Notre Dame offense practice notes 4-4

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long said he wanted to push his starting quarterback this spring. That didn’t happen on Thursday.

It was a dink and dunk kind of practice for Ian Book. A majority of his completions — both in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions — traveled five yards or fewer from the line of scrimmage. Granted, ND’s defense provided tight coverage and solid pressure throughout. 

The Irish tallied fewer head-to-head sessions than usual in spring practice No. 11 of 15, which was held at the Loftus Sports Center. Book finished 11-of-13 in 7-on-7 settings and 4-of-4 in the scrimmage portions. One of Book’s only deep balls sailed over the head of Joe Wilkins Jr. in a 7-on-7 portion.

Book did deliver an impressive deep ball into the end zone during a 1-on-1 setting, however Lawrence Keys III couldn't secure it. 

Backup Phil Jurkovec also didn’t find much downfield. All but a couple of his completions were just beyond the line of scrimmage. Jurkovec went 6-of-8 in 7-on-7 settings and 2-of-6 in the scrimmage portions. One of his only deep balls was an overthrow intended for Kevin Austin Jr. Wilkins salvaged Jurkovec’s underthrown deep throw with a comeback-type reception.

Besides in 1-on-1 drills, ND’s receivers failed to create separation and free themselves down the field. Book’s second incompletion during scrimmages came as a result of no one getting open. The Irish defensive line made noise due to some of the elongated plays.

Seniors Chase Claypool and Chris Finke weren’t as productive as last week but still performed well in 1-on-1 drills. Finke trumped defensive backs Jalen Elliott and Houston Griffith deep, however an underthrown pass on the former allowed Elliott to catch up and swat it down. Claypool bested Griffith on an out route in a 1-on-1 setting and caught a pass over the middle during a scrimmage portion. 

Junior Michael Young was quiet in the scrimmage and 7-on-7 portions. However, he impressed in 1-on-1 settings. Young made cornerback TaRiq Bracy look silly, beating him deep on a double move. He also won battles against defensive backs Temitope Agoro and DJ Brown (twice).

Austin, a sophomore, battled well in 1-on-1 settings. He bested cornerback Troy Pride Jr. twice on slant routes. He struggled in scrimmage portions, dropping a pass over the middle and falling victim to an overthrow. 

Sophomore Lawrence Keys III continued to look fluid thanks to his smooth route running. He created separation against Griffith with ease on a slant route during a 1-on-1 setting.

Keys struggled to find his footing on deep routes, though. He couldn’t seem to locate deep passes or put himself in position to make plays on 50-50 balls. Keys couldn't react quick enough to snatch deep throws from Jurkovec and Book. Agoro defended both plays. 

Sophomore Braden Lenzy returned to action after being limited last week with a hamstring injury. His participation didn’t last long, though. The 5-foot-11, 184-pounder seemed shaken up after jumping for a deep ball against Agoro, which fell incomplete. Lenzy remained limited following that early 1-on-1 matchup.

Tight ends Cole Kmet, Brock Wright, Tommy Tremble and George Takacs were mostly limited to dump off receptions in each of the 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and scrimmage settings.

The 6-3, 237-pound Tremble flashed the most out of those four. He created a gaping amount of separation against safety Derrik Allen on an out route during a 1-on-1 setting. The sophomore also snagged one of the scrimmage’s deepest passes on a Jurkovec throw over the middle.

Running backs Jafar Armstrong, Tony Jones Jr., C’Bo Flemister and Kyren Williams couldn’t find much room in the running game. Armstrong won a couple matchups in 1-on-1 drills, with the best one coming on a slant route against linebacker Shayne Simon. Jones made a tough reception on an out route during a scrimmage portion.

The only tweak for the offensive starters came up front. Left tackle Liam Eichenberg was a limited participant as junior Aaron Banks took his place. That elevated Josh Lugg to starting left tackle. The Irish could not provide enough time up front as their receivers struggled to get open.

Lining up

The offensive line starters (from left to right) were Aaron Banks, Josh Lugg, Jarrett Patterson, Tommy Kraemer and Robert Hainsey. The scrimmage backups (from left to right) were Andrew Kristofic, Dillan Gibbons, Zeke Correll, John Dirksen and Quinn Carroll. The first observed practice Correll, an early enrolled freshman, overtook Luke Jones as the No. 2 center was on March 26.   

The Irish also utilized the following players on their No. 1 offense: quarterback Ian Book, running back Jafar Armstrong, wide receivers Chase Claypool, Chris Finke and Michael Young and tight end Cole Kmet. Running back Tony Jones Jr., tight end Brock Wright, left tackle Liam Eichenberg and right tackle Cole Mabry were also parts of the rotation.

The No. 2 offense used quarterback Phil Jurkovec, running back C’Bo Flemister, tight end Tommy Tremble and wide receivers Joe Wilkins Jr., Lawrence Keys III and Kevin Austin Jr. Tight end George Takacs and running back Kyren Williams were also parts of the rotation.

Sophomore running back Jahmir Smith took to the sideline and spent time on the exercise bike. He joined the non-participants in offensive linemen Trevor Ruhland and Colin Grunhard. Receiver Javon McKinley was mostly a non-participant as well.

Sideline sightings

Former Irish offensive linemen Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher were seen on the field serving as coaches of sorts. Monument (Colo.) Palmer Ridge’s Kaden Dudley, a 2021 receiver recruit, observed practice on the sidelines.

Ian Book (12) during Notre Dame spring football practice Saturday, March 30, 2019, in South Bend.