Notre Dame football practice notes 8-15
SOUTH BEND — Brian Kelly saw Tyler Newsome boom a punt 57 yards.
But before Newsome had a chance at another punt, Kelly stopped the drill and challenged him to do it again.
Sure enough, the fifth-year punter and captain knocked another punt 57 yards that hung up in the air so long that Kelly may have been able to cover the punt himself. Instead, Kelly gave Newsome a hug.
“He’s got such a great leg,” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s 11th practice of preseason camp. “He sometimes overthinks the process a little bit. and I just wanted him to go in there, be aggressive, start kicking more consistently. He had back-to-back kicks with 4.5 (seconds) hang time, so that was the big hug.”
Newsome didn’t quite match that distance again throughout the team punt portion of practice, but he did hit one 55 yards. Newsome, who graduated with a business administration degree in May, averaged 43.6 yards on his 63 punts last season.
The Irish also worked on kickoffs with Jonathan Doerer and kick returns with at least eight players catching kicks: wide receiver Chris Finke, safety Nick Coleman, cornerback Shaun Crawford and running backs Tony Jones Jr., Jafar Armstrong, Jahmir Smith, C’Bo Flemister and Avery Davis. Special teams coordinator Brian Polian said after practice they have more work to do before pinpointing the top candidates to return kicks in the season opener.
The rest of the practice was devoted to offense and defense. The first competitive period came with the wide receivers and defensive backs facing off in some one-on-one passing drills. As quarterback Brandon Wimbush worked with the running backs and offensive line separately, Ian Book and Phil Jurkovec made most of the throws with walk-on Nolan Henry also doing some work.
Jurkovec provided the first highlight on a deep post throw to fellow freshman Kevin Austin. The wide receiver beat cornerback Julian Love for what would have been a touchdown.
Austin has received playing time with the No. 2 offense and has started to back up his rating as a four-star recruit. The physical and mental maturity of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound product of Coconut Creek (Fla.) North Broward Prep has allowed him to find early success.
“When we see a freshman that can handle the volume, we’re just going to push him in there,” Kelly said. “He doesn’t know 50 percent of the playbook, but he’s got that volume and that skill set … He’s a guy that can help us this year.”
Book completed his first seven passes of the session until safety Devin Studstill broke up a pass intended for Armstrong.
Wimbush joined his fellow quarterbacks for the one-on-one passing session near the goal line. His first throw, a fade to Austin, was knocked away by walk-on cornerback Temitope Agoro. Soon after, safety Alohi Gilman intercepted a late Wimbush pass to Davis. Wimbush immediately rebounded with touchdown throws to Michael Young and Miles Boykin.
The No. 1 offense looked sharp from the start in a live scrimmage setting. On the first play, Armstrong gained 15 yards on a jet sweep to the right. On the next play, Wimbush found Finke for a 40-yard pass on a corner route. A few plays later, Book also hit Finke down the seam with a nice throw and catch.
Wimbush’s second interception of the day came on a pass intended for Braden Lenzy. Freshman rover Shayne Simon stepped in front of the freshman wide receiver for an easy interception thrown right at him. Safety Nicco Fertitta nearly caught a third Wimbush interception, but he dropped the late throw.
The defense held up well against the run. Defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji helped stuff a pair of runs by Davis and Jones. Wimbush didn’t find much running room either.
The best part of the practice for Notre Dame’s offense came in a seven-on-seven setting near the goal line. Wimbush threw consecutive touchdowns to tight end Alize Mack, Finke and Boykin. Book recorded scores with tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Joe Wilkins Jr. Jurkovec hit freshman tight end George Takacs in the corner of the end zone for a leaping catch.
On the mend
Starting right tackle Robert Hainsey remained sidelined on Wednesday. Kelly said the team expects him back on Tuesday as he recovers from a leg strain.
Defensive end Daelin Hayes participated in portions of practice, but he didn’t take much live action. Kelly said he’s dealing with patellar tendinitis.
Linebackers Jack Lamb, Drew White and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah spent at least part of practice working with the training staff.
“We don’t have anything that’s major other than camp stuff,” Kelly said. “Might have a tendinitis here or a twist — but nothing that’s keeping anybody out of long-term competition.”
On the move
In just his second year at Notre Dame, Isaiah Robertson is now on his third position with the Irish. After initially playing safety and then moving to rover, Robertson was playing wide receiver on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore played wide receiver in high school. In his last two seasons at Naperville (Ill.) Neuqua Valley, Robertson caught 79 passes for 1,183 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Kelly said Robertson moved positions because of a logjam at rover.
“He’s got some skills,” Kelly said. “He showed that today. He doesn’t know what he’s doing offensively, but in the blue zone showed soft hands, went up and caught the football with dexterity, didn’t feel like it was clumsy to him. It was natural. He’s a guy that we’ll continue to progress on the offensive side.”