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Irish return to the practice field

Mar 19, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

Notre Dame v Air Force Getty Images

After two weeks off, Notre Dame returned to the practice field this morning. With pads on and live snaps taking place, any rust seemed to be alleviated with the Irish playing live for the first time this spring.

With plenty of reports coming in live from various local outlets that got a limited look at practice from inside Loftus, let’s run you through some of the interesting reports that I’ve seen this morning.

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First, let’s get to some of BK’s comments after practice.

Kelly talked about Notre Dame’s mediocre screen game, which was really good to hear after listening to hundreds of you bemoan the lack of creativity or productivity from that aspect of the offense. But with young offensive linemen learning their roles, it’s still very much a work in progress.

Kelly jokingly got off a pretty good dig on Steve Elmer, who is working at left guard next to Ronnie Stanley right now. The sophomore is doing a great job understanding his role at guard, but will use the spring to refine his game with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

“I think that’s obviously a tandem that is working well together on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said of Stanley and Elmer. “We like what we see there. Steve is still learning the little. He knows big picture the offense very well. I think what Harry (Hiestand) is really trying to drill down with Steve is what he wants.

“Screens, for example, remember how lousy we were on screens? He’s worse. Things like that. He’s really trying to figure out some of the little nuances in the game. That’s the next step for him.┬áRonnie has done very well at that position. I think now for Elmer, really picking up the nuances.”

Before anybody thinks Kelly is calling out a player, he was joking first of all and secondly he’s also taking a shot at his own offense and it’s inability to capitalize on high percentage pass plays like screen passes. If that’s a focal point of this offensive transition under Mike Denbrock then that’s great news.

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Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Kelly talked about one of last year’s spring heroes, C.J. Prosise. While that didn’t translate into a lot of success last season, Prosise is a really intriguing athlete, especially considering he weighs 220 pounds.

“C.J. Prosise is an outstanding athlete. I don’t like to call any guys out, but he can give us even more,” Kelly said. ┬áI think if there’s a ceiling there, I think we can get more out of C.J.

“He doesn’t have a typical body type for that position, he’s a big kid. But he’s an extraordinary athlete. I think there’s more there and we’re seeing it. He’s got speed. He can catch the football, and we think he can be a really good blocker as an inside guy for us. He’s kind of a unique player at that position. You usually don’t get them big. I think he’s got a high ceiling as well.”

Prosise started in the secondary for the Irish, an obvious place for a 220 pound thumper who can run. But with the Irish shifting away from two tight end sets, Prosise could be a beneficiary in this offense.

Also receiving glowing reviews from Kelly was rising sophomore Will Fuller. After putting up a ridiculous 26.7 yards per catch average last year, Kelly all but said the sky was the limit for the Philadelphia native.

“Will Fuller, that kid is just a matter of how far he wants to take his talents,” Kelly said. “Weight room is going to be huge. Getting stronger. Attention to detail, all things that great players need to do. He’s a pretty good one.”

Some bozo last week said Fuller had the chance to be a 1,000 yard receiver this season. I’m feeling better about that prediction after hearing Kelly talk about Fuller.

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It may be a surprise, but Jaylon Smith spent time at inside linebacker when the Irish went into a nickel package. Playing next to him was Joe Schmidt, while transitioning wide receiver James Onwualu also took some snaps there as well in the nickel set.

For Smith, it’s part of the transition to being the leading man of this defense. After playing primarily the dog outside linebacker spot last season, getting Smith into the middle of the action is just one part of utilizing the team’s best defensive playmaker.

“We’re finding that out right now as to what he can do,” Kelly said. “We’re overloading him quite frankly with a number of different looks.

“We don’t want offenses to know where he is. We’re going to play him in a number of different positions. He can be inside, outside, we’re moving him all over the place.”

Last year, the Irish passing defense really struggled on underneath routes, especially with Jarrett Grace, Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox in coverage. In 2012, Manti Te’o made seven interceptions playing a glorified shallow center field for the Irish. Consider what Smith can do with his freakish speed and athleticism?

The move of Smith inside is likely as much a part of getting him in the center of the defense as it is about solidifying a clear weakness. A savvy and smart move that shows this staff did their homework during the offseason.

