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Observations from Practice #6: Physicality Ramps Up as Spring Progresses

Written by Connor D'Aquila ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter/X: @ConnorDaquilaIT

Photo by The Irish Tribune


Energy, energy, energy was the theme of today’s practice, and that tone was set right from the beginning, as Notre Dame started with an offense versus defense scrimmage. They were not in full pads, but there was a solid amount of contact and a lot of energy. Coaches were keeping players excited and involved, and the ever-present level of accountability was certainly there. Just four minutes into the scrimmage, Coach Freeman gathered the team in the middle of the field and gave an impassioned speech. The primary message was to push themselves as hard as they could and to bring everything they had. A more traditional practice was underway after that, but the progress from previous days was obvious. This team was playing more physically and beginning to get further into their schemes. Also important to note while going through observations was that Steve Angeli was absent due to illness, meaning Kenny Minchey and CJ Carr got all the reps at quarterback. 





From the outset of warmups, Riley Leonard’s leadership role on the team was obvious. As he weaved through the stretching lines on a scooter, he made sure to fist bump all players and looked to be giving specific attention to his offensive line and wide receivers. As they moved into the scrimmage, we got to see Kenny Minchey get the first reps at quarterback. Jeremiyah Love had a great run and the line got a solid push. Through the air, it was hard not to notice how pretty of a ball Minchey threw, which translated into a quick reception for Cooper Flanagan. Micah Gilbert was also getting a lot of reps and had a target on a post downfield, but Clarence Lewis read it well and got the break-up. Going the other direction, CJ Carr was able to get some action right away completing a quick pass to Cam Williams. Later, CJ would look for Cam again on a deeper go route down the sideline, but Christian Gray came up with an impressive stop and showed a lot of physicality. One other interesting play was a quick screen to transfer Jayden Harrison, who has impressed many so far, and my guess is that Mike Denbrock will look to make his speed a factor with similar plays in season despite being coveted for his return abilities. Generally, the team was playing with a lot of heart, and considering they only had shoulder pads, the physicality was impressive. 


As they separated into more positional drills, it was clear that the emphasis remained on game preparation and scheme installation. Linebackers worked on proper positioning drills with Marcus Freeman, linemen were getting one-on-one work in, while most of the rest worked on live punt returns. Back returning punts were Jaden Greathouse, KK Smith, Jadarian Price, Jaden Mickey, and Jayden Harrison. It was not full contact, so the takeaways were limited, but we should expect some explosiveness out of that group.


For the rest of the time media was allowed access, the positional groups were largely separated and the emphasis was on details. The defensive groups rotated through four stations with different coaches at each one. There was one-on-one tackling, sled work, pass rush training, and positioning work with Al Golden. On the offensive side, the quarterbacks and running backs were together practicing handoffs and pitches. Receivers continued work on routes, and once again, the explosion of Jayden Harrison and Micah Gilbert stood out. 





Eventually, we saw the defensive backs get into some scheme work with Golden and Freeman running the show, as they practiced communication on motion and positioning for linebackers and safeties. For the backers, KVA, Drayk Bowen, Jaylen Sneed, Jaiden Ausberry, and Jack Kiser got the majority of the time. Meanwhile, the running backs transitioned into some pass-blocking work and really showed off the strength and physicality of that group. They were competing hard, but there was definitely some work to do, as the rushers won a majority of the reps. Gi’Bran Payne, however, had a particularly impressive rep against Aneyas Williams, where he completely handled the rush and kept him from getting within six feet of the trash can. The media portion of practice concluded with the wide receivers and quarterbacks running through reps on a variety of simultaneous routes, and once again, the quality of ball the young QBs threw was noticeable.


For the fourth practice, this was a fairly impressive showing from the team. They showed a lot of heart and it was great to see the game-like training increase. There was the occasional blunder, especially from some of the younger players, but that should be expected at this point in the Spring. With a lot of new faces, it will be exciting to see these practices develop over the next few weeks.


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