Notebook: Notre Dame offensive line gets physical in first full pads practice

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

CULVER, Ind. — Not long after the first preseason camp practice on Sunday, offensive tackle Robert Hainsey and defensive end Julian Okwara were already looking ahead to Thursday.

They knew Thursday would be the first practice with full pads and an extra level of physicality would come with it at the Culver Academies.

A dose of reality, served by Okwara, came with it too. Okwara beat both Hainsey and left tackle Liam Eichenberg with speed at the snap at times during Notre Dame’s scrimmage session. His quickness can be hard to match. At least once, Eichenberg was able to recover and knock Okwara off balance, which allowed quarterback Ian Book to complete a pass to wide receiver Chase Claypool.

Whatever it takes to get the job done.

“Our defensive ends are probably some of the best in the country,” Hainsey said. “It's a blast getting to go against them every day.”

Okwara seemed to be the only defensive lineman to find repeated success as a pass rusher against Notre Dame’s first-team offensive line during the scrimmage. Defensive end Khalid Kareem helped with pressure on the opposite edge when Okwara forced a whistle for what would have been a sack if he were allowed to tackle Book.

In full pads, the offensive line was able to generate a push in the running game. Running backs Jafar Armstrong and Tony Jones Jr. took advantage of some nice holes for a handful of runs of at least five yards.

Left guard Aaron Banks, who had foot surgery in June, doesn’t appear to be slowed at all. He set the tone early in the scrimmage with a pancake block.

So far, the Irish offensive line looks like a unit comfortable playing together. With four starters returning from last season and Patterson earning the No. 1 center spot in the spring, the group has been able to develop a chemistry.

“Everyone has an idea of what they need to work on, what they need to do,” Hainsey said. “No one's confused. No one's wondering what's going to happen.

“Everyone is just able to come in and focus on their role and making themselves better at that specifically. No one has to be a superhero and do everyone's job. Everyone needs to do their job to the best of their ability and that will help us do the best and help Notre Dame win."

Extra points

• Two of the biggest collisions of the day came near the goal line on back-to-back plays. On the first, defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa stuffed Jafar Armstrong to prevent him from punching in a touchdown from two yards out. On the next play, Armstrong found an opening to the left, where he was met by safeties Jalen Elliott and Alohi Gilman. Armstrong took the initial hit from Elliott and powered through them for a touchdown.

• Freshman Kyle Hamilton intercepted another pass by sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec in Thursday’s practice. It was the only interception recorded by Notre Dame’s defense that day. In Sunday’s practice, Hamilton intercepted three Jurkovec throws, two of which were deflected.

• Notre Dame’s first session of practice following stretching was dedicated to field goals. Junior Jonathan Doerer made five of his seven attempts with makes of 20, 31, 35, 40 and 48 yards and misses from 43 and 50 yards out. Freshman walk-on Harrison Leonard made all five of his attempts from 20, 31, 35, 40 and 42 yards.

• Wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander employed another interesting drill aid Thursday. During one session, he had his players work on stiff arms by fighting off a helmet that was attached to a rod that a teammate would push toward them.

Notre Dame’s offensive line showed some of its physicality in the first full pads practice of the preseason. The emergence of center Jarrett Patterson (left) has allowed the group to work together and build chemistry.