Notre Dame offense practice notes 8-8

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

CULVER, Ind. — Notre Dame endured a few casualties after donning full pads for the first time this preseason training camp.

The most notable injury came to starting tight end Cole Kmet. Irish Illustrated first reported the news that Kmet suffered a broken collarbone during Thursday’s practice. A source confirmed the news to the Tribune and expects Kmet to miss three to six weeks.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior landed with a thud after hauling in an impressive jump ball. With starting safety Alohi Gilman providing tight coverage, Kmet secured the back-shoulder throw from backup quarterback Phil Jurkovec.

The Irish will likely turn to sophomore tight ends Brock Wright and Tommy Tremble to carry the load. They have 25 days before the Sept. 2 season opener at Louisville to get acclimated. In the meantime, Notre Dame returns to campus after holding five of its practices at the Culver Academies in Culver, Ind. this week.

Below are the other practice notes and takeaways regarding the Irish offense.

Offense lining up

No. 1 offense: quarterback Ian Book, running back Jafar Armstrong, wide receivers Chase Claypool, Chris Finke and Michael Young, tight end Cole Kmet, left tackle Liam Eichenberg, left guard Aaron Banks, center Jarrett Patterson, right guard Tommy Kraemer and right tackle Robert Hainsey. Running back Tony Jones Jr. also rotated with the 1s.

No. 2 offense: quarterback Phil Jurkovec, running backs Kyren Williams and Jahmir Smith, receivers Joe Wilkins Jr., Braden Lenzy and Lawrence Keys III, left tackle Josh Lugg, left guard Trevor Ruhland, center Colin Grunhard, right guard John Dirksen and right tackle Andrew Kristofic.

Wright saw time with the first-team offense following Kmet’s injury. Tremble also lined up with the 1s. Junior Dillan Gibbons served as the second-team right guard during the tempo drill.

Freshman Quinn Carroll suffered a season-ending right knee injury during practice this week and sported a brace on the sidelines. He lined up as the second-team left tackle on Sunday.

Running back Jahmir Smith broke a bone in his left hand in practice this week. He still participated and wore a blue cast around his wrist and lower forearm.  Long snapper John Shannon and offensive lineman Cole Mabry took to the sideline for the majority of practice.

Like he did on Sunday, sophomore receiver Kevin Austin Jr. participated in limited fashion. 

Offense notes/takeaways

Young might have been ND’s most impressive offensive player Thursday. The junior seemed to haul in every pass thrown his direction, including those that were 50-50 balls.

Starting boundary cornerback Troy Pride Jr. and starting field cornerback Donte Vaughn were victims of Young's two jump ball receptions. Young also recorded a deep touchdown on freshman corner Isaiah Rutherford. Claypool also snagged a few back-shoulder throws.

Among the younger receivers, Lenzy seems like a top candidate to challenge for playing time. He has a knack for creating separation with his speed alone. Becoming more physical and learning how to track the ball better seems like Lenzy’s next step.

Three Irish tight ends — Kmet, Wright and Tremble — also made difficult catches. On the play Kmet went down, the junior used his body to block out Gilman while grabbing the jump ball. Book threw two straight red zone touchdowns to Wright. On the second score via a slant route, Wright made a one-handed snag before securing the ball with both hands.

Tremble began practice dropping two consecutive passes, undefended, during the tempo drill. He later made a difficult catch against Gilman, who provided tight coverage.  

Book moved the offense down the field well in 11-on-11 action and went interception-less on the day. It it was Jurkovec who stood out, though.

One of Jurkovec’s few ill-advised throws on Thursday resulted in Hamilton’s interception. Other than that mistake, Jurkovec looked much better than he did on Sunday. The sophomore had a tendency to lock onto one receiver or force a throw deep in traffic. There wasn’t much of that this time.

Jurkovec seemingly threw a tighter spiral and packed the correct heat on certain intermediate throws. He also found a groove with his deep ball, finding Kmet, Young (twice) and receiver Javon McKinley downfield. Jurkovec underthrew Lenzy on two of his deep routes, though.

Powered by Robert Hainsey and Aaron Banks, the first-team offensive line provided solid pass protection. Book rarely saw pressure from someone other than defensive end Julian Okwara. The backup offensive line groups, though, are no match for ND's second- and third-team defensive line.

Jones and Armstrong ran with power and authority. Armstrong turned a screen pass into a first down after juking out Okwara in the open space. Williams continues to flash his versatility as a running back by making plays from the slot.

Special teams

The Irish began practice with a competition of sorts between place-kickers Jonathan Doerer and Harrison Leonard. The walk-on freshman Leonard won the matchup.

Leonard drilled field goals from 20, 31, 35, 40 and 42 yards. Doerer, ND’s lone scholarship place-kicker, missed from 43 and 50 but connected from 20, 31, 35, 39 and 48 yards.

Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec throws during Notre Dame's fifth preseason training camp practice on Thursday at the Culver Academies in Culver, Ind.