Fall Camp Report: A Glimpse at Our Worst Fear

Notre Dame wrapped up its 8th practice of fall camp on Saturday and the 3rd already open to the media. This upcoming Wednesday will be the final practice open the media which means we will have 2 weeks with minimal news from camp before kickoff against Michigan. As luck would have it we’ve finally received some controversy bound to peak the attention of fans all over the country.

Quarterback

Remember how I mentioned prior to camp that due to virtually every quarterback looking solid at worst and excellent at best during practice we wouldn’t have much to talk about until games begin? I may have been incorrect. On Saturday, the inaccuracy of Brandon Wimbush reared its ugly head once again.

Opening up the practice with drill work, Wimbush struggled mightily. Veteran beat reporter Tim O’Malley said ($) “no quarterback has struggled more in the 10 years I’ve watched practice than did Brandon Wimbush today.”

Wimbush did settle down later in the practice. The problem is that both Book and Jurkovec were extremely sharp during drill work and still better than Wimbush throughout the rest of practice and team work.

Wimbush wyd.

Is it fair to overreact to one portion of one practice? Given Wimbush’s noted struggled with easy throws, it’s a major concern. This sets up a really important practice on Wednesday to see if he can put this behind him. After Saturday’s practice, Kelly admitted that Wimbush is (still) in his own head on these ‘short’ throws. Not good.

Running Back

Tony Jones remains entrenched as the top tailback, although he’s curiously talked about less than anyone else among the starters on offense. That’s quite the change from a year ago during camp.

Assuming a Dexter suspension, it appears Jafar Armstrong and Avery Davis have opened up a significant lead over the freshmen running backs. Kelly even went so far as to compare Armstrong to Theo Riddick in physicality up the middle combined with receiving skills. Surely, Armstrong is nowhere near as shifty as Riddick but he’ll take that comparison, I’m sure.

Note, freshman Jahmir Smith was on the sideline again with an injury.

Wide Receiver

The rope here seems to be shortening as the aforementioned Armstrong and Davis are eating up a lot of snaps as hybrid running back and receivers. Be that as it may, Saturday was the official fall camp breakout for true freshman Kevin Austin who was back in the two-deep for the second straight media viewing, really made waves, and even found some playing time with the first-team.

Will a breakout ever happen for Javon McKinley? That seems less likely now with another viewing of him on the 3rd team and not much excitement through camp so far. For me, I think we’re going to see the wideouts limited during the season to 5 guys only: Claypool, Boykin, Young, Finke, and Austin. There are too many tight ends to use and too many running backs willing to catch the ball that I don’t see anyone else receiving more than 20-30 snaps on the season.

Tight End

Speaking of tight end, it’s clear mixing it up has been the name of the game during camp. All of Mack, Weishar, Kmet, and Wright have been weaving in and out of the two-deep together.

There were some good things said about freshman Tommy Tremble on Saturday–he was one of my surprises for camp. As you’d expect, he’s a long way from actual playing time although he may have already passed fellow freshman George Takacs (probably coming back a bit slowly from spring surgery) at this position.

Offensive Line

With our last update we learned Aaron Banks had an elbow injury that preemptively dropped him down the depth chart. On Saturday, starting right tackle Robert Hainsey was dealing with a calf injury and did not participate.

How did they shuffle the line?

Well, Tommy Kraemer moved from right guard to right tackle and Trevor Ruhland slid over from backup center to right guard. This allows me a few points:

1) Kelly was clear during his post-practice presser that Kraemer is the 3rd tackle. So that’s an easy one to understand.

2) He also said that Banks and freshman Jarrett Patterson were next in line at tackle, that’s pretty interesting for the latter player while being so young–even if he’s actually super far away from ever playing in 2018.

3) Despite being nearly 6’7″ I find it interesting that Josh Lugg isn’t more of an option at tackle and didn’t get to move up to starting right guard (he’s been the backup all camp) with Kraemer sliding over to cover the injured Hainsey. They really seem to be grooming him to take over at guard, possibly for Alex Bars.

Defensive Line

This unit is coming into focus with little drama. Julian Okwara was once again the starter at weak-side end, although it remains to be seen if this is just a rotational thing with Daelin Hayes or something more. As expected, depth for the ends could use some work. We’ve heard a couple good things about Ogundeji yet beyond that not much.

Five bodies are solidifying the interior with Tillery, Bonner, Tagovailoa-Amosa, Hinish, with freshman Jayson Ademilola mixing in with the second unit. This is likely who we’re rolling with, although freshman Jamion Franklin turned some heads on Saturday with his quickness off the ball, as he’s wont to do.

Linebacker

Jeremiah Owuso-Koramoah was out again on Saturday dealing with a hamstring strain. Kelly mentioned afterward that he’s close to returning but he’s so explosive that they don’t want to risk anything. This is one of the more underrated issues with the defense so far. JOK was a possible emerging difference-maker and while missing some time during camp it’s set him back a little bit.

