Practice notebook: Freshmen emerging for Notre Dame

Practice notebook: Freshmen emerging for Notre Dame
August 17, 2013, 3:45 pm
Share This Post

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's talented 2013 recruiting class may make an immediate impact this fall.

Beyond linebacker Jaylon Smith, who took most of the reps with the first-team defense Saturday with Danny Spond ending his playing career, coach Brian Kelly expects a good chunk of his true freshmen to see the field this fall.

[RELATED: Citing medical reasons, Danny Spond ends his football career]

Kelly said it'd be his and his coaching staff's fault if they couldn't find a way to deploy some of the talented freshmen at their disposal.

"When it comes to coaching, if we make it that complicated that I can't get Jaylon Smith on the field, then we're not really good coaches," he explained. "It's that simple. If Jaylon Smith or (sophomore) Elijah Shumate can't get on the field, or I can't get (cornerback) Cole Luke on the field, or we can't get (offensive lineman) Steve Elmer on the field, then we're missing the boat."

Luke saw reps in Notre Dame's nickel package during Saturday's practice, and Kelly said the Chandler, Ariz. native is among the better cover corner backs on his roster.

With Chris Watt sidelined, Elmer slid in at right guard Saturday, and is a guy whose versatility was lauded by Kelly.

[MORE: Notre Dame turns to 'Hercules' at tight end]

"Steve Elmer can play anywhere other than center right now," Kelly said. "He can play any of guard or tackle positions. We've got great flexibility with him. He's more comfortable at left tackle, but if we had to play him at any of the guard positions or tackle positions, we could put him in and we could play."

Receiver Corey Robinson made a pair of contested grabs against cornerback Bennett Jackson, using his size and athleticism to create a mismatch outside. Kelly said Robinson still has to work on his inside routes and needs to get stronger to do so, but expects him to play a role in Notre Dame's offense this fall.

Running back Greg Bryant saw some work with the first and second-team offenses, and looked impressive in a red zone drill -- he charged right at fellow five-star freshman Max Redfield, and used his strength and athleticism to create a nice cushion to reel in a pass in the end zone.

[RELATED: KeiVarae Russell confident Irish secondary can dominate]

Still, while Kelly's high on Bryant, he said the Delray Beach, Fla. native has to pick some more stuff up before he can really be unleashed in the offense. That can be said for every freshman, either on offense or defense, but two weeks into practice it's apparent this young core will have an impact this fall.

Emptying the notebook

-- Saturday's first-team offensive line went, from left to right: Zack Martin, Elmer, Nick Martin, Christian Lombard and Ronnie Stanley. Incumbent right guard Chris Watt wasn't in pads, although his ailment wasn't characterized as serious by Kelly.

 -- Josh Atkinson saw some action with the receivers early in practice, which is more indicative of the depth Notre Dame has at cornerback. No matter the reason why Atkinson worked out there, it's something the Irish couldn't have done with last year's thin depth chart.

[RELATED: Notre Dame, Northwestern earn spots on AP Top 25 poll]

-- Kelly said he and his coaches are beginning the process of evaluating the work put in by Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza to figure out who will be the team's placekicker this fall. Brindza is also battling for the No. 1 punter job with Wake Forest transfer Alex Wulfeck.

-- Most of Saturday's drills were situational, with Kelly aiming to test both his players and coaches in two-minute and red zone spots, among others.

-- The now-infamous gauntlet machine Cam McDaniel slammed into this week had a "DO NOT ENTER" sign taped to its back.