Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts (After Practice) on a Thursday

August 9, 2018
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I love fall camp. I love it a lot more now than when I had to go through it as a player and a coach. (Believe it or not, it’s just as grueling to go through as a coach.) I love it for a lot of reasons, but the top one is because it means games aren’t that far away.

Right below that is the competition. I love the internal competition. The fight for starting spots. The fight to be in on third down packages on offense or defense. Heck, even the fight to be a gunner on special teams. Fall camp is all about competition and that’s why it’s the next best thing to Saturdays from September to December.

Nick Coleman is not someone I expected to be writing about today, but here we are. I assume a lot of media that covers Notre Dame are talking or writing about Coleman today because he surprised everyone.

A week ago he was on the outside looking in at the safety position after starting every game last season. Today he was back with the ones and making an impact. He probably wouldn’t be if not for competition.

With the emergence of Alohi Gilman and Houston Griffith and the improvement from Jalen Elliott and Devin Studstill, Coleman could either step up his level of play or get left behind.

He chose the former.

The competition made him better and it’s going to make the others competing against him better too. When a team has depth and options at a position that it didn’t have before, this is what can happen because of it. It can create urgency for a player like Coleman and him stepping forward forces others to raise their play as well.

Someone like him going from afterthought to pleasant surprise is what camp is supposed to be about. Hopefully he continues trending the way he is and the other safeties follow.

2. I saw some people were concerned with Brian Kelly giving the team a day off yesterday, which is mind boggling to me. Maybe it’s something that some do not know about, but this kind of thing happens every year. They just didn’t put it on social media before.

Players have been celebrating off days since the dawn of football. Camp is a grind. The season is too. A day off is a good thing whether it was already planned, a reward for hard work, or a strategic decision based on what was going on.

We came to practice today and saw Michael Young, Jahmir Smith, Drew White, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Aaron Banks all banged up to some extent. We also saw the Irish not tackle each other today. They didn’t even go “thud” by wrapping and not taking to the ground. That suggests to me that the team might have been a bit beat up after some intense days leading up before the day off.

The day off was likely necessary and even if it wasn’t, it’s the job of Brian Kelly to know when to push harder and when to back off. If he felt he needed to back off a bit before revving things back up again, then I have no issue with that.

3. Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool were both named practice players of the day on offense this past week. My guess is that neither will receiver the honor after today. It was up and down for both of them.

When those guys have a so-so day, chances are that it’s not going to be a great day for the receivers as a whole. I was encouraged by Avery Davis, Lawrence Keys, and some flashes from Joe Wilkins Jr. and Kevin Austin, though. I really liked the way Wilkins fought for the ball in some contested situations.

Boykin and Claypool are the two most unique talents at wide receiver. There aren’t many programs that have two that big and that fast on their roster. I think one average day isn’t a reason to overreact and think they won’t have great seasons, but the best part about today is that Keys and Davis especially were able to show they can make plays too.

So if Boykin and Claypool aren’t on and Young is not available, the Irish have other alternatives in the passing game. And that’s not even including the tight ends.

4. Phil Jurkovec didn’t take any snaps in team today (that we saw, we were not there for the final four periods). My guess is that that decision has more to do with the competition between Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book being closer than some assumed than what Jurkovec has done.

The reps were fairly even with Book and Wimbush today. I wasn’t watching the two as closely because we had Bill Regan there specifically to watch the quarterbacks, but I thought both guys were put in a position where they wanted them to stick in the pocket and made reads rather than take off and run.

I didn’t think either of them were quick enough in their decision making, but for the most part the ball placement from both was solid. Based on first glance, I would have given Wimbush an edge with that. (I’m sure that’s surprising to some)

5. I did find it interesting that the defense didn’t bring additional pressure today. They could have made that choice because they don’t want to show much in front of the media. Or maybe they wanted to work on specific things in coverage without blitzing. Or maybe it was something Kelly asked for because the offense wanted a certain look. I’m not really sure why.

It’s going to be interesting to see how much they pressure on Saturday at the next open practice or on media day next week. I know they are going to have bring a lot of pressure for the offense in preparation for Don Brown’s Michigan defense, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of regular development during camp. I also know that Notre Dame has these open practices and Michigan has none that the media can attend. There may be a bit of cat and mouse involved with that too.

Selfishly I’d love to see the defense blitz quite a bit when we are there not only to see how the offense handles it, but to see players like Jordan Genmark Heath, Alohi Gilman, and Shayne Simon get some opportunities to create negative plays because of it.

I’m a defense guy and I like to see the defense shine. I want to see more splash plays and more pressure can lead to more splash plays by the defense.

6. Kelly had praise for true freshman Jarrett Patterson comparing him to a freshman who was too good to keep out of the lineup last year.

“Jarrett has been really good. In some instances, he’s doing things Hainsey did last year where you feel like he’s not far. He’s done a nice job for us.”

From my "Film Don’t Lie" on Patterson when he committed in February:

“I think he’s a very similar prospect to Robert Hainsey, who also could end up playing different spots on the line before his Notre Dame career is over. I wouldn’t expect Patterson to see the field as early as Hainsey did. He’ll likely have to redshirt, but after that he could very well be on his way to being someone who sees the field in 2019 before eventually becoming a starting player where they feel the line needs him the most.”

The Hainsey comparison seems to be on point, but maybe I’m wrong about 2019. He might see the field this season if he keeps ascending.

I think that third tackle spot is still open as of now. Patterson may be the one who grabs it.

 
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