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Practice observations

Notre Dame has a week left of spring practice before the Blue-Gold game April 21, and on Saturday, the Irish opened their practice to 600 coaches attending their coaching clinic and the media.

Here are some observations from the 11th practice of the spring:

Offensive tempo drills

There wasn't any major changes on the first- and second-team units as the offense ran through tempo after stretching.

Tommy Rees was still the first quarterback up and was relieved by Andrew Hendrix on the first team. Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel continued to share snaps on the second team.

The first-team offensive line is working with Braxston Cave back at center. The fifth-year senior is returning from a foot injury he suffered late last season.

Cave said he is participating in all work but 11-on-11 as a precaution not to re-injure his foot.

The rest of the first-team offensive line featured Zack Martin at left tackle, Chris Watt at left guard, Mike Golic Jr. at right guard and Christian Lombard at right tackle.

The second-team offensive line had Jordan Prestwood at left tackle, Bruce Heggie at right guard, Matt Hegarty at center, Nick Martin at right guard and Tate Nichols at right tackle.

The first-team line for 11-on-11, when Cave sat out, had Golic at Center and Nick Martin at right guard. The moving of Golic between guard and center will likely be how he is used this season.

Nick Martin appears ready to take over the starting right guard spot, and Golic would give Notre Dame a strong utility lineman.

The skill positions for the first team had running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick splitting time; DaVaris Daniels, Robby Toma and Daniel Smith; and Bishop Dwenger grad Tyler Eifert and Alex Welch splitting tight end duties.

Former Bishop Dwenger star John Goodman wasn't with the first team because he sat out practice with a right ankle injury.

The skill positions on the second team were handled by running back George Atkinson, receivers Andre Smith – a walk-on who moved into the rotation because of Goodman's absence – Eric Lee and Nick Fitzpatrick and tight end Ben Koyack.


Rees continues to look the most game ready for the Irish. He is getting more comfortable with designed run plays and was accurate when the QBs worked on rolling out of the pocket and hitting targets in nets that were set up to the left and right.

Everett Golson struggled with his accuracy on role outs. He threw under the net multiple times as coach Brian Kelly continued to stress accuracy during the drill.

Golson made up for his inaccurate passes during the roll-out drill later in practice, throwing a beautiful ball to Toma in the corner of the end zone. The sophomore-to-be also showed his running ability by converting a third-and-long for a first down.

Andrew Hendrix continues to look solid and a threat to take the starting job. He showed the strongest arm of the three quarterbacks, hooking up with Toma on a long throw during seven-on-seven and nailing a pass to Daniels on a comeback route.

Kiel was the least used of the four. The early-enrollee connected on a nice pass to Alex Welch over the middle during seven-on-seven, but he looks like the No. 4 in the group.

Catch of the day

Tight end Tyler Eifert made a great one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone on a pass from Rees. The former Bishop Dwenger star came down with the ball even though he was being tightly defended by Bennett Jackson.

The catch was so good, even defensive coordinator Bob Diaco came over to give Eifert a high five.

Breakup of the day

Cam McDaniel still has a long way to got to be an effective cornerback, but the former running back showed why Kelly saw potential in moving him to defense.

McDaniel was able to reach up and bat a ball away from Eifert in the end zone during seven-on-seven

Irish Eyes

The drill pits offensive linemen and tight ends against defensive linemen and linebackers. A highlight of practice because of the collisions.

Nose guard Louis Nix stood out for more than his 6-foot-3, 326-pound frame. The junior-to-be appeared to tackle Hegarty and Wood at the same time on one of his times up.

Eifert showed improve blocking handling linebacker Ishaq Williams

Lombard held his own well against defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, who moved well for a player returning from knee surgery.

Watt proved to be way too much for sophomore-to-be linebacker Jarrett Grace to handle.

Never too early

Diaco had the linebackers working on getting around chop blocks. Something that will be needed in the Irish's season opener against Navy in Ireland this year.

Diaco stressed keeping your eye on the blocker, getting your hand on the opponent's helmet and shoulder pad and pushing him down.

Diaco kept telling the linebackers to take their time during the drill as the purpose was not how fast they could get around a blocker but using the right technique to avoid being blocked.

When Anthony Rabasa rushed through the drill at one point, Diaco told him he was advertising bad fundamentals.

Field goals

I only got to see the last two attempts by Nick Tausch. He had his 39-yard attempt blocked but nailed his 47-yarder.

Kyle Brindza converted on his PAT and kicks from 26 and 36 yards but missed wide left on his 39-yard attempt.

Big hit

Justin Utupo provided the biggest blast of the practice.

The junior-to-be linebacker tore down the field during kickoff coverage and blasted ball carrier Joe Romano so hard that Romano's helmet flew off.

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.