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Leftovers & Links: Where Notre Dame’s QBs and specialists were and are

Watch the best moments and top plays from the 90th annual Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game, as Gold defeats Blue, 58-45.

Hello summer, old friend. Indeed, in these parts summer begins in mid-April and ends by August. Summer means the rekindling and production of various annual series — 99-to-2 (now 98-to-2 with Jerry Tillery headed to the NFL) chief among them. The first of that set will come out across the next few weeks, “Where Notre Dame Was & Is: *insert position group here*”.

Coming out of Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game, though, how much more needs to be said regarding the Irish quarterbacks?

Where was Notre Dame before the spring? Senior Ian Book was the starter and sophomore Phil Jurkovec had work to do.

Where is Notre Dame after the spring? Book has shown development in his starter’s role and Jurkovec has shown how much work he has to do to be a capable backup.

RELATED READING: Things We Learned — Notre Dame’s tale of two QBs

So consider that the wrap on the Irish quarterbacks until the tail end of 98-to-2 when Jurkovec surfaces at No. 15, with one last point: A year ago, Jurkovec was just a month out of basketball season. This last year has been his first ever with all focus on football. Amidst a bevy of questions about Saturday’s negatives, one reporter asked Jurkovec what the last 10 months at Notre Dame have yielded in the way of progress.

“Knowing the offense and reading the defense,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot better at that.”

In a span of at least 16 questions, that was Jurkovec’s only positive answer. Its closest competition came when asked if a blue jersey and physical contact Saturday may have helped him find his rhythm. “Yeah, right,” Jurkovec replied succinctly and sincerely.

Thus, take his assessment of his progress at face value. If Jurkovec wanted to say he hadn’t made any progress, he would have. He was candid enough with everything else broached.

To say another 16 months of that work could yield exponential progress mentally, theoretically matched by finding some technique fundamentals, is to look past Jurkovec’s role four months from now. By no means should that mistake be made, but there would also be a difference in those two situations. If Jurkovec has to play in 2019, it is out of necessity, also known as the mother of invention; a pressure cooker might actually knock Jurkovec out of his own head. If he can bide his time until 2020, it is not inconceivable to think he may have worked his way out of his own head by then, as well.

The other position group which will not warrant its own “Was/Is” piece is the specialists, particularly the starting punter and kicker.

The spring finale showed reason to worry about freshman punter Jay Bramblett. He averaged 34.9 yards on eight punts, and that strikes the memory as generous. To trust one’s notes, the eye gauged Bramblett’s best punt to be in the third quarter, one he kicked from the five-yard line, getting it to the opposite 44. With a line of scrimmage at the 17, he was credited with a 39-yard punt.

And that one likely would have been shorter if not fair caught. Most of Bramblett’s punts landed with backspin, as if the hope was to die just short of the goal line, but instead they were costing theoretical field position.

Of course, a punter is only needed when the offense struggles, which should be a relatively rare occurrence for the Irish this coming season with Book at quarterback. The Sept. 21 trip to Georgia will be concerning, but otherwise Bramblett may have a season of light workloads.

As for junior Jonathan Doerer, he finished the intrasquad scrimmage 6-of-6 in point after attempts and 1-of-2 in field goals, the miss clanking off the left upright. The good news: Both field goal attempts had plenty of distance. The Notre Dame fret: Doerer’s kicks tend to move right-to-left, making that left upright perhaps a future impediment.

“If you hit a good ball, it’ll move left a little bit, just like hitting a drive in golf,” Doerer said afterward. “I take that into account, especially from longer distances, where it could matter more.”

That was a 39-yard attempt Saturday, not all that long, but then again, hitting the upright is not that far off. Not like sending a kickoff out of bounds, a repeated mistake from the last two seasons of which Doerer took ownership.

“When I hit a ball well, it’s going to go right-to-left a little bit, but obviously not drastic enough to go out of bounds,” he said. “Those were just misses.”

Lastly, your camera thoughts?
Note: By no means should one expect this feedback to get to listening ears. This is merely one writer’s curiosity, a writer very low on a totem pole stationed nowhere near broadcast production decision-makers.

NBC utilized a different vantage point for its primary play-by-play camera Saturday. In a spring exhibition, testing things out brings no harm. The skycam roved far above the Irish sideline, what would usually be the home sideline.

Personally, the camera’s in-play motion took getting used to. If ever used for a meaningful game, that would take some time, but when granting the idea that one’s brain adapts quickly, then that adjustment soon allows for a more dynamic view of the field. I will always trade a zoomed-in look for an angle that gives a chance to see a play develop, see the secondary’s response to varied routes, etc.

No camera at any reasonable height on the sideline will ever include all 22 players in one frame. This skycam did not; the usual view it replaced does not. But getting a few more of them onto the screen for a moment longer serves up a better understanding of what is actually happening, if able to get past that initial mental adjustment.

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