Brian Kelly

Fall Camp video: Full pads practice breakdown


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

Let’s get down to it.


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.




Evaluating VanGorder’s scheme against the option

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 19:  Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen rushes for his fifth touchdown in the fourth quarter against the East Carolina Pirates during their 45-21 win on September 19, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Notre Dame’s ability to slow down Georgia Tech’s vaunted option attack served as one of the high points to the Irish’s early season success. After spending a considerable amount of offseason energy towards attacking the option and learning more, watching the Irish hold the Yellow Jackets in check was a huge victory for Brian VanGorder, Bob Elliott and the rest of Notre Dame’s staff.

But it was only half the battle.

This weekend, Keenan Reynolds and Navy’s veteran offense come to town looking to wreak some havoc on a defense that’s struggled to slow it down. And after getting a look at some of the new tricks the Irish had in store for Paul Johnson, Ken Niumatalolo and his offensive coaches have likely started plotting their counterpunches days in advance.

How did Notre Dame’s defense slow down Georgia Tech? Brian Kelly credited an aggressive game plan and continually changing looks. So while some were quick to wonder whether Notre Dame’s scheme changes were the biggest piece of the puzzle, it’s interesting to see how the Irish’s strategic decisions looked from the perspective of an option expert.

Over at “The Birddog” blog, Michael James utilizes his spread option expertise and takes a look at how the Irish defended Georgia Tech. His conclusion:

Did the Irish finally figure out the magic formula that will kill this gimmick high school offense for good?

Not exactly.

The Irish played a fairly standard 4-3 for a large chunk of the game. James thought Notre Dame’s move to a 3-5-3 was unique, though certainly not the first time anybody’s used that alignment.

But what stood out wasn’t necessarily the Xs and Os, but rather how much better Notre Dame’s personnel reacted to what they were facing.

Again, from the Birddog Blog:

The real story here, and what stood out to me when watching Notre Dame play Georgia Tech, was how much faster the Irish played compared to past years. I don’t mean that they are more athletic, although this is considered to be the best Notre Dame team in years. I mean that they reacted far more quickly to what they saw compared to what they’ve done in the past.

Usually, when a team plays a spread option offense, one of the biggest challenges that defensive coordinators talk about is replicating the offense’s speed and precision. It’s common to hear them say that it takes a series or two to adjust. That was most certainly not the case here.

James referenced our Media Day observations and seemed impressed by the decision to bring in walk-on Rob Regan to captain what’s now known as the SWAG team. And while VanGorder’s reputation as a mad scientist had many Irish fans wondering if the veteran coordinator cooked something up that hadn’t been seen, it was more a trait usually associated with Kelly that seems to have made the biggest difference.

“It wasn’t that the game plan was so amazing (although it was admittedly more complex and aggressive than we’ve seen out of other Notre Dame teams),” James wrote. “It was plain ol’ coachin’ ’em up.

“Notre Dame’s players were individually more prepared for what they’d see. Notre Dame is already extremely talented, but talented and prepared? You can’t adjust for that. That’s more challenging for Navy than any game plan.”

Irish prepared to take on the best Navy team in years


Brian Kelly opens every Tuesday press conference with compliments for an opponent. But this week, it was easy to see that his kind words for Navy were hardly lip service.

Ken Niumatalolo will bring his most veteran—and probably his most talented—group of Midshipmen into Notre Dame Stadium, looking to hand the Irish their first loss in the series since Kelly’s debut season in South Bend.

“Ken Niumatalolo has done an incredible job in developing his program and currently carrying an eight-game winning streak,” Kelly said. “I voted for them in USA Today Top 25 as a top-25 team. I think they’ve earned that. But their defense as well has developed. It’s played the kind of defense that I think a top 25 team plays.”

With nine months of option preparation, Notre Dame needs to feel confident about their efforts against Georgia Tech. Then again, the Midshipmen saw that game plan and likely have a few tricks in store.

As much as the Irish have focused their efforts on stopping Keenan Reynolds and the triple-option, Navy’s much-improved defense is still looking for a way to slow down a team that’s averaged a shade over 48 points a game against them the last four seasons.

Niumatalolo talked about that when asked about slowing down Will Fuller and Notre Dame’s skill players, an offense that’s averaged over 48 points a game during this four-game win streak.

“We’ve got to try our best to keep [Fuller] in front of us, that’s easier said than done,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to play as close as we can without their guys running past us. I’ve been here a long time and we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.”


Navy heads to South Bend unbeaten, defeating former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco‘s team just two Saturdays ago. And while Diaco raised a few eyebrows when he said Navy would be the team’s toughest test of the year (they already played a ranked Missouri team), the head of the UConn program couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise.

“I have been competing against Navy for some time and this is the best Navy team I have seen for, let’s say the last half-dozen years,” UConn coach Bob Diaco told the New Haven Register. “I could click on footage from three years ago and see a lion’s share of players who are playing right now in the game as freshmen and sophomores. They have a veteran group, a strong group, a talented group and they look like the stiffest competition among our first four opponents.”

As usual, there will be those who look at this game as the breather between Clemson and USC. That won’t be anybody inside The Gug. So as the Irish try to get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd, a complete team effort is needed.

“I’ll take a win by one,” Kelly said Tuesday. “That would be fine with me.”