Brian Kelly

Fall Camp video: Full pads practice breakdown

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We’re still playing catchup from the weekend, but the most recent practice report from our friends at UND.com had some good footage that we thought needed over-analyzing.

Let’s get down to it.

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0:30 — Speakers must be pumping pretty loud as Jack Nolan has his pipes working at midseason form here in his intro.

0:36 — A good look at Sheldon Day (91) against Conor Hanratty (65). Day’s quickness is apparent, but Hanratty does a nice job of competing during the one-on-one drill.

0:41 — While he hasn’t been talked about much, sophomore Isaac Rochell (90) is taking a ton of second-team reps. He’s going to be a key piece to the puzzle up front, especially if he can play up to the 287 pounds he checked in at for fall camp.

0:46 — This is a great rep for Cody Riggs (2), who gets Will Fuller (7) off his route from the beginning and does a nice job of staying on the legal side of physical before he breaks up the pass.

0:52 — Nice rep by Nick Martin (72) who does a great job holding up against the bulk and power of Jarron Jones (94).

1:01 — Another impressive rep by C.J. Prosise (20), who continues to run with the 2s, but looking really explosive.

1:05 — That’s freshman Jay Hayes (93) doing a nice job against Ronnie Stanley (78), who looks a little wobbly before the snap. It was interesting to hear Brian Kelly’s confidence in Stanley as a left tackle (or at any position) over the weekend, a sign that Kelly expects Stanley to be another very good one.

1:10 — That’s physical coverage by KeiVarae Russell (6) who takes Chris Brown (2) out of his route from almost the start. This type of work will be very beneficial for the Irish receivers when the regular season gets started.

1:15 — Day gets underneath Christian Lombard here, with Lombard doing a good job keeping his hands out of Day’s facemask for an easy penalty.

1:20 — More video of Cam McDaniel split out wide, catching a slant underneath some soft coverage.

1:25 — That’s a promising rep by Rochell, who pushes the pocket and center Nick Martin backwards nicely.

1:30 — Interestingly, that’s Ishaq Williams (11) taking a rep on the inside against Hanratty. Perhaps Williams will shift inside on pass rushing downs, letting a young edge player come in and chase down the quarterback?

1:33 — Corey Robinson just can’t shake cornerback Cole Luke (perhaps still wearing the No. 36 jersey he wore last year when he shared the field with Amir Carlisle.

1:35 — Stanley gets great depth as he takes on Romeo Okwara (45), but the young defensive end does a decent job of recovering and getting absorbed on the initial hit.

1:42 — Austin Collinsworth (28) loses his jock strap on a double move by Prosise, who twists around the safety for a big play. It’s just one rep, but it does nothing to help the knock on Collinsworth’s coverage skills. (I prefer to look at this as a good play by Prosise more than an indictment of Collinsworth).

1:49 — If you want to win the starting tackle job Mike McGlinchey (68), you can’t wear rollerskates. A very impressive rep by Andrew Trumbetti (98) who nullified McGlinchey’s size advantage with quickness and power.

1:55 — Amir Carlisle (3) looks good.

2:01 — So does Fuller, who beats Josh Atkinson (24) on an inside route after getting a clean release. It’s worth noting that Atkinson earned a ton of rave reviews from the local media who saw bits of Saturday’s practice.

2:15 — Another victory of Rochell, this time beating out Hunter Bivin (70).

2: 18 — A good battle between Russell and Brown, with the back-shoulder throw a little low, and Russell’s coverage pretty good. Right now, when the yellow flag is in the pocket of the practice ref, everything looks gravy for the DBs. But come a Saturday with a neutral conference officiating crew? Let’s see how this all shakes out.

2:22 — Another rep where Ishaq is playing inside.

2:26 — Walk-on veteran Connor Cavalaris beats freshman Justin Brent (11) on the inside route, with Brent never getting Cavalaris off his mark. The young freshman needs to push the DB, and Cavalaris looked like he was squatting on the route.

2:33 — An interesting rep between freshman Jon Bonner (55) and guard Colin McGovern (62). I’m starting to think McGovern is a really good football player, and I’m already convinced that’s the case with Bonner.

2:39 — Nice craftsmanship by Brown, getting separation from Nick Watkins (19) and making the catch for a touchdown. Leverage lost by Watkins after a good start.

