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Spring Practice: Day Three report

Mar 25, 2012, 2:26 PM EDT

Bennett Jackson 2

Saturday’s practice was already a victory with the Irish getting two big recruiting commitments along the offensive line. But with the team in full pads for the first time this spring, it also gave us a chance to take a look at the physicality of the team, with the practice video giving us a whole lot of action between the linemen.

This is about as in-depth of a breakdown as you can possibly get from seven-plus minutes of footage, but it should give you a crib sheet of what’s happening, almost down to the collision. There’s plenty to like, especially watching the young depth along the offensive line come together, and players like Jarrett Grace and Ishaq Williams come along.

  • 0:30 — Meteorologist Jack Nolan gives us the state of South Bend weather. If this is global warming, sign me up.
  • 0:39 — Mike Golic vs. Kona Schwenke. Golic wins early, Kona eventually overpowers him.
  • 0:44 — Tate Nichols vs. Aaron Lynch. Very impressive work by Nichols.
  • 1:07 — Prince Shembo breaks the team down to get practice started. Take a quick look on the right and you’ll see Tony Springmann in shorts and a hat. He’s a big dude, and that red hair is mighty impressive.
  • 1:20 — Matthias Farley vs. Chris Salvi. Impressive work by the converted safety. Looks very physical.
  • 1:26 — Cam McDaniel vs. Josh Atkinson. Wasn’t a pillow fight, but tough to give Atkinson the victory when he engaged low.
  • 1:33 — Robby Toma vs. Austin Collinsworth. You didn’t expect Toma to win, but nice work by Collinsworth.
  • 1:38 — Daniel Smith vs. Jamoris Slaughter. Nice work by Smith, who drove Slaughter backwards.
  • 1:43 — Luke Massa vs. Zeke Motta. Nicely done by Massa. I’m starting to like that kid.
  • 1:49 — Jalen Brown vs. Bennett Jackson. Slight edge to Brown, who looks impressive size wise and a legit six-foot-one, 200-pounds, something I wasn’t sure of before this.
  • 1:58 — John Goodman vs. Danny McCarthy. Even draw between the two fifth-year seniors. And apparently a mediocre one, because Kelly made them go twice.
  • 2:13 — TJ Jones vs. Lo Wood. Nice pop.
  • 2:20 — Toma vs. Collinsworth — Round two goes to Austin.
  • 2:28 — McDaniel vs. J. Atkinson. Give this one to Cam.
  • 2:30 — Farley vs. Salvi. Another W for Farley.
  • 2:35 — Nichols vs. Lynch. Big collision, but still leans Nichols way.
  • 2:43 — Golic vs. Schwenke. Another W for Kona.
  • 2:50 — Now we move onto the “rodeo” drill portion, which is basically one-on-one OL vs. Defender, with a running back having to go through the hole.
  • 2:51 — Louis Nix, mans game. Stands Golic up in the hole and makes a nice play on Cierre Wood
  •  2:55 — Chris Watt and Manti Te’o have a monster collision, with Te’o shaking off the block and making the play on George Atkinson. Not sure it was a victory by Te’o, but everybody was hopping around celebrating, so let’s go with it.
  • 3:04 — Tyler Eifert vs. Prince Shembo, and Shembo won the battle at the line of scrimmage, standing Eifert up in the hole and making the play on the back. Nicely done.
  • 3:12 — Our first Harry Hiestand appearance, who is very vocal about Matt Hegarty‘s performance against Kona. Not a great collision, as Schwenke tried to knife through the line.
  • 3:16 — Carlo Calabrese vs. Christian Lombard. Nice work by Lombard, who swallowed up the linebacker one on one.
  • 3:20 — After losing head up, Lynch got the better of Nichols in this drill, working off the block and swallowing up the running back.
  • 3:27 — Ben Koyack vs. Danny Spond. Nicely done by the junior outside linebacker, who looked physical while overpowering Koyack.
  • 3:33 — Conor Hanratty getting into the mix, doing a nice job on Tyler Stockton as Cierre Wood scoots through the hole.
  • 3:40 — Bruce Heggie does a good job powering into linebacker Dan Fox, but Fox makes a great play on Atkinson, and tackles the running back nicely, to the approval of Te’o and Bob Diaco.
  • 3:46 — Nick Martin does a nice job on newcomer Sheldon Day, who looks an awful lot like Emeka Nwankwo with the dreads out the back of his helmet. Robby Toma will some nice scoot through the hole at running back, showing the versatility of the hybrid position.