As a result, it appears Asmar Bilal has all but wrapped up the starting Rover spot. Kelly said that freshman Shayne Simon (they’ve been giving him reps with the 2nd and 3rd-teams at times) is still so behind in experience which makes complete sense.

Secondary

Both Julian Love and Troy Pride received glowing reviews from this last practice. We still have Shaun Crawford and Donte Vaughn working at the corner backup spots. Kelly reiterated that when opponents spread things out they will be taking off the Rover and using Crawford and Nick Coleman at nickel.

The Coleman love fest continued on Saturday as he was working as a starter at safety opposite of Alohi Gilman (same as Thursday’s viewing) while Kelly mentioned afterward the senior is having the best camp. The best!

Special Teams

You know the season is creeping closer when we start talking about the return game.

Judging by Kelly’s comments, Chris Finke won’t be relinquishing his punt return duties although Gilman and Michael Young were auditioning during practice. Color me surprised at Gilman being in the mix there.

The kick return game–where C.J. Sanders leaves behind 3 years of starting–is much more of a question mark. In the mix so far are Davis, Coleman, Crawford, and Young. Since he eventually became the backup returner last year I suppose Young is the most likely candidate right now, plus he seems like the best fit for longer speed. I’m curious to see if any of the freshmen receivers get involved.

By |2018-08-11T23:32:30+00:00August 11th, 2018|Football|59 Comments

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Orlok
Orlok

Is the Wimbush accuracy issue still from mechanics, or something less visible?

KLM2
KLM2

Whatever it is he better fix it because Book showed he is more than capable. In defense of Wimbush it was reported that he had a great practice the day before. Hopefully this doesn’t happen again.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Wimbush – 6.8 YPA, 2.2% INT Rate
Book – 6.1 YPA, 5.3% INT Rate

Book was not a good passer. Wimbush was not a good passer. But at least Wimbush can run. I don’t get why people are impressed with Book. There’s a 0% chance Book takes this team to the playoffs. I’d rather take the higher reward guy (Wimbush), even if he has a “lower floor” (although I’d argue that his floor is higher than Books, I know plenty of people disagree).

If it’s not going to be Wimbush, just turnover the reigns to Jurkovec and get started with the next guy that actually gives us a chance to be a playoff contender. Book is an ok backup. But he’s not a full time starter for a playoff contender.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

I totally agree. I don’t get all of the BK is terrible with quarterbacks either. I think he’s very demanding, but all of these kids want to play in the NFL. I’m sure NFL coaches are demanding of every player.

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

But what about efficiency like we measure for running backs. I feel like Wimbush is more likely to get in a funk and miss a few throws in a row and stall a drive, or at least he was last year.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

I think that would be likely to happen. He has more ability to score than Book in my opinion though. All of this is dependent on BW not going into a game long funk though. If he goes into one of those kind of funks, then bench him and put Book in.

I just see Wimbush as the guy that gives the team the best chance to win the most games. I agree, he also has gives them the chance to lose the most games too.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Right here is where I stand. I feel confident that Book as a starter would have a 0% chance of a below .500 season. I also feel confident he’d give you a 0% chance of 10 wins. If we were coming off a 4-8 season with a garbage defense, I might even be on board the Book train. But if we’re going for it all, gotta throw caution to the wind and go with the QB who might take you to the playoffs (or might complete 40% of his passes).

Publius2010
Publius2010

If Book is the starter, we’re an 8-4 team. He’s a rich man’s Tommy Rees, so of course I’m just waiting for him to become the new QB 1 during the second half of a loss to Michigan.

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

So is the implication that we’re possibly better than 8-4 with Wimbush at the helm?

KG
KG

To be fair, T-Rizzle went 4-0 as a starter in 2010, 8-4 in 2011 (Crist started the opener), and 9-3 in 2013. So if Book is a rich man’s Tommy Rees, I’d hope for a little more.

KG
KG

Sorry, didn’t count the bowl game in 2013, but did in the others, so 9-4 that year.

Publius2010
Publius2010

And Book is more likely to string together some completions followed by a horrendous interception

KLM2
KLM2

I wouldn’t say I am impressed by Book but more along the line of he can come in and win a game for you or maybe even two. Like you I am completely on board with Wimbush. He is such a dynamic athlete that you have to worry about him on every play. What I really hope is that we run a ton of hurry up this year. Wimbush looked like a completely different player running that.

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

I just can’t help but notice that another promising quarterback has regressed from high school and turned into a total head case while under BK’s tutelage. Good luck, Jurkovec…

KG
KG

>After Saturday’s practice, Kelly admitted that Wimbush is (still) in his own head on these ‘short’ throws. Not good.

Welp.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

“Is it fair to overreact to one portion of one practice?”

