Open Practice Observations, 8/11/07
OK. Before you start reading, we are warning you -- this is long. So go, pick up a drink and then sit down. You'll be here for a bit. That said, we'd estimate between 1-2,000 fans showed up at Notre Dame Stadium this morning to watch the Irish practice.
* Quarterback and running back groupings: Demetrius Jones and Travis Thomas (with John Sullivan as center); Evan Sharpley and James Aldridge; Jimmy Clausen and Armando Allen; Darrin Bragg and Robert Hughes; Justin Gillett and Junior Jabbie. During this particular drill, Jones was in the middle and making all of the calls.
* Quarterback recruit Dayne Crist was in attendance. Crist is already bigger than any quarterback Notre Dame has on its roster.
* As has been the case all week, Sharpley and Jones stretched together; as did Bragg and Clausen.
* First-team offense: OL -- Sam Young, Dan Wenger, Sullivan, Mike Turkovich and Paul Duncan. WR: David Grimes and George West. TE: John Carlson. RB: Thomas. FB: Asaph Schwapp. QB: Jones for much of the day, although it was Clausen during 9-on-7 drills and Sharpley at other points.
* On all of the team drills, Jones, Sharpley and Clausen each received six repetitions in that order.
* Jones showed he could throw the ball -- but also be prone to a bad mistake. On one of his final throws during the run/play action segment, he outthrew everyone except for two defensive backs.
* All three quarterbacks showed awareness of the pocket. Sharpley stepped up and threw a nice screen pass to Allen when pressured. Jones took off running and Clausen moved away and then threw the ball away.
* During the 9-on-7 drill, Weis spent his time on the field working with Clausen, who was merely handing off. It is something that Weis said later he does because that is when he can coach one guy.
* While the rest of the team was working on special teams, Jones took instruction from quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus while Clausen and Sharpley talked to Crist.
* During the down-and-distance drill, Clausen was the only quarterback not to throw a deep pass -- including Bragg and Gillett. When asked about it afterwards, Weis said he didn't notice.
* Both Sharpley and Clausen had the ball go backwards on them once when they went to throw.
* Second-team offense: OL: Taylor Dever; Matt Carufel; Thomas Bemenderfer; Eric Olsen and Matt Romine. WR: D.J. Hord and Robby Parris. RB: Aldridge. FB: Luke Schmidt. TE: Konrad Reuland.
* From what we noticed, Wenger was out there at first-team right guard much of the day.
* Hord -- who we criticized in this space earlier this week for struggling to catch the ball -- had a good day shaking off defenders and catching almost everything in his vicinity. Charlie Weis said Hord has been catching the ball better toward the end of the week.
* Parris beat Tom Zbikowski on a cut inside.
* Grimes continues to be reliable catching the ball, grabbing one with cornerback Raeshon McNeil in his face. He also had the catch of the day, leaping over cornerback Ambrose Wooden to grab a ball on a fly route thrown by Jones.
* Wide receiver Golden Tate -- who is very thin -- can also really jump. He also cut in front of McNeil for a reception during passing drills.
* Wide receiver Duval Kamara seemed to have a little trouble cutting on the turf. He slipped multiple times.
* Tight end Will Yeatman ran with the first team occassionally. There were also some three tight end sets popping up.
* Robert Hughes is a bunch to handle. He has good cutting ability and has size to run over people. At first glance, he looks a little bit like former Florida State running back Greg Jones. He also showed elusiveness and the ability to get to the corner. Between Allen and Hughes, Notre Dame has two really good looking backs for the future.
* Tate showed some of his athletic ability off of a bad play. He fumbled a reverse and then picked it up and ran 20 yards back to the line of scrimmage.
* Freshman defensive tackle Ian Williams is very compact and very, very large. He worked a bunch, not surprisingly, with the second team defense.
* First-team defense: DB: Zbikowski, David Bruton, Terrail Lambert and Ambrose Wooden. LB: Anthony Vernaglia, Maurice Crum, Joe Brockington and John Ryan. DL: Justin Brown, Pat Kuntz and Trevor Laws.
* Second-team defense: DB: Darrin Walls, Kyle McCarthy, McNeil and Sergio Brown. LB: Kerry Neal, Scott Smith, Toryan Smith and Kevin Washington. DL: Dwight Stephenson, Ian Williams and Paddy Mullen.
* Leo Ferrine, Jashaad Gaines and Munir Prince were in the third team secondary. Morrice Richardson appeared to run most of practice with the third team linebackers.
* After one play in run/play action drill, Corwin Brown made the entire defense run a lap around the field because there were only 10 men on the field for defense. Weis said after practice it was to make eliminating those types of mistakes a point of emphasis.
* Linebacker Steve Quinn seemed to be in on a bunch of plays, including snuffing Allen at the line after anticipating the run play.
* Freshmen linebackers Kerry Neal and Brian Smith both worked their way in with the first group. Neal is an impressive looking player who seems to have instincts getting to the ball.
* Toryan Smith is pretty scary when you see him with pads on. He looks like a small defensive end -- certainly stout enough to play inside linebacker. One reporter compared him to an "SEC linebacker." Come to think of it, he does look like LSU's Ali Highsmith.
* Kick return unit: Front row -- McCarthy; Quinn; Thomas/Richard Jackson (both were out there); Nick Possley and Sergio Brown. Second row: Reuland and Yeatman. Third row: Scott Smith and Schwapp. Kick returners: Allen and West.
* Punt returners: Zbikowski, Grimes, Allen and West. While Notre Dame was working on punt returns, tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee kept Mike Ragone and Kamara behind the rush line, presumably to see what was going on.
* Punt coverage gunners look to be Lambert and Bruton.
* On punt returns, we saw Zbikowski out there as the returner; Wooden and Lambert as the outside blockers. Bruton; Brian Smith; Richardson; Quinn; McCarthy and Jabbie appeared to be on the line.
* When Zbikowski returned a punt for a touchdown, he briefly taunted Tate, who was giving chase.
* When Allen broke one -- and he really is fast -- linebackers coach Brian Polian pretended to give chase before stopping.
* Kickoff unit: Munir Prince; McCarthy; Kallen Wade; Scott Smith; Richardson; Toryan Smith; Quinn; Jabbie; Sergio Brown and McNeil. Both Nate Whitaker and Brandon Walker took kickoffs.
* Field goal kicking: Whitaker 3-5 (Made 25, 35 and 45. Missed 30 and 33); Ryan Burkhart: 0-4 (Missed 25, 30, 33, 35. Didn't attempt 45). Walker: 3-5 (Made 25, 30 and 33. Missed 35 and 45). Of all the things we saw today, this would be the most disconcerting to Notre Dame. Walker seemed the most comfortable from inside, but struggled once real distance was involved. Burkhart missed all four of his wide left.
* Wooden seems slimmer than in previous years, especially in his calves.
* A scout from the Miami Dolphins was in attendance.
* After practice, all of the freshmen went to one sideline to sing Notre Dame's alma mater. After they sang once, the rest of the team joined.