Notre Dame defense practice notes 4-9-16

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The work-in-progress that is Notre Dame’s secondary showed the wild inconsistency expected from a young group trying to get on the same page during Saturday’s practice, the 12th of the spring and first full session viewed by media.

Staying inside the Loftus Sports Center as snow fell outside, the Irish wide receivers were able to find space in the secondary with regularity. Whether it was in one-on-one coverage drills, seven-on-seven, or scrimmage situations, the offense produced big plays in the passing game.

But Notre Dame’s secondary did manage to make some plays of its own. Cornerback Shaun Crawford jumped on a Malik Zaire pass to Corey Holmes on a slant pattern for the first interception of the day during two-minute drill scrimmage. Later in seven-on-seven, safety Devin Studstill intercepted an overthrown pass from Zaire. Safety Max Redfield made the third interception when a DeShone Kizer pass deflected off the hands of tight end Ben Suttman and Redfield hauled it in.

Wide receivers Torii Hunter Jr. and Corey Holmes proved to be the toughest covers for Notre Dame’s secondary. The two snagged deep balls to start the one-on-one session. Cornerback Nick Coleman played well with a couple of pass breakups, but cornerback Devin Butler and safeties Avery Sebastian, Spencer Perry and Max Redfield were among those who struggled.

Scrimmage scenarios brought better results for the Irish defense. With pressure up front and a variety of personnel being used, the defense looked more like what defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will want to see when the pieces come together.

Safety Drue Tranquill will be one of the most important parts of the defense if Saturday was any indication. The Irish can line him up all over the place to make plays. On one three-play stretch, he crushed tight end Durham Smythe to prevent a completion, wrapped up Holmes on a shallow route and rushed the passer on the final play.

Defensive end Isaac Rochell caused problems for the right side of Notre Dame’s offensive line. He made plays against the run and the pass. On one impressive play, Rochell overpowered right tackle Alex Bars and pushed him right in front of Zaire to force him out of the pocket.

Two players on the Irish defense, Studstill and defensive tackle Jarron Jones, were slowed with minor injuries at different parts of practice, but both returned and played well following the scares. Studstill’s interception came after he was banged up working on special teams. During the scrimmage setting, Jones exploded off the ball to disrupt a running play in the backfield.

Linebackers James Onwualu and Nyles Morgan each came free for would-be sacks on different blitz packages during Saturday’s practice. Fellow linebackers Greer Martini and Te’von Coney remain sidelined with injuries for the spring.

Defensive end recruit Adetokunbo Ogundeji, who signed with the Irish in February, attended Saturday’s practice.

Lineup looks: Notre Dame used a dime look with its starters that featured Jerry Tillery at nose guard, Isaac Rochell and Jay Hayes at defensive end, linebackers Nyles Morgan and James Onwualu, cornerbacks Cole Luke, Nick Coleman and Shaun Crawford and safeties Devin Studstill, Drue Tranquill and Avery Sebastian.

The No. 2 defense in the two-minute drill lined up in nickel with defensive tackles Elijah Taylor and Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive ends Andrew Trumbetti and Khalid Kareem, linebackers Asmar Bilal and Josh Barajas, cornerbacks Devin Butler, Ashton White and Luke and safeties Max Redfield and Sebastian. Defensive end Jonathan Bonner and safety Spencer Perry also rotated in.

In a nickel look, the No. 1 defense included Hayes, Rochell, Jones and Trumbetti with Daniel Cage rotating with Jones on the defensive line, Bilal, Morgan and Onwualu at linebacker, Luke, Coleman and Crawford at cornerback and Tranquill and Studstill at safety.

Notre Dame's Alize Jones (10) reaches for a pass over Nick Coleman (24) during practice, Saturday, April 9, 2016 inside the Loftus Sports Center at Notre Dame in South Bend. (Tribune photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)