Discover BCS National Championship - Notre Dame v Alabama

Spring practice video breakdown: Part five


With the Irish getting some scrimmage time in earlier this week, there’s a very good chance Brian Kelly and his staff are getting to know the type of football team that they have on their hands. In the case of Everett Golson, that might be a player that’s advanced leaps and bounds.

While we all tend to focus on the new players breaking in or the back-ups ascending to starting roles, no player should take a bigger step forward than Golson, who enters his first spring practice as the unquestioned starter.

After playing a sneakily impressive second half in a losing effort against Alabama, expect the Irish offense to really evolve behind Golson this season, as the rising junior has an opportunity to put up scary numbers this season, especially as his knowledge base continues to grow.

Let’s take a look at the tape, and continue our habit of over-analysis.



0:08 — That’s Everett Golson taking charge of the huddle. Now he’s just got to get used to being mic’d up at practice. Some nice edit work by Alan and the boys.

0:22 — This looks to be a little ones-versus-ones, eleven-on-eleven. While it’s hard to see if Golson had anything open while just isolating on him — the rising junior still looks mighty athletic. (Speaking of athletic, how about big Louis Nix, now sporting No. 1, giving chase…)

0:35 — You’re certainly not going to marvel at the footwork, but great job checking down by Golson, finding his tight end open in the middle of the field. Troy Niklas (#85) looks as imposing as ever.

0:40 — Even freeze framing it, I can’t tell who made the nifty catch in the end zone. The candidates:

  • Alex Welch (#82.) But where’s the knee brace?
  • Ben Koyack (#18)
  • James Onwualu (#17)
  • Joey Brooks (#81)

Anybody have a clue?

0:45 — Nicely blocked and George Atkinson runs hard around the right edge before Matthias Farley cleans him out on the sideline.

0:47 — That’s Alex Welch getting a check down from Golson, then rumbling forward.

0:52 — That’s Jarrett Grace (#59) getting a hand up and knocking down a pass from Andrew Hendrix (#12).

0:56 — Almost too many questions here. That’s TJ Jones (#7) wide open for a big gainer. He’s got KeiVarae Russell (#6) beaten badly, but did he expect safety help? Is it as windy as Golson mentioned in the first frames, and that’s why this pass is severely underthrown? Still — a 30+ yard gain is one the offense will take any day. (Now the defense…)

1:02 — I’m in favor of giving Ben Koyack a fresh start. Last season got off on the wrong foot, and it had to have been hard for Koyack to keep his confidence, getting lost in the shuffle after some early drops.

Here’s Koyack working at slot receiver making a nice catch. Sure, he’s only there because the depth chart needs filling, but Koyack’s not a guy you should give up on yet.

1:07 — Heckuva catch, Danny Smith (#87).

1:12 — Heckuva tackle, Jarrett Grace. (Listen carefully, do you hear Bob Diaco howling at the moon?)

1:18 — Another impressive catch by Smith, who goes up and wins a one-on-one battle down field.

1:21 — Smith doesn’t come down with probably the easiest of the throws we’ve seen, though you’ve got to give some credit to Lo Wood (#23).

1:26 — That’s Cam McDaniel (#33) on the loose. That’s a heckuva job by Ishaq Williams (#11), fighting off the block by Welch and then making a big hit on McDaniel.

1:31 — Tommy Rees (#11) playing pitch and catch with James Onwualu (#17).

1:35 — Brian Kelly, high above his perch. Looks like a pleasant South Bend spring day!

1:44 — Nice play by Lo Wood, dropping the boom on Corey Robinson (#88).

1:49 — Onwualu beats Wood on a well placed fade throw, fighting off Josh Atkinson (#24) and making a tough catch. Good ball placement by Rees, who hasn’t always had that strength.

1:52 — That’s Elijah Shumate (#22) crashing down into the box and making a tackle.

1:58 — Before the musical transition, I have expected Ryan Gosling to show up wearing racing gloves.

2:01 — Now we’re just getting downright artistic. Some great slo-mo looks at the offensive line. Nice kick step by Zack Martin (#70) while Chris Watt (#66) holds up Tony Springman (#69).

2:17 — Not bad, Nick Martin. Big Lou is more than a handful.

2:25 — That spin move won’t beat Zack Martin, Sheldon Day (#91). Not that you should feel badly. Not many beat Martin.

2:30 — Oh boy. Nix turned the younger Martin into a turnstile there…

2:35 — This might be our first isolated look at freshman Steve Elmer (#79) who looks like a GIANT as he blocks Prince Shembo (#55). That’s a big kid.

2:40 — Martin handles Ishaq as well.

2:50 — The left side of the line handles a stunt more than capably.












Kelly confident Robinson will rebound

Notre Dame v Florida State

Corey Robinson‘s season was already off to a slow start. And that was before a difficult night at Clemson. The junior receiver came into last weekend with only four catches, held out against UMass after a pregame tweak of his knee put a scare into the Irish.

Robinson’s knee checked out fine. But mentally, it appears that the sure-handed junior is struggling.

Just before halftime against the Tigers, Robinson failed to reel in a long catch that would’ve given the Irish a much-needed touchdown heading into half. Early in the fourth quarter, a high throw from DeShone Kizer on the Irish’s first failed two-point conversion play slid through Robinson’s hands. Made worse was a mental mistake by Robinson, the Irish needing to use one of their second half timeouts when the junior wasn’t on the field.