  • 3:52 — Tight end Alex Welch takes on linebacker Ishaq Williams, who makes a pretty impressive play on the ball carrier, who goes flying. Nicely done by the new No. 11.
  • 4:02 — Freshman linebacker Jarrett Grace does a great job taking on walk-on lineman Matt Tansey and then makes an impressive play on the running back. Nicely done. Very nicely done.
  • 4:12 — That’s Jordan Prestwood doing a nice job on Stephon Tuitt one-on-one, before Tuitt makes the tackle.
  • 4:15 — Jake Golic does a nice job on linebacker Anthony Rabasa, driving him out of the play.
  • 4:22 — Louis Nix does a great job standing Mike Golic up in the hole, but Everett Golson manages to tip-toe his way around him.
  • 4:31 — Nicely done, Carlo Calabrese. He stands up guard Chris Watt and makes a nice tackle on the ball carrier.
  • 4:37 — Want proof that Zack Martin is the real deal? Here you go. He handles Aaron Lynch easily. (Is there a third Martin brother? If so, I hope Notre Dame has already offered him.)
  • 4:44 — Baptism by fire for Troy Niklas, who stands up Prince Shembo in the hole, with Shembo winning the battle at the point of attack. Shembo did the same thing to Tyler Eifert to put things in perspective. Scott Booker is there to immediately coach Niklas up.
  • 4:52 — Another nice snap by Christian Lombard, who takes on Kendall Moore and puts him on rollerskates.
  • 5:02 — Kapron Lewis-Moore looks fully healthy, shaking off Tate Nichols and making the tackle.
  • 5:07 — Another impressive rep by Ishaq Williams, who drives a tight end back and makes an impressive tackle. Perhaps the lightswitch has gone on for the youngster?
  • 5:17 — The video breaks into coverage routes now, with one-on-one routes being run and thrown. Robby Toma makes a nice adjustment to Gunner Kiel‘s throw and makes the catch on Jamoris Slaughter.
  • 5:25 — You see why the coaching staff is so excited about Bennett Jackson. Early in his backpedal, Jackson stumbles, which allows John Goodman to get a step on him, but Jackson recovers, looks to actually locate the ball, and makes a play on a poorly thrown football. He’s certainly raw, but that’s a tough play athletically and he looked good recovering.
  • 5:37 — Ben Koyack just outsizes safety Chris Salvi, who can’t defend six-foot-five very well.
  • 5:48 — It’s Jackson vs. Goodman again for two snaps. Jackson is all over him on an out cut, but lets Goodman beat him long on a nicely thrown ball. Savvy veteran move by Goodman on the push off, but the ref in attendance didn’t call it. (No word on what conference affiliation this ref has.)
  • 5:55 — Good deep ball by Golson, who just misses a streaking wide out long, with nice coverage by Jackson.
  • 6:02 — More Jackson. This time defending Eifert on the go route with Rees throwing it a little inside and long. Credit Bennett for boxing Eifert out and keeping leverage. Tommy also needs to throw that ball outside and high.
  • 6:10 — TJ Jones beats Lo Wood for a big play down the field. Nicely thrown by Rees. Is it just me or is this more deep throws in a two-minute highlight clip than we saw all last season? (Bravo if that’s on you, Chuck Martin…)
  • 6:16 — Prince Shembo breaks on a pass to Troy Niklas. Nice play by Prince, but TEs need to make that catch.
  • 6:23 — Andrew Hendrix delivering a strike on a dig route to Eifert between Josh Atkinson and Zeke Motta. Nice throw and catch.
  • 6:38 — One missed deep ball and one connection by Rees, both to TJ Jones. Wood was in nice position and so was Jackson, but TJ went over the top of Bennett for the play.
  • 6:50 — Nice throw by Everett Golson, putting the ball up for John Goodman to make a play. For those of you wondering, Goodman has always been a really impressive practice player. Will be interesting to see that happens on Saturdays this coming season.
  • 7:04 — That’s Chuck Martin giving a loud, “That’s it, Gunner!” to his rookie quarterback, who throws a nice out to a TE Alex Welch.
  • 7:15 — Another practice video, another long run for Theo Riddick, who bounces outside for a big gainer against the reserve defense, using his stiffarm to run away from Josh Atkinson.
  • 7:25 — Boot pass from Golson to Niklas, with Troy doing a nice job in the open field avoiding tacklers. (Sign me up for about two dozen of these next year…)
  • 7:35 — Thankfully practice video ends, as my eyeballs were about to bleed.



