Apr 4, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT
A little Friday practice video gives us a good look at the rapidly improving wide receiver depth chart. After relying almost solely on TJ Jones last season, it looks like the Irish are going to be able to spread the field and pick their poison in the passing game.
Will Fuller looks ready to take a step forward. So does Corey Robinson, who just keeps getting better and better, with hands that look like Velcro. Amir Carlisle and CJ Prosise are intriuging options in the slot, while Chris Brown is another good option on the edge, a player that’ll have to fight for reps when DaVaris Daniels returns to the program.
The move of Onwualu likely confirms the confidence the Irish have in the players out wide. And while they’ll need to fill a really large vacancy left behind by Jones, the team’s MVP last season, it looks like they’ll be able to do it.
0:15 — Jack Nolan sporting a nice zip up for his intro. Just as important, he reveals that the Irish did indeed get outside for two practices last week. For a team committed to fixing their special teams, it’s likely that both outdoor sessions gave Kyle Brindza and the return men (could that be a potential band name?) a chance at getting some much needed live work in.
Jack gives us the bad news that we’re out of practice reports, so we’re going to be blind until next weekend’s Blue-Gold game.
0:34 — A nice reminder: Set your DVR for Monday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET for a special “Strong and True,” an inside look at spring practice on the NBC Sports Network.
0:46 — Welcome back, Nick Martin. The Irish’s starting center broke down the team for drills on Friday, wearing a helmet and jersey, but not in full gear. Multiple practice reports had Martin running the No. 1 offense when the team went to tempo drills, a nice sign that the rising senior is back and healthy after late season knee surgery.
1:03 — We see the Irish pass rush drills work on stripping the football, with tackling dummies armed with footballs. It’s noteworthy that defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs are all doing the tackling.
1:12 — That’s a good look at Everett Golson‘s fastball, as we go right over his shoulder as he throws a bullet to Corey Robinson on the curl route. Malik Zaire follows it up with a perfect ball to Greg Bryant, who releases late out of the backfield and crosses the imaginary linebackers.
1:19 — A cool drill to enforce staying low has Anthony Rabasa (56) matching up against tight end Durham Smythe (80) in blocking drills.
1:24 — Welcome back, Devin Butler. The rising sophomore cornerback was working out with the Irish in helmet and jersey. Butler took to social media to express his pleasure in getting back on the field three months removed from surgery, something that I’m sure made Brian Kelly happy.
So close I can feel it man!! Three months outta surgery today and only gettin better!—
Devin Butler (@DevinButler_12) April 04, 2014
1:28 — After watching (and rewatching) these videos all spring, there’s a distinctly different look to CJ Prosise than the other receivers on this roster. Physically, Prosise is a gigantic guy, with a lower body that looks like it should be on a linebacker.
He does a nice job running a speed out, though juggles the ball before coming up with it.
1:32 — Golson fires downfield to Corey Robinson and Cole Luke is up to the task, breaking up a vertical route.
1:36 — Now THAT’S the Amir Carlisle I thought the Irish were getting. The slot receiver looks mighty dangerous in the open field, cutting back against the grain against the reserve Irish secondary and getting loose.
Carlisle is a high character, highly skilled athlete. He might not be a true tailback, but there’s room in this offense for his skill set, especially as the Irish transition back to a speed/spread attack.
1:44 — If we were making Steve Elmer highlights this spring, not too many reps would take place against Sheldon Day. Day gets inside Elmer’s length and powers the guard back, all but dominating another rep.
Day could catch a lot of teams by surprise next season, wreaking havoc on the inside of the offensive line as he’s allowed to attack up field.
1:46 — Welcome to the party, James Onwualu (17). The converted wide receiver steps into the hole and lays a good stick on Greg Bryant, joined in the backfield by Michael Deeb.
1:48 — Mike Heuerman (9) breaks an out route off right in front of Elijah Shumate (22). Then Amir Carlisle does the same in front of Eilar Hardy.
1:53 — Good rep by Chase Hounshell (50), who works against Mike McGlinchey before being passed inside to Conor Hanratty. If you’re an Irish fan, you should be rooting for Hounshell, who has had horrendous luck as he’s had to work his way back from multiple shoulder surgeries that have kept him off the field for the better part of three seasons.
1:56 — McGlinchey kicks Ishaq Williams outside, easily deflecting the Irish’s defensive end.
1:57 — Chris Brown (2) hits the brakes and shakes off Connor Cavalaris before ripping down field on the deep route. You’re going to need some good protection to hit on that throw, but it’s a home run shot that Irish fans have been looking for from Brown since he did it against Oklahoma.
2:04 — On the roll, Zaire throws a perfect deep ball to Will Fuller (7) down the sidelines, connecting for a big play against the back-ups in the secondary.
2:07 — That rush of air you just heard? That was Ben Koyack (18) blowing by Nicky Baratti (29). If Koyack is given the chance to match up with a safety down field, Kelly and Mike Denbrock will like that opportunity.
2:10 — Speaking of open field, getting the ball to Greg Bryant down field might not be safe for Irish fans battling high blood pressure. Bryant eliminates space between him and Eilar Hardy, breaking off his route as Hardy bails out and makes an easy catch.
I’m having a hard time wondering how a defense can defend that play, and think (or hope) this could finally be the year where we see the Irish offense utilize their speed out of the backfield in the passing game.
2:16 — Not hard to see the difference between Cam McDaniel and Bryant. Matthias Farley stays in his backpedal before breaking nicely on the ball, making a great play for an interception.
2:22 — Robinson hits the brakes and makes a nice catch in front of Jalen Brown (21). The senior cornerback could see the field more with Rashad Kinlaw’s dismissal.
2:27 — Romeo Okwara drops the BOOM! on Hunter Bivin (70). It’s still really weird seeing anybody else wearing Zack Martin’s number, especially in a collision like that.
That’s an impressive rep by Okwara.
2:31 — That’s the Playstation 3 version of Greg Bryant. Wait, that’s the REAL version of Greg Bryant. Great cut and ability to accelerate and get up field. That one looked like it could’ve gone the distance.
2:34 — He might not have all the size in the world, but Justin Utupo (53) is a disruptive player. He might be able to do some damage on the interior of the defensive line, especially taking limited snaps.
2:37 — That’s a lot of power on display by Jarron Jones, pushing Mark Harrell back into the imaginary quarterback.
2:40 — Isaac Rochell (90) gets underneath John Montelus (60) and pushes the big guard backwards. That’s a solid rep by Rochell, who could play a lot of football this season.
2:43 — Great catch, Chris Brown.
2:46 — Tarean Folston (25) shakes and bakes Max Redfield (10) split out wide. Folston looks pretty natural split wide as well.
2:50 — One of our first looks at Andrew Trumbetti (98), going up against starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Not bad, kid.
2:56 — Zaire connects with Brown behind linebacker Michael Deeb and beneath the safeties. A nice downfield gain for the offense.
3:00 — Another look at Colin McGovern (62) another good looking rep. He loses his balance a little late against Anthony Rabasa, but recovers nicely.
3:03 — That’s a pattern we haven’t seen too often by Will Fuller. From the looks of it, Josh Atkinson hadn’t either. Nice move to shake open for the easy catch.
3:07 — That’s more like it, Steve Elmer.
3:12 — Even a jersey grab can’t help Jalen Brown against Corey Robinson, who makes a ridiculous circus catch for a big gainer.
Big Bird is going to be a good one.