2:43 — Heckuva toss by DeShone Kizer (14), floating a touchdown pass over the top of coverage to Prosise. Matthias Farley tries to pick a spot and get to the ball, but Kizer made a great throw.

2:51 — 11-on-11 reps start, with Everett Golson working the play-fake before trying to connect with Fuller. A very good breakup by Cody Riggs. Looks like a snap from the pistol. Also like the way that Joe Schmidt (38) and John Turner (31) are flying to the ball.

3:00 — A big hole opens up for Tarean Folston (25), who bursts through the second-string defense. Nice work on the zone read by Malik Zaire. The fake froze Michael Deeb (42) in the slop, and allowed the big run.

3:05 — Great job on the mesh by Golson, who rides the handoff with Greg Bryant until Ishaq commits to Golson. That gives Bryant the chance to get around the edge, and from there he blows around the corner, picking up about 15 explosive yards against the No. 1 defense.

3:15 — That’s another big play by Bryant, who starts off the right side, bounces it back to avoid a few tackles, and ends up with a 20+ yard carry against the No. 1 defense. It looked like half-a-dozen defenders had a chance at Bryant, but he cut on a dime and made a big play at the second level.

3:25 — Nice pitch and catch between Golson and Brown, who had one-on-one coverage on the outside hash against Cole Luke. Brown made Luke miss and made Max Redfield (10) had to come over and clean up.

3:36 — Pretty much the typical Cam McDaniel run. Not much there, but McDaniel shows patience before falling forward for a modest gain. Nice backside work for Ishaq and Collinsworth, who comes crashing down in the box.

3:40 — It wasn’t pretty, but Bryant fights his way into the end zone. That’s Tyler Luatua (13) motioning into the backfield, given the not-so-fun assignment of blocking Jaylon Smith. He gets just enough of Smith to help spring Bryant.

 

 

 

Hunter, McGlinchey, Onwualu and Rochell named Notre Dame captains

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Brian Kelly named Notre Dame’s captains for the 2016 team. Seniors Torii Hunter Jr., Mike McGlinchey, James Onwualu and Isaac Rochell will officially lead the team.

Kelly made the news public on Wednesday after practice, his first media availability since the arrest of six players in two separate incidents on Friday evening. And in his four selections, Kelly named four new team leaders after having to replace all five of the team’s captains from last season.

In Hunter, Kelly has named the team’s lone veteran receiver as a captain, expecting a breakout season in both production and leadership. The most experienced returner after three starters departed and Corey Robinson retired due to concussions, Hunter has less starts at the position than fellow captain Onwualu—now a linebacker—Kelly quipped.

McGlinchey carries the torch for the offensive line, a fourth-year senior who’ll have a chance to play his way into a first-round draft pick or return for a fifth year. After Zack and Nick Martin each wore the ‘C’ for two-straight seasons, McGlinchey will carry that leadership forward.

James Onwualu is the lone remaining starter for the Irish at linebacker, replacing both Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith as a captain. Onwualu has earned positive reviews for his play on-field as the team’s Sam linebacker, and has always stood out for his lead-from-the-front attitude.

Rochell is the rock of the defensive line, a third-year starter who replaces Sheldon Day as the group’s leader. He’ll be joined by Jarron Jones as veteran contributors in a group that also replaces key starter Romeo Okwara.

 

Devin Butler pleads not guilty to two felony charges

Devin Butler WNDU
WNDU via Twitter
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The legal process has begun for senior cornerback Devin Butler. After being charged with two felonies stemming from his arrest outside The Linebacker Lounge on Friday night, Butler was in court Wednesday afternoon to plead not guilty to the charges.

St. Joseph County prosecutors waited to decide what charges to file against Butler, ultimately deciding on Tuesday to charge him with two level six felonies for resisting law enforcement and battery of a police officer. Preliminary accounts, most stemming from the arrest report, state that Butler got into an altercation with South Bend police officer Aaron Knepper after a fight broke up outside the bar, with multiple officers detaining Butler after the deployment of a taser.

Butler was accompanied by his father and girlfriend to court, declining comment questioned by the waiting swarm of press outside the courthouse. He’ll now begin a legal fight that could also dictate not just his status as a football player but as a student at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly has suspended Butler from the football indefinitely, independent of the legal process and the University’s formal handling of the matter.

