Notre Dame football practice report 8-6

Mike Vorel and Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

CULVER, Ind. — Notre Dame's first practice of fall camp on Saturday featured a bevy of new faces but few glaring surprises.

OFFENSE

Junior DeShone Kizer took many of the first-team reps at quarterback, though senior Malik Zaire also cycled in. Both quarterbacks were inconsistent in the passing game, which shouldn’t come as much of a concern or surprise on the first day of fall practice.

In front of them, the offensive line starters were as follows: left tackle Mike McGlinchey, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Sam Mustipher, right guard Hunter Bivin and right tackle Alex Bars. Sophomore Tristen Hoge and freshman Tommy Kraemer also worked in with the starting group at the right guard position late in practice.

As for the skill positions, senior Tarean Folston and sophomore Josh Adams each got regular reps with the starting unit. Sophomore Dexter Williams left practice early with a stomach illness, head coach Brian Kelly said. Adams also went down late in practice with a cramp, which is not believed to be serious. Freshman Tony Jones Jr. impressed both in the running and passing games in Williams’ absence, even earning compliments from Kelly in a post-practice interview.

Senior Torii Hunter Jr. (X), sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown (W) and sophomore C.J. Sanders (Z) comprised the starting trio of wide receivers, with junior Corey Holmes, sophomore Miles Boykin and freshman Kevin Stepherson working with the second team. Hunter was the most consistent wideout, with a highlight being a sprawling grab on a deep crossing route that he wrestled away from sophomore cornerback Shaun Crawford. Sanders looked both healthy and productive in his first practice back from a hip flexor injury that kept him out much of the spring.

St. Brown’s practice contained both peaks and valleys, as the 6-foot-4 sophomore hauled in several nice grabs but also drew the ire of Kelly at times for his blocking and route-running.

As expected, senior Durham Smythe was the team’s starting tight end. Smythe and juniors Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua all had impressive moments in the passing game, and Weishar specifically nabbed a few leaping grabs in traffic and corralled one pass down the seam for a deep touchdown.

Sanders and sophomore wide receiver Chris Finke fielded punts on Saturday.

DEFENSE

The depth chart isn’t set on the first day of camp, but players returning from injury will have to fight their way into the starting lineup if practice No. 1 at Culver was any indication. Defensive tackle Jarron Jones (knee) and linebackers Greer Martini and Te’von Coney (shoulders) worked with the No. 2 defense for most of the day.

Notre Dame’s starters in the base defense lined up with defensive ends Isaac Rochell and Jay Hayes, defensive tackles Daniel Cage and Jerry Tillery, linebackers James Onwualu, Nyles Morgan and Asmar Bilal, cornerbacks Shaun Crawford and Cole Luke, and safeties Drue Tranquill and Max Redfield.

On the No. 2 defense, Jones, Martini and Coney were joined by defensive ends Jonathan Bonner and Andrew Trumbetti, defensive tackle Elijah Taylor, linebacker Josh Barajas, cornerbacks Nick Coleman and Ashton White and safeties Avery Sebastian and Devin Studstill.

When the Irish used a nickelback, Nick Coleman came onto the field with Crawford sliding inside for the No. 1 defense and Julian Love joined the No. 2 defense.

With the quarterbacks and receivers off to a shaky start, the cornerbacks used the opportunity to break up some passes. Cole Luke knocked one away from Equanimeous St. Brown. Ashton White, who made several plays throughout practice, caused problems for Corey Holmes and Javon McKinley.

Freshmen Donte Vaughn and Julian Love were also running in stride with receivers. Vaughn shut down Deon McIntosh so forcefully on one route that McIntosh stopped running. Love was in position for a tackle for a loss during the scrimmage period.

But the passing periods weren’t all highlights for the defense. Josh Barajas couldn’t hang with tight end Nic Weishar on a seam route for a touchdown. Running back Josh Adams ran past freshman safety D.J. Morgan with ease, but Adams couldn’t haul in the deep pass. A freshman-on-freshman matchup between wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and safety Spencer Perry ended in a long completion.

With no pads on, the live action for defensive linemen was limited outside of drill work. But when the 11-on-11 portion of practice began, Jay Hayes did a nice job of holding the edge to disrupt a DeShone Kizer quarterback keeper. Defensive end Khalid Kareem and defensive tackle Brandon Tiassum both ended up in the face of the quarterback on separate plays.

The Notre Dame Football team practice at Culver on Saturday August 6, 2016. 9 Malik Zaire QB Tribune Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES