The first week of Notre Dame’s fall camp in 2016 is in the books. As the Irish prepare for their second week in camp, we have a position by position update on how the Irish are looking starting with the offensive side of the ball.
The most marquee position battle for Notre Dame this summer and one of the most watched quarterback competitions in the entire country. As of now, neither has separated themselves and a decision does not seem imminent at this point. Here’s what we have heard and seen though:
- Deshone Kizer – Appears to have better command of the offense in terms of making checks at the line and putting Notre Dame’s receivers in the best position to make a play. With a young wide receiving corps that could be a blessing and a curse. Putting them in the best position makes it easier for them to make plays, but at the same time, a lot of checks at the line could complicate things for a young WR corps as well.
- Malik Zaire is a nightmare for the defense in terms of extending plays and making throws on the run. Again, with young WRs this could help them if they struggle to get open but also complicates matters because it forces them to break off routes.
- In limited footage, Kizer’s deep passes a thing of beauty to watch. The ball just sails through the air perfectly and his ball placement has been spot on.
With Notre Dame replacing CJ Prosise there is a competition for the top back between Tarean Folston and Josh Adams. Injuries are the story at RB so far in camp though with three of the four top backs being limited for various reasons so far.
- Josh Adams – Has been sidelined with a hamstring injury and Tarean Folston has been limited as he is eased back into action coming off that ACL.
- Dexter Williams – Was raising eyebrows with his play but he got banged up at the end of last week as well. Kelly originally downplayed the injury as a “boo boo” but he was limited this weekend again.
- Tony Jones Jr – With all of the bumps and bruises, freshman Jones has gotten a lot of reps and been impressive in camp. Kelly gave him credit for good blitz pick ups and his ability to move a pile. With all the depth in front of him, a redshirt season could still be in order for Jones, but he is making plays right now.
- Before anyone gets too concerned with all the bumps and bruises, realize the staff is being cautious right now and none of these backs are considered to have any sort of significant injury.
Everyone knows the story here, Notre Dame is replacing all three wide receivers this fall and lost one potential candidate in Alize Jones to academic ineligibility. The big problem at the position so far in camp has been consistency. Outside of Hunter, the WR corps just don’t have much of it at all right now. Still plenty of time before September 4th but still a lot of work as well.
- Torii Hunter – We haven’t heard much on Hunter and that is a good thing. Hunter is the best wide reciever on the team and will be the go to receiver for whoever wins the QB derby.
- Equanimeous St. Brown – Appears locked in as a starter, but has had problems with drops in camp. Kelly mentioned last week that Brown has been battling a thumb injury which is getting in the way of him catching the football.
- CJ Sanders – Looks like Sanders is starting to separate himself in the race for the slot wide receiver position and right now it might be an upset if he’s not the opening day starter.
- Corey Holmes – While Sanders is separating himself, Holmes has been a bit inconsistent. Still has huge upside and will play this fall, but has struggled catching the football at times.
- Kevin Stepherson – Kelly has said repeatedly that Stepherson will play this year but won’t be forced into a prominent role. He specifically said that they won’t put him in a position where he has to “save the day” but he will play this fall.
- Miles Boykin – Kelly continues to rave about his catch radius and ability to use his body to shield off defenders. Personally, I am having a hard time envisioning a situation in which he is not a primary red-zone target this fall.
- Javon McKinley – Another frosh who has made a few plays. Like many of the wide receivers right now though he has been inconsistent through the first week.
- Chase Claypool – The freshman from Canada has been making a lot of plays in camp – especially around the goal line.
This position looked really deep and talented heading into camp. Then Jones’s ineligibility was announced and the group suddenly looked not quite as deep and less dynamic. Notre Dame simply doesn’t have another Alize Jones – most D1 programs don’t even have one Jones, let alone two. Still the Irish are surviving.
- Durham Smythe – He’s been steady in camp but isn’t the dynamic pass catcher that Jones could have been and probably a notch below Tyler Eifert. Still, Smythe has been steady and an all around talent.
- Nic Weishar – The junior has had a resurgence in the wake of Jones’s ineligiblity. He is making plays in the passing game while he might not be quite Jones’s caliber athletically, he can make plays in space and has shown a knack for getting open.
Only one position on the line was up for grabs heading into camp even though there will be three new OL starters on opening day. That position – RG – is still very much up for grabs a week into camp.
- Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson – Not much to report on here. Both are more than rock solid and future NFL linemen. The left side of the Irish OL will once again be a brick wall with these two.
- Sam Mustipher – Hasn’t done anything so far to give Tisten Hoge a sniff of the position. Mustipher locked it down in spring and hasn’t let up one bit.
- Alex Bars – Like Mustipher he is just further cementing himself as the RT right now. Bar was described by Kelly two years ago as one of the most impressive freshman OL he had in 25 years. Two years later we’re about to find out.
- Tristen Hoge & Colin McGovern – The two are the remaining contestants for the starting right guard spot. Kelly has said that he isn’t concerned with naming a starter and no time frame has been set for selecting one.
- Hunter Bivin – Was in originally in the competition at RG but Kelly mentioned that they wanted to get him more work at tackle and he’s been working as a reserve LT behind McGlinchey
- Tommy Kraemer – Kelly lauded some praise on Kraemer on Saturday calling him “light years ahead” of any offensive lineman he has had at Notre Dame. Looks like he is out of the mix at RG, but he is still working at both guard and tackle and it’s clear the staff is grooming him for the future.
- Other Frosh OL – Both Liam Eichenberg and Parker Boudreaux have been solid for freshmen so far, but redshirts are likely as has been the case with the majority of freshman OL under Brian Kelly.