SOUTH BEND — Troy Pride Jr. seemed displeased about his play last Tuesday, airing some frustrations to media members.
Saturday’s practice put the Notre Dame cornerback’s displeasure on display further. ND’s first exclusively outdoor practice this spring offered media members a chance to closely observe Pride and the Irish players.
The Irish held session No. 12 of 15 this spring in Notre Dame Stadium. A front row seat provided better sights and sounds than atop the Loftus Sports Center’s balcony for ND’s indoor practices.
Chase Claypool was the root of Pride's troubles. It was one of those days for the senior, who recorded a handful of remarkable catches. At Pride's expense, Claypool continues to bring consistency at boundary receiver.
Pride began the day losing an intermediate route against Claypool. Later in that 1-on-1 drill, Claypool again bested the senior on a slant route. Pride allowed four more Claypool receptions across 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 settings.
Quarterback Ian Book delivered quality back shoulder throws on three of those receptions. The other came near the sideline on a flea flicker trick play. Pride reached the apex of his frustration after Claypool snagged a deep ball on a third-and-1.
All four plays were tightly covered. Pride could not seem to finish despite putting himself in solid position. Timing and tracking the ball were his main struggles. As a result, Pride spent chunks of practice yelling at himself and grimacing on the sideline.
Pride has yet to record an interception in any of the six open practices with reporters in attendance. That’s not to say he’s performing poorly. No other Irish cornerback can seem to cover as tight as Pride and none possess his experience.
However, the Irish are looking for Pride to step up in the absence of Julian Love. Love, a consensus All-American corner in 2018 and ND’s all-time leader in pass breakups, left big shoes to fill. That’s why Pride’s disappointment in himself carries weight.
Notre Dame’s linebackers are also looking to fill a void. The departures of veterans Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney left the position with inexperience.
Senior Asmar Bilal, the most tenured linebacker among the returning group, remained as the starting mike. He didn't raise eyebrows on Saturday. In position to make a tackle on an inside run, Bilal whiffed on a juke from running back Jafar Armstrong. Bilal registered a nice pass breakup, though, on a throw intended for running back C’Bo Flemister over the middle.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah flashed throughout, particularly in a two-play sequence. He first hammered Kyren Williams — the early enrolled freshman running back — in space on a bubble screen. On the next play, Owusu-Koramoah registered a diving solo tackle on running back Jafar Armstrong for a short gain. Those stops forced a third down.
Owusu-Koramoah almost cost himself with an early blunder. The junior pummeled Chris Finke well after he caught a pass in the flat and the Irish defenders were not supposed to be tackling the offense. As defensive coordinator Clark Lea chastised Owusu-Koramoah, Paul Moala took his place. Owusu-Koramoah made up for it, though, and he looks comfortable at starting rover.
Sophomore Shayne Simon began this spring as the starting rover. He’s now working as the No. 2 mike behind Bilal. Jack Lamb and Jordan Genmark Heath rotated as the starting buck linebacker.
Simon’s best play of the day came in 11-on-11 near the goal line. He stuffed Flemister on an inside run for no gain. Takacs drew a pass interference on Genmark Heath in coverage. Earlier in the scrimmage portion, Genmark Heath tackled running back Tony Jones Jr. near the line of scrimmage. Lamb burst through right tackle Robert Hainsey during a drill.
Senior safety Alohi Gilman saw an uptick in participation. He did not see 11-on-11 action but participated in 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 settings. Gilman provided tight coverage when manned against tight ends Cole Kmet and George Takacs.
Defensive backs Shaun Crawford and Donte Vaughn participated for the first time this spring but in limited fashion. DJ Brown started in place of Gilman in scrimmage settings.
Jalen Elliott (strong safety), Houston Griffith (boundary corner) and Pride (field corner) remained as starters in the secondary. Backup cornerbacks Avery Davis and Temitope Agoro impressed a few times.
The Irish defense were short-handed beyond just Gilman in scrimmage settings. Defensive ends Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara participated in limited fashion, abstaining from 11-on-11 action and pass rush drills.
Ade Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes performed well in their place as Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa manned the inside positions. Hayes did not participate in 1-on-1 pass rush drills.
The Ademilola twins and early enrolled freshman Jacob Lacey made the most of their reps as part of the rotation. Justin Ademilola trumped tight end Brock Wright in a lineman drill and twice bested early enrolled freshman Quinn Carroll in a run-blocking drill.
Jayson Ademilola seemed to be in on a few run-stopping tackles near the line of scrimmage during 11-on-11 settings. However, his tackle of Flemister resulted in a horse collar penalty. Jayson defeated right guard Tommy Kraemer in a 1-on-1 run-blocking drill but twice lost to left guard Aaron Banks.
The Jayson Ademilola-Lacey tandem inside had perhaps their best day of the spring. Lacey’s presence was particularly felt in scrimmage settings. He looks to be a heavy part of the rotation as the No. 2 nose guard behind Kurt Hinish. Lacey won back-to-back battles against backup right guard John Dirksen in a 1-on-1 run-blocking drill.
Missing in action
Safety Alohi Gilman, cornerback TaRiq Bracy and defensives Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara were limited in some way. Defensive tackle Hunter Spears (knee), nose guard Jamion Franklin (quad), rover Jack Kiser (shoulder), linebacker Drew White (shoulder) and walk-on safety Christopher Schilling remained sidelined with injuries.
The most impressive walk-on this spring has been Temitope Agoro. The senior saw an uptick in time due to injuries. He's made the most of it. Junior safety Patrick Pellini, son of Youngstown State head coach Bo Pellini, has also flashed on occasion.
In fact, an Agoro pass breakup bounced into Pellini's hands for the day's lone interception. A low snap from Correll forced quarterback Phil Jurkovec into making a quick decision. Agoro batted Jurkovec's deep pass in the air for Pellini to intercept.
Junior recruits could not take official visits until this weekend. The Irish hosted eight 2020 players making such visits. The defensive recruits taking official visits comprised of defensive tackle commit Aidan Keanaaina, defensive tackle Rylie Mills, defensive end Braiden McGregor, athlete Mordecai McDaniel and cornerback Ryan Watts.
Athlete Landen Bartleson and cornerback Jalen Kimber, both 2020 recruits, took unofficial visits and were seen at practice. JD Bertrand, an Irish linebacker signee for 2019, also attended practice. He observed Thursday’s session as well.