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Spring Practice: Weekend Breakdown

Mar 25, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT

Malik Zaire

With the Irish set to hit the practice field tomorrow (which hopefully means a new video coming soon), here’s another frame-by-frame breakdown from this weekend’s practice. While we’ve been bringing you overly obsessive video breakdowns for years, it has come to our attention that we’ve got competition in our YouTube breakdowns… That just means we’re going to bring the heat!

(Kidding, do yourself a favor and read Pete’s, too. You could learn something.)

As usual, here is a way-too-in depth look at this weekend’s practice report:


0:23 — There’s two ways to look at this play. 1) Corey Robinson is really good. 2) Cole Luke gets eaten up. That’s going to happen against a physical mismatch like Robinson and we saw that quite often last year on practice videos, when the freshman went up against team captain Bennett Jackson and made the veteran look bad.

All that being said, if the Irish are switching to mostly man principles, Luke better get used to this match up and embrace the opportunity at practice. Because these reps don’t count on Saturdays.

Also worth noting, that’s a heckuva ball thrown by Malik Zaire on a route the Irish quarterbacks just haven’t had much luck with since Jimmy Clausen left South Bend.

0:30 — That’s a great pattern by freshman Justin Brent (11) as redshirt freshman Rashad Kinlaw (26) leaves his jockstrap with the slant route and gets beat on the double move.

Nice finishing skills by Brent, who still doesn’t look completely smooth yet, but certainly brings a physicality and size that we haven’t seen in a while.

0:38 — That’s Amir Carlisle pushing his coverage deep and breaking back for Everett Golson‘s pass. Just the first of many nice looking plays by Carlisle on this highlight clip.

0:41 — Manly time! That’s redshirt freshman Jacob Matuska (89) battling with Hunter Bivin (now wearing No. 70). I’m impressed that Matuska is such a big body.

0:43 — Tough to see who Kinlaw is going up against, but it looks like he got the better of him. After a triple-freeze frame, it looks like it could be Will Fuller (7).

0:44 — Veteran Austin Collinsworth (28) lines up against Torii Hunter Jr. (16). Not exactly a fair fight.

Collinsworth will be an interesting test case this season. It’s clear that Brian Kelly wants to infuse some athleticism into the back end of the defense. But he’s also got to have a leader who understands what’s going on. Collinsworth closed last season strong with three interceptions, so he’ll likely stay plugged into the mix, even if guys like Elijah Shumate have a better skill set.

0:47Matthias Farley (41) vs. C.J. Prosise (20). That’s an impressive rep by Prosise, who could be doing some blocking in the open field as a 220-pounder.

0:51 — Golson throws to the corner of the end zone where Torii Hunter comes back and makes a nice play on a post-corner route. He beats Cole Luke on the throw. While Fuller and Robinson have been the talk of spring football so far, there’s a reason why Hunter was one of the top recruits in his class.

0:54 — That’s Amir Carlisle making a tough catch in traffic while bracketed by James Onwualu (17) underneath and Nicky Baratti (29) over the top. Credit Zaire for sneaking a ball in traffic and Carlisle for beating the coverage.

It’s a good sign that the Irish offense looked more efficient on the previous two snaps in the scoring area than for most of last year.

0:59KeiVarae Russell (6) gets a nice jam (and handful of jersey) on Corey Robinson, stopping his release. If there’s a worry about Robinson this fall, we could be seeing it right here.

(Then again, I can see Brian Kelly’s face get a few shades more red if that’s happening to his starting wide receiver.)

From a defensive perspective, this is the type of coverage we want to be seeing Russell play. In his third season, this is the shutdown work that should be expected this season.

1:04 — That’s All-American blocking sled work by Jaylon Smith (9).

1:08Max Redfield (10) makes contact with unknown walk-on (83). A nice collision.

(Video breakdown controversy: Our friends at Irish Illustrated have this listed as Cam McDaniel. But a look at the McDaniel at the 1:40 mark has him wearing black shoes. This could be a different day of practice, but it sure looks like a No. 83 jersey, not 33.)

1:10Josh Atkinson (24) and Chris Brown (2) engage in hand-to-hand combat. I think we’re probably not all that likely to see either doing much of this next season.

1:12Justin Utupo (53) goes up against a much bigger Steve Elmer. This is the type of battle Utupo needs to hold his own on if he’s going to be a significant contributor for Brian VanGorder up front. All things considered, it’s a pretty good rep by Utupo, who gets his hands on Elmer first.

1:16Chase Hounshell (50) gets lower than Conor Hanratty, but can’t hold up in the trenches. At this point, I’m not sure what to expect from Hounshell. That he’s taking part in full-contact reps this spring is a plus, but how much we can expect from? That won’t likely be determined until he’s in fall camp and has another six months of strength training behind him.

1:22 — He got beat, but you’ve got to like Cole Luke‘s coverage here… but credit Chris Brown for running a good route and the quarterback putting the ball in the perfect place.

(I realize we’ve mentioned Luke here mostly on the wrong end of the highlight, but that doesn’t have me worried. He seems like a more than serviceable No. 2 corner, and if he’s No. 3 with Cody Riggs coming this summer, that’s a good thing for the Irish defense.)

1:29 — Our first look at Mike Heuerman (9), an intriguing piece of the offense. He’s not big enough to be an attached tight end yet, but you get an idea of the type of mismatch he presents as he runs by Eilar Hardy (4). While he’s not a prototype tight end for the Irish, reps like this help you understand why Heuerman was such a high priority to schools like ND and Ohio State.

