Malik Zaire

Practice Report Breakdown: Day Five

64 Comments

There’s a ton of great information on the internet right now with Friday afternoon’s practice open to the media. You’d do yourself a favor to check out all the great stuff out there, but as always, here’s another way too close look at the UND.com Practice Report.

While it felt like they were editing a Jerry Bruckheimer movie with the quick cuts that makes it tough to decipher who is actually doing what, I took my best shot, and wore out the pause button, trying to make every little frame count.

The complete video is below, but here goes nothing.

0:55 — Bennett Jackson (2) walks in looking like the real deal. He was limited during practice today according to various reports, but Notre Dame might have their first All-American cornerback since what, Shane Walton?

1:01 — Fifth-year senior Tyler Stockton (92) broke down the team before getting to work. After a nice spring, Stockton has fallen in line behind Louis Nix, Kona Schwenke and some other players.

It’s interesting to note that Stockton’s “great” spring likely put a charge into Schwenke, who looks really fit during the snippets we’ve seen. That’s paying it forward for Schwenke, who was used as a similar prop when Louis Nix was on the outside of the starting lineup looking in a few springs ago.

(Motivation is a beautiful thing.)

1:05 — Don’t look now, but from this wide view, we can see that the Irish cornerbacks are running man-to-man with receivers. I think you can count on one hand how often that happened last year.

1:07 — We’re going into lightning cuts here (what is this, Transformers?), so it might be tough to stay up. We caught a flash of Prince Shembo before George Atkinson caught a kickoff. GA3 needs to get the spark back in his return game after a mediocre sophomore season.

1:09 — Corey Robinson (88) runs a pattern. We’ll see more from him in a few frames.

1:14 — Ugh. Here’s an educated guess on what we just saw. Cam McDaniel go through the gauntlet and run off tackle. Carlo Calabrese meets a back in the hole. Stephon Tuitt takes on Alex Welch. Center Nick Martin leads Will Mahone through a hole.

(Mahone put himself back on the map today, reminding people that he’s not just here to sit sixth on the depth chart.)

1:18 — Cam McDaniel cuts hard into a hole. Greg Bryant does the same, with Jaylon Smith crashing down hard to make a tackle, before Jarron Jones (94) helps clean up.

1:21 — Davaris Daniels (10) sits down in the zone and makes a strike from Tommy Rees (11).

1:26 — Heckuva play by Lo Wood (23), going up and taking a one-on-one ball away from Daniels on a deep throw by Rees.

1:28 — Greg Bryant hits the breaks before bursting through a hole. George Atkinson just gets into the second level of the defense before hitting the gas. Cam McDaniel reads his blocks for a big gainer.

1:33 — Steve Elmer is no match for Stephon Tuitt, who swallows Bryant whole in the backfield for an impressive stop.

1:37 — It looks like this coaching staff has uncovered a gem in Corey Robinson. Here the once unranked recruit, who received his first scholarship offer from Notre Dame, goes up and wins a 50-50 ball for a huge gain, making a nice catch on Lo Wood.

1:41 — Ishaq Williams drags down a ball carrier. Carlo Calabrese breaks up a pass heading Troy Niklas’ way. And Corey Robinson catches an end zone fade thrown by Tommy Rees for a touchdown.

(If Rees gets a little bit more accurate with the fade route in the end zone, that’s big trouble for opposing defenses.)

1:50 — You win the Practice Breakdown Power Ball if you had Will Mahone for play of the day. Here the sophomore back takes a quick throw from Tommy Rees and turns it into a big gainer.

2:00 — George Atkinson in the open field has to make opposing coaches sweat at night.

2:02 — Another nice Mahone run.

2:05 — A very nice block by Matt Hegarty who looks to have worked his way into the mix after a very scare medical scare last season.

2:08 — Is the future now? Jaylon Smith runs down the option, stretching the pitch play out and then tracking down the running back in the backfield. With Danny Spond out today with a minor nick, Smith took advantage of the additional time, shared with Ben Councell, who ran with the No. 1 defense.

That Smith sounds as good as advertised, certainly says something.

2:13 — Tommy Rees have a handoff in the backfield to McDaniel before delivering a strike to Davaris Daniels on a deep dig route. Daniels is met with a pretty large hit by Elijah Shumate, but not until a 20-yard pickup.

That gain was on the No. 1 defense, so an impressive play.

***

***

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty
11 Comments

Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
17 Comments

Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
22 Comments

Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.

Chip Long in as Offensive Coordinator… and play-caller

chip-long
40 Comments

Notre Dame’s formal press release introducing Chip Long as the new offensive coordinator did more than confirm news that we’ve known for a few weeks. It let us in on Brian Kelly’s initial plans for his offense heading into a pivotal offseason.

After some struggles in 2016 with DeShone Kizer and an inexperienced wide receiving corps, most expected Kelly to rip back control of the offense after Mike Denbrock called the plays and Mike Sanford coordinated the offense. But Kelly is going to let Long call the plays next season, adding some intrigue to a press release that usually is vanilla.

“Chip will be given the full responsibility to call plays in 2017,” Kelly said in the release. “His offense at Memphis displayed a unique blend of physicality, athleticism, versatility and explosiveness. Chip’s play-calling created mismatches all over the field and did it in a number of different ways. He likes to use players who can fill numerous roles in an array of formations, whether that be two and three tight ends or multiple running backs.

“Chip has experience coaching at almost every position on the offensive side of the ball. He’s worked for and learned from some of the most respected offensive minds in college football — Bobby Petrino, Mike Norvell and Jeff Brohm — to name a few.”

That Kelly is handing over play-calling to Long, who called plays last year for Mike Norvell at Memphis, is a surprise on the surface. But if you listen to Kelly over the past few seasons, he’s always downplayed that responsibility. Most thought he was simply playing coy, though Kelly seems to value game plan and installation as something at least as important as calling the plays.

But after splitting the baby between Denbrock and Sanford these past two seasons (the three-man collaboration worked much better in 2015 than 2016–possibly explained by the personnel) perhaps Kelly sees a singular voice as a key to improving an Irish offense that’ll have to replace Kizer, but should welcome back the majority of offensive playmakers, as well as Alizé Jones. Giving that assignment to Long will also let Kelly dig in as a head coach, working with first-year starter Brandon Wimbush and staying connected to new defensive coordinator Mike Elko and his installation.

Long’s work on campus will likely take flight as soon as the recruiting dead period is over. Known for his tenacity on the trail, Notre Dame is in desperate need of getting back into living rooms, trying to get back some momentum as a few defections have spoiled the 2017 class, and a handful of spots are available in this upcoming signing class.

Long will also likely work with tight ends, a position he played as a D-II All-American and that he coached at Memphis last season. Scott Booker coached tight ends since 2012.

“It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve as the offensive coordinator at the University of Notre Dame,” Long said in the statement. “The challenge to lead at a University with such high standards is incredibly motivating. I’m very grateful to Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick for extending this opportunity.

“It’s Notre Dame: the values, the culture, and the leadership. My wife, Kari, and I are excited to move to South Bend and to join the Notre Dame family.”