SOUTH BEND — The deep ball looked on point for Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book in Wednesday's practice.
That’s notable for a couple reasons. For starters, offensive coordinator Chip Long felt he needed to push Book’s boundaries this offseason. Most importantly, the Irish designed preseason practice No. 15 of 18 in a way that minimized impressive throws.
Both the first-team offense and defense simulated 7-on-7 and scrimmage plays against scout teams comprised of third-team and walk-on players. The defensive scout team — used to prepare for the Sept. 2 season opener at Louisville — seemed to purposely exert minimal effort. Defenders did not tackle or go full-tilt in coverage.
So the fact that Book’s deep throws stood out should mean something. The senior connected on a combined 33-of-36 passes in 7-on-7 and scrimmage settings. More than a few of his attempts traveled further than 20 yards. Wide receiver Chase Claypool fell on one route, resulting in one of Book’s incompletions. The other two came from a throwaway and a drop from running back Tony Jones Jr.
Almost all of Book’s deep completions were products of his precise timing and pinpoint accuracy. Receivers Lawrence Keys III, Braden Lenzy, Chris Finke and Claypool and running backs Jafar Armstrong and Kyren Williams each caught one or more of Book’s strikes.
Backup quarterback Phil Jurkovec struggled during the early stages of scout team work. The sophomore threw three consecutive incompletions — and all three were short or intermediate routes. Jurkovec recovered, though, completing his next 12 pass attempts. He finished a combined 13-of-17 for the 7-on-7 and scrimmage portions.
The Irish also featured more multiple offensive sets. Running backs Jahmir Smith, Armstrong and Williams all lined up with the first-team unit during the tempo drill. Smith stood beside Book in the backfield as Armstrong and Williams lined up at receiver. Senior Tony Jones Jr. rotated with Armstrong.
Below are more in-depth notes from ND’s practice at the LaBar Practice Complex.
Offense lining up
Considering the injuries sidelining starters Cole Kmet and Michael Young, ND’s No. 1 offense should normally look like this: Quarterback Ian Book, running back Jafar Armstrong, wide receivers Chase Claypool, Chris Finke and Lawrence Keys III, tight end Brock Wright, left tackle Liam Eichenberg, left guard Aaron Banks, center Jarrett Patterson, right guard Tommy Kraemer and right tackle Robert Hainsey. Running back Tony Jones Jr. and tight end Tommy Tremble usually rotate.
As mentioned before, running backs Kyren Williams and Jahmir Smith usurped the spots held by Wright and Keys during the tempo drill. Tremble, Wright and Keys worked with the 1s later.
The 2s during tempo looked like this: Quarterback Phil Jurkovec, running back C’Bo Flemister, wide receivers Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III, tight ends George Takacs and Brock Wright, left tackle Josh Lugg, left guard Dillan Gibbons, center Trevor Ruhland, right guard John Dirksen and right tackle Andrew Kristofic. Receivers Cam Hart and Kevin Austin Jr. rotated with the 2s during scrimmage action.
Center Zeke Correll and receiver Kendall Abdur-Rahman were non-participants in practice, joining offensive lineman Quinn Carroll, Young and Kmet. Receivers Javon McKinley and Lenzy were limited during certain portions of practice.
Defense lining up
The most notable news from the Irish defense was Shaun Crawford starting at field cornerback. The graduate senior had not received first-team reps — at any position — in the previous six observed preseason practices.
The No. 1 defense looked the same otherwise, lining up as such: 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, field cornerback Shaun Crawford, boundary cornerback Troy Pride Jr. and safeties Jalen Elliott and Alohi Gilman.
Second-team rover Paul Moala returned to action after surgery on his right thumb sidelined him last week.
No. 2 defense: defensive ends Jamir Jones and Daelin Hayes, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola and nose guard Jacob Lacey, mike linebacker Shayne Simon, buck linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath, rover Paul Moala, boundary cornerback Houston Griffith, field cornerback Donte Vaughn and safeties Kyle Hamilton and DJ Brown. Cornerback TaRiq Bracy also ran with the 2s.
Junior place-kicker Jonathan Doerer continues to receive the majority of the reps. He drilled all five of his field goals, connecting from 21, 30, 34, 35 and 37 yards. Walk-on kicker Harrison Leonard made a 21-yarder but missed left from 41 yards. The freshman also booted a couple rugby-style punts.
Freshman punter Jay Bramblett had one of his best practices this preseason. His four punts traveled 38, 41, 48 and 50 yards.
Special teams coordinator Brian Polian tasked Bramblett with different types of punts. For an example, the 38-yarder focused on a longer hang time. The 50-yarder pinned the opponent deep. It landed inside the 20-yard line and rolled 10 or 15 more yards. Polian seemed more than pleased with Bramblett’s day.
The following players lined up on the hands team: Chris Finke, Alohi Gilman, Tony Jones Jr., DJ Brown and Shaun Crawford (first level); Chase Claypool, Jalen Elliott, Julian Okwara and Brock Wright (second level); and Jafar Armstrong (returner).
Chris Finke and Lawrence Keys III lined up as punt returners.