1:32Will Fuller 1, KeiVarae Russell 0.

Nice work getting off the line, creating separation and getting up field. Next time, tuck the ball away before you get blasted by a safety.

1:38 — That’s Cam McDaniel in the open field running patterns. His weight didn’t look adjusted on the spring roster, but he’s moving pretty well here. I’m of the mind that a McDaniel that’s 10 pounds lighter is a better McDaniel.

1:43John Turner (31) gets some coaching from Brian VanGorder. VanGorder continues to tutor James Onwualu (17) who takes the next rep.

1:57Everett Golson hands the ball to Tarean Folston (25) then continues the zone read. This looks like 1s on 1s, and we see Austin Collinsworth at safety in run support while Joe Schmidt (38) and Jaylon Smith (9) converge on the tackle.

2:02 — A nice cut by Folston, who makes something out of nothing, bouncing things back inside.

2:06 — Golson throws a strike underneath to Fuller, who cuts inside and turns up field in front of KeiVarae Russell.

2:10 — Heckuva play by Ishaq Williams (11), who shrugs off a block and meets Greg Bryant (1) in the hole. Jarron Jones (94) does a nice job stuffing the gap as well.

2:15Amir Carlisle gets some separation on the inside slant route. It feels like we didn’t see much of that last year in the current offense.

Eilar Hardy chases Carlisle down before Baratti makes the hit.

2:18 — Zaire dumps off a throw to Folston, who turns up field for a nice gain in the flat.

2:22 — That’s Onwualu stepping up into the hole to take on Greg Bryant. Romeo Owkara and crew help slow Bryant done.

2:26 — The hit of spring (and maybe all of our practice reports). Eilar Hardy delivers a crushing blow that topples Durham Smythe (80), but the rising sophomore tight end holds on. Credit Zaire for putting the ball in a bracket.

Will Hardy be the guy that forces himself onto the field? He’s made some big plays in his limited time on the field, but his suspension during the Pinstripe Bowl was a tough way to end last season.

2:29 — That blur coming off the edge was defensive end Isaac Rochell, who burst into the backfield and brought down Greg Bryant. If the Irish can get productivity out of Rochell they’ll be in a much better place, as Notre Dame is in desperate need of a breakthrough season by an unheralded defensive lineman.

2:34 — Pretty nifty design on this goal line zone read, and really nice work by Zaire running the fake. That’s Mike Heuerman pulling around the corner with a lead block and Zaire faking out half a defense before he prances into the end zone.




  1. onward2victory - Mar 25, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    Pretty sure #83 is Samardzija. C’mon Keith, learn the roster.

  2. glowplugv - Mar 25, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    Folston just seems to be able to make moves without thinking. All the WRs look very quick and shifty. Question is are they really or are the defensive players not as good? Best you can say at this point is “looking good so far!”

    Hey, can anyone see the video’s and comments on their Android phone/tablet. I can’t; have to use a PC to get to them.

    • dickasman - Mar 26, 2014 at 1:15 AM

      I forgot the name of the drill but they need to do more of that 1 on one, Mano amano drill. I used to hate it but makes you tougher

  3. thewlrd - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    Hey Keith, your breakdowns are *AWESOME* – One tiny request, and I know it’s suuuuuper picky. Is it possible for the video to stay where it is while the breakdown (with times, players, etc.) can scroll under it? That way, readers don’t have to keep scrolling up and down to read the next time stamp and pausing/unpausing the video the check out each one. Again, suuuuper picky, but I think it would be great to scroll through the time stamp directly under the video. Thanks for all the work breaking them down!

    • mattnef - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      I open two windows next to each other, one centered on the video and the other I scroll down the time stamps. It works pretty well.

    • danirish - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      I’ve hoped for this also. What I do is open the page twice, scroll the top one to always show the video, scroll the bottom window to scroll the action.

      I guess you can do side to die also.

      But I’m with you!

      GO IRISH!

      • mcirish27 - Mar 26, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Man you guys are hard core!

  4. irishdog80 - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    If Ishaq has truly transformed his body into a DE and not a hybrid DE/LB, he may be the break out lineman this year. He has always looked a bit wooden in space as a LB, probably due to his 6’6″ wiry frame. Put 280 lbs on that frame and that combination allows him to use his leverage to better advantage. Even at a lighter playing weight, he has shown some promise as a pass rusher.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      ssshhh. don’t say that. it’s gonna drive nude off the wall.

    • ibleedirish - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      Ishaq? Promise as a pass rusher? When?

      I’m not saying he won’t emerge as a threat, in fact we better pray he does, or it could be a long season. I’m just saying I’ve never seen it. Never. I have absolutely never seen him physically get the best of someone in an actual game. And I made a habit of keying on him, because logic says that with a body like that, there HAS to be upside. But everything I’ve seen so far suggests he isn’t a fan of contact.

      Now, let the wishful thinking commence, I’m all for it, that is indeed what the offseason is for. Let’s just call it what it is though.

  5. danirish - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Carlisle has glue hands! Man, it would be good to see him and Ishaq have great years! Of course it would be great to see everyone (on the Irish squad) to have great years.

    Zaire looked good!


  6. 25kgold - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    KeiVarae Russell:

  7. viktory2013 - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:23 PM


    A. We’ve got some stellar wide outs.
    B. Our DB’s are going to need some work
    C. All of the above

  8. fnc111 - Mar 26, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    2015 looks very promising.

    • ndfenian - Mar 28, 2014 at 11:31 PM

      How dare you…

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