Notre Dame held it’s only open practice of the 2009 training camp on Saturday. While the UHND crew couldn’t make it out to practice, luckily there is plenty of free video available from the day for me to make a few observations.
- It’s fun to watch Frank Verducci coach. Verducci is loud when he has to be and quiet when he needs to be. He can get on the players when they aren’t trying hard enough but can explain things calmly to them when they aren’t executing properly. He looks to be pretty demanding, but he also hands out quite a bit of praise when its warranted.
- A ll that said, the offensive line looks improved, but still looks to be a work in progress. Considering where the OL was last year it’s almost impossible for it to become dominant over night, but there are some signs of life from them. There is still a lot of work to be done between now and September 5th though.
- Trevor Robinson is going to play on Sundays. He might be Notre Dame’s best offensive lineman in 2009. A full year in the system has really paid off for him and if 2008 starter Dan Wenger is going to take back a starting spot from someone, it certainly won’t be Robinson.
- Notre Dame is loaded at wide receiver. With Kamara out right now I would rank Shaquelle Evans and Deion Walker as Notre Dame’s best reserve receivers. Evans was very, very impressive yesterday and will almost certainly be in the mix for playing time in 2009. Walker looks like he is really picking up the offense well and mix have the best size/speed combo on the team.
- The two biggest surprises to me were Roby Toma and Nick Tausch. Toma showed really nice quickness in the one on one DB drills beating both Raeshon McNeil and Sergio Brown at times. With the depth and talent Notre Dame has at receiver, don’t look for Toma to make much of an impact on offense this year, but look out for him down the road. Tausch was a perfect 4 for 4 on field attempts, including a 39 yarder at the end of practice which kept the team from doing some running. Tausch looks like he could give Walker a real run for his money this fall.
- Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick were both very impressive. With Armando Allen and Jonas Gray out of practice Saturday, both Wood and Riddick saw a lot of action. Wood might have stolen the show from the other runnings. He flashed some great vision and ran with more power than I expected him to have at this point. Riddick also showed an ability to make something out of nothing and cut very well. Both of these freshmen appear to have a lot of potential. It’s going to be hard to keep both of these talented backs off the field this year. If Wood keeps running as he did on Saturday, he will make a strong case for some carries in the fall.
- At quarterback, Clausen is looking as accurate as ever. If the OL holds up for him this year he’s going to put up some very big numbers. Dayne Crist is starting to develop nicely, but won’t seriously challenge Clausen anytime soon. Evan Sharpley looked very good at times and gives Notre Dame an excellent option at the #3 QB spot.
- Manti Te’o was running with the first team defense quite a bit. As most expected, Te’o is going to be playing a lot of football for the Fighting Irish this season.
- Captains were announced. We’ll have more on this later, but Clausen, Eric Olsen, Kyle McCarthy, and Scott Smith will be your 2009 Fighting Irish captains.
- Overall, it’s tough to take anything too seriously out of these open practices because we’re only seeing what the coaches want us to see. That said, it’s easy to spot the players who have talent such as Evans, Wood, and Riddick and Te’o among the freshmen.
If you attended the practice, please feel free to add any observations in the comments below.