Monday UND.com premiered the short film “Blind Faith.” Directed by Notre Dame graduate Greg Kohs, the documentary follows a blind eighth grade boy making his first visit to Notre Dame Stadium.
A student at the Indiana School for the Blind and Impaired, Mitchell and his family have bonded over Notre Dame football since he was a small child. Kohs and his crew captured Mitchell’s first game at Notre Dame Stadium, where he took in the Stanford game with his mother and father.
This first digital short in a three-part “First Time Fan” series, this is worth your time.
Here’s a great video from UND.com and the FIDM team as they released the behind-the-scenes footage of head coach Brian Kelly naming Bennett Jackson, TJ Jones and Zack Martin the 2013 team captains.
It’s all part of the great footage being put together for the upcoming “Strong & True: Building Bonds,” which airs Saturday, August 24th at 3pm ET on the NBC Sports Network.
With a team as deep with leadership as the Irish this year, I thought probably the most important part of the video is what Kelly says before naming the trio.
“We have a lot of deserving leaders on our team and regardless of whether or not you have a ‘C’ on your jersey or not, I want our leaders to continue to lead, both on and off the field,” Kelly said.
In most years, guys like Dan Fox, Tommy Rees, Louis Nix, or Chris Watt would be no-brainer captains. But they’ll all still carry important leadership roles on this team and help decide whether or not this team goes back to a BCS Bowl.
Take a look at the video below from UND.com and don’t forget to tune in tomorrow afternoon on NBCSN.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Jamoris Slaughter was seen taking reps at cornerback yesterday, cross-training at a cover position while Austin Collinsworth took first-team reps with the safeties. The move makes sense on the surface, with Slaughter’s versatility and cover skills always one of his assets, and Lo Wood not yet proven at the field cornerback position, where he’ll be tasked with covering a lot of field.
“We know Jamoris can be a great safety for us,” co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks said. “By moving him out and seeing what he can do at other spots, that gives us an opportunity to develop some young guys.”
With the graduation of Gary Gray and Robert Blanton and the presumed loss of Tee Shepard, Cooks and safeties coach Bob Elliott will likely be looking for the right combination in the back end of the defense right up until the Irish ship out for Dublin.
Yesterday’s practice video from UND.com focuses on the cornerbacks, and gives us a nice look at the contenders for playing time. As usual, here are some observations.
- 0:14 — Cinematic look at Brian Kelly’s patio door, with Jack Nolan rocking a nice green Irish sweatshirt.
- 0:55 — An introduction to the usual suspects: Jackson, Wood, Jalen Brown, and Josh Atkinson. Neither Brown nor Atkinson looked good in the clip the guys used, so I’m not sure what that says.
- 1:30 — Cooks identifies Jackson as the guy that’s ready to go. That jives with just about everything I’ve heard, too.
- 2:30 — Some nice insight into Cooks, who saw his title ascend to co-defensive coordinator this year, likely keeping him away from other staff’s looking to poach him. Cooks made a parallel move joining the Irish staff after spending a long time with former college teammate Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, but the move looks to have paid off, even though Cooks started at the unfamiliar position of coaching outside linebackers.
- 3:04 — Of course John Goodman is wearing pink just because. He’s an eclectic dude.
- 4:04 — Cooks talking with Atkinson, a really important piece of the secondary puzzle this year.
- 4:30 — Bennett Jackson says he’ll be 8 for 9 in practices this year. I like that all-business approach.
- 4:45 — Atkinson looks like he’ll need a little work to be physical enough to play boundary corner. He seems destined to play on the field side, which is probably best with his legit track speed.
- 5:38 — Chris Salvi struggles before righting himself in an open-field tackling drill.
- 6:05 — Cam McDaniel looks good going after the ball in the air. Which makes sense, considering he was a running back and punt return option.
- 6:35 — We see Cooks explain what “stack” means, as he describes the backpedal drill the Irish are doing, imploring his DBs to stay on top of the receiver.
- 7:35 — Cooks celebrating nice work on a five-yard route. That’s the proper attitude and it’s consistent with the defensive philosophy of last year as well.
- 7:44 — Nice work, Josh Atkinson.
- 7:50 — Uh oh, Lo. Can’t get turned around. If that’s a USC Trojan and not Luke Massa, that’s six points.
