If there is ever a day to not jump to conclusions, it is the first day of spring practices. Irish coach Brian Kelly underscored that sentiment after Notre Dame’s spring debut. Frankly, tat sentiment should prevail over the next six-plus weeks. Nonetheless, Kelly praised his players, new defensive coordinator Mike Elko and new offensive coordinator Chip Long. Fitting, considering Kelly spent much of Tuesday’s preview press conference lauding new director of strength and conditioning Matt Balis.
“To point out anything in particular after day one would be a little bit foolish on my part, but I thought overall, generally speaking, I really liked the management of our defense and how it’s being taught in all aspects,” Kelly said. “I really love the tempo we were able to run at offensively today. You didn’t have the typical sloppiness of the ball on the ground and guys not executing at a high level, so I’m pleased with that from a first day.”
True to his stated intentions, Kelly left the offense primarily in Long’s hands and instead checked in on all aspects of the first practice in helmets and shorts (no pads).
“Normally my priority is making sure the offense is running the installation effectively, that we’re doing the things necessary that makes the offense run as it is supposed to,” he said. “That’s not my priority right now. My priority is making sure our coaches are emphasizing the things that we want. Today was about evaluating the personnel and where they are.”
Evaluating that personnel does not include setting the depth chart just yet. Though sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson largely worked with the third unit Wednesday, Kelly indicated that does not necessarily signal Stepherson’s current standing.
“We’re moving positions around. You saw [junior receiver C.J. Sanders] at X. We actually have some tight ends that could possibly play at some different positions. You saw [sophomore receiver Chase Claypool] at Z,” Kelly said. “It’s really too early to read into first, second, third because we’re moving guys around.
“We don’t want to put Kevin in a position where he’s got to learn a couple of different positions. It’s by virtue of moving other guys to that X position and giving them reps. Kevin already knows the X position. It’s not that he’s the third. We’re trying to get some other guys work over there.”
Nonetheless, some alignments from day one do deserve notice.
Sophomore Tommy Kraemer getting a look at right tackle moves senior Alex Bars inside to right guard with the entrenched trio of graduate student Mike McGlinchey, senior Quenton Nelson and senior Sam Mustipher manning the left tackle, left guard and center spots, respectively. Speaking of McGlinchey, Kelly expounded on the NFL prospect’s return for a final collegiate season.
“He came back with a want and a desire to improve in the weight room. There was a commitment that we needed to make to him that we were going to get it to the end with him. In other words, bigger, faster, stronger … He’s gone up almost 8-10 pounds with good weight. He has gone from 16 to 24 in terms of 25 [-pound] bench reps.
“…This was kind of a deal. You come back, you finish off at Notre Dame, you help us win a championship, and we’re going to help develop you physically, we’re going to help you in your leadership skills, and we’re going to help you obviously on the field with your skills so that translates next year. As you help Notre Dame football, it’s also going to help you individually.”
Sophomore Daelin Hayes is likely Elko’s best chance at a genuine pass-rush threat, and lining him up opposite senior Andrew Trumbetti gives Hayes that chance. The strongside defensive end (Trumbetti, in this instance), meanwhile, will bear some similarities to last year’s version, per Kelly.
“He’s going to be a guy that has got to hold the point. He’s going to be more physical at the point of attack,” Kelly said of the strongside end. “You’re going to see more of a hybrid on the other side, a guy that can do a little more in space.”
Kelly thinks Trumbetti should fare better in that role this season thanks to progress in the weight room.
“We think he’s in a stronger positiohttps://nbcirish.wordpress.com/wp-admin/upload.phpn to handle the rigors of that position, in particular that strongside. When he wasn’t holding his weight in the manner we needed him to, that would have been more of a concern, but we feel really good about where is right now.”