Notre Dame defense practice notes 8-13

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Nick Watkins is either a prophet, or a liar.

Late in Notre Dame’s practice at LaBar Practice Complex on Thursday, Watkins — a 6-foot-1, 200-pound sophomore cornerback — cut underneath a route in the corner of the end zone and snagged an interception, sprinting in the opposite direction as his defensive teammates shouted cheers of celebration.

Still, Watkins’ voice was unmistakable.

“I told you!” Watkins yelled. “I told you! I told you!”

Watkins’ presence was a steady one throughout Thursday’s practice, repeatedly breaking up passes and wagging his finger in the offense’s direction. After playing in 11 games in 2014, the true sophomore is pushing to make a bigger impact behind KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke — both of whom also impressed on Thursday — in the fall.

Safeties Elijah Shumate and Avery Sebastian also made nice pass breakups during 1-on-1 drills, earning praise from defensive backs coach Todd Lyght.

Here are a few more observations from Notre Dame’s first media practice in full pads.

D-line Disruption

Notre Dame’s defensive line competed hard against the Irish’s vaunted offensive line on Thursday, and that started (unsurprisingly) with senior defensive tackle Sheldon Day. The 6-2, 285-pound senior forced his way into the backfield during an early drill, plowing through center Nick Martin and stopping running back Tarean Folston for a loss. Sophomore defensive end Andrew Trumbetti also noticeably spoiled several plays throughout the practice.

Daniel Cage – a 6-1, 315-pound sophomore nose guard – took some reps with the first group as well.

Friendly chatter

Junior safety Max Redfield has been praised for his improved vocal leadership on the back end of Notre Dame’s defense thus far in training camp, and his voice was again heard on Thursday.

After junior quarterback Malik Zaire failed to find a receiver during an 11-on-11 drill, Redfield decided to rub it in.

“He’s not open, Malik!” Redfield playfully yelled at the quarterback. “The clock is running! The clock is running!”

The Irish’s defense seems to be gathering swagger as camp crawls along, and that was certainly the case on Thursday.

Defensive MVP: Watkins. The sophomore from DeSoto, Texas, is a tall, lanky corner, giving Notre Dame a different option than it has with the smaller Russell and Luke. It will be interesting to see how Watkins is utilized if he continues to ascend.

Freshman of the Day: Nick Coleman. The 6-foot, 185-pound freshman continues to impress, battling in 1-on-1 drills against Notre Dame’s top wide receivers. He and Shaun Crawford continue to battle for meaningful reps as true freshmen.

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Nick Watkins during Notre Dame Football Practice on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN