Notre Dame officially opened preseason practice Tuesday. That means a game is now only one month away. The Irish did not wear pads in the two-hour session, thus making any conclusions drawn, by definition, hasty. Nonetheless, seeing who is actively in the mix at the outset is the first step toward arriving at proper conclusions in 31 days.
Some of those involved greatly impressed all in attendance. At the top of that list may be junior Shaun Crawford, apparently quite recovered from his Achilles injury. With his theoretical resurgence, Notre Dame truly could have a wealth of talent at cornerback, increasing the chances of sophomore Julian Love buttressing the safety rotation.
On the flipside of both the impression delivered and of the line of scrimmage, sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson apparently mixed displays of talent with frustrating inconsistency.
Stepherson may not have much time to prove he can be relied on thanks to the arrivals and quick implementations of the two graduate transfer receivers. Michigan transfer Freddy Canteen reportedly saw action with the second unit in the slot while Arizona State transfer Cameron Smith got a figurative starting nod as the boundary receiver, bumping junior Miles Boykin down a notch.
Smith’s initial edge could simply be due to him knowing offensive coordinator Chip Long’s scheme from playing under Long at Arizona State for three of the last four seasons, but one would think now would be the time to educate Boykin, Stepherson and the rest of the receivers rather than simply defer to a prior understanding. As long as Smith is working with the starters, presume he has earned that due to his talent as much as his grasp of the offense.
Finding the proper mix at receiver may take the Irish a bit, but deciding on a right tackle should be a simpler task. Per Hansen, sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg were not the only ones with an opportunity there. Freshman Robert Hainsey could make a push, as well, though that seems unlikely in the long-run as of now.
On the defensive line, it makes sense to see some freshmen finding their way into the rotation given the ceaseless wondering this offseason about Notre Dame’s defensive tackles,
That leaves Darnell Ewell as the newcomer in the cold right now, though both Hinish and Tagovailoa-Amosa would still need to work their way past more upperclassmen to see the field consistently.
Overall, it sounds like the first day of practice was a success for the Irish. Then again, that bar is cleared if day one is devoid of injury while creating some glimpses of potential.Follow @D_Farmer