Spring Practice

Camp practice reports: Jump to conclusions edition

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Football is finally here. That means we get to overanalyze video, jump to conclusions, and see just how good a team can be in shorts and helmets, one of my favorite (honest, I love it) exercises of the year.

Thankfully our friends at UND.com haven’t let us down, coming up with some spiffy new features in their videos including some heart-pumping score and a snazzy new intro to their videos.

Since most of you don’t have the time to break these videos down frame-by-frame, I thought I’d do it for you. Thoughts coming beneath the video.

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0:12 — Ominous new tunes for the FIDM video crew. It’s clear even the video team is ready to forget last season, turn the page, and welcome the challenge of 2012.

0:17 — I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing this photo in montages across the internets. From left to right we’ve got senior guard Chris Watt (66), Zack Martin (70), Braxston Cave (52), and Mike Golic (57).

0:23 — Anyone worried that Louis Nix didn’t come to camp in shape should worry not. Big Lou looks in terrific shape (down right svelte) as he heads to practice.

0:34 — That’s freshman safety C.J. Prosise returning kicks in a special teams segment. He might be next to George Atkinson in returns, giving the Irish two burners back there.

1:18 — The video crew is trying to keep me quick, sandwiching quick cuts of Robby Toma making a nice catch and Theo Riddick running around the outside. These two seniors are going to be huge X factors this season if the Irish offense wants to get on track.

1:24 — Our first look at vaunted freshman Davonte Neal (#19). He may be slight — he’s listed at 5-foot-9, 171-pounds — but the speedster is already receiving good reviews and passes any eyeball test you can make in four seconds of video.

1:28Gunner Kiel (1) to All-American Tyler Eifert. Let’s just say if that happens this season, a whole lot has gone sideways.

1:34 — Our first look at freshman KeiVarae Russell (6) running as a cornerback with junior wide receiver TJ Jones (7). Russell is a good enough athlete to make the transition and it wouldn’t surprise me if he finds his way onto the field early.

1:40Everett Golson took the first snaps with the No. 1 offense on Saturday. Here he dumps a screen pass to Jones over the middle. If the Irish offense is going to make some evolutionary steps forward, they’ll need to have a better screen game… among other things.

1:52 — That’s Davonte Neal again, running a nice pattern and coming down with the ball after veteran safety Danny McCarthy closes in on him.

2:00 — Blink and you might miss it, but that’s freshman receiver Chris Brown (2) running a deep route and coming down with the ball.

2:08 — That’s fellow freshman Justin Ferguson (15) making a catch of his own. Interesting to note that both Brown and Ferguson check in at 6-foot-2, with Ferguson having almost 25 pounds on Brown checking in at 196 pounds (Brown is 172).

2:20 — That’s impressive work by Russell (6) in coverage, looking pretty smooth as he looks back for the ball and goes up against Ferguson. It’ll be fun to see how quickly this freshman class, a group that had many focusing on the guys that didn’t come, makes its mark on the field.

2:25 — Hey there, Davaris Daniels (10). That’s a mighty fine catch.

2:30 — Our first look at freshman running back Will Mahone (32). There’s a little bit of juice in those moves for a guy that was billed to be a power back coming into school.

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0:08 — You can tell Jack Nolan is fired up. I half-expected him to drop a big long “YEEESSSSSS!” at the end of the intro.

0:27 — That’s defensive coordinator Bob Diaco donning his floppy hat again as he just beams intensity in his all-gear attire.

0:34 — New wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock teaching his wide receivers corps how to escape a jam from a defensive back.

1:05 — New offensive line coach Harry Hiestand giving Christian Lombard (74) some one-on-one blocking instructions.  Mike Golic (57) and Braxston Cave (52) get the next reps.

1:52 — Defensive line coach Mike Elston giving the ABCs of defensive line play. Interesting stuff with the “ear hole” block, explaining to all of us loyal viewers that if an offensive lineman isn’t looking at you and heading past, you’re probably going to be the target of someone else coming down the line.

2:24 — As Tony Alford runs the backs through drills, it’s good to see Cameron Roberson (31) working his way through drills. Roberson is still recovering from a serious knee injury that had many worried he wouldn’t play football again.

2:34Quarterback linebackers coach Bob Diaco works coverage drills with his troops. At 6-foot-4, 239-pounds, Romeo Okwara is a big dude. Especially considering he should still be in high school.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.

 

 

Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”