Sit tight. There will be a lot of observations -- both funny and serious -- from today's open practice, the only open practice Notre Dame will have all spring. Our goal here is to go in chronological order of what happened, so if we're jumping around a bit, we apologize, but we want you -- our faithful blog readers -- to have the experience we had.
So off we go:
- Wide receivers coach Rob Ianello to Duval Kamara during an agility drill: "Come on Duval, baby, get high. Get high."
- Wide receivers groups for diving drills: David Grimes, George West, D.J. Hord; Duval Kamara, Barry Gallup Jr., Sam Vos; Michael Garcia, Brian Coughlin, Chris Gurries. Wide receivers Robby Parris and Richard Jackson did not participate in the drill.
- We've written this before, but Hord many times catches the ball more with his body than his hands -- something that isn't the best fundamental technique.
- During cut-and-catch drills, Vos dropped a pass, but he was the only one we saw during our visit with the wide receivers.
- Over to the linebackers and coach Jon Tenuta -- who has already had one reporter write about his sometimes-colorful language. We were really hoping for some juicy stuff here, but left disappointed as either Tenuta toned down his act because of the coaches clinic in attendance or someone spoke to him about his vernacular.
- That said, when inside linebacker Steve Paskorz dropped a ball during a read-and-catch drill, Tenuta said sarcastically: "Catch the front end of the ball, please." Tenuta also rode Steve Quinn for the same offense. Later on, Paskorz had to do pushups after his missed the dyed stripe on the field Tenuta wanted him to hit.
- Not the best day for freshman Brian Smith. He dropped two passes in a row and seemed to struggle catching balls during the drill.
- After Aaron Nagel missed a pass, he ended up doing pushups on the sideline to atone for his mistake.
- More from Tenuta: After Toryan Smith missed a pass that he likely could have caught (we thought it was a little high), Tenuta said "That's just lack of effort."
- Something else which caught Tenuta's eye: When Nagel and Paskorz lined up against one another in a straight line catch and run drill, a linebacker said they'd take Nagel over Paskorz. Well, Paskorz won because Nagel dropped the ball.
- Defensive end John Ryan may not be able to practice, but it doesn't mean he's doing nothing. He spent part of a defensive end drill hugging a tackling dummy -- and then almost got run over by defensive lineman Dorian Inzunza.
- As Paddy Mullen made his way through the dummies, he struggled and eventually was taken out by one of them.
- Tight ends Mike Ragone (knee) and Luke Schmidt (head) did not practice, but neither seemed serious. Also, offensive lineman Matt Romine (undisclosed) didn't practice. Kallen Wade wasn't with the team due to the death of his mother, Valerie, earlier in the week. Jappy Oliver also missed practice because he was in Cincinnati with Wade.
On to the Irish Eyes drill, which matches an offensive lineman against either a defensive lineman or linebacker in an attempt to block for or tackle the ballcarrier:
- In a matchup of OL Dan Wenger vs. DL Ian Williams, Williams broke through Wenger and blew up running back James Aldridge.
- Outside linebacker Kerry Neal destroyed a walk-on running back.
- Offensive guard Andrew Nuss handled Steve Quinn well during a matchup. Shortly thereafter, Paddy Mullen and Williams had two defensive stops in a row.
- In a matchup we referenced in our Sunday story, offensive guard Chris Stewart played really well -- and at one point pancaked Maurice Crum Jr. If Stewart continues playing like he did Saturday, we'd be stunned not to see him starting in the fall.
- Crum got his revenge, though, bowling over Stewart and crushing the running back. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis liked it so much, he said "Get out there and do it again" and had the matchup replayed.
- Emeka Nwankwo flattened Nuss. It was followed by Wenger blowing up Kevin Washington.
- There were also two small skirmishes during the Irish Eyes drill, but they happened on the opposite end of the field from where the media and coaches stood, so it was difficult to see who was involved -- but Weis didn't seem to mind the team mixing it up.
Now, back to regular observations:
- Saturday's first-team offense: Offensive line (R to L): Sam Young, Chris Stewart, Dan Wenger, Eric Olsen, Paul Duncan. Tight end: Kevin Brooks. Wide receivers: David Grimes and George West. Running backs: Asaph Schwapp and James Aldridge. Quarterback: Jimmy Clausen.
