Tag: Scott Booker

South Bend Tribune

Last looks: Tight ends


After a long line of starters with plenty of experience, Notre Dame’s tight ends all but start over in 2015. Scott Booker’s position group comes in with all sorts of intriguing traits. Unfortunately, none of those are experience.

The closest to filling that role is junior Durham Smythe. Serving as the No. 2 tight end in an offense that didn’t often use one, Smythe made just one catch last season while Ben Koyack led the offense in snaps played.

But a lack of experience isn’t to say the position group isn’t talented. Whether it’s freshman phenom Alizé Jones, Nic Weishar off his redshirt, bowling ball Tyler Luatua or fifth-year converted defensive lineman Chase Hounshell, the ability to mix and match is certainly there if nobody takes hold of the job.

Let’s take our last looks at an intriguing piece of the offense.


Position Coach: Scott Booker



TE1: Durham Smythe, Jr.*
TE2: Tyler Luatua, Soph.
TE3: Alizé Jones, Fr.
TE4: Nic Weishar, Soph.*
TE5: Chase Hounshell, Grad Student*

*Denotes additional year of eligibility



Alizé Jones. Yes, I realize I have him listed as third on the depth chart. But when you look at this position group, there are a lot of intriguing supporting pieces and only one guy who feels like a star in the making. So while Jones is going to have to learn how to block, get a better feel for the system and become a complete tight end before he can truly ascend to this spot, he’s the guy who will eventually be the next great Notre Dame tight end.



Durham Smythe Tyler Luatua. I list both of these guys because I think they both have a chance to do very important things for this offense. In Smythe, the Irish have probably the closest thing to a two-way tight end as there is on the roster. He’s the veteran of the group and should have the best knowledge of the system. But after thinking he was ready to make an impact in 2014, Smythe caught just one pass. After being banged up a bit during camp, Smythe didn’t get off to the quickest start, but hopefully he’ll be ready come Texas.

In Luatua, the Irish have a blocker who could be a physical force. He’s also capable of rumbling for some yardage if he’s out in the flat as Malik Zaire’s safety valve. At 255 pounds, he’s a physical presence who can attach to the offensive line or play—gasp!—fullback.



Can anybody establish a rhythm? Brian Kelly mentioned a mix-and-match approach to the position, a logical choice with this type of personnel. But often times the Irish offense gets predictable when they utilize certain players in certain formations, and that feels like almost an inevitability for the tight ends. (Not that I expect to see Jones next to the left tackle on 3rd and 1, but still.)

But beyond giving the defense a tell, it might also hinder someone from breaking out. If that’s Smythe, great. If it’s Jones, wonderful. It could also be Nic Weishar, who has had an excellent camp. When the offense tried to juggle four running backs, you couldn’t help but feel like they lost something. That’s the big worry at a position this deep, too.


Can this offense utilize two tight end sets? As a power running team, putting two tight ends on the field could be a formation that really helps power the offense. But as we worry about finding some experience in this group, is it too much to ask to find two guys who can play?

Grad student Chase Hounshell is miraculously still a part of the football program, and might be Notre Dame’s best attached blocker. After using two tight ends against LSU, can this position group develop two fast enough?


Who can Brian Kelly trust? There might be all the skill in the world in true freshman Alizé Jones, but if Kelly can’t trust him to do his job, it’ll be hard for him to play. Same with any of the young players in this position group. Last year, Koyack took all the snaps, even if he was limited in space and not the best blocker. But he knew what he was doing and Kelly relied on that experience in the offense. Developing that trust will be key for whoever steps forward.



Can Nic Weishar look as good on the field as he does in practice? When Jones and Smythe were out Weishar put on a show, a difficult receiver to cover, especially in the red zone. Will that translate to the playing field and can the Chicagoland native get into the mix and be a dangerous part of the passing attack?


Will Chase Hounshell really find his home at tight end? When you looked at fifth-year senior candidates, heading into spring Hounshell was at the bottom of the list. But give credit to the hard-luck Ohio native who willed his way back onto the team and reinvented himself as a block-first tight end. It’d be quite a miraculous finish to his Notre Dame career if he was able to contribute this season—and that’s without considering he’ll likely be eligible for a sixth year.


Are there enough footballs for the tight ends? Everybody expects the running game to play a bigger role this season. Notre Dame’s receiving corps is as deep and talented as it’s ever been. Assuming guys like Smythe, Weishar and Jones have the skills to get involved in the passing game, how exactly are they going to find footballs for them?


