LBs who need to step up now if this defense is going to be formidable.

I really like the secondary even though they are still considered young.  Watkins and Coleman made plays all over the field this morning which is great considering both struggled last year.  The corners on the outside of Love, Watkins, Pride and Vaughn are all great athletes who with the right coaching and preparation should excel.  The safeties of Tranquill, Coleman, Studstill and Elliott all have experience and smarts to play better than what they showed last year.

Overall it was a good first practice.  You never know how a team is going to respond after so many changes are made coming off one of the worst season's in ND history but clearly they are out there battling and hustling to leave it a distant memory.


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