WHO? Notre Dame’s offense vs. Notre Dame’s defense, though that is likely to largely reveal itself in first-string vs. first-string snaps and second-string vs. second-string snaps.
WHAT? The 15th and final spring practice for the Irish, then leading to a break in organized practices until the opening days of August. While the coaching staff will not be ignorant of offseason activities and unproven players will also have a month of preseason practice to sway as necessary, the impressions left today will linger for nearly four months.
WHEN? 12:30 ET, and given this is technically a practice, Notre Dame cannot work for more than two hours, though that does allow for a 15-minute halftime. The first half of the “game” will indeed consist of two typical 15-minute quarters, but the second half will include a running clock, arguably mercifully so.
WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., where it is most not yet summer. It will be, however, football weather in the low 50s with clouds battling the sun.
NBCSN will have the national broadcast, with the game streaming online here.
The coverage will be different than usual, though how different may be unclear until actually in action. Viewers are long used to a skycam above/behind the action, offering replays from a backfield vantage point. For this spring exhibition, the primary play-by-play camera will be another skycam along the sideline, rather than the usual sideline viewpoint only 20 or so feet above the sideline, ferried by a lift just in front of the stands. This 40- to 50-foot-high view should still include all the action, but presumably from an improved angle.
WHY? To appease fans always hungry to watch the Irish on the field. To create an event the University can spin certain spring gatherings around. To sell merchandise.
But mostly to give young players such as rising sophomores Phil Jurkovec and a quintet of receivers a chance to work in front of a crowd and get a taste of what that atmosphere is like. Jurkovec is set as Notre Dame’s backup quarterback, and the young receivers are somewhat set as backups to specific upperclassmen, but other rising sophomores are in the midst of position competitions which a strong, in-Stadium performance could alter.
Jahmir Smith and C’Bo Flemister, along with early-enrolled freshman Kyren Williams, will be needed behind the top-two running backs, but which would be called upon first is still up in the air.
“Those guys know they’re going to get carries, but they also know they have to protect the quarterback, and that’s No. 1,” offensive coordinator Chip Long said Thursday.
Standing up to a set of linebackers also looking to prove themselves would help Smith or Flemister earn more carries in September.
Those linebackers, well, let’s not go through the list of possible combinations. Just know most everything is on the table to some degree and an interior rotation in the fall is increasingly likely.
Houston Griffith and TaRiq Bracy both need to further establish themselves as a plausible starting boundary cornerback, or even nickel back, before Donte Vaughn and Shaun Crawford return healthy in August.
SURELY, OTHER POSITIONS ARE IN FLUX, TOO. RIGHT?
Not as many as you may think. The starting offensive line is set thanks to the solid landing at center from former tackle and rising sophomore Jarrett Patterson. The top three receivers are the veterans. Same goes at running back and tight end, when healthy.
Even the defensive two-deep is essentially set aside from the cornerbacks and the inside linebackers, with an allowance made at backup safety where two freshmen will arrive this summer and one could certainly join rising sophomore Derrik Allen in the the two-deep.
That does not, however, mean the reserves are known commodities. Allen, for example, could use a strong spring finale to spark some developmental momentum. Even more so, the backup defensive tackles need to gain confidence moving forward because they will absolutely be needed in the fall.
“[Rising sophomore Jayson Ademilola] is really going to need to show a consistency and push for some prime opportunities in terms of play,” defensive coordinator Clark Lea said. “We’re excited about where [early-enrolled freshman Jacob Lacey] is. I’m sure he is anxious to reset after spring and catch his breath. It’s pushing him through the summer and seeing where he is in the fall.”
BY HOW MUCH?
Let’s not handicap the spring game. Let’s instead point out how absurd the scoring system is when applied to a real game.
Touchdown: 6 points
Extra Point: 1 point
2-point Conversion: 2 points
Field Goal: 3 points
Touchdown: 6 points
Turnover Forced: 3 points
Three-and-out: 3 points
Stop: 2 points
Sack/Tackle for loss: 1 point
Rather than ponder which 2018 regular season game would yield the most-comical results under that scoring system, a text to the always-named Claire asked for a number between 1 and 12. She replied with eight, corresponding to Notre Dame’s 44-22 victory against Navy.
The two offenses accounted for all of those 66 points, so nothing changes in that respect. Notre Dame’s defense forced two turnovers, notched one sack and two other tackles for loss, forced four 3-and-outs, counting one four-play turnover on downs but not counting three plays killing time before halftime, and stopped three other Navy drives. 6 + 3 + 12 + 6 = 27 more Irish points.
Navy’s defense forced two turnovers, notched three tackles for loss and forced three 3-and-outs. 6 + 3 + 9 = 18 more Midshipmen points.
Final score: Notre Dame 71, Navy 40.