Notre Dame defense practice notes 8-18-15
SOUTH BEND — The speaker system brought the crowd noise. The boys in white brought the defense.
Notre Dame’s defense, donning the traditional white jerseys, was dominant at times Tuesday during practice at the LaBar Practice Complex. The fake crowd noise seemed to give the Irish defense a needed boost.
Near the end of practice, Notre Dame simulated a two-minute drill with the crowd noise. On the first play, safety Max Redfield corralled a pass that deflected off wide receiver Chris Brown’s hands and returned it for a touchdown.
The defense stayed aggressive following the interception. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell blitzed off the edge and was awarded with a sack — though he didn’t have to actually take down quarterback Malik Zaire. Later safety Drue Tranquill and linebacker Joe Schmidt combined for a sack after the pocket collapsed around Zaire.
The only time the No. 1 offense scored during the two-minute drill scenarios was when wide receiver Will Fuller took a short screen pass for more than 40 yards and a touchdown.
Notre Dame used a number of different looks on the defensive front including some three-man scenarios with Sheldon Day and Andrew Trumbetti at defensive end and Isaac Rochell in the middle. Tranquill lined up in the box a lot in different nickel and dime packages. Avery Sebastian, who received a lot of time with the No. 1 defense, appears to be challenging Elijah Shumate for the starting strong safety spot.
In the base defense, Daniel Cage split reps with Jerry Tillery at defensive tackle in place of the injured Jarron Jones. Cage held up well in the inside run drill and drew praise from defensive line coach Keith Gilmore for using his hands well in beating offensive guard John Montelus in a one-on-one, pass-rush drill.
The star of the pass-rush drill: linebacker Jaylon Smith. He snuck away from the seven-on-seven portion of practice to take a few reps against the offensive line. He beat right tackle Mike McGlinchey around the edge and left tackle Ronnie Stanley inside on his last two reps before returning with the rest of the linebackers. Tranquill also joined the defensive line group to practice rushing the passer.
• Defensive back Matthias Farley has some impressive one-on-one coverage against slot receivers. He broke up passes intended for Torii Hunter Jr. and C.J. Sanders early in Tuesday’s practice.
• Tranquill scored a rare win over tight end Nic Weishar near the goal line. He leaped in front of Weishar to grab an interception on a slightly underthrown pass.
• Defensive end Doug Randolph and linebacker James Onwualu knocked down a pair of DeShone Kizer passes near the line of scrimmage.
Injury note: Linebacker Joe Schmidt sported a cast on his left hand. He said after practice that he broke a bone in his thumb on Saturday, but that it won’t sideline him or affect his play. He wasn’t sure how long he would have to wear the cast. He expects it to get smaller in the coming weeks.
Defensive MVP: Redfield. His interception set the tone for the defense, and he helped prevent the offense from many big plays in the scrimmage setting.
Top freshman: Cornerback Shaun Crawford. He continued to take reps with the No. 1 defense and is finding a role for himself as a nickelback. He brings more explosiveness and quickness to the position than Matthias Farley, who is a more physical presence.