It’s interesting that we saw mostly deep throws from Tommy Rees. While most people are down on the rising junior, if he can throw a more accurate deep ball, this offense would be just fine. Last year, defenses knew the Irish weren’t a risk to go over the top, and as the year went on, more teams dropped seven and eight guys into coverage, making it awfully hard to find space in the defense without going over the top.

It would’ve been nice to see Davaris Daniels get some work in the video, but Kelly said after practice that Daniels suffered a minor leg injury and should be back at work Wednesday.

  1. nudeman2point0 - Mar 25, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    “It’s interesting that we saw mostly deep throws from Tommy Rees. While most people are down on the rising junior, if he can throw a more accurate deep ball, this offense would be just fine.”

    Sigh …

    Please … no.

    Thumbs down button just below. Go ahead.

    • bernhtp - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:07 PM

      The adjective “rising” got me too.

  2. nudeman2point0 - Mar 25, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    And one other thing:
    ” … if he can throw a more accurate deep ball, this offense would be just fine”

    Keith, please stop this. He is NOT “rising” and the offense would NOT be just fine if he can throw a little deeper. How in the world can you say those things?

    Inability to throw a deep ball was hardly his only limitation. He made terrible decisions, fumbled the ball, throws regularly into triple coverage (favoring the red zone for this) and has zero mobility.

    Look, I’m not going out of my way to take pot shots at the young man, who I admire in many ways. But when you write stuff like that, it has to be responded to with facts. They were terrible last year offensively, particularly against good teams; near the bottom of the NCAA in turnover margin, and now if the same QB can throw a little deeper the “offense would be just fine”??? That is just patently false.

  3. andy44teg - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    My take from the video:
    1. Lynch and Tuitt look primed to dominate ’12
    2. AH has a ROCKET arm that, if harnessed, could be deadly ( for the opposing side)
    3. TR still can’t throw a deep ball to save his life. The receivers didn’t catch one deep pass in stride
    4. This looks like a team that truly has come together and loves playing with each other
    5. I think we should be able to censor Keith for that ‘lil comment about the “rising junior”

  4. Keith Arnold - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    Okay — Is this really Nudeman? Did you go and resign up? This 2.0 schtick is confusing me. Secondly, like it or not, Tommy Rees has by far the most experience in this offense, knows it better than anyone else, and is only a rising junior. You can’t bury a kid that’s played that much more football than everyone else, and he’ll get better still. Go look at Brady Quinn’s numbers if you don’t believe me. Or Matt Leinart, who never took a snap in USC’s offense before his junior season. 2.0 or 1.0 Nudeman, it’s not new news that you hate Tommy Rees for this offense. It’s more than well stated. But for you to have any credibility, you need to acknowledge that he’s done some good things in this offense.

