Offensive practice report: Notre Dame football 8/4

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

CULVER, Ind. -- Starters aren’t named on the first day of preseason camp, but Notre Dame’s offense lined up for its opening plays of practice with a group that can be termed as front-runners.

Back together again were wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and quarterback Everett Golson, who haven’t taken reps together in a formal practice setting since spring of 2013 because of their respective academic suspensions. Daniels was joined in the receiving corps by Chris Brown on the outside and Amir Carlisle in the slot.

Golson, who worked out of shotgun and pistol formation throughout the practice, lined up with running back Tarean Folston as the first unit. In front of them, the offensive lined up with five players in the mix for starting roles: left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Matt Hegarty, center Nick Martin, right guard Christian Lombard and right tackle Steve Elmer. Tight end Ben Koyack rounded out the 11-man unit.

At the start of practice, tight end Mike Heuerman, who is recovering from hernia surgery, was the only offensive player not strapped up in a helmet. By the end of practice, a few other players were slowed by various issues. Most notably, Stanley was carted off the field in the middle of practice. Head coach Brian Kelly later said Stanley only needed and IV and some fluids on a warm day in Culver, Ind. Mike McGlinchey stepped into Stanley’s starting left tackle role in his absence. Colin McGovern, who lined up as the No. 2 right guard to start practice, was seen icing his left knee for a larger portion of practice. Near the end of practice, Daniels sat out a few plays after walking gingerly on a play he was blocking for a Golson scramble.

Much of the passing game in seven-on-seven and scrimmage on Monday seemed to be working through the tight ends and running backs, but a number of big plays were made in one-on-ones with receivers and defensive backs. Golson connected with Daniels for a catch of more than 35 yards on cornerback transfer Cody Riggs, Will Fuller caught a deep ball from DeShone Kizer, and Chris Brown hauled in a long gain from Malik Zaire against coverage from KeiVarae Russell.

Koyack, Durham Smythe and even freshman Tyler Luatua found themselves being targeted plenty throughout practice. A playaction pass with the tight ends running a seam route seemed to be the play du jour. Running backs Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Folston were on the receiving end of a number of swing patterns and check downs. All three fared well catching the ball and space and getting up field quickly.

Golson looked sharper and more consistent than Zaire throughout practice. Golson did have a pass intercepted by safety Max Redfield that was intended for Koyack, but he looked to have decent timing with most of his receivers.

Tall ladders made a stand-in appearance in the place of defensive ends in one seven-on-seven segment of practice. The blocked passing lanes appeared to affect Zaire more. One Zaire pass failed to reach its intended target because it directly hit the stationary ladder. The highlight of the period came when Golson hit Brown for a deep post splitting Russell and Redfield.

Without pads on, the offensive line had a relatively uneventful day. One moment that stood out came when Sam Mustipher put Quenton Nelson on his back when the two were taking turns blocking each other holding a pad. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand had the unit working on what looked to be a screen play for a while, with part of the line pass blocking and the center and a guard leaking out downfield.

Here’s a rundown of the No. 2 and No. 3 units that lined up to start practice and some players who stood out on day one.

No. 2 unit -- QB: Malik Zaire; RB: Cam McDaniel; WRs: Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, C.J. Prosise; TE: Durham Smythe; LT: Mike McGlinchey; LG: Conor Hanratty; C: Mark Harrell; RG: Colin McGovern; RT: Quenton Nelson.

No. 3 unit -- QB: DeShone Kizer; RB: Greg Bryant; WRs: Corey Holmes, Justin Brent, Torii Hunter Jr.; TE: Tyler Luatua; LT: Jimmy Byrne; LG: John Montelus; C: Hunter Bivin; RG: Sam Mustipher; RT: Alex Bars.

Offensive MVP: Ben Koyack – featured prominently all day.

Biggest surprise: Torii Hunter Jr. – made plays in slot and as outside receiver.

Top freshman: Justin Brent – stayed after practice to catch balls from the JUGS machine by himself.

Notre Dame running back Greg Bryant salutes a teammate during the first training camp practice Monday at Culver Academies (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN).