Notre Dame Football Notebook: Practice 12
Notre Dame’s second full week of training camp concluded in Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday with Faculty/Staff Appreciation Day in which university employees were permitted to attend the practice.
The top personnel news occurred during the 11th period out of the 24-period session that is divided into five-minute increments (two hours total). Junior receiver Michael Young — who earlier already made one of the two or three best downfield catches this practice on a leaping grab — attempted to make another identical reception near the sideline over classmate Avery Davis, who knocked the ball loose.
Young fell awkwardly and rose gingerly before the training staff walked him across the field for further examination. He did not return to practice, and head coach Brian Kelly said afterwards he had no further information from the training staff on Young’s status. Blueandgold.com’s Bryan Driskell later learned from several sources that Young’s injury might require surgery that could sideline him several weeks.
Replacing Young on the wide side of the field (X) was fifth-year senior slot (Z) Chris Finke, with sophomore Lawrence Keys III then moving into the slot.
A couple of other injury situations were conspicuous during warm-ups:
• Sophomore rover Paul Moala could not be found in the drills before getting seen off to the side with a cast and sling. Kelly reported after the practice that Moala had surgery on his thumb this past week to reattach a tendon, and he projected Moala’s return to be sometime in the middle of next week.
Working at No. 2 rover was freshman Jack Kiser, who continues to progress well to the point that he could seriously vie for the top backup role behind junior Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
• Also sidelined during initial teamwork was senior cornerback Donte Vaughn, who has all but locked down the field cornerback position opposite classmate Troy Pride Jr. A quadriceps injury limited Vaughn's live contact situations, tackling, in addition to some of the speed work. He is expected to be cleared to "full go" status again early next week, per Kelly.
In Vaughn’s place with the first unit was sophomore TaRiq Bracy.
• Senior wide receiver Javon McKinley was dressed for practice but did not partake in the contact work, nor did freshman wideout Cam Hart, who was bothered by an ankle issue.
Sophomore Joe Wilkins stood out much more in the absence of so many receivers (including Young), while junior Isaiah Robertson received the most reps in a practice that we could remember with McKinley, Young and Hart all sidelined.
• Junior tight end Cole Kmet was no longer in his sling following his collarbone surgery from nearly two weeks ago and was on the stationary bike. Joining him later was sophomore tackle Cole Mabry, although the nature of his injury was unknown.
Junior Jonathan Doerer has displayed a powerful leg all month and appears to be gaining separation in what has been tight competition with freshman Harrison Leonard for the starting kicking job to replace all-time scoring leader Justin Yoon.
Practice began with Doerer going 5 of 5 from 20 to 42 yards, while Leonard also went 3 of 3.
Doerer then missed wide right on his next three, the first from 46 yards and the last two from 50, although the lack of power was not an issue on any of them. In fact, his 42-yard field easily traveled about 60 yards.
Later, in a scrimmage situation, Doerer’s lone field-goal attempt, from 44 yards and on the left hash, was good and went well up into the stands.
“Jonathan has been really consistent in camp,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever scripted this much kicking — purposely, obviously, to test them, and because we had some competition.
“ Jonathan has done a great job of stepping up and proving that he is going to take that job and win that job. We still have some more time but I would say he’s putting himself in a very good position. Harrison is very steady as well. Solid kicker. What I liked is today we had some consistency with two kickers hitting the ball, and it seemed easy. That’s a good place to be.”
Serving as the holder was freshman starting punter Jay Bramblett, a departure from walk-on quarterback Nolan Henry, who had the role last year.
Bramblett also fared well during punting drills, averaging 40.2 yards on his five attempts, with a long of 44. More significant was he continues to get impressive hang time for the coverage unit.
Finke, Keys and Wilkins were catching the punts. There were no kickoff drills run in the practice, so there is no read on the return men there yet especially with Young sidelined. Young had nine of Notre Dame’s 13 kick returns last year, and he averaged 21.2 yards on them.
The final 20 minutes of the practice involved a scrimmage. Unlike in previous sessions, though, there was no matchup between the starting units against each other.