    Can he run the football? No. Did he make WAY too many bad decisions last year? Yes. I think all parties involved with the Irish offense know that, and it’s interesting that Kelly put a new O.C. in charge, something he’d have likely done with or without Charley Molnar getting the UMass job.

    To your last point, the Irish offense wasn’t terrible. When it wasn’t turning the ball over it was actually quite good, though it bogged down at the end of the year. So if we’re going to talk about patently false statements, I’d say you’ve got some work to do, too.

    • bernhtp - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:56 PM

      Keith: there are indeed lots of things to like about Rees, but if he were truly rising, we wouldn’t be watching a four-man QB competition right now.

      It is undoubtedly true that Tommy knows the offense by far the best. He may even be the best possible performer for the first game or two, but none/few of us believe he ultimately has the capabilities to get us to an elite level, especially relative to the superior athletic abilities of the others.

    • nudeman2point0 - Mar 25, 2012 at 5:31 PM

      1. Same as nudeman; just went to 2.0 in honor of the new posting dogma.

      2. You wrote that “he did some good things” last year. A QB who takes 600+ snaps or and throws 300+ passes of course he’ll “do some good things”.

      3. ~95% who watch ND regularly would agree that “Doing some good things” isn’t what we’re looking for. That is an impossibly LOW bar. And there were far too many “bad things” mixed in. The inability to throw the ball deep was the LEAST bad thing.

      4. I don’t know why you continue to boost TR, like you did all last year. Yes, he’s a very good kid; and yes, he’s done some good things. No, he isn’t a bum and there is definite value in his experience. And for me, none of this is personal. But 95% of us think that despite the experience there are 3 better QBs on the roster RIGHT NOW. You can agree/disagree with that, but please don’t call TR “rising” and say that if throws a better deep ball, the offense would be “just fine”. I don’t think even YOU really believe that.

      5. Last point: A comparison to Brady Quinn’s numbers or any other QB’s numbers is essentially meaningless to me. I know what I see now and saw back then and Quinn was obviously more gifted in every way – bigger, stronger, faster, and a better decision maker. Anyone could tell he was gonna’ be a player. Absolutely NO ONE sees that in TR. And there was no one on the bench like AH, EG or GK then either.

      6. BONUS LAST POINT: If you REALLY want to evaluate TR, take a look at how well the offense performed against quality competition last year. In other words, let’s throw out USAF, Maryland, Navy, etc. He and they were terrible against FSU and USC. He played well at times against Michigan and they scored a fair number of pts, but you could make the case he cost them the game with his turnovers.Played OK vs. MSU. He was awful against Pitt; and barely serviceable vs. Wake Forest (hardly a “quality” opponent). Frankly not all that great vs. Maryland. And he had a very good OL, RB and WR. SO he wasn’t without weapons.

      • txirish2 - Mar 25, 2012 at 10:17 PM

        Nude and bern:

        “Rising” junior is simply a way of saying that he will be a junior when the football season commences. It’s a way of describing players in the offseason so that there’s no confusion. It doesn’t mean that they are “the man” in the upcoming year, or that they should be the starter.

        I believe that you both have some valid points about Tommy, but attacking the “rising junior” moniker isn’t one of them.

        Obv Tommy has limitations. But I think Keith is right that Tommy has a chance to be better this year than in previous years. Hopefully he gets beat out anyway, which means someone else is even better than that.

    • johnnd1985 - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:08 PM

      Our offense was good against the bad teams and most of the mediocre teams. A very good offensive line and tough running game made that possible. The offense was not very good (being charitible) against the best teams. Experience doesn’t mean squat if you can’t throw the ball down the field.

    • runners00 - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      TR will be a junior next year; thus the “rising junior” lingo, people. Keith’s not saying that he is “rising” in the sense that he has momentum or anything like that.