- 8:25 — Good proof that the cornerback position is the toughest athletically in the game.
- 8:50 — Great plays, Bennett Jackson. Nice break-up on a well thrown deep balls to Daniel Smith and TJ Jones.
And now, some BONUS footage from some three-on-three work.
- It’s Ishaq Williams (#11), Kona Schwenke (#96), and Stephon Tuitt (#7) on defense against what looks like Tate Nichols (#64), Nick Martin (#72) and Zack Martin (#70). Nice work by Kona, who looks like he’s grown into a defensive tackle. That’s some nice evaluation by the staff, who found a skinny 240-pound defensive end late in the recruiting process.
- Second round is Carlo Calabrese (#44), Louis Nix (#9) and Manti Te’o (#5) against Christian Lombard (#74), Mike Golic (#57) and Chris Watt (#66). First round won by Lombard and Co., who do a nice job (running away from Te’o doesn’t hurt). Nice work by Nix shrugging off Golic’s block in round two. Tough to say who won round three.
- Ben Councell (#30), Ishaq, and Danny Spond (#13) defend in round three against tight ends Ben Koyack (#18), Alex Welch (#82) and a third player I can’t see. Like the physicality out of both Spond and Councell, and Ishaq seems really impressive.
- Last round is safeties — Danny McCarthy (#15), Zeke Motta (#17) and Austin Collinsworth (#28) against Luke Massa (#14), Daniel Smith (#87) and John Goodman (#81). Again, tough to say who won, but thought Collinsworth did a great job, and the defense certainly celebrated the win. (Notice Prince Shembo still out of uniform, though standing close by.)
As they have for the previous three practice sessions, UND.com has been on the field with the Fighting Irish, the only cameras allowed inside the LaBar Practice Fields. Thankfully, they’ve been churning out some great footage and this episode is no different, with the focus on running backs/slot receivers coach Tony Alford.
As we work our way through another seven minutes of footage, I’ll do my best to give you some insight into what you’re seeing, and hopefully spur some discussion with my observations.
(Note to readers: When I use the term “rising” when calling a player “rising junior” it’s simply to denote he’ll be a junior next football season, but is currently a sophomore. It’s not an assessment on his football abilities, but a commonly used term.)
Away we go…
- 0:08 — That’s a different outfit for Jack Nolan, showing his flexibility with Irish apparel for the fourth straight episode. I hereby call on Jack to wear different ND gear for all 15 episodes.
- 0:39 — Our first look at running back George Atkinson (#4) catching the football. He doesn’t look entirely comfortable making the play, but if he can run vertically out of the slot, this offense could look dynamic.
- 1:05 — Keeping Tony Alford on the Irish staff should be a priority moving forward. You’ve got to think it’s only a matter of time before Alford gets his shot as a head coach, but he’s as valuable of an assistant as the Irish have had in the last 15 years.
- 1:28 — Is that some creativity out of the Irish offense? I can count on one hand the “trick” plays the Irish ran last season, and hopefully Chuck Martin will add some this year, as they help keep a defense thinking.
- 1:44 — That’s a re-run from Episode One with Theo Riddick‘s (#6) big run. We will not count that as additional proof that moving Riddick back to RB was a good move.
- 1:52 — Irish fans should have a smile on their face watching Cam Robertson (#31) make that catch and run. After a nightmarish knee injury that could’ve been career threatening, seeing Roberson in full gear going through drills is a wonderful thing.
- Nice quote by Alford on Chuck Martin’s work with the offense: “I think Chuck has done a great job with the offense, just as far as the energy level that he brings every day. He’s been phenomenal and the players pick up on that. You take the lead of your leader. On the offensive side we’ve been doing that, and there’s been very positive energy thus far.”
- 2:40 — That’s Stephon Tuitt (#7) running by Alford. Man, that kid is huge.
- 3:04 — It’s our weekly Amir Carlisle on crutches shot. This time, he’s watching intently as the running backs do footwork drills. Glad to see No. 3 is taking mental reps as he goes through his first spring practice with a boot on his foot.
- 3:45 — “Put that ball on the ground and you won’t play,” Alford says. Think this staff is making a point on turnovers? (If so, good.)
- 4:15 — Some nice coaching by Alford on the art of pass protection.
