Notre Dame football completed spring camp with their final practice, the 15th, in the annual Blue-Gold game at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday. After the long 4-8 season of 2016 it was refreshing to see Notre Dame not lose.
In all seriousness there were a lot of bright spots for ND.
The two QBs, Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book, while wearing no contact red jerseys both performed admirably. Wimbush is the presumed starter and he showed off some NFL throws to WR Chase Claypool. Wimbush was a little inconsistent with a couple of turnovers but I think a large part of that was the red jersey messing with his routine. Book was excellent and the rising sophomore looked very capable of handling the back up duties this fall. I had to do a couple of double takes because I thought Johnny Manziel decided to come back to college and be the backup QB at ND. Book was that good with his throwing (much better arm than I anticipated) and accuracy along with reading the defenses and making quick decisions. The backup QB spot is in good hands with Book.
I also thought the RB trio of Josh Adams, Tony Jones Jr., and Dexter Williams provided a much needed balance to the offense. All three ran with purpose and had individual highlight plays.
I was also extremely impressed with the receiving core. Claypool, Equanemious St. Brown, and Miles Boykin all started at the X, Y and Z positions and caught everything from what I recall. Each one of them is over 6'4 and I'm starting to get 2005 flashbacks with Brady Quinn throwing the ball up to the likes of Jeff Samardzija, Maurice Stovall and Anthony Fasano. The tight ends also looked tremendous with Alize "Return of the Mack" coming off his academic suspension and basically being unstoppable.
The defensive line to my surprise provided consistent rush to the QBs accounting for 9 sacks total. Remember the QBs had no contact red jerseys so as soon as the defender was close it was ruled a sack. Rising sophomore Daelin Hayes was a monster and looked like the 5-star prospect coming out of high school. Daelin had 3 sacks and Jay Hayes (no relation) also had a couple from what I recall.
The linebacking core played great and instead of engaging with blockers they actually played downfield for a change. You can tell new defensive coordinator Mike Elko has made a huge difference in the mentality of the defense. Guys like Nyles Morgan (tremendous trucking of All-American left guard Quenton Nelson) and Greer Martini were unstoppable at times and rover Drue Tranquill looked like a Harrison Smith clone out there.
The secondary also played well and picked up some turnovers. It's refreshing to see ND have a lot of depth on the back end of the defense and despite some missed tackles I thought they played extremely well.
Also Jonathan Doerer, the freshman kicker brought in for insurance in case Justin Yoon can't kick this fall, showed a consistent leg and nailed all of his field goal attempts in the middle of the uprights.
The only knock I had on the team was the play of the offensive line which is suppose to be a strength. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand looks like he has some problems on the right side of the line where DE Daelin Hayes was basically having a field day in the backfield. They got plenty of time to correct those mistakes though as the season is still 120 plus days away.
Overall I liked what I saw from the glorified practice scrimmage. You can tell the coaching changes have helped and I love seeing Chip Long use the tight ends more while also having the QB line up behind center and have some two-back sets. I don't see any reason with the starting and second string talent why Notre Dame can't break many offensive records this year. The tackling still needs work but I thought the defense played fast. Still need to get more consistent effort from the likes of Jerry Tillery and Daniel Cage in the middle and I think with freshman Darnell Ewell coming in summer will help push their effort level.