Defensive practice report: Notre Dame football 8/4
CULVER, Ind. -- On Friday, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly said that linebacker Jarrett Grace, who is recovering from a severely broken leg, could be close to being back when the Irish open their season Aug. 30 against Rice.
On Monday, the first day of ND's fall camp, Grace was back with the team, but in a very limited role.
Grace, who suffered the injury last October and missed the rest of the season, also missed spring practice and underwent a second surgery. He was mainly an observer during Monday's defensive drills, playing a simulated quarterback role during a portion of the defensive work.
After practice ended, Grace worked overtime doing running drills on the field at Culver Academies.
Almost all, if not all, of the practice was run under a 4-3 defensive front.
Tony Springmann, whose career ended because of a back problem, was with the defense the entire day. Springmann appeared slimmed down, and his long red hair has been cut.
Linebacker Ben Councell, another casualty to a knee injury last year, practiced with a large brace on his left knee.
During the early stages of practice, Bob Elliott worked with the linebackers while defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder instructed the safeties. Elliott is listed as the outside linebackers coach while VanGorder is listed as the inside linebackers coach.
Walk-on cornerback Jesse Bongiovi, who was sidelined this spring with a knee injury, did not participate in Monday's first workout.
Freshman nose guard Daniel Cage briefly left practice and appeared to have his right thigh wrapped. He quickly returned, however, and did not appear to be slowed.
After team stretching, the defensive players moved to an all-grass field while the offensive unit stayed on the FieldTurf surface.
Others to fill the pseudo-quarterback role were linebacker Kendall Moore and VanGorder, whose son, Montgomery, is a walk-on QB.
Position groupings included the following players on the first team: Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara (defensive end), Sheldon Day (defensive tackle), Jarron Jones (nose guard), Joe Schmidt, Jaylon Smith and John Turner (linebacker), KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke (cornerback), Austin Collinsworth and Max Redfield (safety).
Second team included Isaac Rochell and Andrew Trumbetti (DE), Justin Utupo (DT), Jacob Matuska (NG), Michael Deeb, Doug Randolph and James Onwualu (LB), Devin Butler and Nick Watkins (CB), Matthias Farley and Elijah Shumate (S).
Eilar Hardy later played in place of Shumate, while Nicky Baratti and Drue Tranquill backed up Farley. Freshman Nyles Morgan spotted Deeb.
When coaches yelled "one nickel", the only noticeable changes initially were Florida transfer Cody Riggs replacing Luke and Farley jumping in for Turner.
Defensive MVP: Jaylon Smith. Get used to it.
Biggest surprise: Matuska serving as the No. 2 nose guard.
Top freshman: Watkins, who is long and athletic. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks kept him on the field for extended instruction following one set of 11-on-11 drills.