Notre Dame Football Practice

Spring practice video breakdown: Part two

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Obviously, today’s news about running back Amir Carlisle and defensive end Chase Hounshell suffering significant injuries was a tough reminder that spring practice also carries with it some risk. But the Irish are hardly alone. Michigan lost its best defensive playmaker, linebacker Jake Ryan to a torn ACL last week, putting his 2013 season in doubt.

But as it happens during the fall, a football team charges on. For Carlisle, the injury won’t likely limit him past the spring. For Hounshell, that future is more complicated. Still, “Next Man In” continues as the mantra.

Let’s take a look at the second practice video, with a far too fanatical look at the footage captured during the Irish’s first few practices.

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0:10 — Loving the mood music. Also enjoying head coach Brian Kelly talking about identity. Nice pep talk to get the guys ready to go. If you’re trying to read between the lines, you can see how BK and company are re-framing the journey.

0:38 — Fifth year senior Tyler Stockton (#92) breaks the squad down. If you’re looking for an interesting comment on the decision to bring players back for a final year, Kelly provided it on Saturday.

“Unless there’s reasons where you’ve got your degree and you don’t see yourself really being part of the success on the field, I’d want every fifth-year guy back,” Kelly said. “They know what I want from them, they can help in so many other areas. Even if they’re not playing a significant role.

“My feeling is that if I could get every one of those fifth-years back every single year, they have something to add to the overall team. That was the case again this year.”

For the record, only seldom used tight end Jake Golic didn’t return for a fifth season.

0:52 — That’s Everett Golson flipping the ball to running back Cam McDaniel (#33) on a swing pass. That might be a nice role for McDaniel this season, morphing into a third down, pass catching type threat.

0:55 — Tommy Rees and Golson work through some pocket presence drills as Malik Zaire looks on. When you consider Gunner Kiel’s decision to leave, you’ve got to wonder which of these two quarterbacks played into the decision more. Rees, who likely would’ve held onto the No. 2 job this fall, or Golson, who looks like a four year starter.

1:00 — Nice job by cornerback Lo Wood (#23) getting a good jam on DaVaris Daniels (#10) and then breaking up the slant. Getting Wood back healthy and athletic can only help this secondary.

1:03 — Talk about another nice comeback story, that’s Alex Welch (#82) looking good running down the seam. If he’s able to contribute next season, having three big bodies at the position will really help the Irish offense.

1:05 — That’s KeiVarae Russell (#6) and Justin Ferguson (#15) battling for a fade route, as Chuck Martin looks on.

1:10 — One of our first looks at freshman Corey Robinson (#88) beating walk-on cornerback Joe Romano (#35) on a deep pattern. The long-striding youngster did a nice job getting separation. (For those thinking Robinson ends up as a tight end, he’s got a lot of eating to do.)

1:15 — Rising sophomore Jarron Jones (#94) certainly looks the part. That’s a big dude.

1:23 — Some youth on the offensive line getting work in. From left: Mark Harrell (#75), Conor Hanratty (#65) and Steve Elmer (#79).

1:27 — Golson throws a bullet that Daniel Smith (#87) snags.

1:33 — Look, a Davonte Neal (#19) sighting! Neal makes a catch from Tommy Rees and turns up field. Perhaps an even better sighting is secondary coach Bobby Elliott, who is back on the field after a kidney transplant.

1:36 — Golson works a scramble drill, peels out and throws a bullet to new tight end Joey Brooks (#81).

1:42 — Hit pause and you see all four Irish quarterbacks. Zaire, Golson, Andrew Hendrix and Rees.

1:45 — Harrell (#75) goes one-on-one with Stockton.

1:51 — It looks like Justin Utupo (#53) gets the better of freshman Elmer (#79) with the edge rush.

1:54 — That’s big Lou Nix (#1) getting by Hanratty. (Don’t feel too bad, Conor. You won’t be alone this year.)

1:58 — Speaking of Utupo, he gets by starting tackle Christian Lombard (#74) with a nice pass rush move.

2:05 — That’s Chris Brown (#2) beating Josh Atkinson (#24) on the reception.

2:08 — That’s Utupo getting around Zack Martin (#70) as well.  I think it’s time to a jump to a conclusion: Utupo had a nice practice.

2:14 — Chris Watt (#66) does a nice job handling Jarron Jones.

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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