The Brian Kelly press conference to open spring practice began on March 1st. On Thursday morning the Irish were back on the field for their 5th practice of spring, the 2nd workout since coming back from break, and the first fully open practice to the media. Following a long wait, the team will now allow 6 more open practices in addition to Thursday as we lead up to the Blue-Gold Game on April 13th.
After this Thursday practice, the team will have another open practice this Saturday late morning (see the full practice schedule below).
Injuries: OL Ruhland, DL Spears, DL Franklin, LB White, LB Kiser, CB Crawford, CB Vaughn
The defense picked up another injury as linebacker Drew White had surgery to repair his AC joint in his shoulder and is said to be out for 4 months. Also mentioned as a non-football injury which is odd. That timeline would bring him back in time for fall camp but you have to think this could keep him out of legitimate competition at linebacker well into the early parts of the season.
Also, we won’t officially list safety Alohi Gilman as he is still coming back from a thigh strain. This has the feel of keeping him out (he’s still participating minimally, for what its worth) to make sure he’s 110% healthy while getting other safeties some work.
One more quick note, following his off-season arrest (legal status TBD) receiver Javon McKinley was back at practice on Thursday but has moved squarely into the dog house and isn’t close to competing at his position.
The most consistent news to come out of practice is that Phil Jurkovec is less accurate than Book and this early in spring it’s even more Book’s job than it was before–think 98.4% to 99.1% lock for Book. Not surprising in the least bit. As usual, there was a little bit of mixed reviews on Jurkovec’s performance and as we know it will take at least a couple very impressive workouts from the redshirt freshman in order for any excitement to build for his future. It’s his first spring after all.
We’re probably going to see two camps emerge regarding Jurkovec. One, that is disappointed he’s nowhere near the level of classmates Trevor Lawrence or JT Daniels. Another camp that is going to preach patience for a young quarterback. Guess what, both can be right!
Little movement at tailback as Jafar Armstrong/Tony Jones remain the top duo and it looked like Thursday was the latter’s turn to be the 1A option with carries. Behind them Jahmir Smith and Kyren Williams are working as C’Bo Flemister is coming back from a patella tendon strain but participating and looking healthier.
As we mentioned in the spring practice preview, these practices will only be about finding the 3rd option behind the two veterans. We may not get that answer until August.
Things are happening. Slowly. The media was able to see Kevin Austin in the mix and among the best performers on offense. I think it’s fair to say he was able to flash his high-end athleticism that separates him from the rest of the wideouts. The depth chart looks like this for now:
X: Young, Lenzy, Robertson
Z: Finke, Keys, Jones
W: Claypool, Austin, Wilkins
Based on the reports, it appears Isaiah Robertson and Micah Jones are the guys quite a ways down the depth chart and not seriously challenging. Everyone remains intrigued with Joe Wilkins as he’s knocking on the door to the periphery of more snaps in practice.
Both Austin Lenzy and Lawrence Keys are looking good so far. Fingers crossed their speed actually helps the 2019 team in the fall.
Maybe the biggest news of the day was Brock Wright shaking off his chains of a primary H-back blocker and developing into a serious pass catching threat. Word out of South Bend is that he’s looking dangerous in the open field which is a welcome sight.
Also, a lot of the same things have been said about Tommy Tremble. He was my Pleasant Surprise for Spring over a month ago who I think will make an impact in the fall.
Aaron Banks is still nursing a sore foot and isn’t always working with the starters. That looks like a little bit more of a progressed situation similar to Gilman. When Banks isn’t with the first-team it’s allowing Josh Lugg to get work at left guard which could be super important months from now. This offense–with Ruhland still out and apparently not seriously considered to be worthy of starting–really needs someone like Lugg who is entering his 3rd year and can be a quality back up or possible starter when called upon.
The lines looked as follows:
Last spring guys were moving all over the place. I think Jeff Quinn is going to be a lot more conservative this time around knowing what he has in several players. Until we see otherwise, it seems Jarrett Patterson isn’t going to be challenged at center. Most commented the interior of the line was winning more than losing against the defense which is a good sign, I’d say.
Am I allowed to say so far this spring the defensive line has been a bit boring? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We may have to wait a few more practices to witness something new happening up front on defense. The two deep on Thursday:
We’re probably locked completely into this for the entirety of spring. Really, the only thing worth getting exciting about is early enrolled freshman NaNa Osafo-Mensah but it’ll be difficult to break through with this strong of a two-deep at both edge spots.
It appears freshman Jacob Lacey is holding up decently. It could be a long spring for him as he’s coming in immediately as a backup which is a lot to take in for someone his age. I have a feeling he’ll level off in spring and improve a lot more in fall camp.
Clark Lea was pretty adamant during his last interview with the media that they will be trying out a lot of different combinations on the inside at linebacker. Drew White (now lost to injury) even opened up spring working with the starters. At the Mike and Buck spots it appears we’re seeing these combinations now:
Bilal (M), Genmark-Heath (B)
Bauer (M), Bilal (B)
Jones (M), Bilal (B)
Bauer (M), Genmark-Heath (B)
Jones (M), Genmark-Heath (B)
This feels like the right thing to do. I have a hard time seeing Bilal not playing the most and it seems like the staff has not-so-secretly really liked Genmark-Heath for a long time. During our spring preview we mentioned one of these players might have to move to Mike so both can play. That appears to be Bilal, but it might not be the worst thing in the world if Bilal plays both positions while they rotate someone like Bo Bauer in at Mike to get him some much needed seasoning.
Shayne Simon and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah remained locked in at Rover.
With Gilman remaining out of the mix the defensive backs were the same as when we last saw them to open spring. Returning starter Jalen Elliott is paired with Paul Moala at safety while being backed up by D.J. Brown and Derrik Allen. There have been some mildly positive reports about Brown making the transition from corner.
Troy Pride and Houston Griffith are the first-team corners with Tariq Bracy and Avery Davis working with the second-team. I remain curious about Noah Boykin and his development. As much as the staff wants to talk up the converted Davis you would think Boykin can be far more of a presence at corner this spring. It’s something worth watching in the coming practices.
|Friday||3/1||12:00pm Kelly Presser|
|Saturday||3/2||10:00am – 12:20pm||First 45 mins.||Kelly/Players|
|Tuesday||3/5||7:45am – 10:00am|
|Tuesday||3/19||7:45am – 10:00am||Kelly|
|Thursday||3/21||7:45am – 10:00am||Open|
|Saturday||3/23||10:00am – 12:20pm||Open||Kelly/Players|
|Tuesday||3/26||7:45am – 10:00 am||Open|
|Thursday||3/28||7:45am – 10:00am|
|Saturday||3/30||10:00am – 12:20pm||Open||Kelly/Players|
|Tuesday||4/2||7:45am – 10:00am|
|Thursday||4/4||7:45am – 10:00am||Open|
|Saturday||4/6||10:00am – 12:15pm||Open||Kelly/Players|
|Tuesday||4/9||7:45am – 10:00am||Open|
|Thursday||4/11||7:45am – 10:00am||Coordinators|
|Saturday||4/13||Blue-Gold Game – 12:30pm||Kelly/Players|