The South Bend Tribune points out that the officer involved in the case has drawn attention in the past, with three lawsuits filed against him after allegations of misconduct.

Butler is expected back in court on September 1.

 

Irish A-to-Z: Nic Weishar

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 3: Nic Weishar #82 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish juggles a pass during the game against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)
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A year after earning major practice reps when the position group couldn’t stay healthy, Nic Weishar gets another chance to step forward with the loss of Alizé Jones. While the Chicagoland product won’t be an option at the boundary receiver position, he’s a catch-first player who’ll help the Irish passing game if given a chance.

With weapons on the outside still coming into focus after Torii Hunter, Weishar has slowly earned the trust of a coaching staff—and two quarterbacks—who appreciate his catch radius and ball skills. While his evolution into a true tight end is still ongoing, there’s opportunities to carve out a niche in the Irish offense as Weishar enters his third season in the program.

 

NIC WEISHAR
6’4″, 240 lbs.
Junior, No. 82, TE

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A first-team All-State player in Illinois, Weishar was a U.S. Army All-American and a four-star prospect. He had offers from Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma though picked Notre Dame early in the process.

Kelly called him “the finest pass catching tight end we saw” on Signing Day.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Did not see action, preserving a year of eligibility.

Sophomore Season (2015): Played in 12 games, starting two (Clemson, Stanford). Made three catches for 18 yards.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

I got caught up in the preseason hype, because even as Durham Smythe went down, the offense didn’t use the tight end enough.

This might not sound like high praise, but I think we need to set modest expectations for Weishar this season. To that point, I think 10 to 15 catches sounds about right, though the sophomore can feel free to blow right past that number if he feels like it.

Weishar’s been a handful during camp, reportedly dominating the second-team defense and linebackers in coverage. As Durham Smythe and Alize Jones have been limited in camp, it’s allowed Weishar to take some first-team reps as well.

The red zone could be the X factor for Weishar, and will obviously be one of the keys to the Irish offense. While you’d expect the Irish to lean heavily on the running game near the goal line, Weishar is one of many great pass options to consider, as long as the staff has faith in the decision-making skills of Malik Zaire.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

There are crafty tight ends who use their wily nature and Football IQ to create opportunities and then freaks who physically take what they want. Nobody will confuse Weishar for the latter, and we’ll see if he keeps discovering ways to become the former. At a position group that’s been the envy of most colleges, that Weishar could cap-out as a solid supporting cast member is no slight—there’s still plenty of work for him in that role in this system.

Ultimately, we’ll see if there’s an ascent possible. Can Weishar do both the in-line and detached jobs well? Can he find a way to wreak havoc down the field, another Irish tight end who finds room running the seam?

I’m not looking for a game-breaker in Weishar. But taking advantage of your opportunities in man coverage shouldn’t be too much to ask, especially if the run game is rolling and the Irish quarterbacks can find a few reliable receivers.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’m setting the ceiling at 10 catches this season, though I’d be happy to be wrong. While Weishar is again the No. 2 tight end, and there’s a better argument to be made for sharing the ball with tight ends this season than last, it’s still an offense with a handful of playmakers to incorporate before working our way down to TE2.

I could be underrating Weishar, who has earned more than his share of raves for his hands and reliability as a red zone target. But if you’re picking favorites behind Hunter and trying to find a place in the pecking order for Weishar, I have him below guys like Equanimeous St. Brown and even Miles Boykin before figuring out what Durham Smythe’s production will be.

The staff will find a way to use Weishar to best accentuate his skills. As of right now, I just think that’s going to be as a guy who gets one or two targets a game, though some of those should come in the red zone.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer
Julian Love
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Deon McIntosh
Javon McKinley
Pete Mokwuah
John Montelus
D.J. Morgan
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Julian Okwara
James Onwualu
Spencer Perry
Troy Pride Jr.
Max Redfield
Isaac Rochell
Trevor Ruhland
CJ Sanders
Avery Sebastian
John Shannon
Durham Smythe
Equanimeous St. Brown
Kevin Stepherson
Devin Studstill
Elijah Taylor
Brandon Tiassum
Jerry Tillery
Drue Tranquill
Andrew Trumbetti
Donte Vaughn
Nick Watkins

Irish A-to-Z: Nick Watkins

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Wide receiver Michael Thomas #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs with the ball as Nick Watkins #21 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish attempts to make a tackle during the first quarter of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. Buckeyes won 44-28. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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With the Fiesta Bowl serving as a springboard, junior cornerback Nick Watkins looked primed to make a move into the starting lineup as he entered his third season in the program. But a spring injury that’s been slow to heal has put his season into purgatory, another uncertainty for the Irish secondary.

