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March 20, 2009Notre Dame opened spring practice Friday at the LaBar Practice Complex, going without pads for the first of 15 workouts spread over the next month leading to the April 18 Blue-Gold Game. The coaching staff proved to be in mid-spring form, Charlie Weis ragging on Ron Powlus, Frank Verducci showing his inner-Tenuta with the offensive line, Tony Alford jumping on the running backs and Jon Tenuta being well Jon Tenuta.
Started with the receivers today, a group that will be interesting to follow all spring. No Golden Tate today and George West might be one of the most banged up guys out here based on how slowly he moved through drills. Duval Kamara didn't appear to be hurting, but he was wearing a large brace on his left elbow. However, Kamara also appeared lean, having maintained that 219-pound roster listing.
As for the young guys, Michael Floyd had the look of a player who had hit the weights hard this off-season, getting bigger in the upper body and lower body. If you saw Floyd in person last year you might have been surprised that he could play with such power considering his physique. Not any more. He looks like a player ready to handle the extra coverage sure to come his way.
Tough to get a read on Deion Walker and John Goodman, but the best thing to say about the pair is how they didn't look: skinny. For most of last year they stood out for their lack of stature. Now they fit right into the mix. Walker did get a "move your feet!" from Rob Ianello during drills. I should be speaking with Walker tomorrow about his off-season and spring goals.
On the early enrollees, the most impressive to me was Tyler Stockton. When I watched last year's freshman linemen (excluding Ethan Johnson), it was clear they had a long way to go in the weight room before hitting the field. Stockton doesn't have the look of somebody who will be overmatched from the jump. Not sure if Zeke Motta slimmed down or he was just that much bigger than all the linebackers at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but he has a lot of room to grow. E.J. Banks jogged with the defensive backs. The best thing about his first impression was the absence of a knee brace.
The fifth-year senior spottings: Paul Duncan, Ray Herring, Kyle McCarthy and Scott Smith. Didn't see Mike Anello, who is recovering from a broken leg. Another note on Smith: when the first group linebackers came out it was Scott Smith, Brian Smith and Steve Filer.
As for Filer, he looks as athletic as ever and as much a target for Tenuta as ever. "Do you even have a clue?" was thrown Filer's way by the defensive coordinator during one drill.
Darrin Walls looked like he never left Notre Dame based on his physique. I wouldn't expect him to be playing a lot of catch up, although he's sure to hear about his absence from teammates. A couple sarcastic digs got thrown his way Friday. Robert Blanton and Raeshon McNeil will both have a fight on their hands.
What a specimen Kapron Lewis-Moore appears to be. You just don't see too many kids with his build on Notre Dame's defensive line, unfortunately. He's lean without being skinny, built without being bulky, long without being rangy. It will be very interesting to see how he develops because he has a monster opportunity waiting for him. I'm planning to interview KLM on Saturday.
As noted earlier, Verducci may be the offensive line's answer to Tenuta. He may tone it down the more the media is around, but let's just say four-letter words are allies. He tossed Lane Clelland out of one drill, pitching a couple expletives to the offensive tackle along the way.
When you first saw that press conference of Randy Hart, perhaps you thought his enthusiasm was an act. If that's the case, it continued Friday. This guy is fired up, but more in a respected professor way opposed to the taskmasters at linebacker and offensive line. During one drill on wrapping up, Hart demonstrated by wrapping up walk-on Christopher Skubis and then lifted him off the ground to prove his point. Not bad for a guy who's been coaching 40 years.
Watched the running backs to get a feel for Tony Alford. For how much he appeared to be a "players coach" during his press conference, he had no problem getting on Jonas Gray when he tripped over a cone during a footwork drill. "Don't make it harder than what it is!" Alford yelled.
Didn't see too much of the quarterbacks other than stretching, but Jimmy Clausen is probably closer physically to Dayne Crist than at any point last year. Crist is still the much bigger athlete, but Clausen continues to develop in Notre Dame's weight program.
Notre Dame practices again Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
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