Andrew Hendrix Stanford

Practice Report: Day Five update


With one third of spring practice finished, the team at gave us a much anticipated update on the quarterback battle, the main storyline of spring practice. With some nice footage of all four quarterbacks competing, it’s clear that head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin are truly going back to the basics and making sure they reteach the guiding principles of this offense after last season’s turnovers kept the Irish from being more successful.

Starting at square one and reteaching isn’t just the only thing the Irish are doing. With the change to Martin, the offense will also be given more structure.

“We want our guys to be instinctual at the quarterback position,” Kelly told “There was a little too much thinking, too much programming, a little too much open for the quarterback to interpret. We’re going to get away from that. We’re going to control it a lot more. We can make sure we’re not open to interpretation. By the time we get through spring, we’re going to see our guys reacting and not thinking too much.”

That change could be a large one heading forward, and also likely signals a shift away from the read and react nature of the offense, which saw the Irish make a decision based on defensive personnel as opposed to playing quickly and forcing the defense to react.

Here are some observations from the practice video, a well edited piece of footage that does its best not to give anything to opposing teams likely just as interested in the quarterback battle brewing in South Bend.

  • 0:13 — Nicely done, Jack Nolan. Another piece of Notre Dame garb and a perfect weather report. Watch out, Brick Tamland.
  • 0:33 — A nice look at Kelly working with Gunner Kiel, going through the basics while Martin and Andrew Hendrix work in the background.
  • 1:12 — A nice look at multiple throws by both Hendrix and Everett Golson. Drawing too many conclusions from watching guys throw zero-step drop slants is pretty silly, but you can tell the contrasting styles pretty quickly, with Hendrix muscling throws while Golson looks smoother.
  • 1:45 — First look at walk-on quarterback Charlie Fiessinger (No. 17) who joined the program from Moeller high school, where he will once again serve as Hendrix’s back-up.
  • 1:56 — There’s our Amir Carlisle spotting for the day, his crutches on the ground as he watches drills and catches off for the quarterbacks.
  • 2:15 — While previewing Tommy Rees, it’s interesting to see the Irish run the stretch playaction play from under center, something we didn’t see much of the last two seasons. If there’s a revealing bit of film in all of this, I guess this qualifies.
  • 3:20 — Bravo to Andrew Hendrix, who acknowledged that he’s still learning the offense and needs to get better. The shift to Chuck Martin should pay dividends for Hendrix, who is still pretty raw as he enters his third year in the program.
  • 3:47 — A little Everett Golson run play to get Irish fans salivating.
  • 4:19 — Gunner Kiel showing why any freshman under center is scary, with a snap bobbling from his hands before getting it back under control. (Thanks edit team — trying to give us flashbacks?)
  • 4:45 — What a genuine sounding kid.
  • 5:00 — Looks like Chuck could play QB if needed. Nice work on the playaction drop back.
  • 5:50 — If you look carefully, it doesn’t look like Everett Golson throws with the seams, gripping them with his left hand and unloading with the backside of the football.
  • 6:05 — And the key statement by Kelly, acknowledging the need to get the QBs to play better: “We’ve really gone back to the basics with our quarterbacks. When we turn the football over as many times as we did we have to go back and really reteach all the principles,” Kelly said. We’re going to back things up and get back to the basics of this offense.”
  • 6:30 — No opposing coach is going to gain an advantage out of watching this Football 101 drill, with ND playing this segment pretty close to the vest. I don’t think we’ve seen a throw over 10 yards or anything more than a three step drop.


Even amidst chaos, Kelly expecting USC’s best

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rocky Hayes, Blaise Taylor

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired on Monday, with interim head coach Clay Helton taking the reins of the Trojan program during tumultuous times. Helton will be the fourth different USC head coach to face Notre Dame in as many years, illustrative of the chaos that’s shaken up Heritage Hall in the years since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

All eyes are on the SC program, with heat on athletic director Pat Haden and the ensuing media circus that only Los Angeles can provide. But Brian Kelly doesn’t expect anything but their best when USC boards a plane to take on the Irish in South Bend.

While the majority of Notre Dame’s focus will be inward this week, Kelly did take the time on Sunday and Monday to talk with his team about the changes atop the Trojan program, and how they’ll likely impact the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

“We talked about there would be an interim coach, and what that means,” Kelly said. “Teams come together under those circumstances and they’re going to play their very best. And I just reminded them of that.”

While nobody on this Notre Dame roster has experienced a coaching change, they’ve seen their share of scrutiny. The Irish managed to spring an upset not many saw coming against LSU last year in the Music City Bowl after a humiliating defeat against the Trojans and amidst the chaos of a quarterbacking controversy. And just last week, we saw Charlie Strong’s team spring an upset against arch rival Oklahoma when just about everybody left the Longhorns for dead.

“I think you look at the way Texas responded this past weekend with a lot of media scrutiny,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I expect USC to respond the same way, so we’re going to have to play extremely well.”

Outside of the head coaching departure, it’s difficult to know if there’ll be any significant difference between a team lead by Sarkisian or the one that Helton will lead into battle. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been at USC for six years, and has already held the title of interim head coach when he led the Trojans to a 2013 Las Vegas Bowl title after Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron left the program after he wasn’t given the full time position.

Helton will likely call plays, a role he partially handled even when Sarkisian was on the sideline. The defense will still be run by Justin Wilcox. And more importantly, the game plan will be executed by a group of players that are among the most talented in the country.

“They have some of the finest athletes in the country. I’ve recruited a lot of them, and they have an immense amount of pride for their program and personal pride,” Kelly said. “So they will come out with that here at Notre Dame, there is no question about that.”

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.