 

VIDEO DROPS:

Here’s some great practice footage from IrishSportsDaily.com:

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Here’s some more from our friends at IrishIllustrated.com, including a pick six by Joe Schmidt on Everett Golson:

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Here are BK’s comments in their entirety, courtesy of UND.com:

 

 

  1. 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    “It may be a surprise, but Jaylon Smith spent time at inside linebacker when the Irish went into a nickel package. Playing next to him was Joe Schmidt, while transitioning wide receiver James Onwualu also took some snaps there as well in the nickel set.”

    It’s nice to know BK is taking my advice about giving Onwualu a chance to play MLB.

    I’m expecting him to install that “dual QB” look that runs the read option using both EG and MZ at the same time any day now…

    • dickasman - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:05 PM

      So why did we move prosise from safety to WR again when he has the prototypical safety size?
      Same reason people go from military to doggy vaginal to anal?

      • papadec - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:08 PM

        Good to see you survived this year’s St Paddy’s celebration dickie – I was afraid you might be on a three day bender, or in a lockup somewhere.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:37 AM

        military? never heard of that one before. it must be only for the truly depraved.

        I don’t know why prosise was moved over to WR. maybe his hands are too good to waste on defense, or maybe his tackling wasn’t strong enough. with BK mentioning that maybe onwualu will play both ways (I know, I know, dick you’re not going to be able to resist that double entendre) imagine running the ball to the side of the field where prosise and onwualu are both blocking. I like those odds.

    • shaunodame - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:01 PM

      Shades or Louisiana-Monroe!! hahaa. That Dual-QB formation really blew my mind at first glimpse.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        that formation would drive defensive coordinators nuts.

  2. NotreDan - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    MAN it’s great to have some fresh material!

    Jaylon Smith is sure going to be fun to watch. I love the sense I am getting that BK is really mixing things up, trying new things; seems really open to just finding the best player at the best spot.

    • rossumnminor - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      Great review thanks Keith! Glad to hear bk say that no one was snap chatting at 2am on south padre island during spring break.

  3. goirishgo - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    Lots of Collinsworth/Redfield reps at safety in that video with some Baratti mixed in. Here’s hoping for improved play at that position in ’14.

  4. onward2victory - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Agreed, it’s fun to have some fresh video! A few thoughts:

    1. Great to see my boy Amir getting some work, and actually catching the ball. Hopefully his confidence is back.

    2. Granted it’s just practice, but Greg Bryant looks shifty. I think it’s just a matter of time before he proves us all right and becomes exactly what we thought he would be: Theo Riddick 2.0.

    3. Malik Zaire looks pretty good running the ball, but I’m afraid he was more like Andrew Hendrix than Golson when he dropped back for a pass. He’s still young, but he just doesn’t look poised in the pocket. Not sure how much of that you can coach.

    4. I love seeing Jaylon The Freak Smith get into position before the ball is hiked, like he’s just ready to explode. Definitely love the idea of lining him up all over the field.

    • bernhtp - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:30 PM

      OFD have a good article on Golson vs. Zaire in throwing mechanics.

      http://www.onefootdown.com/2014/3/18/5514976/ofd-films-iso-cam-zaire-vs-golson-throwing-motion

      • rossumnminor - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:05 PM

        Good nugget Bern.

      • onward2victory - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:12 PM

        That is a great article, thanks for sharing.

        I don’t visit the OFD site all that often, but I do listen to their podcasts. The host (can’t remember his name) always seems bored to death, but I really enjoy the insight from that guy Larz who wrote the article you linked. He’s either a really good BS-er or he knows a helluva lot more about football than I ever will!

      • bernhtp - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:58 PM

        I often listen to the OFD podcast myself.

        I think that Murtaugh is actually pretty good, but Larz is a hoot with his Canuck/Fargo accent.

        I’ve studied, practiced and taught stroke/footwork mechanics in a couple of sports (tennis and baseball pitching) and found the analysis to be excellent. It focused on exactly the right points given the common elements of posture, weight distribution/transfer, alignment, timing, etc. It showed Golson to be far more mechanically sound than Zaire.