Coached hard on the sideline by Brian Kelly and coached up by his position coach Mike Denbrock (as we saw on both Showtime and Fighting Irish Media’s ICON), the staff is doing it’s best to get Robinson’s confidence back.

With some wondering if Robinson’s struggles should open the door for talented freshman Equanimeous St. Brown, Kelly talked about their belief that the junior will return to form.

“Corey Robinson is going to get the job done. I had a very lengthy conversation with him yesterday,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I believe in Corey. Corey’s got to believe in himself, and he will. He’s got to go attack the football. He’s letting the football come to him. He’s letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.”

There’s no better place to showcase that belief than against Navy. The Midshipmen don’t have a defender physically capable of matching up with the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who will likely face his share of single coverage with Will Fuller likely demanding safety help.

Then it’s just a matter of Robinson showing the hands and confidence that made him one of last year’s most consistent performers.

“Once he starts attacking the football, I think we’re going to see somebody that can make the plays that we expect him to make,” Kelly said. “So I’m optimistic that we’re going to see the guy that we need to see on Saturday.”

And in that corner… The Navy Midshipmen

Keenan Reynolds, Jamar Summers

The theme of this week’s game might very well be mutual respect. But if Notre Dame is going to get their season back on track, they’ll need to very quickly get past any sort of reverence they have for Ken Niumatalolo and the Navy Midshipmen and look for any way to beat them.

Sandwiched between showdowns against Clemson and USC, Navy comes to town, one of the below-the-radar unbeaten teams in the country. With option superstar Keenan Reynolds in the final year of a career that is already one of the most prolific in college football history, the Irish defense goes into triple-option mode for the second time in this young season, asked to once again find an answer for an attack that not many people have solved.

Helping us to prepare for the Midshipmen is the play-by-play voice of Navy athletics, Pete Medhurst. Covering Navy football since 1997, Pete was kind enough to get us ready for the 89th meeting between Notre Dame and the Naval Academy.

Hope you enjoy.


Lost in the misery Notre Dame fans feel after the Irish’s undefeated hopes washed away in Clemson last weekend, is that the Navy team coming to South Bend is really, really good. I know it’s early, but you’ve been covering the Midshipmen for a long time. Can you rank where this team stacks up compared to some of the others you’ve seen?

I think its the best overall Navy team, considering the play of both units right now and special teams as well. The defense is giving up  just 15 points a game, and based on the prowess of the offense, that’s going to lead to a lot of victories if you play at that level.


Is Keenan Reynolds the best triple-option QB in Navy history? As someone who has watched his career evolve, can you speak to his improvements as a quarterback and a player? How important has he been to the evolution of this program?

I believe production speaks for itself. Good health could make him the leading touchdown scorer of all-time in the sport. He’s a coach on the field. Speaks like a coach, has a want to get better. Each day is a mission for him and the unit to get better and they hold themselves to a high standard to meet each day, he’s the leader of that group.



Joining the American Conference was a huge decision, but one that looks to be paying dividends. Have you noticed a difference in the program now that they’re chasing a conference title?

Coaches say it is. They have been met with quality response on the road recruiting. We get to states that are important footprints for us and just adds another goal where our players can be rewarded for their hard work. The conference has been very, very, good so far this year.


Defensively, this game should stress Navy. Notre Dame’s big-play potential is the best of the Brian Kelly era. (The Irish already have more 50-plus yard touchdowns than they’ve had in any other season under Kelly.)

Takeaways and preventing big plays seem to be a tenet of a Buddy Green defense. Are those the big keys for the Midshipmen defensively?

No question this is by far the fastest team Notre Dame has ever had. I go all the way back to the great Lindsay Nelson days when I used to watch the Notre Dame football report every Sunday morning. They can attack you anywhere at anytime with several people. Double cover one, they have three others in the formation who can beat you any play. Brian has put together a great plan and his coaches have delivered great recruits to the program. Many teams can’t survive an injury to the QB, but they have.

Mids have turned teams over this year and that’s a huge key for any defense. With Dale Pehrson taking over the defense (note: Green is taking a sabbatical to recover from major neck surgery this season) those goals have not changed. Eleven guys getting to the football, ball comes out, you have a great chance to get it!


Notre Dame had success earlier this season against Georgia Tech, and Brian Kelly spent a gigantic portion of his offseason preparing for the triple-option, going as far as recruiting a walk-on option quarterback who runs an option-specific scout team.

Do you think the success the Irish defense had against Paul Johnson’s triple-option will help this weekend? Or do you see subtle, but important differences between what Ken Niumatalolo does than his predecessor?

Coach Kelly is a good football coach. After we beat them at the Meadowlands, 35-17, you sensed, he was going to work hard to find a solution because for them to achieve their goals, they have to beat us.

Im not sure how many huge differences their are in our two offenses, one though is the QB. His ability to get Navy into the right play is huge no matter how a team lines up. Defensive personnel has improved in a huge way for Notre Dame too. They have quality people who can run and get to the ball. Last couple have been barn burners. Hopefully Saturday can be the same.