… and most of last season? The next time he shows he is anything resembling an average P5 passer will be a second time (counting the MSU game as a first and not a fluke). There’s plenty of legitimate focus on how much of a liability he was for November and the bowl game, but even in games where he was overall quite good and instrumental in helping us win, his passing was mostly bad and sometimes terrible – e.g., he was a profoundly awful passer in the BC game, notwithstanding 200+ yards rushing and 4 scores.

The coaches have done a good job getting out the message that he’s a clear starter and things are looking up, which has conditioned us to think this time it may be different. But it could be that message is out there to build Wimbush’s confidence, given that (as is discussed above) him making significant strides is the only significant chance the 2018 ND team has of making the playoff. Going to Book is basically punting on the season and hoping for 10-2.

What to do about it? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . I suspect we’ll have a pretty good idea by halftime of the opener.

Scarponi
Scarponi

Put all the speed receivers on the field and send everyone on go routes?

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

In all seriousness, it does seem like Wimbush would be best-suited to a Briles-era Baylor-type offense where the receivers mostly go deep and there’s a run option underneath.

KG
KG

“this time it may be different”

“I love him and I know he only doinks swing passes because I deserve it. It’s all my fault. If I were a better fan, he’d hit the running back in the flat, maybe even complete a curl route for a first down. But things have been better lately, I’ve been doing my best and I think he’s really changing! Sure, he threw the ball at the TEs feet three times in a row, but at least he saw the TE was open! If I just love him a little bit more, I can change him, I know it!”

Publius2010
Publius2010

Oh look, another Brian Kelly quarterback is a total head case

Michael Bryan

I would very much like the Michigan game plan to focused on a lot of running (including Wimbush, jet sweeps, creativity) with some sprinkled “safe” passes downfield. Bring back the Tommy Rees over MSU ’13 highlights, I want a ton of deep sideline passes to our big WR’s that worst case are incomplete and have a shot at a big gain or PI. Just don’t let the offense lose the game, make Michigan have to work for every point they need.

(this was also my stance before this practice report, for the record)

juicebox
juicebox

Wimbush’s yards/completion in HS was like 17. So it really seems like this is a game plan that could work.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

That sounds smart to me. If the coaching is asking Wimbush to make a lot of screen passes and flares and little passes that he is showing he can not consistently do, that’s on them for putting him in a position of likely failure. Hopefully they’re smart enough to design a gameplan around what his strengths are; downfield throws, and getting to the edge running the ball.

Most the receivers and tight ends are like 6’4+, might as well put it up in the air and see if they can make catches or get a PI call. The old Joe Flacco offense.

MikeyB
MikeyB

The problem is that Michigan is an aggressive, attacking, blitzing defense. Screens are honestly one of the few ways that anyone had success against them last year. We don’t have fast enough receivers to get downfield in the amount of time that Wimbush is likely to have against Michigan. It’s gonna be tough.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

That will be a tough game no matter what, maybe the toughest defense all year but the ND staff has had all year to scheme for it. Surely it’s not asking too much to create a gameplan that can defeat a strong defense but be within the abilities of the most important player, right?

And, that’s only one game. The next few look at lot more manageable and hopefully he can build confidence to go into Week 5 vs Stanford in what should be the second challenging game of the season.

KG
KG

> Surely it’s not asking too much to create a gameplan that can defeat a strong defense but be within the abilities of the most important player, right?

The premise of your question is flawed, given that the “most important player” has demonstrated a complete inability to do the exact thing you need to beat this specific type of strong defense.

Given the height differential between our receivers and their CBs, I see this as a “throw jump balls and come down with the catch of a PI” kind of like our normal gameplan against Sparty.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Which is exactly what I said like 3 comments above! If they load the box and bring pressure, throw quick long routes, should be one on one coverage and an opportunity to move the football.

I also don’t believe Wimbush has demonstrated a “complete inability to beat this specific type of strong defense”. He faired pretty well against an NCST team with a ton of top7 talent. Yes, Adams did too and he’s gone but I don’t believe the premise is flawed. Spread the defense, get a mobile QB into space and the fringes and the edge of the defense and that could do well.

Not saying Wimbush will shred him Michigan, he likely won’t but his weaknesses don’t necessarily mean he’s in an impossible position against a strong defense.

KG
KG

You misquote. ” a complete inability to (do the exact thing you need to) beat this specific type of strong defense.” He can’t throw screens, flares, slants, or other short passes. We’re talking about that, specifically, as the key to beat this type of defense, as per MikeyB’s comment. Wimbush can’t do that. We have to hope he can do these other things, that aren’t necessarily what works against heavy pressure–at least they don’t force the defense to pull back on the pressure. This is like saying “we’re not good enough to time the punch for when King Hippo puts his hand in the air, which is the key to beating him in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. But maybe we can win by just mashing buttons.”

