Notre Dame football practice report 8-11

Mike Vorel and Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame’s football team was greeted with hot and humid weather for its first day on campus. The Irish took the field Thursday morning for the first of two practices. ND Insider was on hand to watch practice No. 1.

OFFENSE

Quarterback Malik Zaire took the first snaps of practice as he and DeShone Kizer continue to battle for the starting spot. Zaire worked with a lineup through warmups that included wide receivers Torii Hunter Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders, tight end Nic Weishar, a running back rotation of Tarean Folston and Dexter Williams, and an offensive line (left to right) of Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, Sam Mustipher, Tristen Hoge and Alex Bars.

Running back Josh Adams sat out the majority of practice. Head coach Brian Kelly said the team is “just being careful” with Adams. Smythe worked with the No. 1 offense later in practice.

Kizer lined up with a No. 2 offense of Kevin Stepherson, Miles Boykin and Corey Holmes at wide receiver, Tyler Luatua at tight end, Tony Jones Jr. at running back and Hunter Bivin, Trevor Ruhland, Mark Harrell, Tommy Kraemer and Colin McGovern on the offensive line.

Quarterback Brandon Wimbush was joined by wide receivers Chase Claypool, Deon McIntosh and Chris Finke, tight end Jacob Matuska, running back Josh Anderson and offensive linemen Liam Eichenberg, Parker Boudreaux, Sam Bush, Jimmy Byrne and John Montelus.

The chemistry between Notre Dame’s quarterbacks and the receivers continues to be an issue. The quarterbacks had a few throws off target and the receivers had even more drops. One of the worst throws of the day came when C.J. Sanders shook safety Max Redfield to run open deep down the field and Kizer overthrew him by five yards.

Holmes, Stepherson, St. Brown and Javon McKinley each had at least one drop during practice. Holmes had at least three drops, which drew complaints from Zaire.

Boykin made a couple nice plays by catching shorter routes and avoiding the defense for significant gains after the catch.

The passing game was at its most efficient during a seven-on-seven portion of practice that only used one side of the field at a time. The quarterbacks completed eight in a row until McKinley dropped a pass.

The offensive and defensive lines worked on pass protection/rush on the field away from the media, so observations were limited. McGlinchey completed successful reps against Andrew Trumbetti and Isaac Rochell and Nelson also beat Rochell and Jerry Tillery. A pair of freshman defensive ends — Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara — sped around John Montelus, who was working at offensive tackle for one of the first times in his Irish career.

DEFENSE

Notre Dame’s defense was affected by injuries on Thursday, which forced some fresh faces into the starting rotation. Sophomore defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway suffered a Jones fracture in his foot and will miss roughly eight weeks, Kelly said. Freshman safety Devin Studstill and junior nose guard Daniel Cage were both sidelined with hamstring issues.

Junior cornerback Nick Watkins, who broke his arm during spring practices, had surgery on Wednesday to stimulate bone growth, Kelly confirmed. He watched Thursday’s practice from the sidelines and will be evaluated in four weeks.

Without Dew-Treadway and Cage, senior Jarron Jones received many of the starting reps at nose tackle and senior defensive tackle Pete Mokwuah also earned a few first-team reps, though not as many as sophomore Jerry Tillery.

In Thursday’s practice, Notre Dame’s defensive starters were; Isaac Rochell and Jay Hayes at the defensive end positions; Tillery and Jones on the interior of the defensive line; junior Nyles Morgan (MIKE), senior James Onwualu (SAM) and sophomore Asmar Bilal (WILL) at the linebacker spots; senior Cole Luke and sophomore Shaun Crawford at the cornerback positions; and senior Max Redfield (FS) and junior Drue Tranquill (SS) at the safety spots.

Notre Dame’s secondary largely struggled against the wide receivers and tight ends in 1-on-1 drills, though both Luke and Crawford also registered impressive pass break ups. On the defensive line, freshman defensive end Daelin Hayes sacked quarterback DeShone Kizer to the ground during a brief period when quarterbacks were live in 11-on-11 drills. Nose guard Jarron Jones also showcased impressive disruption during 1-on-1 drills against the offensive line.

After the practice concluded, Kelly said that sophomore Tevon Coney and Greer Martini may have the upper hand on Bilal in the battle for the weakside linebacker position, despite the fact that Bilal received starting reps on Thursday. He also singled out Tillery and senior free safety Max Redfield as players who have made significant strides thus far in fall camp.

Quarterback Malik Zaire hands off to running back Dexter Williams during Notre Dame football practice on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, at LaBar Practice Field at Notre Dame in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN