Amir Carlisle

Spring practice video breakdown

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We got our first behind-the-scenes look at spring practice, courtesy of UND.com’s FIDM team. And while it’s just a snippet of the usual spring goings on, fundamentals with a sprinkle of scrimmage footage here and there, that’s all you can ask for in March.

As we’ve done in the past, here’s a rather excessive look at the video — breaking down what you’re seeing, and then doing our best to leap to some serious conclusions.

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0:10 — That’s senior wide receiver Daniel Smith (#87) breaking down the troops, leading you to believe that the veteran has taken a leadership role during the offseason. Smith’s numbers catching the ball aren’t all that impressive, but he’s a great blocker on the edge, something Kelly has talked openly about.

0:19 — Not sure who cleared the new music, but I’m liking it. And if you’re a video dork, think looks like a new HD camera as well. (7D maybe?)

0:21 — Blink and you might have missed it, but this could be our first look at the starting offensive line. From right tackle over, you can spot Christian Lombard (#74), Conor Hanratty (#65), Matt Hegarty (#77), Chris Watt (#66) and Zack Martin (#70).

0:25 — I think Louis Nix (#1) might win the award for the biggest man to ever wear the number one on his jersey.

0:28 — That’s Carlo Calabrese (#44) pushing a blocking sled. Riveting.

0:29 — And Troy Niklas (#85) works on some in-line blocking techniques. Fifteen years ago, you’d throw Niklas at left tackle and he’d be a first round draft pick. At almost 6-foot-7, and 260-pounds, he’s already benching 29 reps of 225 and doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him. Scary athlete.

0:34 — Great throw (and pretty camera work). If we’re jumping to conclusions based off of three second clips, Everett Golson sure looks comfortable as the alpha dog.

0:40 — That’s Tony Springmann (#69), the Big Ginger, working on pass rush moves in a one-on-one situation with Chris Watt. Springmann is down about 15 pounds, so we might need to modify that nickname.

0:42 — That’s Chase Hounshell (#50) working against Lombard. A shoulder injury kept Hounshell off the field for most of the season, a blessing in disguise for the now junior, who has impressed Kelly and the staff with his offseason work.

0:48 — Not sure what we see here other than great cinematography. Maybe they got Caleb Deschanel to shoot this?

0:52 — After a quick throw from Golson, watch freshman quarterback Malik Zaire (#8) take a nice mental rep, right by the head coach’s side. Smart.

1:02 — Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco gets the defense fired up. You can see some of the added weight Ben Councell (#30) put on in the offseason.

1:08 — Tony Alford coaches up running back Cam McDaniel (#33).

1:12 — A quick look at receivers coach Mike Denbrock, with CJ Prosise (#20) standing by. It’ll be an interesting spring for Prosise, who clearly has the Irish intrigued as an athlete and a football player. Prosise was dropped down to outside linebacker last fall when numbers looked bleak after Danny Spond’s injury and now is moonlighting as a wideout. That’s impressive versatility.

1:13 — Bobby D on the prowl…

1:16 — Mike Elston coaching up the defensive line. You can almost see how small Tyler Stockton (#92) is relative to Nix and others.

1:17 — Chuck Martin, likely coaching  — and telling a joke — to quarterbacks Everett Golson and Tommy Rees.

1:20 — That’s Niklas catching a short out route in front of Matthias Farley (#41).

1:24 — Chris Brown (#2) gets an inside release on Josh Atkinson (#24) and beats him on a quick post.

1:30 — Justin Utupo (#53) and Sheldon Day (#91) work a pass rush drill.

1:33 — Springmann and Jarron Jones (#94) take on blocking dummies. When Jones makes Springmann (6-5.5, 284) look rather small, you start getting an idea how big these defensive linemen are.

1:38 — Freshman tight end Mike Heuerman (#9) fights off Matthias Farley for a nice catch, courtesy of Andrew Hendrix‘s pass. The youngster looks good.

1:45 — Austin Collinsworth (#28) makes a nice play breaking up a pass to George Atkinson (#4). Positive: Atkinson is going vertical in the pass game. Negative: Pass wasn’t caught. Positive: Nice coverage by Collinsworth on an elite speedster. Negative: Eh.

1:48 — Oh boy, that’s a nice look at Amir Carlisle (#3) catching the ball in the open field and turning on the jets. If this is what not-quite 100 percent looks like, look out for this fall. Here’s hoping that in year four of the offense we see a little bit more of the flexibility in the offense that’ll get Carlisle his touches.

1:55 — It’s hard to tell who made the throw, but someone overthrew DaVaris Daniels on a deep corner route and Farley makes a nice play on the ball. Not a throw you want to get used to making, but certainly an interception that’d be great to see next year.

2:07 — Cornerback KeiVarae Russell (#6) makes a nice play breaking up a pass to walk-on receiver Arturo Martinez (#86).

2:13 — Coach Kelly breaks down the team at the end of our practice video.

 

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

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Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

DEPARTURES
Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)

 

ADDITIONS
Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*

 

ANALYSIS
Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more

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We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.

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Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention

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Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, UND.com ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.