Notre Dame did a fun thing on Sunday, August 20th with their football team. You might have heard, the University has revamped their football stadium, and yesterday they welcomed the public inside to watch a 1 hour scrimmage. Open practices at Notre Dame are hard to come by, so when they are offered and it features a full 60 minutes of 11 on 11 action, that’s cause for celebration.
In such circumstances, the reports of the goings on inside the stadium gates are plentiful and it gives people like me lots of information to disseminate to our audience. Let’s talk about what happened.
Brandon Wimbush Looked In Command
It was mostly a passing day for the offense for reasons I could make up and would make sense, but don’t really know. Sometimes scrimmages are run heavy, sometimes they are pass heavy. This was the latter. For his part, Wimbush looked like a guy who was ready to excel as the Notre Dame quarterback. He was 14-18 for 168 yards, and displayed several impressive throws including a rolling right, on the run laser beam to Equanimeous St. Brown on 4th down.
He was poised, he was comfortable, and he was dynamic. And remember, there is no threat of the run from him the defense has to be concerned with, which is a major part of his game. The success of the offense rides heavily on Wimbush being good (duh) and those in attendance Sunday had to feel good about what the offense can be with #7 taking the snaps.
Several Receivers Stood Out
Equanimeous St. Brown appears to be taking the step from very good to elite; post practice Brian Kelly called him a “marquee player”, signaling the type of expectations the Irish staff has for their best wide receiver. He looked smooth, confident, and explosive. It has long been assumed St. Brown would raise his game in his junior season, we have now seen visual confirmation. Notre Dame has an A1 receiver outside week in and week out.
The best news, at least for me, came from the stellar afternoon Chase Claypool turned in across from Notre Dame’s star receiver. Claypool caught a long touchdown from Ian Book in which he ran right by every defender on a play that highlighted the speed of Claypool and set off alarm bells for the secondary (the safety clearly didn’t know what he was supposed to do.) Clean it up Mike Elko, clean it up. In addition, the scrimmage featured several other receptions from the sophomore from Canada, both long and short. I’ve written, literally, thousands of words about Claypool this offseason. His size, his speed, his athleticism is unlike anyone else on the roster. If he puts it all together and is a consistent performer on the 2017 team, watch out.
Not to be left out, freshman receiver Michael Young, Javon McKinley, tight ends Alize Mack and Brock Wright all made notable plays catching the ball on Sunday. Young is the most notable of this group because he’s been a revelation so far in camp. The expectation is he will see the field quite a bit this fall.
Notre Dame Has Got Some Defensive Ends
The most outstanding performers on the defense came from the guys on the edge, registering a numbers of (touch) sacks which negated at least two touchdown passes. Daelin Hayes looked phenomenal as a rusher, besting Tommy Kraemer (again) on several pass rushes. So either Daelin Hayes is ready to be great or the line had better be sliding their protections to help the redshirt freshman at right tackle. Can we hope for a little of both?
Brian Kelly singled out Khalid Kareem at end post scrimmage and Julian Okwara had a couple of sacks as well. Unlike the defensive tackle position, Notre Dame appears to have a plethora of defensive ends that are ready to play at a high level. Between both Hayes’, Andrew Trumbetti, Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara, and the rapidly improving Ade Ogundeji, that’s six guys, or three deep. Hey Brian Kelly, are you sure you don’t want to give Jay Hayes a little peak inside? Just a little sampler?
Josh Adams Is a Captain
In his post practice press conference, Brian Kelly opened by naming Josh Adams as a captain for the 2017 season. He’s the lone non-senior of the group and has been impressive throughout the offseason. The positive comments about Adams and his leadership go all the way back to January so this development is both unexpected and unsurprising. He takes the place of the departed DeShone Kizer, who was named captain at the post season banquet in December and is obviously no longer a captain because he plays for the NFL Cleveland Browns now.
Kidding aside, it’s nice to see all the work Adams has put in on the field, in the weight room, and with his teammates be rewarded. He seems to be a highly respected and well liked member of the team and those are the best kinds of captains. They earn their titles before the titles are given.
Nothing truly groundbreaking happened on Sunday, the team did well where we’ve already seen them do well. The defensive ends looked good in the spring game and again on Sunday. Same can be said for Wimbush, Ian Book, and the receivers. I didn’t attend the game so I don’t want to raise alarm bells about the secondary or the interior defense, but I will say I didn’t see too much praise from those groups. So just something to keep in mind.
As just a note, sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson did not see the field, essentially a healthy scratch. This has been the case all of fall practice from what I understand. This is well past the point where the coaches are “sending a message”. Whatever the case or the reason, he’s not getting reps with the team in 11 on 11, and you don’t just show up in lineup suddenly on Saturdays if you aren’t getting team reps. It’s hard to see him as a factor on the 2017 football team.