      I don’t know how to explain this well, Keith (haven’t yet had my morning Joe), but I think what we’re trying to say about TR is this: we know what a good quarterback looks like. He has a good release. He is mobile. He has a strong arm. He hits NFL-bound wide receivers like Mike Floyd on time. He can go over the top. He can take a sack without fumbling. He can hit receivers open in the end zone without waiting so long he throws an INT — in bowl games and outside of bowl games. He can handle snaps. He can run a productive offense against decent teams.

      Keith, TR does not look to us like a good quarterback. We were 110th in the NCAA in turnovers lost. We were 88th in red zone offense and 59th (between Hawaii and East Carolina) in passing efficiency. And don’t tell me about how hard our schedule was, either (32nd in the nation). TR’s been at this for a couple of years. He has a lot of experience — but he doesn’t have a lot of success.

      We’re hoping that one of the other quarterbacks can guide this team in a much more successful way. I’m sure TR is a nice young man. He’ll probably be a NASA astronaut or a nuclear physicist or a mechanical engineer some day. But quarterbacking is tough work. . . .

      • nudeman2point0 - Mar 26, 2012 at 11:45 AM

        Very well said.

    • leapingleprechaun - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:17 AM

      Keith..for me it is about ‘leadership’ which TR has not shown. In two years heading the offense he should be commanding the players- line and skill players alike. He does not show the ‘courage’ to Lead this team as a QB at a Big Time program should. I don’t know who can on the team but do know Tommy has shown 0 ability to do this…Period!
      And please don’t bring the Michigan comeback as showing leadership…throwing a TD pass when the coverage breaks down is not leadership. Leadership is commanding the offensive line to fulfill their blocking assignments when it is 3rd and inches in the 4th qtr and then getting in their faces when they fail…or even demanding the RB’s to gain that extra yard by lowering their heads when they are attempting to beat a man to the edge that is equal to the task…that is courage and leadership….

      • nudeman2point0 - Mar 26, 2012 at 11:46 AM


        Also well said

  5. irishlion10 - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    My goodness does Troy Niklas move well for 6’7′. Nice little cut-back move and then got right back to full speed immediatly on that last play. He could be a HUGE weapon for this offense for the next three years, regardless of the QB

  6. footballace - Mar 25, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    I thought the throw by quarterback Kiel had some zip to it which is refreshing. I might be in the minority, but I hope quarterback Rees doesn’t see the field in 2012.

    • islandsdomer - Mar 25, 2012 at 7:09 PM

      Amen ballace!! That pass looked darn good. I’ve never seen a pass of tr’s with that much zip on it. I hope #1 keeps it up.

    • nudeman2point0 - Mar 25, 2012 at 8:49 PM

      I don’t think you’re in the minority, Unless you conside the minority 95% of people who watch ND football regularly.

      I’m not trying to annoy Keith here, but for him to write that if TR’s arm is a little stronger, the offense will be “just fine” … sorry, Keith deserves whatever heat comes his way for that one.

      That was a whiff.

    • nudeman2point0 - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:00 PM

      I don’t think you’re in the minority, Unless you consider the minority 95% of people who watch ND football regularly.

      I’m not trying to be a pain in Keith’s posterior here, but for him to write that if TR’s arm is a little stronger, the offense will be “just fine” … sorry, Keith; you deserve whatever heat comes your way for that one.

  7. getsome99 - Mar 25, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    The term “rising junior” simply means he will be a junior come the next footballs season. Rees is technically still a sophomore in school right now, but is participating for the season which he will be a junior. Has nothing to do with the quality of player he is.

    • bernhtp - Mar 25, 2012 at 7:30 PM

      Rees was an EE and has gone to summer school twice. He is already a junior+ academically. He has played two football seasons. He is a junior athletically. Maybe you could say that rising didn’t refer to his football abilities except for the fact that Keith defended his football abilities in response to the criticism of “rising.” We just disagree.

