Underdog Irish receive inspiration from Notre Dame President John Jenkins

Mike Berardino
ND Insider
Notre Dame's Benjamin Morrison prior to Notre Dame Fall Practice on Friday, August 12, 2022, at Irish Athletics Center in South Bend, Indiana.

SOUTH BEND — Nine days before "Script Ohio" and the dotting of the “I” at Ohio State, Rev. John I. Jenkins visited Notre Dame football practice on Thursday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s president spent a little under five minutes, including a closing prayer, addressing a fifth-ranked Irish team that faces long odds in its season opener on Sept. 3 in Columbus, Ohio.

As Marcus Freeman looked on and jotted down notes, the entire team took a knee at midfield of the indoor practice facility and listened intently to Father Jenkins. Among those in the front row for the talk were quarterbacks Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne; linebacker Jack Kiser, defensive ends Isaiah Foskey and Rylie Mills; long snapper Michael Vinson, offensive lineman Josh Lugg, cornerback Cam Hart and running back Chris Tyree.

Freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison must have been particularly inspired. Asked during a post-practice media session where he gets his confidence, the Phoenix product smiled.

“God,” he said. “I’m nothing without Him. Knowing that, I just have the utmost confidence. I always say, ‘The Lord holds me, what can man do to me?’ It doesn’t matter who I’m going against or what I’m going against, I know he’s on my side. He could be on the other side, too, but it doesn’t matter because I know I’m confident.”

Houston Griffith:Self-discovery helps safety grow into Notre Dame leadership role

According to VegasInsider.com, the Irish are consensus 16 1/2 -point underdogs against the second-ranked Buckeyes. Notre Dame is 2-4 all-time with four straight losses in the series. Its wins came in 1935 and 1936.  

As Father Jenkins watched pass coverage drills along with athletic director Jack Swarbrick, Irish players were treated to the blaring sounds of "Eye of the Tiger" and "No Easy Way Out," theme songs from "Rocky III" and "Rocky IV."

Ramon Henderson finds a home

In his first offseason at safety, Ramon Henderson found out there's a lot more to the position than there is to cornerback. 

"You have to know different gaps and where other people are going,” Henderson said. "That's the biggest difference. You have to know so much more of the field and where everyone else is going to be." 

Henderson, a junior, never experienced playing safety until last season's Virginia game, where he recorded his first Notre Dame interception. He spent the final two regular-season games and the Fiesta Bowl learning the position on the fly.

Notre Dame’s Ramon Henderson (11) didn’t make the full transition to safety until the week of the Virginia game.

After a full offseason and training camp to hone the details, Henderson believes he's ready to step into a full-time starting role for Notre Dame's defense. 

"From that Virginia game until Oklahoma State there was definitely a big jump in ability," Henderson said. "I would say there is a bigger jump now. We do this stuff every day for hours and hours. Just repping the same stuff, getting used to (terminology)." 

Henderson believes his skillset, which features length and speed, plays better at safety than cornerback. He wants to stay versatile as possible to be a factor for Notre Dame's defense. 

"It's a good move," he said. "I really did like corner. I got used to corner. But now I am getting used to safety. I really like the idea that you are involved. You just have more to do. I think that's cool.”

Jarrett Patterson remains out

With nine days left until kickoff in Columbus, preseason All-America and converted left guard Jarrett Patterson remains sidelined with his sprained right foot in a walking boot.

Patterson, who was injured on Aug. 15 during a night practice at Penn High School, ditched his scooter on Wednesday but was limited Thursday to about 15 minutes of mental reps during early work before the team stretch period.

The fifth-year senior, who Freeman has deemed "questionable" to play in the opener, rode the stationary bike and did some conditioning work while seated on the ground. Patterson was spotted using a kettle bell while standing and doing weight-bearing exercise during Wednesday’s open practice period.

Andrew Kristofic, who started the final eight games of last season at left guard, continues to work with the first unit in Patterson’s place.

Starting cornerback Cam Hart, who wasn’t spotted at Monday’s open practice, pushed back on a question about his health status after working fully on Thursday.

“Really healthy,” he said. “I’m doing everything (in practice).”

Backup center Pat Coogan, who recently emerged from concussion protocol, missed part of position drills as a trainer re-wrapped his left ring finger and examined his left wrist.

Redshirt freshman Justin Walters, who had been working on the scout team this week as a stand-in for Ohio State safety Ronnie “Rocket” Hickman , rode the stationary bike Thursday with other rehabbing players during the final open practice periods until December.

Freshman running back Gi’Bran Payne, who missed part of Wednesday’s open portion while a trainer worked on his left quadriceps area, was back working without apparent restrictions on Thursday.

Staff writer Justin B. Frommer contributed to this report. Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino and on TikTok @mikeberardinoNDI.