Notre Dame kicked off its first day of fall camp on a hot day at Culver Academies’ Oliver Field on Monday, Aug. 4.
Culver Academies is nestled on the northern crest of Lake Maxinkuckee, so it was a bit disarming to watch Notre Dame practice while boats cruised by in the background. There was also a pasture next to the football field, so drills were peppered with horses whinnying throughout the late morning and early afternoon.
Some observations from the media’s full two-hour access to practice. Note: Asterisks (*) indicate true freshmen.
- Despite the very real quarterback competition, Everett Golson took every first-team snap during the two-hour practice.
- First team offense during tempo and 11-on-11 drills: Golson; running back Tarean Folston; wide receivers DaVaris Daniels, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle; tight end Ben Koyack; and offensive linemen (left to right) Ronnie Stanley, Matt Hegarty, Nick Martin, Christian Lombard and Steve Elmer.
- The second team offense consisted of quarterback Malik Zaire; running back Cam McDaniel; wide receivers Corey Robinson, C.J. Prosise and Will Fuller; tight end Durham Smythe; and offensive linemen (left to right) Mike McGlinchey, Connor Hanratty, Mark Harrell, Colin McGovern and Quenton Nelson*.
- The third team offense consisted of quarterback DeShone Kizer*; running back Greg Bryant; wide receivers Justin Brent*, Corey Holmes and Torii Hunter Jr.; tight end Tyler Luatua*; and offensive linemen (left to right) Jimmy Byrne*, John Montelus, Hunter Bivin, Justin Utupo and Alex Bars*.
- With offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock away recovering from surgery, head coach Brian Kelly worked almost exclusively with the wide receivers.
- Golson and Zaire had trouble connecting with receivers early on, often overshooting targets in passing drills. The timing improved during 11-on-11, though. Cam McDaniel caught a pass and juked safety Nicky Barratti to the ground. Brown grabbed a long bomb over KeiVarae Russell, and Daniels fell down while running a route and was still able to pop back up and snag the catch.
- Stanley was carted off the field toward the end of practice, and McGlinchey filled in without hesitation. Kelly cleared up concerns during a post-practice interview, saying Stanley was just getting an IV. “He’s a big guy who needed fluids,” Kelly said. Stanley will return to practice tomorrow.
- More of a special teams item, but Bryant, Folston and cornerback Cody Riggs fielded punt returns. Bryant and Folston fumbled enough balls to prompt coach Tony Alford to say, “I’ve about had my last drop.” Riggs looked the strongest out of the trio after one day of evaluation.
- First team defense during tempo and 11-on-11 drills: Linemen Romeo Okwara, Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Ishaq Williams; linebackers Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt and John Turner; and defensive backs KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke, Austin Collinsworth and Max Redfield.
- Cornerback Cody Riggs, the graduate student transfer from Florida, was far and away the most impressive defensive newcomer, though he stuck to mostly second team reps. Riggs was a pest all day, lining up inches away from receivers during 7-on-7s. Daniels burned him once, but otherwise Riggs’ physicality and aggressiveness looks promising.
- Schmidt nearly had the play of the day, stepping in for what should have been a pick-six off a Golson throw that Schmidt ended up dropping. After practice, he said there were several plays he wanted back — and that was one of them.
- Kelly was high on freshmen defensive tackles Daniel Cage and Pete Mokwuah during his season-opening press conference Friday, and both meet the physical mold of the position. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both of them slim down by the fall. With Tony Springmann’s absence, catching them up to speed is crucial this season.
- Linebacker Jarrett Grace looks to be recovering well from his broken leg. He was limited in drills, but he was moving, jumping and cutting freely whenever he could.