SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s defense tallied five turnovers in its first preseason practice held at the LaBar Practice Complex on Saturday.
The Irish secondary benefited from more tweaks schematically and the defensive line’s dominant play. The defensive backs accounted for four of the five turnovers, with the other being an interception from starting rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
Unlike the previous two practices observed by the media, Notre Dame incorporated nickel and dime packages and more blitzing with its first-team unit. As a result, the Irish defense outperformed the offense in 11-on-11 settings.
Below are more in-depth practice notes and takeaways from the Irish defense.
Defense lining up
No. 1 defense: defensive ends Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and nose guard Kurt Hinish, mike linebacker Drew White, buck linebacker Asmar Bilal, rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, boundary cornerback Troy Pride Jr., field cornerback TaRiq Bracy and safeties Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott.
No. 2 defense: defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola and nose guard Jacob Lacey, mike linebacker Bo Bauer, buck linebacker Shayne Simon, rover Paul Moala, boundary cornerback Temitope Agoro, field cornerback Avery Davis and safeties Shaun Crawford and Kyle Hamilton.
Dime package: Pride and Bracy lined up at their cornerback positions while Hamilton, Elliott, Gilman and Crawford served as the four other defensive backs. Hamilton and Crawford played deep while Gilman and Elliott lined up closer to the receivers. Those roles seemed to alternate at times.
Sophomore Jack Lamb saw time as the buck linebacker with the first-team defense. Junior Jordan Genmark Heath and White rotated with the second-team unit at buck and mike, respectively. Senior Donte Vaughn began practice as the starting field cornerback before Bracy displaced him. Vaughn seemed limited throughout practice after starting at the position in the two previous observed practices. He didn't appear with the backup defense in later portions of practice.
Sophomore DJ Brown spent his second straight observed practice limited to sideline work. Second-team boundary cornerback Houston Griffith did not see time in the scrimmage settings. The sophomore was limited to sideline work in Thursday’s observed session.
Another day, another Kyle Hamilton interception. Notre Dame’s standout freshman recorded his fifth interception in three preseason practices viewed by reporters.
All five interceptions have come from backup quarterback Phil Jurkovec. This time, Jurkovec targeted freshman running back Kyren Williams in the flat. Before the ball could reach Williams’ hands, Hamilton undercut his route for the pick.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound safety also forced a fumble in the early stages of 11-on-11 action. The ball popped out of Jahmir Smith’s right arm once Hamilton collided with the sophomore running back.
Hamilton flashes an ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and react before plays develop. His basketball background shows when the ball is in the air. Hamilton swarms to the football and uses his length and athleticism to break up the play or come down with an interception.
Beyond Hamilton, no player has forced more than two turnovers in the three observed practices. Had offensive lineman Josh Lugg not fallen on Smith’s fumble, Hamilton would have six forced turnovers.
Bracy made the most of his first-team reps with a few highlight plays. Most notably, the sophomore intercepted an ill-advised throw from starting quarterback Ian Book intended for wide receiver Joe Wilkins Jr. on the wide side of the field.
The 5-10, 170-pounder also made an impressive open field tackle on Wilkins. In 1-on-1 action, Bracy was one of few defenders to win one or more of his matchups. By using his hands in a legal manner, Bracy prevented receiver Braden Lenzy from putting himself in position to haul in a deep pass.
Bracy also recorded a tackle for a loss on a play in which he blitzed off the edge. The Irish coaching staff grew frustrated with Bracy at times, but he still might have had his best observed practice all offseason.
Troy Pride Jr. had his best practice this week and logged a couple pass breakups. He first batted down a pass intended for top receiver Chase Claypool on an out route in 1-on-1 action. He disrupted another potential Claypool reception on a slant. Claypool tends to overpower his opposition, but Pride held his own. To do that in 1-on-1 work is no small feat.
Elliott was the lone safety to register an interception on Saturday. Starting tight end Brock Wright mishandled a pass from Book in the flat. Elliott swooped in and caught Wright’s tip. Crawford found himself in position for a pick but dropped the deep throw near the sideline.
Cornerback Isaiah Rutherford intercepted fellow freshman Brendon Clark near the end of practice. Rutherford has not seen much action. Freshman corner K.J. Wallace saw more time and was involved in a couple altercations, including one with Claypool. At 5-10, 191 pounds, Wallace carries himself like a feisty bulldog. Freshmen Isaiah Foskey (defensive end) and Jack Kiser (rover) stood out again during action against reserves.
No linebacker made more plays than Owusu-Koramoah this week, though Moala registered a sack on Saturday. Book targeted Finke across the middle of the end zone, but Owusu-Koramoah read the play and undercut the pass for an interception. Owusu-Koramoah made a similar play in Sunday’s practice. He picked off Book’s screen pass to Finke.
The Irish defensive line stonewalled the offense in the early going of 11-on-11. Kareem recorded a tackle for loss on a run from Tony Jones Jr. Moving past right guard Tommy Kraemer, Tagovailoa-Amosa provided a notable pressure on a goal line play.
The second-team defensive line overpowered the backup offensive line once again. Jayson Ademilola and Lacey disrupted a couple plays, with the former notably stuffing a shovel pass to receiver Chris Finke.