Notre Dame held their first two practices of the spring last week before taking a week off for spring break. Only one of those practices was open to the media (Tuesday) with the Thursday practice being closed to reporters. There isn’t much to take away from these early viewings save for the factual notes. Things like who played where, who came out first, who looked in better shape.
Here is a quick recap for those who are disinclined to follow during the week.
Three Captains Were Named
Brian Kelly announced the naming of three captains: linebacker Drue Tranquill, center Sam Mustipher, and punter Tyler Newsome. The obvious surprise is Newsome, not sure I saw anyone prognosticate his inclusion to the captain conversation. Kelly noted he received over 50% of the vote from the team (with 80+ team members that’s pretty impressive) and he’s been a fixture in the South Bend community doing charity and volunteer work for years. It just shows we never quite know what the dynamics are in the locker room and guys will follow all types of figures.
Kelly also said he was likely to name a fourth captain at some point following spring practice. He’s going to monitor the team and see who emerges as a leader. He did something similar with the late addition of Josh Adams last season. You’d think those up for consideration would be Jerry Tillery, Te’von Coney, Julian Love, and Alex Bars. Which of course means Justin Yoon will be named.
There Is a Quarterback Competition…Sort Of
Kelly declared both quarterbacks would be taking first team reps, with Brandon Wimbush starting out with the first team at the beginning of spring drills. He wasn’t very specific with how the reps will be divided up, only that it wouldn’t be on a day by day basis. So it’s a competition in the sense we don’t have a named starter and both players will be taking first team reps.
It’s not a competition in that we don’t know the method for which the decision will be made, and the quarterbacks will be wearing red jersey’s throughout the spring. I advocated for the quarterbacks being live prior to spring ball starting and I don’t think you can really have a true evaluation if the quarterbacks know they won’t be hit. How can you simulate game performance if you take away the game conditions? You can play whatever tricks you want with situations in practice to try and recreate game conditions, or you can take off the kid gloves and let the guys get after it.
Obviously, doing that puts injury on the table, and no one wants to lose a player to injury in the spring, especially one who could be leading the team at quarterback. But, when your 12 game starter had trouble dealing with pressure last season, and those troubles led to the current situation at quarterback, the coaches need to find out what they’ve got. He needs to be in the fire as much as possible. And more importantly, whoever wins the job needs to know it was truly earned. I don’t think red jersey’s allow for that.
Offensive Line In Flux
The offensive line has an abundance of usable players, but little answers as to where those players will play and who those players will be. With all the information that’s out there, it seems the staff is very high on Josh Lugg, Aaron Banks, Robert Hainsey, Liam Eichenberg, Tommy Kraemer, and Trevor Ruhland. That’s six guys for three spots (Mustipher and Bars have starting spots locked down), and five of those guys can play either guard or tackle, with Ruhland being the exception as only an inside player. These six represent some of the highest rated players on the roster, this competition ought to be fierce, and it shouldn’t be lost that this is playing out while the Notre Dame defensive line is on the rise in terms of talent and numbers. This is a circumstance where the eventual “winners” on both sides can give each other a great test.
Let’s be honest, this is a great situation to be in for any football team. If you’re looking for a reason to feel good about the 2018 season, what’s going on with the two lines is your reason.