CULVER, Ind. — Notre Dame opened its fall camp at Culver Academy Saturday, with players running through 23 periods of drills four weeks before beginning the 2016 season against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin.
Players didn’t wear pads Saturday and won’t Sunday, with the first full-pads practice scheduled for Wednesday. But with preseason practice officially underway, a few observations from Day 1:
— Redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer took most of the quarterback reps with the first-team offense in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 work. But don’t read too much into that: Both he and redshirt junior Malik Zaire wound up with about an even number of first-team reps during spring practice, with the splits taking place on a day-to-day basis. While Sunday’s practice isn’t open to the public, it’s fair to expect Zaire will get most of the first-team reps tomorrow to keep things equal in a closely-contested competition.
— Redshirt junior Hunter Bivin ran with the first-team offensive line at right guard and, while he was the target of some hard coaching from O-line coach Harry Hiestand, appears to have the inside track there. Freshman Tommy Kraemer took some second-team reps at right guard.
— On the defensive line, junior Daniel Cage took first-team reps over graduate student Jarron Jones, though expect both to fairly evenly split the 70-80 snaps that’ll happen during each game this fall. Redshirt sophomore Jay Hayes ran with the first-team defense at weakside defensive end over junior Andrew Trumbetti.
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— Redshirt freshman Asmar Bilal also took first-team reps at Will (inside) linebacker over sophomore Te’von Coney, who backed up Jaylon Smith at that position last year.
— There weren’t any other surprises with first- or second-team players. Sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown, sophomore C.J. Sanders and redshirt junior Torii Hunter Jr. were the first-team wide receivers, and redshirt junior Tarean Folston and sophomore Josh Adams split reps at running back.
— Sophomore running back Dexter Williams left Saturday’s practice due to the effects of a stomach ailment.
— Corey Robinson, who announced over the summer he would end his playing career due to concussions, wore shorts and a T-shirt and worked with Notre Dame’s W (boundary) receivers during practice.
— Sophomore tight end Alize Jones, who was ruled ineligible for the 2016 season on Wednesday, might’ve been the loudest person on the field Saturday. Jones ran the length of the field, screaming at the top of his lungs, a few times to congratulate fellow tight ends Durham Smythe and Nic Weishar on big catches in one-on-one drills. He was in a jersey and a helmet but didn’t take many practice reps (he’s allowed to remain and practice with the team, but can’t play in games, during his ineligibility) and spent some time catching footballs from a Jugs machine on the sideline.
— Smythe said after practice he was impressed with Jones’ attitude. “It just goes to show you how he is as a person, being out here with so much energy, being the loudest guy out here when he knows for the next couple months he’s just practicing,” Smythe said. “I’ve gained so much respect for him through one day, and I think that’s going to be huge for us all year, having a guy that brings the energy.”
— While he isn’t likely to play this year, sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush showcased his strong, accurate arm while taking third-team reps throughout Saturday’s practice. That he’s not in the conversation to start Sept. 4 against Texas is a testament to how deep Notre Dame’s quarterback depth is, and when he finally has the opportunity to compete to start, Irish coaches will have an awfully talented player on their hands.