Notre Dame defense practice notes 3-16-16

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The first glimpse of Notre Dame’s 2016 football team came inside the Loftus Center on a cold and windy morning in South Bend on Wednesday.

New names with have to replace Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day and KeiVarae Russell but little was to be established in the first spring practice.

Nonetheless, the Irish had to run out a No. 1 and No. 2 defense for their tempo warmup. The first unit featured defensive ends Isaac Rochell and Andrew Trumbetti paired with defensive tackles Jarron Jones and Jerry Tillery up front.

Redshirt freshman Asmar Bilal took Smith’s spot at Will linebacker, with Nyles Morgan at Mike and James Onwualu at Sam. Cornerbacks Cole Luke and Nick Watkins were joined by safeties Drue Tranquill and Devin Studstill.

The second unit was as follows: defensive ends Jonathan Bonner and Grant Blankenship, defensive tackles Daniel Cage and Micah Dew-Treadway, linebackers Kier Murphy (Will), Josh Barajas (Mike) and Devyn Spruell (Sam), cornerbacks Nick Coleman and Shaun Crawford and safeties Ashton White and Spencer Perry.

As expected, linebackers Greer Martini and Te’von Coney did not practice as they work to return from injuries. Maligned safety Max Redfield was not spotted during the initial tempo warmup but was active during the rest of the practice made available to media.

Four of Notre Dame’s five early enrolled freshmen are on the defensive side of the ball, and each one looked the part Wednesday. Defensive end Daelin Hayes still looks trim, despite his weight gain (to 257 pounds), and showed great quickness. Fellow defensive end Khalid Kareem fit in physically with the unit but still has room to grow.

Safeties Devin Studstill and Spencer Perry will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves as reps are readily available at the position this spring.

Studstill received his welcome to college football when walk-on wide receiver Chris Finke burnt him deep on a pass during one-on-one drills. Coleman was on the losing end of another bad one-on-one battle when freshman wide receiver Kevin Stepherson sped by him.

Also in the secondary, Crawford appears to have regained full form following his season-ending knee injury in fall camp. His speed and explosiveness will be hard to keep off the field. Tranquill appeared to be trending in the right direction as well.

Sixth-year safety Avery Sebastian looked a tad slow on Wednesday. The veteran has battled injuries for much his career, including last year’s broken foot. Tracking how his health has impacted his athleticism will likely determine if he provides playing time along with his leadership in his final season.

Sebastian, Butler and Crawford all dropped passes during an interception drill for the secondary.

Defensive tackle John Montelus looked like a natural at his new position following the move from offensive line. He will push some of Notre Dame’s young defensive linemen to provide depth.

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Notre Dame’s Nyles Morgan, left, runs drills with teammate Josh Barajas during Notre Dame spring football practice on Wednesday at the Loftus Center. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)