Possession 1: No. 2 Offense vs. No. 1 Defense, from offense’s 30-yard line
The drive began with sophomore running back Jahmir Smith rushing for three yards before a good stick by senior safety Alohi Gilman. On the next play, an outside zone run, Smith cut back and forced a missed tackle by inside linebacker Asmar Bilal, and gained four yards.
On third-and-three, sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec lofted a well-placed completion to Wilkins on a corner route for 20 yards to the defense’s 43-yard line.
On the next play, sophomore tight end George Takacs ran a seam against Bilal. The ball was released a little late by Jurkovec, but Takacs also appeared to stop running on the play, so the pass sailed into the waiting arms of freshman safety Kyle Hamilton — his seventh interception in various drills in the four practices that have been open to the media.
Possession 2: No. 1 Offense vs. No. 2 Defense, from offense’s 30-yard line
On an outside zone run, junior running back Jafar Armstrong romped for 20 yards to midfield on a clear path that was led by senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg.
On the next play, fifth-year senior safety Shaun Crawford broke up an Ian Book pass to Finke that was released a tad late. On second down, a blitz by sophomore linebacker Shayne Simon resulted in a seven-yard "touch sack," forcing third-and-17.
Book then completed a deep in for 20 yards to Finke against zone coverage to pick up the first down.
The following play, a leaping catch along the sideline by senior Chase Claypool over sophomore cornerback Houston Griffith picked up 27 more yards to the defense’s 20 (although it could have been debated whether Claypool caught the ball in-bounds).
On first-and-10, unblocked senior end Jamir Jones touch-sacked Book for a four-yard loss, and a draw play to Jones on second down resulted in only a two-yard gain thanks to sophomore tackle Ja’Mion Franklin staying home, disengaging the block and making the stop.
Once again, though, on third-and-12 from the 22 Book found Keys on a crossing pattern and he was able to out-race Owusu Koramoah the final 15 yards into the end zone for the score. Owusu-Koramoah appeared gassed because of his extensive work with the top two defenses with Moala shelved.
Doerer converted the PAT.
Possession 3: No. 2 Offense vs. No. 1-2 Defense, from offense’s 30-yard line
Jurkovec opened the series with a 10-yard completion to senior walk-on Arion Shinaver and followed with a 13-yard keeper off the zone read.
After freshman running back Kyren Williams picked up four yards on an inside zone, the offense was moved back to its own 48 on a holding call against junior Josh Lugg on senior end Ade Ogundeji.
A two-yard bubble screen to sophomore C’Bo Flemister came right before a 28-yard scramble up the middle by Jurkovec to the defense’s 22-yard line.
It became sloppy afterwards with two more holding calls on the offense, the second on Williams after the defense jumped offsides, thus creating off-setting penalties. A sack by senior end Daelin Hayes forced Doerer’s 44-yard field goal that was converted.
Possession 4: No. 1 Offense vs. No. 2-3 Defense, from offense’s 30-yard line
The reserve defense competed well against the top offense, forcing a third-and-6 on the fifth play — when Book found Finke on a drag route for 14 yards to the defense’s 42-yard line. Senior running back Tony Jones Jr. made an excellent block on a linebacker blitz to provide Book the time to make the throw and Finke to run the route.
Two short runs by Jones had 15 yards tacked on because of a 15-yard face mask penalty on junior end Kofi Wardlow.
From the defense’s 22-yard line, Book found Keys for seven yards, and then the offensive line had excellent movement on back-to-back 10- and five-yard runs by Armstrong, the latter for a score.
Possession 5: No. 3 Offense vs. No. 3 Defense, from offense’s 30-yard line
Senior walk-on Mick Assaf gained two yards on the first play before getting stopped by freshman end Isaiah Foskey. On second down freshman quarterback Brendon Clark’s pass to sophomore Micah Jones resulted in interference on senior walk-on cornerback Temitope Agoro.
Assaf then had a five-yard run on first down before getting thrown for a five-yard loss by freshman safety Litchfield Ajavon on the ensuing play.
Clark then found sophomore walk-on receiver Matt Salerno for 10 yards and the first down at the defense’s 43-yard line.
Clark lofted a sideline fade to Jones for a 21-yard gain despite good coverage by freshman cornerback K.J. Wallace.
The series ended with two sacks of Clark, the latter by Litchfield.