Notre Dame offense practice notes 4-14
SOUTH BEND — Throughout the spring, Brian Kelly has been asked repeatedly if he's seen separation between Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book in Notre Dame's quarterback competition.
The head coach didn't need to do much comparing following Saturday's practice inside the Loftus Sports Center, the 12th of the spring. The difference was clear. When Wimbush puts everything together like he did Saturday, he's the best quarterback on the roster.
His practice included a deep bomb of roughly 50 yards to wide receiver Michael Young. He threaded the needle on a throw to tight end Alizé Mack down the seam. He connected with wide receiver Chris Finke on a crossing route. He put the perfect touch on a corner route to Mack for a touchdown. He was even accurate on his quick throws to the outside.
It was by far Wimbush's best practice in front of reporters this spring. But looking good in practice wasn't a problem for Wimbush in the past. That's what made his shaky season last year so unexpected.
When asked after practice if the accuracy Wimbush displayed Saturday has been a regular occurrence, Kelly said it hasn't.
"He's building his consistency though," Kelly said. "His footwork has now put him in position where he can accurately put the ball where it needs to be and be so much more consistent with his progression reads."
Saturday's practice started as it typically does for the offense with a tempo drill. The first group on offense included Wimbush, running backs Tony Jones Jr. And Avery Davis, wide receivers Miles Boykin, Chris Finke and Michael Young and offensive linemen (left to right) Liam Eichenberg, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, Tommy Kraemer and Robert Hainsey.
The second unit featured quarterback Ian Book, running backs Jahmir Smith and Jafar Armstrong, wide receivers Micah Jones, Chase Claypool and Freddy Canteen, and offensive linemen Josh Lugg, Logan Plantz, Colin Grunhard, Dillan Gibbons and Aaron Banks.
The offense utilized tight ends Alizé Mack and Brock Wright later in practice. Mack caught the touchdown from Wimbush, and Wright pulled in a pass from Book with one hand as he beat freshman safety Houston Griffith down the seam. Burgeoning two-sport star Cole Kmet missed practice with the baseball team on the road at N.C. State.
Book didn't have as sharp of a practice as Wimbush. He threw two interceptions – one snagged by cornerback Nick Watkins on an apparent miscommunication with his receivers and another caught by cornerback Donte Vaughn on a nice play in coverage. Avery Davis, who continued to split reps at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, threw an interception to rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
Wide receiver Chase Claypool didn't have many standout moments in scrimmage action, but he was hard to bring down in the open-field tackling drill for defensive backs. He juked and stiff-armed cornerback Julian Love, ran over walk-on cornerback Temitope Agoro and side-stepped safety Alohi Gilman for wins. The ever-elusive Chris Finke added a few victories in the drill as well.
Finke also caught a pair of touchdowns early in one-on-one coverage drills. He beat Gilman deep both times. Wide receiver Javon McKinley also had a nice practice with several good catches, but he also dropped a ball late in the scrimmage portion.
All four of Notre Dame's 2018 offensive line signees — Jarrett Patteson, Luke Jones, Cole Mabry and John Dirksen — attended practice and watched their future teammates work under new offensive line coach Jeff Quinn.