Notre Dame offense practice notes 8-13
SOUTH BEND — As Durham Smythe and Alize Jones take time to recover from minor injuries, Nic Weishar took advantage of his increased opportunities at tight end Thursday.
Weishar dominated in the red zone portion of one-on-one drills and caught four touchdown passes against Irish defenders. If the 6-foot-4, 241-pound sophomore continues his ascent, he could find his way into some playing time this season.
Weishar was a prolific receiver in high school, but he needed time to add the strength and adjust to the level of toughness needed to play the position. He showed he had it Thursday. His most impressive catch can with a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone, but he also beat the defense with short crisp routes.
The increased playing time for Weishar was the only major tweak in the depth chart since last week’s opening practice. However, C.J. Prosise continued to take carries with the No. 1 offense ahead of returning starting running back Tarean Folston.
Thursday’s practice was the first in pads that the media was allowed to view so it came with an increase in physicality. The offensive and defensive lines had plenty of good battles at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line struggled at times to block defensive linemen Sheldon Day and Isaac Rochell in one-on-one pass protection but fared much better when working as a group against stunts.
During the full scrimmage, the offense struggled mightily at times. During one stretch, quarterback Malik Zaire was either sacked (by a blown whistle rather than full contact) or couldn’t find an open receiver on three consecutive plays. The defense responded mockingly with repeated shouts of “He’s not open, Malik.”
The momentum started to turn when Zaire found wide receiver Corey Holmes deep down the left side for a touchdown.
Other notable moments from Thursday’s practice:
• Wide receiver Will Fuller drew praises of “Hallelujah” from wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock as he blew by a defender using his speed.
• Quarterback DeShone Kizer threw a pass that squarely hit one of the two ladders set up as obstacles on both ends of the offensive line during the seven-on-seven segment. The ladders are a regular part of practice, but rarely do the quarterbacks have a pass knocked down by one of them.
• Wide receivers Torii Hunter Jr. and C.J. Sanders added highlight grabs. Hunter hauled in a pass with his right hand and Sanders made a diving catch from quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
Offensive MVP: Weishar. He grabbed a handful of touchdowns and the attention of the media. Kelly spoke highly of his development in the post-practice press conference.
Freshman MVP: Sanders. The elusive slot receiver made a number of nice catches and finds a way to work himself open.