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Practice peek gives insight on offensive pace

With new media restrictions on reporting specifics, the logical protection of unknown assets by the coaching staff makes it’s tough to gather too much from the limited media windows given during preseason camp.

Still, if you’re looking for the proverbial knothole through the fence into Notre Dame’s practice, look no further than the video posted at

One of the staples of an offensive practice under Brian Kelly is the tempo drill. While you can watch it here, our six-play look following the first team offense gave quite a bit of insight into what we might be able to expect when the Irish open up against Purdue in just under 22 days.

Here’s the six play sequence run by the first-team offense during the tempo drill, alternating between hash marks.

Play one: Stretch hand-off to Theo Riddick out of the slot.
Play two: Middle screen pass to Armando Allen.
Play three: Swing pass to a motioning Armando Allen.
Play four: Play-action, then Crist underthrows a dig route to Theo Riddick that falls incomplete.
Play five: QB read, fake handoff to Robert Hughes, then off tackle with Dayne Crist.
Play six: Hughes in the backfield, Floyd motions across the formation, then Hughes off tackle.

A few observations:

The entire six-play sequences took about one minute, thirty-six seconds, or about 16 seconds a play, especially impressive when you consider that they alternate hash marks and still get plenty of coaching points in when running the sequence. That’s a lot of reps for everyone, especially during the second practice on a 90 degree day with humidity. It’s not hard to understand why Kelly stresses play-volume and conditioning, and why this football team will be in much better shape than last seasons.

After a few viewings, it looks like the entire sequence took place out of one formation, and is a good example of how multiple you can be in the no-huddle spread attack, even when it seems like every play looks the same presnap.

Without drawing too many conclusions from a single practice rep from a hand-selected cut of practice tape, it’s interesting to see the hybrid role that Theo Riddick is going to play in this offense, and you can see the versatility in Riddick come into play when he’s taking a handoff in the backfield and also running a 20-yard dig across the middle of the defense. While it’s also WAY too soon to sound the alarm bells, Crist skipping the dig route to a receiver that’s running against air is a not-so-pleasant reminder that Jimmy Clausen, arguably the most accurate passer in college football last year, is not quarterbacking the Irish this season.

Kelly and company kept Kyle Rudolph out of the tempo team drills, and with Mike Ragone still recovering from heat illness on Wednesday, Tyler Eifert took all the reps with the first team offense. With both Dan Wenger and Matt Romine sitting out for preventative reasons after head injuries, Braxston Cave ran with the first team offensive line.

One last interesting tidbit, it looks as if the Irish offense ran most of their offense on a quick count, with the clap of the quarterback’s hands an indicator for the center and offensive line to get set. It’ll be interesting if that translates into games.

All in all, a nice peek into the offensive system of Brian Kelly.