Notre Dame offense practice notes 8-15-15

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — C.J. Sanders stood out.

And not because he’s a freshman. Or because he measures just 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds.

Despite his diminutive size and inexperience, Sanders blazed past Notre Dame’s elder statesmen on Saturday, wiggling through crowds en route to the end zone on the first punt return of the practice. Later, he took a handoff on an end-around and beat the entire defense to the corner, turning upfield for a sizable gain.

Following the practice’s conclusion, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly praised Sanders’ ability to cut at high speeds, citing it as a skill that hasn’t been present on his previous Irish teams. But he wasn’t the only offensive freshman to make an impact on Saturday.

Two more first-year wide receivers, Equanimeous St. Brown and Jalen Guyton, made impressive plays against more experienced competition. St. Brown — a 6-foot-4, 204-pound athlete — blew past cornerback Cole Luke in a 1-on-1 drill and caught the pass over his shoulder for a long touchdown.

The receiving corps impressed as a whole on Saturday, as junior Corey Robinson caught everything that came his way (until he was accidentally poked just below the eye late in practice by KeiVarae Russell and left the field), and Will Fuller took a screen pass and outran the secondary for a long touchdown, as he did many times last season.

Junior quarterback Malik Zaire seemed to gain momentum as practice rolled on, at one point eluding the pass rush of Isaac Rochell and rolling to the right before delivering a strike to Fuller along the sideline. His accuracy has continued to improve as camp has progressed. Elsewhere at the quarterback position, sophomore DeShone Kizer and freshman Brandon Wimbush were made live to be tackled on Saturday, a decision Kelly made largely to see how his quarterbacks would respond in the option running game. Kizer moved the second team down the field with more consistency than Wimbush, at one point juking defensive back Matthias Farley and bounding into the end zone for a score.

At the tight end position, sophomore Nic Weishar continued to impress with his pass-catching ability, hauling in several passes in the red zone, including one that he nabbed after linebacker Te’von Coney deflected it. Freshman Alize Jones, who is recovering from a neck injury, participated lightly but wore a red no-contact jersey.

On the injury front, senior running back C.J. Prosise will miss roughly 10 days with a hip flexor injury. In his stead, senior Josh Anderson and freshmen Dexter Williams and Josh Adams each received increased reps alongside starter Tarean Folston. Adams provided the highlight of the day, taking a handoff up the gut and flashing some deceptive speed on his way to the end zone.

Offensive MVP: Sanders. The freshman made plays receiving the ball, taking reverse handoffs and in the punt return game. He’ll see the field this fall, though it’s not clear in what capacity.

Streak-busters: In Thursday's media session, Kelly boasted that freshman kicker Justin Yoon had connected on all 18 of his field goal attempts thus far in training camp.

Not anymore.

On Saturday, Yoon's first field goal attempt was blocked at the line of scrimmage. He bounced back, however, hitting each of his next three attempts.


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer during Notre Dame Football Practice on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN