Apr 5, 2012, 11:44 AM EDT
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Jamoris Slaughter was seen taking reps at cornerback yesterday, cross-training at a cover position while Austin Collinsworth took first-team reps with the safeties. The move makes sense on the surface, with Slaughter’s versatility and cover skills always one of his assets, and Lo Wood not yet proven at the field cornerback position, where he’ll be tasked with covering a lot of field.
“We know Jamoris can be a great safety for us,” co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks said. “By moving him out and seeing what he can do at other spots, that gives us an opportunity to develop some young guys.”
With the graduation of Gary Gray and Robert Blanton and the presumed loss of Tee Shepard, Cooks and safeties coach Bob Elliott will likely be looking for the right combination in the back end of the defense right up until the Irish ship out for Dublin.
Yesterday’s practice video from UND.com focuses on the cornerbacks, and gives us a nice look at the contenders for playing time. As usual, here are some observations.
- 0:14 — Cinematic look at Brian Kelly’s patio door, with Jack Nolan rocking a nice green Irish sweatshirt.
- 0:55 — An introduction to the usual suspects: Jackson, Wood, Jalen Brown, and Josh Atkinson. Neither Brown nor Atkinson looked good in the clip the guys used, so I’m not sure what that says.
- 1:30 — Cooks identifies Jackson as the guy that’s ready to go. That jives with just about everything I’ve heard, too.
- 2:30 — Some nice insight into Cooks, who saw his title ascend to co-defensive coordinator this year, likely keeping him away from other staff’s looking to poach him. Cooks made a parallel move joining the Irish staff after spending a long time with former college teammate Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, but the move looks to have paid off, even though Cooks started at the unfamiliar position of coaching outside linebackers.
- 3:04 — Of course John Goodman is wearing pink just because. He’s an eclectic dude.
- 4:04 — Cooks talking with Atkinson, a really important piece of the secondary puzzle this year.
- 4:30 — Bennett Jackson says he’ll be 8 for 9 in practices this year. I like that all-business approach.
- 4:45 — Atkinson looks like he’ll need a little work to be physical enough to play boundary corner. He seems destined to play on the field side, which is probably best with his legit track speed.
- 5:38 — Chris Salvi struggles before righting himself in an open-field tackling drill.
- 6:05 — Cam McDaniel looks good going after the ball in the air. Which makes sense, considering he was a running back and punt return option.
- 6:35 — We see Cooks explain what “stack” means, as he describes the backpedal drill the Irish are doing, imploring his DBs to stay on top of the receiver.
- 7:35 — Cooks celebrating nice work on a five-yard route. That’s the proper attitude and it’s consistent with the defensive philosophy of last year as well.
- 7:44 — Nice work, Josh Atkinson.
- 7:50 — Uh oh, Lo. Can’t get turned around. If that’s a USC Trojan and not Luke Massa, that’s six points.
- 8:25 — Good proof that the cornerback position is the toughest athletically in the game.
- 8:50 — Great plays, Bennett Jackson. Nice break-up on a well thrown deep balls to Daniel Smith and TJ Jones.
And now, some BONUS footage from some three-on-three work.
- It’s Ishaq Williams (#11), Kona Schwenke (#96), and Stephon Tuitt (#7) on defense against what looks like Tate Nichols (#64), Nick Martin (#72) and Zack Martin (#70). Nice work by Kona, who looks like he’s grown into a defensive tackle. That’s some nice evaluation by the staff, who found a skinny 240-pound defensive end late in the recruiting process.
- Second round is Carlo Calabrese (#44), Louis Nix (#9) and Manti Te’o (#5) against Christian Lombard (#74), Mike Golic (#57) and Chris Watt (#66). First round won by Lombard and Co., who do a nice job (running away from Te’o doesn’t hurt). Nice work by Nix shrugging off Golic’s block in round two. Tough to say who won round three.
- Ben Councell (#30), Ishaq, and Danny Spond (#13) defend in round three against tight ends Ben Koyack (#18), Alex Welch (#82) and a third player I can’t see. Like the physicality out of both Spond and Councell, and Ishaq seems really impressive.
- Last round is safeties — Danny McCarthy (#15), Zeke Motta (#17) and Austin Collinsworth (#28) against Luke Massa (#14), Daniel Smith (#87) and John Goodman (#81). Again, tough to say who won, but thought Collinsworth did a great job, and the defense certainly celebrated the win. (Notice Prince Shembo still out of uniform, though standing close by.)