Breaking Down Notre Dame Football’s Opening Practice Highlight Video

Some people say things like “Nothing matters except for what Notre Dame does against Clemson.” And, ok, if that’s your point of view. But, there is an opposing view to that sort of stance, which is “the throw I just saw in this three-minute highlight clip holds the key to what Notre Dame will be in 2021.” Two sides of the same coin, man. And I’ve heard from both of these people.

Which brings us to our upcoming discussion of Notre Dame putting out a three minute clip from their opening spring practice of the 2021 season, and the fact that there is going to be a discussion at all. I could ignore it, yes. But, I’m a blogger. Bloggers don’t ignore content (for the most part) especially content that involves Notre Dame football players doing things on the football field. You give me clips of Xavier Watts catching deep balls from Tyler Buchner? Guess what, words are coming.

But, these are just impressions folks. I’m seeing the same things you are, and I have no idea “what it means”. But there is also room for some prognostication that could either be proven incorrect or be modified with some more evidence. It’s spring after all, where everything we talk about is nonsense, unless it isn’t. So let’s talk about it.

The Quarterbacks

Littered throughout the three-minute video (courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics) are clips of quarterbacks Jack Coan, Drew Pyne, and Tyler Buchner throwing the ball around in various settings: one on one’s, 7 on 7, and team periods. With all the speculation surrounding Buchner and his throwing motion, just seeing him spin it in a practice setting was pretty informative. And on a couple of occasions, the result was more than acceptable.

It’s easy to see why there are questions about his throwing motion, or why he’d want to tinker with it some. It’s not quite over the top, and it’s not quite sidearm, it’s basically a 3/4 shot. Which is probably fine, but it’s not hard to imagine the elbow dips too much and causes some problems. He probably wants to get of that. It’s a tight little motion though, there is no long wind up with a bunch of moving parts, so I don’t see it being a long term problem.

As for Coan, I love the way the ball comes out of his hands. His motion looks real tight, compact, and the ball is spinning nice.

My overall feeling when watching him throw is “that’ll work.” Especially when he is basically set at the floor for who will be playing quarterback for Notre Dame next season. He’s the bar that has to be reached for either Pyne or Buchner to play over him, which would take a, frankly, beyond very good performance from either of them. That’s very likely what the staff had in mind when they decided to bring Coan in and it makes a lot of sense.

Houston Griffith Made A Nice Play

A lot of questions about the second safety spot next to Kyle Hamilton in the back end, and naturally most people want Griffith to seize the position, for a couple of reasons. First, he came in highly rated and we always root for highly rated players to work out. And second, he’s played some, and the people who have gotten the chance to see him in practice over the years have come away encouraged.

Featured in one of the clips is Coan trying to fit a pass to Michael Mayer at the numbers over the corner and before the safety Griffith arrives. We can see Griffith in the foreground on the hash and moving towards the middle fo the field; Coan is clearly trying to look him off. Coan eventually turns and fires towards Mayer, he has beaten the safety, but Griffith makes it back in plenty of time, goes up one handed and breaks up the pass with no sweat.

First, yes he should go up with two hands. The point is, it’s his play to make and he made it and it went exactly how it should. The first part of being a reliable player is making the plays that are there to be made. And when you’re covering a half, that means the entire half, so when the quarterback looks you to the middle and flings one to the best player on offense, you have to be there, and Griffith was. Maybe he wasn’t on other plays, but he was on that one, and it’s very nice to see.

Bits And Pieces

  • Thinking about what Notre Dame’s offensive weapons can be is pretty tantalizing. We saw Jordan Johnson, Xavier Watts, Avery Davis, and Michael Mayer pretty heavily featured there, with Watts getting deep twice from Buchner. Those four players bring size, explosiveness, and versatility. Then factor in Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. Then consider the possibilities of Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin. Any combination of those players offers a number of threats for the defense at once in multiple ways. There is a lot of growth for most of the wideouts at this point, but the materials are there, at least in theory.
  • There are a couple of clips of Vyper end Jordan Botelho getting around the edge in team periods which would have likely led to sacks. We saw Isaiah Foskey and his stature in a drill at one point. If those two players have big seasons, this defense has the potential to be a real problem for offenses. The upside is tremendous.
  • The offensive line as a unit almost isn’t really worth discussing until the fall since Jarrett Patterson is going to be a non-participant and he is certainly going to start somewhere. The focus will be on individual performances and those players getting ready to compete in game action. All eyes are on Tosh Baker at tackle, the two freshmen guards, Andrew Kristofic at guard, and Quinn Carroll at guard. Will be a storyline all spring.

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