South Florida v Notre Dame

Practice report breakdown: Day Four


After taking a serious look at Brian Kelly‘s post practice comments, here’s another closer than healthy look at the practice report. At this point, thousands of Irish fans are jumping to conclusions based on about thirty plays, handpicked by the FIDM staff and likely approved by the coaches.

Sure, it’s worth looking at, but any conclusion reached here is a faulty one, with the sample size being laughably small and the Irish not wanting to give any secrets away that could help out the opposition. Still, it’s our professional duty to over-analyze just about everything we see here, so I’ll take that badge and wear it with pride.

Without further ado, here’s today’s over-analysis of Thursday’s practice report:

0:30 — Come on, Jack Nolan! Yeah, we want practice highlights — but we need to know about the weather. How about this knowledge bomb: Humidity at Shiloh: 94% Dew Point: 69. Barometric Pressure: 29.91. (Last thing before we stop joking around and get to football… I’m glad we’re done with Shiloh Park or Camp Shiloh, which one is it? I’ll be just fine not mixing that up 40 more times this week.)

0:44 — That’s Amir Carlisle (3) looking the part of a smooth operator, working the position drills with receivers and running backs. The combination of the inside receiver / running backs coaching spot, taken on by Tony Alford, makes a lot of sense for a guy like Carlisle, who will certainly bring some much needed versatility to the position.

0:49 — Speaking of Alford, here he is getting after Cam McDaniel (33) and George Atkinson (4) as they work on some agility drills. In the spirit of looking way too closely at these videos, its interesting to note that the order the backs went through the drill was McDaniel, Atkinson, Carlisle…

0:52 — Swap the music out to something a little bit more racy, and you’ve got yourself a pretty funny ten seconds as we get a close-up of Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees‘ respective lower-halves, working their way through cones while wearing stretch shorts. Some excellent calf definition on the boys.

1:03 — Respect the floppy hat on defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who puts the defensive through some up-downs.

1:07 — That’s outside linebacker Ben Councell (30) getting up and form-tackling in a drill.

1:12 — We’ve got Conor Hanratty (65) and Mark Harrell (75) going head up. Some creative editing gives us multiple looks at Harrell driving Hanratty back (which I think was the intention of the drill, not evidence that Hanratty was put on roller skates.)

1:20 — Starting quarterback Tommy Rees (11) delivers a strike to walk-on Nick Fitzpatrick (38) during 11 on 11 drills. If I’m Fitzpatrick, I’m ripping this video off the web immediately as a time capsule to show my kids one day.

1:24 — It appears the videographer has the same mantra as the coaching staff: Finish the rep. The epic conclusion to the four-part Hanratty vs. Harrell battle finally concludes, ten yards behind where Hanratty started.

1:26 — Big Lou Nix (1) works a pass rush move before trying a strip move on a QB dummy.

1:30 — Carlo Calabrese (44) gets in on the pass rush action, too. I’m going to dig into the game charting and see if Calabrese actually blitzed the quarterback last year.

1:34 — Camp Shiloh Catch of the Week awarded to Troy Niklas (85), who makes an athletic, juggling grab on a pass up the seam from Tommy Rees.

There are a few things worth noting, other than the great use of slo-mo by the FIDM staff. First is the obvious — a very athletic play by Niklas. Second, is the use of Niklas as an down-the-field pass catcher. While he may be built like a left tackle, don’t sleep on Niklas’ athleticism, and he’ll be a weapon in the pass game this season.

(Also the reaction of the team manager is pretty great, dodging a defensive back as he rolls by, while giving him a disapproving look after getting beat for a TD.)

1:42 — That’s an inside screen pass throw to Amir Carlisle. Has Notre Dame found its long coveted Z receiver? We’ll find out in three weeks.

1:45 — Andrew Hendrix and Will Fuller (15) connect on a similar inside route, before Malik Zaire (8) targets Fuller with a pass that’s broken up and then intercepted by Jalen Brown (21). Tough break for the freshman quarterback.

1:52 — Zaire must have rebounded because he makes a nice throw to TJ Jones (7), who beats Brown on a comeback route that Jones went up the ladder to catch.

1:56 — Dare I say that’s an extra gear in a Tommy Rees scramble? The Irish quarterback tucks the ball and runs for the goal line, tapping the speed burst button as he scores the touchdown. (Listen and you can hear offensive coordinator Chuck Martin give a, “Nice Job Tommy Rees!”)


Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

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)

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)

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)

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.”