        What also disturbed me about Malik in the videos was his pocket presence, or lack thereof. If his throw wasn’t instant/automatic, he seemed to get lost in his reads/progression and then would quickly revert to scrambling. His redeeming feature is that he really is a good athlete and would make for a very accomplished runner. He’ll need to develop quite a bit given what I saw to really fill in for Golson.

    • irish4006 - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:39 PM

      Why would you want GB to become Theo 2.0? Theo was a fine player, getting there would be okay; but I would think we can put our sights much higher. Bryant and Folston are NFL talents.

      • onward2victory - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:27 PM

        I seem to remember a lot of people comparing BG to Theo last year when we signed GB.

        But to answer your question, a new and improved Theo 2.0 would be a fantastic thing for any team. For one, Theo is an NFL talent as he is currently collecting an NFL check. But the main comparison is their skill set. Theo is shifty, good ball skills, tough, smart, reads running lanes well, etc. His main downside is top end speed. All these attributes seem to apply to GB as well, except Greg is the new and improved, more athletic 2.0 version of Theo.

        For what it’s worth, I just listened to the Irish Illustrated podcast and they also made the GB to Theo comparison.

      • irish4006 - Mar 20, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        Sorry, my intention was not to belittle Theo, he is good. I just think that GB has a higher ceiling. Of course, he is yet to prove himself on the field; but if he lives up to his billing/potential, he could be a feature back in NFL.

      • onward2victory - Mar 20, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        Agreed. Same skill set with more athleticism and potential.

  5. fnc111 - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    I don’t think you understand how tough it is in college to have a 1,000 yard receiver with a balanced approach. It’s doable when the sole focus is on one player like Floyd. If this offense is finally going to be successful in year five, the numbers are going to be spread out all over the place. Tons of depth at WR and Kelly would be foolish to not have the ball in the hands of Thunder n Lightning in the fourth quarter of games…. Folston/Bryant. That’s a big ole Offensive Line we’re watching out there. Use it!

    • mediocrebob - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:41 PM

      You’re right. That’s what blew my mind about LSU this last season. If I remember correctly, they had 2 WRs with or close to 1,000 yards along with a solid running game. It’ll be interesting to see how this offense looks this fall with the weapons available.

    • papadec - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:14 PM

      fnc – yeah, it’s tough. BUT, throw in 100+ in 1/2 of the 12 games & he would need less than 400 together in the other 6 games combined. Looks simple enough on paper – but it would be very hard in reality. But, doable nonetheless.

  6. 25kgold - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    I see a NASTY two-headed QB combo coming to a theater near you, real soon!!!! Going to be fun!

  7. getsome99 - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    Theo Riddick was a major reason why Notre Dame went undefeated and played for a championship game. Let’s hope Greg Bryant contributes at that level.

  8. 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    comparing theo Riddick to Bryant is definitely a compliment to Bryant because Riddick could do just about everything and as he showed plenty of times, he was a very shifty runner and tough to draw a bead on a tackle in the open field. Bryant strikes me as more of a power runner that would prefer to get north and south and run over you/step on your chest than he would prefer to try to cross you up or dodge you. from the sounds of it, he is already an effective receiver, which will be a great thing.

    • bernhtp - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bryant were as good as Theo, especially this season. I do think that GB has a bit more upside (more speed, maybe more power), though Theo clearly benefited from his time in the slot; he became an excellent receiver that made him into an important dual-threat weapon.

  9. shaunodame - Mar 20, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    I love Will Fullers potential this year, especially with Golson’s ability to get the ball down the field. But if Golson proved anything as the starter in ’12 it’s that he likes to find his “big frame” big bodied receivers, early and often. Tyler Eifert anyone? I’m looking for Corey Robinson to have a breakout season, and for Davaris Daniels to finally turn the corner to being an elite receiver. Maybe they woulnt break the 1000 yards threshold but I expect them to have a great deal of receptions in general.

  10. viktory2013 - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    The desire Riddick demonstrated as a senior was chilling. The sight of him ripping through the middle of the line right over boys twice his size was what it’s all about. Remember him in L.A., filthy jersey, blowing through beaten USC linebackers? Bryant has more ability, so if he can show half as much effort he’ll be fine.
    Folston might be even better.

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