ND Football: Spring Ball Day 1

Today marked the day that ND fans love to hear “Welcome to Spring Ball.” The official kickoff to the Fightin’ Irish 2021 season is underway. Players putting on their practice jerseys, coaches blowing whistles and yes the media gets to meet with Coach Kelly. It’s kinda like practice for everyone. Their gaps to fill on the offensive side and defensive side of the ball. Day one is all about going through the paces of what is yet to come later this year. These fifteen days of Spring Ball will culminate on May 1 in the form of the Blue and Gold Game.

Coach Kelly Spring Ball Day One. Photo Courtesy Fighting Irish Media

Coach Kelly Press Conference

Coach Kelly’s Opening Statement “First Practice, pretty typical, a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm, guys excited to get back on the field and coaches excited. As you with Marcus out there, there is a lot guys that want to please and have the defensive coordinator notice them. New quarterback, so where somethings are a little bit of the same, there’s nice change. A combination of continuity and change is always good, a great energy at practice.”

“One down, hopefully, fourteen more to go. We did this last, got one down we were pretty excited about what had gone down in the practice and of course we didn’t practice again. So again, we had to be very careful with what we did today, it was a bit of a shortened preparation we had that stop for a week, but guys were in in great shape and we got as lot accomplished today.”

Media Questions

Dynamics Of Jack Coan Coming In As A Leader

“The first thing that Jack and I talked about was that our group here at Notre Dame is one where you will get immediate support from from these guys, because it’s Notre Dame and when you come here, it’s all about supporting each other and we just have that built into our culture. So, I said you don’t have to worry about pretending to be somebody else. Just be who you are and they know who you are. You’ve got a lot of recognition for the things that you’ve accomplished already in the Big 10 at Wisconsin, so the guys know who you are. Be who you are, be authentic and when you’re authentic, guys trust you. And look, when you’re a starting quarterback, you already have great traits and his work ethic is outstanding.”

“So we knew a lot of that about him already and so he came in here and has has fit in extremely well because he’s been authentic, he’s been who he is and hasn’t tried to pretend. Naturally, leadership will follow that position and that’s kind of what’s happened.”

Jack Coan Spring Ball Day One. Photo Courtesy Fighting Irish Media

Managing COVID Since The Bowl Game

“Well, we had to shut it down for about a week, where we had some positive tests. I think our guys did such a great job during the year, they may have grown a little weary and maybe let their guard down a little bit, while they were away from the building. But they’ve been really good. We’ve gotten back on track. We’ve had two and a half weeks of really good training leading into spring practice.”

“We’re back to our testing, not that we weren’t testing, but regular testing. We will test again tomorrow. So, the guys are back in that routine. I think they got away from the routine a little bit maybe and maybe got a little bit sloppy, but that’s been cleaned up. I think they understand how important it is now to get these 15 practices in.”

Player Limitations In Spring Ball

“If you’re cleared for practice, we want to get you back out there and compete. From that perspective, once you’re cleared for competition and to practice, we’ll practice you and give you the opportunities to work on your technique, and especially if you’re on the defensive group, we want some continuity there. Injuries that will preclude them from being involved as you know are the big ones. Jarrett Patterson won’t have a spring ball. From a defensive standpoint, I think Jacob Lacey will not because of the shoulder. I think it’s probably unlikely that we’ll see Kevin Austin, from an offensive standpoint. But other than that, the guys that are capable of practicing, they’ll be involved.”

Offensive Line Jockeying For Position

“It’s somewhere in between, we have a plan, right? But, so much for plans as you go through the season. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always lost really good players and it’s my job and our coaches job to replace them and maintain the standard of excellence that we’ve had around here. Being in the College Football Playoffs two out of the last three years doesn’t give you a pass, in saying well, we lost all those players. All it means is that’s the expectation, so we got to get these guys ready. The offensive line is going to be — a couple of guys we know, Zeke, Zeke Correll is slotted in at that center position. Josh Lugg is going to play at tackle, but most likely will slide back into the guard position when the season starts.