Practice Report: Day Seven update


If there’s reason to believe the Irish offense will take a step forward next season even after losing Michael Floyd, it’s Tyler Eifert. The rising senior tight end, who before Brian Kelly arrived was expected by some to disappear into obscurity after a back injury, instead has turned into the best of a recent string of Irish TEs to go to the NFL, with his All-American junior season a record breaking one.

Inside Loftus Sports Center Saturday, the Irish scrimmaged for the first time this spring in full pads, giving us our first, however miniscule, look at what’s to come with the offense next season. As usual, I’ve gone into pain-staking details to help you make heads or tails of the footage.

  • 0:09 — Way to keep up the streak, Jack Nolan. Another video, another piece of ND apparel. Nice rain-winter hybrid adidas jacket to keep you warm and dry out there.
  • 0:28 — Going to attempt to breakdown every scrimmage play we see. I might miss a few details, but let’s see how we do.
  • 0:30 — Tommy Rees hands off to George Atkinson (#4) who cuts it up until he’s met by linebacker Ishaq Williams (#11). It’d be great for the Irish if we heard a lot from both soon-to-be sophomores.
  • 0:34 — Andrew Hendrix (#12) drops back to pass, getting his throw off just in time to John Goodman (#81). From there, Goodman encapsulates his career, weaving his way across the field before he’s hit from behind and stripped on a great play by linebacker Anthony Rabassa (#56).  From the sounds of it, the defense recovers. What a great effort play by Rabassa, who looked to be a part of the pass rush.
  • 0:51 — That’s Everett Golson (#5) standing in the pocket and throwing a strike on a quick out to Goodman. Bennett Jackson (#2) finishes the play, tackling Goodman out of bounds. If we’re truly over-analyzing things, Golson’s feet looked a little happy in the pocket. (Then again, so do Peyton Manning’s.)
  • 0:56 — Rees hands off to Theo Riddick (#6), who looks pretty electric in the backfield. Theo makes a few cuts before he’s met in the hole by Manti Te’o, who ends the play rather quickly. Interesting that it was a two-back set with Atkinson on the other side of Rees, leading the way.
  • 1:06 — Gunner Kiel (#1) takes a snap under center, handing it to Atkinson on a stretch play, who runs away from Louis Nix (#9) (That’s Matt Hegarty (#77) chasing Big Lou) and makes something impressive out of nothing. Carlo Calabrese (#44) and Matthias Farley (#41) on the tackle down field.
  • 1:15 — Good news, bad news Irish fans. That’s Rees completing a nice fade route down the sideline to All-American Tyler Eifert. Bad news? That’s Bennett Jackson getting absolutely dusted in one-on-one coverage, with late safety help by Austin Collinsworth (#28).
  • 1:30 — What a ridiculous catch by Eifert, who looks about as good as you can possibly look at tight end. You’ve got to think touted-TE recruit Mike Heuerman saw plenty to like watching the Irish move Eifert all around.
  • 2:20 — Here’s the recap of BK talking about the tight end position, which is basically Tyler Eifert… and everybody else.
  • 2:53 — That’s Scott Booker coaching up Eifert, in his first season working as a position coach for the Irish.
  • 3:33 — I’m not going to get too excited about Troy Niklas (#85) since it’s still March, but even Booker talks about his hands, and I’ve got a feeling he’s going to continue that string of high draft picks for the Irish at the position.
  • 3:40 — And Jake Golic.
  • 3:55 — Nicely pointed out, Jack Nolan. For those thinking this is Booker’s first coaching job, rest easy. He’s worked as a position coach for five years, choosing to come to ND and hoping to earn his way to a position job. Two seasons later, he did.
  • 5:15 — The man, the myth, the legend Harry Hiestand making an appearance on Booker’s “mic’d up” session, reaffirming Booker’s blocking tip to Eifert as the line and tight ends work together in run blocking drills.
  • 5:50 — Even though its just a positional drill, it’s nice to see the tight ends running wheel routes and going vertical. Booker catches Golic taking a false step to start his route, but all five guys look smooth catching the ball.
  • 6:36 — For a guy that’s played TE for six practices, that’s nice work by Niklas beating Zeke Motta (#17) one-on-one.


