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Irish Insights

  • Brindza on Lou Groza watch list
    Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza was named to the preseason watch list for the 2014 Lou Groza Award. The Lou Groza Award is given annually to the nation's best placekicker.
  • Two more Irish land on watch lists
    Notre Dame center Nick Martin was placed on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's best player at that position.
  • Will Mahone no longer enrolled at Notre Dame
    Receiver Will Mahone has no chance of returning to Notre Dame while facing felony charges of assault on a police officer, intimidation of a public servant and vandalism, his attorney said Tuesday.

4-17 Irish practice: Offense

Notre Dame's offense would probably like to have the opening part of Saturday's practice back.

The 11th practice of the 15-session spring was open for its entire two hours to the media and about 800 coaches from this weekend's convention.

Irish coach Brian Kelly was displeased with how his offense started practice in front of the large audience.

During the offensive drill in which the three groups have a minute to complete five plays, Kelly ripped into the unit for its slow pace and directed a lot of his displeasure at the quarterbacks.

Backup Nate Montana was forced to take his hand warmer off his waste, but Dayne Crist received the brunt of Kelly's anger. The coach told his first-string quarterback that the slow start was his fault.

The offense didn't do a lot to redeem itself in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. As the defense, especially the first unit, largely dominated during the scrimmage-heavy practice.

While the defense had a good day, Kelly said that doesn't mean the offense is falling behind.

"I get asked that a lot," Kelly said of the defense being ahead of the offense. "As the head coach, if I go through practice and I'm happy, that's not a good day for me. There's something that's got to be lagging one way or the other.

"I think today our defense did a great job taking the ball away. Offensively, our issues are about consistency. We can put three or four plays together and then we'll put two or three awful plays together. Defensively I like the consistency on the back end, we're going and getting the football. We're aggressively getting after it from that standpoint."

It wasn't all fire and brimstone for the offense.

Kelly was pleased with his offensive line's performance Saturday.

The first unit was made up of Zack Martin at left tackle, Chris Stewart at left guard, Braxston Cave at center, Trevor Robinson at right guard and Taylor Dever at right tackle. Robinson and Dever were flipped last week.

The second unit had Matt Romine at left tackle, Andrew Nuss at left guard, Dan Wenger at center, Lane Clelland at right tackle and Chris Watt at right guard.

"I was pleased with our offensive line today," Kelly said. "Their pass pro was much better than last Saturday. (Last) Saturday was throw it and duck. We did a better job up front. I thought we saw some improvement there."


Kelly lightened up with the quarterbacks a little when practice went into individual sessions.

The coach worked with Crist, Montana, Tommy Rees, Brian Castello and Matt Mulvey on their foot work.

About midway through, Kelly calmly demonstrated how the quarterbacks should be moving their feet so they don't crossover.

Crist also showed why he will likely be the starter with a couple of throws during 11-on-11.

Crist hit tight end Kyle Rudolph in some pretty tight spots for two touchdowns in the red zone, and Crist's best throw came when he threaded the ball between three defenders to hit Duval Kamara up the middle of the field.

Receivers/tight ends vs. defensive backs

With the quarterbacks rotating throws in the middle of the field, the receivers and tight ends ran against defensive backs Saturday.

Here is how some of the matchups went on the left side of the field:

Tyler Eifert vs. Chris Badger: Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, was able to make an adjust and turned to make a catch on a ball thrown by Crist

Kamara vs. E.J. Banks: Kamara hauled in a pass from Montana that went over Banks' head

Barry Gallup Jr. vs. Lo Wood: Gallup dropped the pass

Tai-ler Jones vs. Darrin Walls: Jones couldn't catch up to a ball thrown to the outside

Jake Golic vs. Harrison Smith: Smith stayed tight on Golic, who couldn't make the catch

Roby Toma vs. Jamoris Slaughter: Toma couldn't come up with a catch down the sideline

John Goodman vs. Gary Gray: Goodman, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, caught the pass on a short route

Mike Ragone vs. Zeke Motta: Pass was thrown behind Ragone

Michael Floyd vs. Wood: Floyd cut back to create space from Wood to make the catch

Shaquelle Evans vs. Robert Blanton: Blanton stayed step for step with Evans as the receiver curled to the outside and no catch was made

Holding back

Rudolph participated in plenty of drills Saturday, but the 6-foot-6, 265-pound sophomore was limited in contact drills as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Rudolph only participated in a few red zone plays during 11-on-11, but he made them count.

He grabbed a pass in the middle of the end zone with linebacker Manti Te'o interfering on the play. Rudolph also ran over Slaughter at the goal line for another touchdown.

But most of the first-team plays had Mike Ragone at tight end.

"We wanted to be cautious with Kyle (Rudolph) still," Kelly said. "We got him in there for a couple one-on-one routes where we wanted to work. But other than that we kept him out of most of the scrimmages stuff."

Dwenger contributions

Eifert was part of one of the offense's rare good plays in 11-on-11, but he was also part of the offense's all-too-often bad plays.

On the good side, Eifert made a nice spin move after catching a short pass to turn what looked like a six-yard play into about a 12-yard play. Eifert spun away from cornerback James Redshaw to add six yards to the play and he stayed upright after absorbing a pretty solid hit from the next defender forcing multiple defenders to help take him down.

On the bad side, Eifert had a catch knocked out of his hands for a fumble that Blanton returned for a touchdown. Eifert didn't have a great chance of hauling in the pass to start with as Motta tipped the ball before it got to the tight end.

Eifert had more time with the second-team offense Saturday with Ragone moving up to first team to replace Rudolph for most of the reps.

Goodman continued to work with the second-team offense, but he didn't see a lot of action come his way during 11-on-11.

He also got an earful from Kelly when he was stopped short of the goal line off a short pass.

After practice was over, Goodman returned to the locker room with his left foot wrapped in ice and was limping. But he did walk back under his own power, so it likely isn't an injury that will hamper him in the final week leading up to the Blue-Gold Game.

Freshman contribution

Jones, one of five freshmen who enrolled early, played mainly with the first-team offense again.

The freshman caught a few Crist's passes in 7-on-7, but he didn't see a lot of action during 11-on-11.

But the future does look bright for Jones.

"T.J.'s got some real good ability," Kelly said. "But his work volume, he's still got the tassel on the car window from graduation; he's just a young kid. He's got a chance to be a player for us and contribute this year, but boy, his work volume really tapers off. That's why we've got to get two or three guys ready at that position."

Jones also worked as a punt returned with Armando Allen, Theo Riddick and Goodman.

Return Sunday for defensive notes from Saturday's 2-hour open practice.