Apr 3, 2013, 6:59 PM EDT
As our frame-by-frame analysis of practice videos attest to, there’s an appetite for everything football in the spring. Practice footage of one-on-one blocking, seven on seven passing drills or running against a no-touch defense still gives us ammo for our annual rite of spring. Playing the guessing game of how Brian Kelly plans to feature running back X or tight end Y.
Perhaps no position draws fans attention like wide receiver Z. Better known as the slot receiver, Kelly came into South Bend promising big things about the position. Whether that was a lack of depth or personnel, that breakout has yet to happen.
With Theo Riddick and Robby Toma graduated, Amir Carlisle injured and Davonte Neal gone, Irish fans everywhere are looking to find the early answers toward filling the slot. At a position that’s had a spotlight on it since day one, one that’s also its share of coaching changes and personnel twists, it’s rather understandable that most of us diving deep into spring tape continually try and read the tea leaves each at the slot every opportunity we get.
With freshman James Onwualu making a name for himself in his first practices and converted safety CJ Prosise also doing big things, media members took their opportunity with receivers coach and passing game coordinator Mike Denbrock, hopeful to get a assessment of the depth chart at slot receiver.
Instead, we got reboot of the offensive system.
Denbrock shrugged off any questions pinning a receiver to the inside spot, a distinction this offense feels far less concerned about making.
“That’s because you guys are still stuck in, ‘You’re a Z, you’re an X, you’re a W,” Denbrock said with a smile Wednesday afternoon. “We really don’t run our program offensively that way any more. Guys can be a running back on one play and a Z on the next play. Or they could line up as one of the outside receivers.
“That’s the way we’re really going to try and do things. Try and get guys that do things. Get guys that do the job the best, at the right position to do those jobs, and then let them go.”
While the news that the search for a position specific Z receiver is over is interesting, maybe more interesting is the acknowledged philosophical change the Irish have made on offense. Last year, we saw Kelly adapt to his personnel, playing a different brand of football after two seasons of trying to play his own signature style. It looks like those changes are going to stick.
With Denbrock explaining the shift away from one of the spread offenses’ core beliefs, we start to understand the coach Kelly is becoming. That’s how guys like Danny Smith can play inside receiver, and why lanky outside profile guys like Onwualu will get their shot where water-bug type receivers usually play. It’s a really fascinating peak behind the curtain courtesy of Denbrock.
And just one more think we can keep track of this spring…
Mar 26, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT
Matt Hegarty’s unexpected departure opened up a job along the offensive line. With fifth-year center Nick Martin back in the middle, Hegarty choosing to go somewhere else to play center opened up the competition at left guard.
Mar 25, 2015, 1:17 PM EDT
Jerry Tillery’s recruitment was anything but ordinary. Long committed to the Irish, Notre Dame held off LSU, with Les Miles and the Tigers’ coaching staff doing everything they could to talk the local product into staying home.
Mar 25, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT
Drop your questions below. Or on Twitter @KeithArnold.
Mar 24, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
While our inside looks at Notre Dame’s spring practice have been few and far between (blink and you could miss the footage from the YouTube practice reports), the little news that’s been coming out of the Gug has been good.
Mar 23, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT
Notre Dame landed three recruiting commitments coming out of the weekend’s Junior Day. And if it’s up to Mike Elston, there’ll be plenty more where that came from.
Mar 22, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
This weekend’s Junior Day netted another recruit, with Notre Dame’s coaching staff accepting the commitment of Florida running back Tony Jones Jr. The IMG Academy runner was in South Bend this weekend, and is the first running back in the fold for the Irish in the 2016 class.
Mar 21, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT
Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class took a big step forward on Saturday, gaining commitments from cornerback Julian Love and long snapper John Shannon. Both Love and Shannon pledged their commitment after receiving offers this afternoon from the Irish staff.
Mar 20, 2015, 1:41 PM EDT
Notre Dame’s coaching staff begins their 2016 recruiting efforts this weekend with its first on-campus Junior Day. While the reshuffled staff had an opportunity to hit the road in February, the Irish coaches will host their first major recruiting event of the spring this weekend.
Mar 19, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
When Notre Dame announced Brian Kelly’s reshuffled coaching staff, one name many expected to be part of the release wasn’t. Former Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn—an offensive coordinator and line coach for Kelly for decades—had been long rumored for a staff position, but wasn’t part of Kelly’s reshuffled team of assistants.
Mar 19, 2015, 11:22 AM EDT
As Brian Kelly kicked off spring practice with his press conference Tuesday, he gave a long-awaited update on exiled players KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams.
Mar 18, 2015, 1:55 PM EDT
Notre Dame kicked off spring practice bright and early Wednesday morning. With our first look at the Irish as they prepare for the 2015 season, Brian Kelly’s troops were ready for action, even if they were relegated to helmets and shorts.
Mar 17, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
With Irish eyes already smiling thanks to St. Patrick’s Day, Notre Dame fans got a free double-down with Brian Kelly’s opening press conference before spring practice starts tomorrow.
Mar 16, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT
It looks as if another piece of Notre Dame’s non-ACC football scheduling has come into place. Ball State has announced an agreement to play at Notre Dame Stadium in early September of 2018, likely locking in the Irish’s second opponent of the season.
Mar 16, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT
After Notre Dame’s men won an improbable ACC basketball title, the team and their head coach did little to shy away from their difficulties in the NCAA tournament.
#NotDoneYet adorns every tweet coming from the team’s official account, and likely serves as a mantra for a team that’s shown flashes of brilliance during regular seasons past, but too often became pumpkins in mid-March.
Mar 13, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT
One question, asked a half-dozen different ways. And it’s all about the quarterbacks.
Mar 12, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
With spring practice beginning next week, let’s open up the mailbag.
Mar 11, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
With Notre Dame on break, the campus is quiet one week before spring practice gets started. But the work inside the Gug is still likely underway, with recruiting efforts for the 2016 cycle pushing forward and discussions about the 2015 roster taking center stage.
Mar 10, 2015, 2:53 PM EDT
The only reviews of the College Football Playoff that matter are in. And after one year and a whole lot of excitement and unpredictability, don’t expect to see any changes coming soon.
Mar 9, 2015, 4:54 PM EDT
In a showdown with the defending national champions, most neutral party observers were shocked when Notre Dame’s defensive front dominated Florida State’s veteran offensive line.
Mar 6, 2015, 3:08 PM EDT
A position group that started last spring as one of the biggest question marks on the defense enters spring practice with the chance to be the most talented unit on the field.
- Running back Tony Jones Jr. commits to Irish 36
- Irish open spring: Five quick updates from BK 44
- Tracking fifth-year spots and the bumpy road to 85 scholarships 38
- Great on paper, rebuilt staff needs to hit the ground running 15
- Matt Hegarty will transfer for fifth year 31
- Spring solutions: Offensive Line 64