A talented coverman who took some time to come into his own, Watkins now waits on bone growth in an injured arm, a second surgery initiated to jump start things. But with the regular season bearing down on the Irish and Watkins’ availability unknown, his contributions are a huge unknown for Notre Dame’s secondary.

 

NICK WATKINS
6’0.5″, 200 lbs.
Junior, No. 7, CB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star, Top 150 recruit, Watkins stayed off the summer camp circuit and still wowed recruiting analysts. The Dallas native had one of the most impressive offer sheets of his recruiting cycle, picking Notre Dame over Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Texas, USC and UCLA.

Brian Kelly compared landing Watkins to “getting a No. 1 draft pick” on Signing Day.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in 11 games, making most of his appearances on special teams. Didn’t register any statistics.

Sophomore Season (2015): Played in 12 games, making one start against Ohio State and making eight tackles. Had one pass breakup.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Watkins fell out of the No. 3 job when Devin Butler beat him out for it, though took over before the Fiesta Bowl when Butler injured his foot in preparations.

Right now, Watkins is the third cornerback in a defense with a high-ceiling starting pair. I can’t think of a Notre Dame defense that hasn’t relied on their third cornerback, and think back to when we all worried how the Irish were going to get Darrin Walls, Gary Gray and Robert Blanton onto the field. It’ll work itself out.

So Watkins will get the reps this season. Or at least the first shot at the reps, with Devin Butler and a trio of freshmen all right behind him. And if he’s going to stay on the field, he’ll need to fully embrace the mental side of the game. I expect Watkins to make major progress here, especially after the harsh realization that elite physical tools may make it easy to lock down receivers in high school, but in VanGorder’s system, knowledge is almost more important.

Watkins is still every bit the prospect he was when he signed with the Irish. After a freshman season spent on special teams, he’ll be asked to take on more as a sophomore.

While he’s a key piece of the Irish future, Watkins can help Notre Dame win this year as well.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

There aren’t many questions about Watkins’ physical abilities, other than the fact that he hasn’t found a way to make an impact yet. That’s understandable considering he was stuck behind KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke, though a breakout season seems on the verge of being stuck in neutral as he tries to recover from a slow-healing broken arm.

With plenty of tools in the toolbox, Watkins feels like the type of player who can ascend quickly once he’s given the chance. But then again that ascent is predicated on earning that opportunity—no small feat when you look at the athletes the Irish have recruited.

Entering his third season of eligibility, the clock is ticking. His ceiling will be determined by how quickly he’s back on the field, or if the Irish staff ultimately decides to save a year of eligibility if that’s what’s needed.

 

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Of all the injuries we tracked this offseason, Watkins’ broken arm seemed the least on the radar, though has a chance to be the most impactful. That Notre Dame’s medical staff is treating it aggressively says something about the player they think they have in Watkins—who Kelly said will be allowed to fight for a starting job once he’s physically able.

I’m no doctor—but that won’t stop me from evaluating Watkins’ progress. And for the most part, I don’t think it’s the best formula for success jumping into the mix with no training camp and limited time to get in shape at the most demanding position on Notre Dame’s roster.

While losing Watkins is a blow—especially with the length of these suspensions unknown—any chance to take a medical redshirt could be huge for Notre Dame’s depth, getting Watkins a chance to redo his junior season, capable of stepping in after Cole Luke departs.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer
Julian Love
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Deon McIntosh
Javon McKinley
Pete Mokwuah
John Montelus
D.J. Morgan
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Julian Okwara
James Onwualu
Spencer Perry
Troy Pride Jr.
Max Redfield
Isaac Rochell
Trevor Ruhland
CJ Sanders
Avery Sebastian
John Shannon
Durham Smythe
Equanimeous St. Brown
Kevin Stepherson
Devin Studstill
Elijah Taylor
Brandon Tiassum
Jerry Tillery
Drue Tranquill
Andrew Trumbetti
Donte Vaughn