Vowing to fix offense, Kelly announces staff shake-up

Brian Kelly 9

After spending the days following Notre Dame’s bowl loss in a sprint to the recruiting finish line, Brian Kelly spent Friday morning announcing the staff changes that have taken shape since wrapping up the 2011 season. With offensive coordinator Charley Molnar taking over the football program at UMass, and Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton joining Urban Meyer’s Ohio State staff, the opportunity allowed Kelly to drastically reorganize the offensive coaching staff, something that likely would’ve been on the docket after a disappointing 8-5 finish.

“When you don’t reach the goals that you’ve set for yourself, it’s important that the appropriate measures are taken in terms of evaluating all facets of your program,” Kelly said.

The biggest move made was an internal one, with Chuck Martin making a rare shift from coaching a position group on defense to coordinating the offense. It’s a move that illustrates how strongly Kelly trusts Martin, who will be tasked with running an offense with a vision shared not only by the head coach, but by the personnel and position groups that’ll be tasked with orchestrating it.

“At the end of the day, he’s the leader of the group,” Kelly said of Martin. “I’m looking for someone that can communicate the message clearly across the board without any inconsistencies from group to group. Chuck is a great communicator and that is the strength that he brings to the staff.”

Other major changes on the offensive staff include the move of Mike Denbrock from tight ends to outside wide receivers. Denbrock will also coordinate the passing game, a nice title bump for one of Kelly’s oldest coaching connections. Denbrock once coordinated Kelly’s offense at Grand Valley, so while Denbrock’s long been seen as an offensive line guru, he’ll work with Martin in developing a passing attack that needs to make more big plays.

“We need to make more big plays,” Martin told the Chicago Tribune. “However it is, we need to make more big plays. In the pass game, we had two completions over 40 yards last year. You talk about inconsistency – it’s hard to consistently go on 15-play drive. Part of how you become consistent – you have a couple three-play scores and all of a sudden your consistency level is higher.”

Denbrock’s move pushes first-year assistant Scott Booker to tight ends coach, where he’ll work with arguably the most talented position grouping on the offensive side of the ball. Tasked with coaching All-American Tyler Eifert and developing elite prospects like rising sophomore Ben Koyack and rising junior Alex Welch (who saved a year of eligibility during his freshman season), Booker spent two years interning with the Irish coaching staff after spending five years as a position coach in the MAC conference.

Filling out the rest of the offensive staff is Harry Hiestand, who left Tennessee to coach the offensive line and coordinate the Irish running attack. With a blue-ribbon pedigree that includes a mentor in former Irish offensive line coach Joe Moore, Hiestand will make some subtle adjustments to the Irish line play that’ll help evolve the offense.

“Last year, we were a big gap and pull team,” Kelly explained about the Irish running attack. “You’ll see a little bit more of a zone influence with this offensive group. But more than anything else, it’s Harry’s great experience as an offensive line coach. Having done it and having succeeded, and really wanting somebody that was so focused on technique and development of the offensive line.”

Defensively, the Irish adding veteran coach Bobby Elliott to the staff, giving former Hawkeyes Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks a coach they’re familiar with both as a colleague and a mentor. On paper, bringing in Elliott seems like a no-brainer, as the former coordinator for Bill Snyder’s best Kansas State teams would be enough to fill the position. Adding his relationship with the leaders of the defense and a sterling reputation only make the fit that much better.

“I want people, first of all, that I enjoy being around,” Kelly said. “Any time you’re hiring you want guys that you enjoy being around, that are passionate for what they do, and have a commonality with everybody in the staff philosophically. That’s what Bobby brings. And certainly his prior relationship with Kerry and Bob Diaco make that an easy fit.”

Perhaps the biggest news of the day was the mention that Scott Booker would take over coordinating special teams for the Irish, replacing Mike Elston who had the job for Kelly’s first two seasons while also coaching the defensive line. Kelly was adamant to stress this wasn’t meant a reflection on Elston’s job running the Irish special teams, but after subpar results — especially in the punt return game — the move was made to Booker, who will receive help from the entire staff.

“His focus is on that defensive line,” Kelly said. “We pulled him in a lot of different directions last year with special teams and it takes a lot of time out of you. Now he can focus strictly on the defensive line. It’s going to make us a better football team… It’s going to be exciting from a defensive standpoint in that room that we can have Mike focused on the defensive line and game planning.”