- 5:20 — That’s a better job by Atkinson catching the ball.
- 5:47 — In case you were wondering, that’s wide receiver Robby Toma (#9) running the counter and taking a handoff from the backfield. That’s more evidence that this position grouping isn’t coach speak and that there’s going to be some diversity in this offense. “Is it you, or is it me coaching?” Alford jokingly asks him.
- 6:16 — George Atkinson is going to be very interesting to watch this year. He’s probably the Irish’s most physically imposing running back at six-foot-one, 210-pounds, and you see both Alford and Kelly coach him up to run aggressively.
- 6:50 — That’s more Atkinson. It’s pretty clear nobody is going to catch him if he gets out in space.
Most of this video was committed to Alford’s work, and you can see how hard he’s coaching up returning starters like Cierre Wood and youngsters like Atkinson. There’s plenty of talent at the slot/RB position, so it should be interesting to see what kind of production they get from guys like Wood, Riddick, Carlisle, Atkinson, and Toma.
After doing my best to glean as much information out of three minutes of practice footage, we’re back at it with another bullet-point edition of UND.com’s wonderful practice reports. After giving us a brief overview of some of the obvious storylines this spring, Jack “Take the Charge” Nolan breaks down the linebackers, giving us a nice look at Manti Te’o’s gang, and defensive coordinator turned associate head coach Bob Diaco, whose hair is already having an outstanding spring season.
As we did last time, let’s run through this video and point out the things that may or may not interest you:
- 0:15 — As Jack Nolan models another wonderful Adidas fleece, I noticed the weather in South Bend should be a little over 10 degrees warmer than the weather in Los Angeles, where showers are also expected. In other news, blue-chip running back Ty Isaac is in Los Angeles visiting USC this weekend.
- 0:50 — Say what you will about fifth-year senior Mike Golic, but he’s shown good leadership. That’s him breaking down the team with their ND Football jump.
- 1:02 — In the first seconds of the linebacker preview, you see the exact difference between Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese. Fox looks comfortable in a coverage drill. Calabrese not as much.
- 1:24 — That’s Danny (or now Dan?) Spond getting Bob Diaco‘s heart pumping with proper “block destruction” technique. I swung and missed on my Spond predictions last year, but a few more two-second clips and he’ll get me back on his bandwagon.
- 1:30 — Ishaq Williams looks really impressive in shorts. Still learning, but you can’t teach the size and athleticism he has.
- 1:50 — After seeing Brian Kelly get into the QB race, we get Diaco’s submission. Is it possible that Diaco has shot forward in time from the late 50s, where he and Don Draper swam together at the athletic club?
- 2:06 — I really think the coaching staff did a good job getting preferred walk-on Joe Schmidt to Notre Dame. He’s lacking elite size, but he’s the kind of player that helps you win football games. Plus, he’s from a really good Orange County high school program. That can’t hurt.
- 2:11 — Manti Te’o looks pretty good in coverage drills. Carlo, not as much. Fox, the best of the group.
- 2:40 — Kendall Moore won’t make a living playing in coverage. But I’ve got a feeling that when Te’o graduates it’ll be Moore that steps in and makes plays immediately. He’s going to be a good one, just needs to stay patient.
- 2:47 — For a converted defensive lineman, Justin Utupo looks pretty good in coverage. Another guy I think could end up having a nice career.
- 3:20 — Nice to at least get a look at Jarrett Grace, Ben Councell, and Anthony Rabasa.
- 3:30 — Nolan mentions the defense has gotten better in each of the last two seasons. This year, they’ve got to get some turnovers. That’s been the big difference.
- 4:55 — Quick, don’t blink or you’ll miss ones vs. ones. That’s Theo Riddick looking mighty comfortable taking a handoff from Tommy Rees. That’s the type of explosion you didn’t see when he was getting run down by a Navy defensive back.
- 5:02 — Welcome to college football, Jarrett Grace. See that tight end that just ran by you down the seam? That’s Tyler Eifert. You may want to keep an eye on him, and maybe even get an autograph later.
There should be plenty more highlights this weekend, when the Irish put on gear for the first time, in front of an elite crew of junior recruits no less. Saturday’s workout will likely give us a look in the trenches, where the right side of the offensive line is being rebuilt.