The Fighting Irish will have 2 more practices this week and allowed the media to watch the final open workout of spring this past weekend. We’ve now seen the team for the last time before Saturday’s upcoming Blue-Gold Game from Notre Dame Stadium which you can watch on NBC Sports from 12:30 to 2:30 PM ET.
With one week to go let’s take a bit of a meander through the roster.
If you were interested in buying Brandon Wimbush stock that price just went up a little bit as the consensus was he had his best practice of spring, and possibly his Irish career over the weekend. Ian Book seems to be doing fine but even with plenty of 1st-team reps everyone is in agreement he’s not performing at the same level as Wimbush.
Avery Davis appears to be a footnote as a quarterback but is making progress in his alternate receiver/running back duties. Late last week offensive coordinator Chip Long praised Davis for his playmaking ability. How will they handle his role in August and September? Is he going to keep playing quarterback too and where does he really fit in with the offense?
A week after proclaiming that it seems Dexter Williams is the No. 1 running back he was once again taking a back seat to Tony Jones in practice. That could be Williams a little nicked up (isn’t he always?) or simply a case of rotating Jones as a co-starter type of player.
Cole Kmet has missed a couple practices (out this weekend) due to his baseball duties while Nic Weishar has been out of spring with an injury. It’ll be interesting to see where Weishar slots in at tight end when he comes back because when Kmet has been at practice he’s been noteworthy. Also, nice to see Brock Wright get some praise from the coaching staff as he’s fully healthy from shoulder surgery.
Michael Young returned to practice after missing some time with a concussion, so that’s nice. This could’ve been a big spring for him but that progress has been slowed and will have to be taken into the summer. Nothing has really changed or been notable elsewhere at receiver, other than Javon McKinley having a nice spring given his past struggles.
They said offensive line would see some shuffling during spring and they weren’t kidding. Our last update saw Robert Hainsey moving back to right tackle (where he played during the 2017 season) with Liam Eichenberg slotting into the first-team at left tackle. Now, they’ve flip-flopped Alex Bars over to left guard and moved Tommy Kraemer over to right guard. Why they didn’t make this move first thing in spring I do not know.
Things seem to fit better now. Josh Lugg (previously competing at left guard and right tackle) is now backing up Eichenberg at left tackle while Aaron Banks moves from left to right tackle. It would seem that Trevor Ruhland would now be battling for a spot at right guard with Kraemer (he’s not replacing Bars or wasting time there one would think) in addition to being the nominal backup center but he’s still out with a pectoral injury–although close to a return.
More news from the back end of the defense where Jordan Genmark Heath has moved (some questions whether this is full-time but probably) to Buck linebacker. Genmark Heath was pretty impressive with his physicality and tackling in the bowl game but at just over 6’0″ and 211 pounds he’s frighteningly small for a middle linebacker. Diaco wouldn’t even like that size at safety back in the day!
The move brings 3 things to mind. One, they’re clearing the deck at safety. If they don’t think you have a chance of really starting (or being better than Houston Griffith or Derrick Allen) they’re looking elsewhere. Two, JGH is now the second safety to move to linebacker which means the team is likely losing someone at linebacker. Fourteen bodies for a position that only sees 2.5 full-time starters isn’t good math. Three, Kelly mentioned they want Bilal to focus more on Rover instead of cross-training at Buck.
As mentioned last week, Gilman and Elliott have (almost) cemented themselves as the starters versus Michigan with Griffith and Studstill in tow. Nick Coleman has often been running with the safeties (he was the starter at free safety although from some reports it appears he may be on the other side now) and is focusing more as a nickel corner. Kelly praised Griffith pretty handily on Saturday and put to bed any doubt that he’d be a special teams-only type of freshman. He’s heavily in the mix and impressing.
Drew White wasn’t participating in practice and this isn’t the first time during spring. Given that I haven’t read what injury he’s dealing with–and it seems no one cares to ask about it–this has the smell of a transfer or medical scholarship. White would seem like the most obvious loss at linebacker if my suspicions above are correct.
Not much going on at either defensive line or corner where there are plenty of experienced players. Jonathan Bonner continues to sit-out live team reps which is giving a lot more playing time to Kurt Hinish and Micah Dew-Treadway–the former being praised by Kelly after practice. Just based off the depth chart as it looks today I would imagine there will be some opportunity at 3 different positions for the incoming highly touted freshman Jayson Ademilola.