- Saturday's first-team defense: DL: Justin Brown, Ian Williams, Morrice Richardson. LB: Brian Smith, Toryan Smith, Maurice Crum Jr., Kerry Neal. DBs: Darrin Walls, David Bruton, Kyle McCarthy, Terrail Lambert.
- On the fourth play with the first team, Lambert blew up running back Armando Allen at the line of scrimmage. On the fifth play, Allen cut up the right side, earning some praise from Michael Haywood. On the sixth play, Allen took a pitch left but the play was broken up in the backfield by Crum.
- Saturday's second-team offense: Offensive line (R to L): Sam Young, Andrew Nuss, Thomas Bemenderfer, Trevor Robinson, Jeff Tisak. TE: Paul Kuppich. WR: Barry Gallup Jr and Richard Jackson. RBs: Robert Hughes and Asaph Schwapp. QB: Jimmy Clausen (although walk-on Brian Castello came in for a couple snaps).
- Saturday's second-team defense: DL: Emeka Nwankwo, Paddy Mullen, Sean Cwynar. LBs: Kevin Washington, Steve Quinn, Steve Paskorz, Scott Smith. DBs: Gary Gray, Harrison Smith, Jashaad Gaines, Raeshon McNeil.
- Before the first play even ran with the second team, Schwapp messed up a motion set and Weis made him run a lap, chiding him along the way for his mistake.
- On the first play, Hughes showed why he may end up as the starter. He barreled along the right side and it took multiple defenders to bring him down. Of the three running backs competing for time, Hughes' game is, to us, the most complete and most impressive. He rarely went down on first contact and often kept his legs moving even when he was hit. If Notre Dame's offense is good this year, he'll be a big reason why.
- Second time in for the first team offense Mike Turkovich replaced Sam Young, who had run with both the first and second teams. When that happened, Turkovich played right guard and Stewart moved to right tackle.
- The defense manhandled the first team offense the second time they were in. Kerry Neal crushed Allen on a play. Richardson blew threw the line and hit a running back in the backfield. Kyle McCarthy also tripped up Allen on a play.
Red zone work:
- This is where the offense shined Saturday -- and where, for the first time, we truly understood the hype around Jimmy Clausen. Just follow along.
- First play: Beautifully thrown pass from Clausen to David Grimes for a touchdown. Darrin Walls was badly burned on the play, but the pass would have been tough for any defensive back to get regardless of positioning.
- Second play: Clausen to Grimes on an out route right beat Terrail Lambert for what was a touchdown or close to it (the markers were kind of off and they were using different yard lines as end zones).
- Third play: Walls, taking out some aggression possibly, lit up James Aldridge as he caught a pass, causing Aldridge to drop the ball.
- Fourth play: Clausen found a wide open Grimes again for a touchdown with Walls and Kyle McCarthy covering. Clausen really made Notre Dame's secondary look bad during this drill, which is either a good sign for the Irish offense or a bad sign for the Notre Dame defense. Take your pick, although we'll know more come August.
- Fifth play: Clausen was pseudo-sacked as the whistles blew.
- Sixth play: Clausen found Duval Kamara, but the stretched-out Kamara couldn't hang on to the ball.
- Other plays: Clausen found Grimes out right. Linebacker Scott Smith beat offensive tackle Paul Duncan badly on a play and blew up Armando Allen in the backfield. Offensive line coach John Latina's comment: "Do your job, 72." Ouch. Clausen threw a fade ball that was batted down by Gary Gray in a nice play for the cornerback. Clausen also found Kamara on an out left pattern.
- The practice ended with kicker Brandon Walker attempting a 38-yard field goal. He missed badly right, but Weis froze Walker with a timeout just before the ball was snapped. The missed field goal -- Weis and special teams coach Brian Polian said it was just the second miss of almost two dozen kicks in the spring by Walker -- forced the team to run. Offensive lineman Eric Olsen fell to his knees and then rolled over in disappointment and despair.
- During running, defensive coordinator Corwin Brown and defensive intern LeRoy Knight ran with the players while the other coaches watched.
We've got a mailbag coming tomorrow, so if you have questions leave them in the comment boxes or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, we figure to have mailbags from here on out so keep sending questions.
And now would be a good time to inform everyone we'll be live-blogging the spring game much like last season, so make sure to bring yourselves over here on April 19.
-By Michael Rothstein of The Journal Gazette