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.

 

 

 

Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”

Hiestand key to Ronnie Stanley’s ascent

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #6 overall by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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With Ronnie Stanley ending Notre Dame’s top-ten draft drought (seriously, we are running out of things to complain about), the Irish left tackle became Baltimore’s answer for a cornerstone along their offensive line. And as Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and the rest of the Ravens well-respected staff did their due diligence, credit was heaped onto offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

“One of my very best friends in coaching is Harry Hiestand,” Harbaugh said. “I talked to Harry a long time…all about Ronnie and he couldn’t speak highly enough about his character, to his intelligence, to his toughness. So you have people you trust in the profession and that goes a long way.”

That opinion of Hiestand is hardly specific to Harbaugh. It’s actually one of the many reasons Brian Kelly hired Hiestand when the Irish and Ed Warinner parted ways. Here’s Notre Dame’s head coach from his initial press release introducing Hiestand as his new line coach.

“When I was searching to fill this position, I asked some of the most respected offensive line coaches in football whom they would recommend,” Kelly said. “And Harry’s name was routinely mentioned as one of the best. His history of developing NFL-caliber offensive linemen speaks for itself, and I know our linemen will learn a lot from him.”

In an era where developing offensive lineman—not just at the college level but for play in the professional ranks—what Hiestand is doing is pretty special. Zack Martin certainly stands above the rest already, a Pro Bowl and All-Pro performer just two years after being a first round draft pick. Chris Watt was selected in the third round by the San Diego Chargers, and expect Nick Martin off the board by the time the evening is over.

 

For as surprising as Hiestand’s effectiveness is on the recruiting trail, maybe it shouldn’t be after you hear the raves that come from those that appreciate his work. That’s especially important as NFL coaches like Pete Carroll bemoan the lack of fundamentals some offensive linemen possess as they prepare for life in the professional ranks.

Here, CoachingSearch.com’s Chris Vannini pulled an interesting snippet from the Super Bowl winning head coach, with the Seahawks taking the drastic approach of converting defensive lineman at the NFL level because they think they’re better suited for the physicality.

“The style of play is different,” Carroll said. “There will be guys that we’re looking at that have never been in a (three-point) stance before. They’ve always been in a two-point stance. There are transitions that have to take place. In the last couple years, we’ve seen pretty strong adjustments by college offensive coordinators to adjust how guys are coming off the ball. They’re not as aggressive and physical-oriented as we like them to be.

“It is different. There is a problem. I looked at a couple guys this week, and I couldn’t find a running play where a guy came off the ball and had to knock a guy off the football. There wasn’t even a play in the game. It’s hard to evaluate what a guy’s gonna be like. We learn to, but it’s not he same as it’s been.”

The good news for Irish fans, especially after having to replace back-to-back first-round left tackles, is that there’s more talent coming through the pipeline. Mike McGlinchey’s move to the left side is already taking root. Left guard Quenton Nelson has earned raves from Kelly. Projected starting right tackle Alex Bars sounds not that far off, either.

In Stanley, the Irish found a talented high school athlete and molded him into a first-round pick. They did so even as he battled injuries that made it hard to dedicate time in the weight room, and bounced him around the offensive line from the right side to the left to find him playing time. Yes, he was a four-star recruit. But as we saw last night, star-rating takes a very large backseat to development.

With Stanley joining rarified air—he and Will Fuller make 66 first-round selections in program history—the Las Vegas native goes up on the wall as an aspiration for present and future Notre Dame lineman.

Just as importantly, he’s another tip of the cap to Hiestand.

 

For more reaction to the NFL Draft, give a listen to the latest episode of Blown Coverage, my podcast with John Walters. 

Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller taken in first round of NFL Draft

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #6 overall by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller were taken in the NFL Draft’s first round. Both came off the board on night one, with Stanley the first offensive tackle taken and Fuller the second receiver selected.

Stanley joins the Baltimore Ravens, a key addition to a franchise needed help along the offensive line. He’s Notre Dame’s first Top 10 pick since 1994, ending a draught that’s spanned since Bryant Young was taken by San Francisco.

Fuller will join a Houston Texans offense that just spent major money on quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller. To back up that investment, the Texans added college football’s most dangerous deep threat, trading up to spot No. 21 to pair Fuller with DeAndre Hopkins on the outside.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith was not selected in the first round. Both he and Myles Jack, widely considered to be Top 10 talents, slid down the board because of knee injuries. (Both also have loss-of-value insurance policies, cushioning that blow.)

The draft continues tomorrow with rounds two and three. Smith should be selected then, along with Sheldon Day, Nick Martin, and potentially C.J. Prosise.