      • getsome99 - Mar 29, 2012 at 11:06 AM

        You’re splitting hairs. Keith explained what he meant since you need clarification.

  8. Keith Arnold - Mar 25, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    People — The fact that some of you are getting worked up over rising junior is ridiculous. Bonus points to Tex and GetSome for knowing the nomenclature.

    Nude — Of course you are trying to be a pain in my posterior. That’s no big deal. But don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t stay anything about “TR’s arm is a little stronger.” Danny Wuerfrel didn’t have a strong arm, but he threw a wonderful deep ball. They aren’t the same thing.

    Arm strength is about 1/5 of the equation when it comes to throwing the ball down field accurately.

    To finish this discussion before another kid commits to the Irish, I’m not pushing for Rees to stay the starting QB. If it were my call, it’d be the Everett Golson show. That said, the staff is going to start everyone at square one. If Rees plays the best, he’ll play.

    (That said, there’s going to be a VERY short leash on any QB that makes terrible decisions. Last season that wasn’t the case.)

    To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with Rees’ performance on the video. Just saying that deep ball accuracy would’ve turned this offense around last season.

    Moving on…

    • nudeman2point0 - Mar 26, 2012 at 9:47 AM

      1) You’re taking this personally. My motive was NOT to be a pain. It was mainly a visceral reaction to this statement which I found way off base: “if he can throw a more accurate deep ball, this offense would be just fine”.
      2) You’re correct, you don’t specifically mention “arm strength”. But most people would agree that a strong arm is at least 50% of what goes into throwing a more accurate deep ball. So combining that with other comments here and elsewhere about TR looking “beefed up”, it wasn’t exactly a leap on my part to infer you meant arm strength as well. .
      3) I was wrong on “rising junior”. Sorry about that.
      4) Back to point #1: The offense would NOT be just fine if he threw a more accurate deep ball. He’d still throw into quintuple coverage and get trapped by any modicum of a pass rush.

  9. 1historian - Mar 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    FYI – I am an old fart. I remember Coach Joe Kuharich, I remember not being able to beat Northwestern, I remember Angelo Dabeiro, I remember the game against Syracuse (with Ernie Davis) when ND won on a last second field goal after a roughing the kicker play on the previous play, resulting in moving the ball 15 yards closer. I think 17-15 was the final score.

    I also remember the 1964 season when Ara started a guy named John Huarte at QB who had virtually no playing experience prior to that season and John won the Heisman.

    I trust Kelly to make the right decision when it comes to naming a starting QB. If it’s Rees it’s Rees – I would bet on a darn short tether. My money is on either Hendrix or Golson.

    To all the critics on this link – how many of you were there when this film was made?

    One more thing – Niklas looks amazing.

    I know I said “one more thing” but I lied.

    This time I REALLY MEAN IT – 158 days until kickoff.

  10. mattnef - Mar 26, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    If it isn’t too much to ask, it would be easier to enjoy these practice update articles if you could put the uniform number in parantheses next to each name.
    I thoroughly enjoy your breakdown on the film.

  11. degosavage23 - Mar 27, 2012 at 2:12 AM

    No surprise here, but I was extremely unimpressed with Rees’ play in the video. Still a terrible deep ball, still has a hard time throwing to the sideline, and underthrows everything. I have been on the Golson bandwagon as some of you know and continue to think and hope he will get the job. However, to me he had a good practice, not a great one. Hendrix look pretty good. But even though he’s just a freshman and will most likely redshirt (which he probably should), that was a PERFECTLY thrown out route from Kiel. Great zip and right in stride. Rarely seen from Rees in his career so far. He is tremendously accurate from the film I’ve seen from him so far. If his head’s on straight, he will be a force one day. Also the “rising” sophomores Lynch, Tuitt, and Williams looked great in this video with the way they shed blocking, even after a good first push from the blocker. Just so quick off the block.

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