Notre Dame offense practice notes 8-7

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Culver, Ind. — The Malik Zaire era started with hiccups.

The first play of Notre Dame’s offensive tempo drill was halted by a false start. Two plays later, the Irish starting quarterback tossed an incomplete pass. Zaire and the offense would eventually find a rhythm, but it wasn’t the start head coach Brian Kelly wanted to see.

The unit was able to redeem itself later in Notre Dame’s first practice of camp at Culver Academies when the defense joined for some one-on-one drills.

To no surprise, wide receiver Will Fuller lined up against cornerback KeiVarae Russell for the first play of the one-on-one passing drill. The matchup went to Fuller as he hauled in a short pass from Zaire on a hitch route. Russell would get the better end of some matchups later in the day.

Zaire looked most comfortable throwing shorter passes and exposing the seams of the defense. He floated a pretty ball to slot receiver Amir Carlisle down the middle of the field after he beat linebacker Joe Schmidt in coverage. Zaire struggled throwing the ball down the field at times with some overthrows.

DeShone Kizer took the majority of the reps with the second-string unit. He looked solid and appeared to have chemistry with some of the younger receivers. He hit wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. deep down the field to beat safety Max Redfield in coverage for a touchdown. Comfort in the offense could allow him to lock down the backup role.

Freshman Brandon Wimbush saw limited action in scrimmage situations but showed his strong arm in individual and one-on-one drills.

Former wide receiver C.J. Prosise handled the majority of the work at running back with the No. 1 offense with starter Tarean Folston taking fewer reps. The two could combine to be a potent duo out of the backfield. Justin Brent, another former wide receiver being given an audition at running back, observed most of the scrimmage action. His learning curve is starting with the proper alignment and footwork as camp gets rolling.

The stars of the practice came from the wide receiver group. Fuller was solid as expected. Carlisle had a few nice moments including the previously mentioned touchdown catch. Hunter Jr. showed flashes by beating defenders in a number of ways and making a one-handed catch in the middle of the field.

With the players not in full pads, little observations of note came from the offensive line. Quenton Nelson took the majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense, but was replaced late in practice by Alex Bars after he was guilty of a false start penalty.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. Prosise’s permanent move into the backfield should give Hunter more chances to step up in his junior season. His one-handed catch may have been the highlight of the practice.

Surprise of the day: Wide receiver Corey Holmes. Holmes made more plays in one practice than he may have made all spring. His emergence could have encouraged the coaching staff to feel comfortable moving Brent to running back for the time being. He battled off cornerback Cole Luke for a deep touchdown reception from Zaire.

Most impressive freshman: Quarterback Brandon Wimbush. The ball comes out of his hand as well as anybody on Notre Dame’s roster. Kelly said after practice Wimbush’s biggest weakness is his footwork, but there’s little doubt of the talent in his right arm. At times, Wimbush may have been throwing too hard in his first practice.

Drawing from the way Notre Dame lined up at various drills, here’s a look at the Irish depth chart on offense:

First team — Quarterback Malik Zaire, running backs Tarean Folston and C.J. Prosise (splitting reps), wide receivers Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, tight end Durham Smythe, offensive linemen (left to right) Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer, Mike McGlinchey.

Second team — Quarterback DeShone Kizer, running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams (splitting reps), wide receivers Corey Robinson, Corey Holmes and Torii Hunter Jr., tight end Tyler Luatua, offensive linemen (left to right) Hunter Bivin, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, John Montelus, Mark Harrell.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Quarterback Malik Zaire runs a drill during practice at Culver Academies, Friday, August 7, 2015 in Culver. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