Notre Dame Football Fall Camp 2018: What To Watch For on Offense

Dexter Williams - Notre Dame RB

The Notre Dame football team will begin their quest later this week to earn a playoff berth and chance at a title. Fall camp will open at the Culver Academy, and there will be reports upon reports about how the team is doing, interviews, and speculation. It’s truly a great time of year. Football is (almost) back!

Here are the most interesting battles, scenarios, and big picture items position by position. It can be hard to digest all of the content coming out of fall camp, see this as a guide to navigate your way through.

Quarterback

What Percentage Of Reps Is Phil Jurkovec Receiving?

According to reports from summer practices, Jurkovec has been more than impressive, with a source telling The Athletic’s Pete Sampson that “the Jurkovec thing is happening”. Meaning he will be what everyone thinks he can be.

[Related: How many games will Phil Jurkovec play in for Notre Dame in 2018?]

But, in the world of quarterbacks, reps in practice are the only thing that matters, and if he is getting a paltry share of them, then, barring injury, he won’t be a factor for Notre Dame in games over at least the first month.

There is reason to believe he won’t be receiving those reps as well. Notre Dame has to get Wimbush ready, he is the top priority, and Book is someone they see as an emergency option to be inserted in the event of an injury or poor play to the starter. While he’s been in the program and may not “need” the reps as much as Jurkovec, he’s far from a finished product. It does the team a disservice if he isn’t sharp and ready to go.

However, if you see Jurkovec at least splitting reps with Book, it’s in play for him to win the backup spot. And winning the backup spot could mean the Jurkovec era is just around the corner.

Running Back

Is Dexter Williams Getting First Team Reps?

There has been a lot of speculation around the status of Williams since a rumor surfaced he would be suspended for the first four games. We can be pretty sure Brian Kelly won’t ever confirm this.  He didn’t with Kevin Stepherson last season.  We’ll know how much validity the rumors have based on which teams he is running with.

[Related: Meet Notre Dame Football’s new starters for 2018]

If he’s taking handoffs early from Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book, his availability for Michigan could be a little more rosy than previous considered. If he’s mainly working with Jurkovec, then for all intents and purposes he will be out and unavailable for the opener.

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Without having to get too much into it, this would be a very bad thing. Not a death knell by any means, but it makes the task much harder.

Wide Receiver

What Is The Chemistry Between Chase Claypool And Miles Boykin With Brandon Wimbush?

There are a lot of fun angles at receiver: Are the freshman getting reps, what are the different lineup combinations, etc. But, the most important storyline is whether or not the top two targets in the receiving corps are meshing with the starting quarterback.

[Related: Notre Dame has the depth to replace Equanimeous St. Brown in 2018]

Unfortunately, this is not a given. Wimbush didn’t have particularly good feel for any receiver last season, although he was most efficient throwing to Claypool and Boykin in 2017. Wimbush is looking to take the next step in his passing performance and how he ended the season, his ability to develop an on-field rapport with his top cohorts is the key.

Tight End

Are Cole Kmet and Alize Mack dominant? 

The potential for a huge advantage at tight end in 2018 is exciting. Chip Long loves to feature his tight ends, Kmet and Mack are two highly rated players, and it can kelp mitigate the losses at offensive line.

Mack is entering his senior season, and this is his last chance to become what he was billed to be, which is the next installment of great Notre Dame tight ends, while Kmet is seen as one of the rising stars on the Irish offense. No one would be surprised if Kmet was a breakout star this season. But, potential is often dangerous and points aren’t scored based off of what could be. Given how much field time these two are likely to see within Long’s preferred two tight end sets, they are one of the biggest keys to success on the entire team.

Offensive Line

Is The Starting Lineup Really Set In Stone?

Following 2013, Notre Dame lost left tackle Zach Martin and left guard Chris Watt to the NFL draft, and it took the Irish four games to figure out the lineup they wanted to compete with on a game to game basis, with numerous alignment shifts after an inconsistent start.

A similar dynamic could play out this season, with a number of players capable of playing in various spots, and the uncertainty of what they have in players such as Liam Eichenberg at left tackle and Tommy Kraemer at right guard, the latter of which played mainly tackle in his first season as a starter.

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They ended the spring with a line of Eichenberg, Bars, Mustipher, Kraemer, and Hainsey, but if they start tinkering with the starting lineup, that could be a signal of unease with their starting lineup, with little margin for error in week one against Michigan’s vaunted front seven. Notre Dame and their new offensive line coach Jeff Quinn can’t afford to miss with their lineup combination at the outset and will not be allowed to ease in a new group. They will face their toughest test in the opener.

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4 comments

  1. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 months ago

    The common wisdom in both camps seems to be that the defense (definitely the stronger unit on both teams) will win the game…overpowering the other team’s offense. But it may actually turn out that the team with an offense that moves the ball out of bad field position when it starts pinned deep, and the offense that can take advantage of turnovers and field position when generated by their defense, will win the game, especially if the other “O” continually is bogged down or thwarted.
    If both “O’s” do these things, it will be a wild game, possibly with bursts of scoring throughout. If neither can do these things, it will be a low scoring, tedious game, most likely decided by field goals or a muffed punt, or something like that.

    One thing seems clear to me…ND has an edge in two areas: (1) Field goals…especially in a wind, and (2) Red Zone efficiency…we are stellar near the goal line. Our problem, of course, has been bogging down 85 yards away from the goal line…as in the Miami game, or at times against Georgia…definitely the two best defenses we faced last year. Let’s make sure we do not give the Blue offense that kind of help on September 1…make them beat us by going 80 yards against our “D”…not 40 yards the way Miami did it. Of course, Michigan is probably thinking the same thing in reverse! Interesting game! See you there.

    BGC ’77 ’82

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  2. southside 3 months ago

    Irish have to be prepared/ready to face Michigan. This game should have the mind set of a play-off game. Coaches should use next 30 days to go “Rockne” on this 2018 squad. No time for pussy-footi’n around–it’s time for boys to become men. Wimbush/Book/Jurkovec–all three should be practicing double time at Culver Academy in preparation against a Michigan Defense rated one of best in college football. Kelly and his staff surely realize the importance of this game if Irish are to make serious run for a playoff selection. It’s starts now –fall practice. My God , the O- Line is huge–but new as unit. They average 6’6″ 300 lbs anchoring potential All-American Sam Mustipher 6’2′ 300lbs. And what college team has a better duo than Alize Mack / Cole Kmet at tight end ? The RB’s are talented–Jafar Armstrong might the surprise here. The potential of the receiver corp is looking good–Boykin , Chasepool , Young as main targets–with some added help of Finke , Armstrong , and possibly some freshmen. If QB Wimbush and this offense click –are in sync—I think Michigan D is in trouble even with their All-Americans. Go Irish.

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  3. Greg Kelly 3 months ago

    Competition is very good for everyone. Makes the whole team work harder to get to the top. A lot of talk about Dexter, is he in or out. Yes, He is extremely flashy, exciting. If we can get Him consistently in the rotation I’ll feel a lot better. I see Tony Jones Jr. as the next Jerome “ Bus” Bettis.
    BGC, agree July is boring only Tour de France, Open, bonus , World Cup. Let’s get ready for some American FOOTBALL.

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  4. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 months ago

    Greg,
    Your article made two great observations…(1) “who gets the reps” is what really matters…I could not agree more…and I hope the coaching staff has a better understanding of the value of IAN BOOK than some of the people who post on this site
    AND (2) thank the LORD God Almighty that July, the longest and dullest month of the year, is finally OVER and August is here! I’m looking forward to reports from you and Frank, and others, on all the insights you can gather about the practices.

    BGC ’77 ’82

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