Spring Practice: Day Four report

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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.
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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.