Michigan is a better D, this year and last year, than NC St, and we have 2 less all-world linemen and our best RB.

KG
KG

Missed the edit window, but to sum up my response to your point a different way: You say surely they can come up with a gameplan that Wimbush can execute to beat this defense, in response to a comment that highlights the best way to beat this defense is something Wimbush specifically has demonstrated repeatedly he can’t do. When you take away the textbook thing to do, it’s not exactly easy to come up with a gameplan that’s going to work. Can they? Possibly. Your comment treats it like it should be piece of cake. Sure, 3 or whatever comments before you said something similar to what I said, but you say it like you think it will work. I say it like it’s more of all we have remaining, and maybe we come down with a few. That’s not a gameplan, that’s hope.

It’s like if someone said “the only way to beat Kentucky is to hit 3s from the perimeter against their zone.” Uh, our random team X can’t hit 3s, we’re a crappy shooting team. “Well, okay, then maybe we can come up with another game plan.”

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

i didn’t mean to imply it will be a piece of cake, it won’t be. But it’s also likely to be a defensive battle/ field position type of game that shouldn’t require 400 yards and 40 points to win, but rather ball protection and avoiding critical mistakes (for both teams). Further it’s just one game and I’m more interested in seeing what if any progression that can be made for the entire season.

Also I do believe there’s more than one way to get yards on a solid, aggressive defense. Sure screen passes are one way, but taking vertical shots to tall receivers who are going to be single covered sounds like a good idea in theory to me as well. Hit on a couple of those (and they did seem to try that early in big games last year) and that will tend to back defenses up a little bit.

I do agree by the picture you paint, it’s bleak. Almost to the point where if a QB cant operate the offense and he shouldn’t be back there. I just don’t happen to believe it’s quite that dire, especially in the context of thinking beyond the first game and possibly (probably?) the best defense they’ll see.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

There is a pretty good chance that Wimbush can’t operate the offense and shouldn’t be back there! We’ll know pretty soon one way or the other.

Then again, the last time we went into a season thinking that there was this good of a chance that the QB would be benched early, it was 2012. So, who knows?

KG
KG

I’m not nearly as down on Wimbush as I sound in my other comments–I think he’s a good kid and has the potential to be a good QB, but can’t get out of his own way it seems and just let it go. I just find it more frustrating that every guy we have, it’s the NEXT guy who’s going to light the world on fire, which makes me look forward to Jurkovec’s inevitable benching and transfer to Oregon State.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

“There is a pretty good chance that Wimbush can’t operate the offense and shouldn’t be back there! ”

Pretty bold to say for a guy who threw 16 touchdowns, rushed for 14 more and was the starting QB of a team that put up 34 points/game last season.

He clearly CAN do it, it’s just not as pretty as it could/should be, and he isn’t a perfect QB that struggles at basic tenants, yet still was mighty effective last year. This year presents new struggles with a lesser line and skill players, but it’s not as if the replacements are terrible, most are highly regarded.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Michigan is going to be pretty wild. I actually think our best bet (assuming Wimbush can’t execute the screens in the flat) is for him to scramble, at least early on. When they come with the blitz, if he’s able to get out of the pocket, there’s going to be a ton of room to run. If that happens a few times early on, Michigan might go to a spy situation, would greatly reduce their ability to disrupt.

Some QB draws early, even though I’d actually like to see Wimbush take a few fewer hits this year, could pay off big time by the end of the game.

Scarponi
Scarponi

I know everyone’s worried about Wimbush’s passing, and rightly so, but do we have any indication of whether he’s learned when to keep on the read option yet?

KG
KG

When he’s told as the play goes into the huddle, just like last year?

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

A bit off topic, but probably interesting to many…

Josh Adams seems to be having a great camp so far after missing many spring workouts with the Eagles. Many people are starting to think that he might be the fourth RB. Obviously plenty of time for things to go up or down before the end of camp, but he had a solid first pre-season game. The Birds will almost certainly lose two RBs after this year, so I think he has a really good shot of at least making the practice squad. He’s from Philly originally, and ND is huge around here, so the entire fanbase seems to be pulling for him.

Orlok
Orlok

That is awesome!
My dad – a perpetual pessimist in football – told me ESB looked good for Green Bay. Anyone else have draftee news?

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

From practice yesterday, via The Athletic

“Adams has been performing well recently, but on one play, he caught a pass in the flat, made his way toward the end zone and pulled up before limping off and leaving practice. It looked like it could have been a hamstring, although that was not confirmed by the team”

Can’t make the club from the tub and while it seems he’s played pretty well when he’s played, he’s been limited by some injuries Hopefully the latest is nothing serious..

KG
KG

Story of Adams’s career. I hope he’s okay and continues to impress. He was able to play through a lot of injury at ND, I hope it isn’t catching up with him.