After two weeks off, Notre Dame returned to the practice field this morning. With pads on and live snaps taking place, any rust seemed to be alleviated with the Irish playing live for the first time this spring.
With plenty of reports coming in live from various local outlets that got a limited look at practice from inside Loftus, let’s run you through some of the interesting reports that I’ve seen this morning.
First, let’s get to some of BK’s comments after practice.
Kelly talked about Notre Dame’s mediocre screen game, which was really good to hear after listening to hundreds of you bemoan the lack of creativity or productivity from that aspect of the offense. But with young offensive linemen learning their roles, it’s still very much a work in progress.
Kelly jokingly got off a pretty good dig on Steve Elmer, who is working at left guard next to Ronnie Stanley right now. The sophomore is doing a great job understanding his role at guard, but will use the spring to refine his game with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.
“I think that’s obviously a tandem that is working well together on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said of Stanley and Elmer. “We like what we see there. Steve is still learning the little. He knows big picture the offense very well. I think what Harry (Hiestand) is really trying to drill down with Steve is what he wants.
“Screens, for example, remember how lousy we were on screens? He’s worse. Things like that. He’s really trying to figure out some of the little nuances in the game. That’s the next step for him. Ronnie has done very well at that position. I think now for Elmer, really picking up the nuances.”
Before anybody thinks Kelly is calling out a player, he was joking first of all and secondly he’s also taking a shot at his own offense and it’s inability to capitalize on high percentage pass plays like screen passes. If that’s a focal point of this offensive transition under Mike Denbrock then that’s great news.
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Kelly talked about one of last year’s spring heroes, C.J. Prosise. While that didn’t translate into a lot of success last season, Prosise is a really intriguing athlete, especially considering he weighs 220 pounds.
“C.J. Prosise is an outstanding athlete. I don’t like to call any guys out, but he can give us even more,” Kelly said. I think if there’s a ceiling there, I think we can get more out of C.J.
“He doesn’t have a typical body type for that position, he’s a big kid. But he’s an extraordinary athlete. I think there’s more there and we’re seeing it. He’s got speed. He can catch the football, and we think he can be a really good blocker as an inside guy for us. He’s kind of a unique player at that position. You usually don’t get them big. I think he’s got a high ceiling as well.”
Prosise started in the secondary for the Irish, an obvious place for a 220 pound thumper who can run. But with the Irish shifting away from two tight end sets, Prosise could be a beneficiary in this offense.
Also receiving glowing reviews from Kelly was rising sophomore Will Fuller. After putting up a ridiculous 26.7 yards per catch average last year, Kelly all but said the sky was the limit for the Philadelphia native.
“Will Fuller, that kid is just a matter of how far he wants to take his talents,” Kelly said. “Weight room is going to be huge. Getting stronger. Attention to detail, all things that great players need to do. He’s a pretty good one.”
Some bozo last week said Fuller had the chance to be a 1,000 yard receiver this season. I’m feeling better about that prediction after hearing Kelly talk about Fuller.
It may be a surprise, but Jaylon Smith spent time at inside linebacker when the Irish went into a nickel package. Playing next to him was Joe Schmidt, while transitioning wide receiver James Onwualu also took some snaps there as well in the nickel set.
For Smith, it’s part of the transition to being the leading man of this defense. After playing primarily the dog outside linebacker spot last season, getting Smith into the middle of the action is just one part of utilizing the team’s best defensive playmaker.
“We’re finding that out right now as to what he can do,” Kelly said. “We’re overloading him quite frankly with a number of different looks.
“We don’t want offenses to know where he is. We’re going to play him in a number of different positions. He can be inside, outside, we’re moving him all over the place.”
Last year, the Irish passing defense really struggled on underneath routes, especially with Jarrett Grace, Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox in coverage. In 2012, Manti Te’o made seven interceptions playing a glorified shallow center field for the Irish. Consider what Smith can do with his freakish speed and athleticism?
The move of Smith inside is likely as much a part of getting him in the center of the defense as it is about solidifying a clear weakness. A savvy and smart move that shows this staff did their homework during the offseason.
Here’s some great practice footage from IrishSportsDaily.com:
Here’s some more from our friends at IrishIllustrated.com, including a pick six by Joe Schmidt on Everett Golson:
Here are BK’s comments in their entirety, courtesy of UND.com: