Spring practice for any program is the bridge that carries it from the previous season to the next, and as with any new transition, there comes new hope. The Irish are trying to build off the positive foundation that was laid during their Music City Bowl victory over LSU. On the other hand, there are also a lot of negatives that this Notre Dame program needs to correct and overcome from the last half of the 2014 season in order to spring forward.
Many of those issues come on the offensive side of the ball including an inconsistent rushing game, a volatile passing attack, and excessive turnovers. With that said, there are three players I wanted to look at that have a lot to prove during spring practice, and ultimately the annual spring game.
For a young man who was such a highly coveted recruit by multiple power programs, Bryant has struggled to even see the field during his time at Notre Dame. Constantly sitting third on the depth chart the last year behind teammates Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston, Bryant only carried the ball 54 times for a total of 289 yards, in 2014. What does Bryant need to do differently in 2015 and start doing it during spring ball? Take a cue from his teammate, and starting running back.
Tarean Folston is aggressive and attacks the defense both up the middle and on the edges. Folston allows natural instinct to take over, and fully trusts those same instincts. Bryant is seemingly timid and indecisive, and struggles to let his natural ability take over. In order for him to gain the trust of his coaching staff and teammates, that is exactly what he will need to do. During the 2014 season Bryant did show flashes of what he is capable of while on the field, rushing for 71 yards against Rice, and 79 yards with a touchdown against USC, but he will need to show more than flashes if he expects to see more playing time in the upcoming season.
The story of Corey Robinson is a bit different than that of Greg Bryant. Coach Kelly actually wants to involve the son of the Admiral much more, but needs to see more consistency of Corey in order to do that. The hand injury that Corey dealt with last year obviously hampered his ability to contribute on the field, and hopefully there are no lingering effects from that injury during spring practice. There is no denying that Robinson has the talent to be a legitimate threat to every single opposing defense the Irish will face in 2015, but he has to learn how to hold onto the ball more consistently.
As deep as the Notre Dame quarterback position for the upcoming year, the receiving corps may be just as deep, if not deeper. Fighting for opportunities in 2015 will be a real battle, and Corey needs to be ready to do just that. He has the size to be a red zone threat every single time, and can be equally as dangerous on short yardage plays with his ability to go up and out jump the opposing defenders. With a combination of either Chris Brown, Tori Hunter Jr, Will Fuller, and Justin Brent on the field at the same time, Robinson should rarely see double teams(if ever) which bodes well from the young man from Texas.
One would have to go back a log ways to find a player that has declined in status and favor so quickly as Everett Golson. A young man who helped lead the Irish to a 2012 undefeated season, and eventually a shot at a national title, has now been relegated to fighting for a starting position as a 5th year senior. For many Irish fans it is easy to cast aside Golson, as Notre Dame now has a stable of talented and highly coveted quarterbacks, but that would be a mistake. Everett Golson is a talented individual that brings experience, leadership, and ability to the table.
During the 2014 season Golson showed signs of both maturity and growth during the first six games, but that quickly turned into indecision and confusion. Struggling with turnovers, inability to make proper reads, and at the most basic core, properly lead the Irish offense. The upcoming season is an extremely important one for Everett Golson, and while he has shown the ability to overcome adversity in the past, this could be his toughest test yet. It will be a long road back for the young man out of South Carolina, and nothing is guaranteed for him, especially with the success and poise that Malik Zaire exhibited in the bowl game.
Obviously spring practice success doesn’t necessarily mean success in the upcoming year for any player, but what it can do is help correct some underlying confidence issues, and lay the foundation for a good fall practice. Make no mistake, the three players discussed here are all talented individuals with the ability to contribute in many ways, but the work needs to be done, and the results need to be there. The 2015 Notre Dame squad has a lot potential, and there will be no time to coddle and carry certain players in the quest to reach the college football playoffs.