You’re gonna see a big battle for one of the tackle positions and one of the guard positions, so you’re gonna see a little bit of everybody. Tosh Baker, we saw him starting in one of our units today. Dillan Gibbons was starting, John Dirksen was starting. We really liked the progress of Carmody, who is coming along. I mentioned Kristofic. The young freshmen, both the young freshmen linemen that are midyears, they got a chance to step in with the second group. Everybody is going to get into the mix. We kind of have a plan of how this should look. Quinn Carroll is another guy that had a really good offseason. So, a lot of names. We got to kind of sort it out as it goes and see.”

Offensive Line Day One Spring Ball. Photo Courtesy Fighting Irish Media

Quarterback Discussion

“What do we want from Drew Pyne? We want Drew to be the starter. We’re not handing this job to Jack Coan. Drew’s been in the program, so we want him in the spring to be competing for the starting position. He’ll have an opportunity to do that where they get first team reps. Tyler just got here and he hasn’t played football for a year, so you got to understand there’s some development that has to take place there.”

“He had a nice practice today, but he doesn’t know our offense and just the basics is really what he’s trying to feel good about today. He’s got obviously some work to do from that perspective, but he’s a quick study and a really good athlete. But that, I hope, answers the question relative to what we want Drew to do and that is to compete to be the starter.”

Drew Pyne Spring Ball Day One. Photo Courtesy Fighting Irish Media

Early Enrollees

The guys that have impressed me, I mean all of these kids, when they came on campus, they had to deal with COVID. They’ve had to deal with a very different kind of academic environment, where they’ve been in class and then hybrid in doing some online learning and then a really rigorous conditioning kind of element. So they’ve been all impressive. Nobody has kinda not held up to the standards that we set here. So I’ve been impressed with all the guys. Some might be closer to playing in their first year. We’ll see how that kind of pans out over the next couple of weeks. I’m going to spend some time with you over the next couple of weeks and I’ll be able to give you a better sense of where we are over the next couple of weeks.”

Tyler Buchner Spring Ball Day One. Photo Courtesy Of Fighting Irish Media

Drew Pyne And The Competition With Jack Coan

“It doesn’t phase him. They’re excited that Jack is here. They love having another quarterback in the room that has experience. He pushes the group, so it’s been a great relationship. Drew, is built for this. He’s always been told that he’s not good enough or can’t be the starter or can’t win, or and he relishes these opportunities. He’s always succeeded, so this this doesn’t affect Drew at all. It just motivates him even more.”

Replacing Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

“We’re going to do things that allow you know to get another linebacker on the field. I don’t know that we’re replacing the kind of player that we had with Owusu, so you’re going to see a combination of players out there. If we’re in a strictly rover situation, you’ll see Pryor, you’ll see Moala, you’re going to see Kiser out there, and at times you might even see three linebackers, so I think it’s a combination of all those things.”

What About Myron Tagovailoa- Amosa

“He’s gonna play some defensive end for us, the big end position. We think he’s certainly capable of giving us the kind of solid technique necessary to play that big end position. He’s got the size, he’s got the strength, he’s put on some weight, so he’s up for it. He’s excited about it. He was out there with the first group today and did a nice job for us. So yeah, he’ll get some get some work at the end position.”

Tight End And There Ability To Be Utilized Again

“I’m not really sure. I think we’re capable of doing a number of different things on offense, and I think our personnel will dictate that. We know we’re capable of running four or five wides and playing in a no-back set. I kind of know how to throw the ball 55 or 60 times a game if we need to, but we also know how to run direct snap and play physical football, downhill football. It’s really going to be about the way this offense sets up and the personnel that we feel gives us the best chance of being successful on offense and playing complete football, offense, defense and special teams. I think it’s yet to be determined. We know that we are going to use this spring to kind of get an identity offensively and then we’ll build on that going into preseason camp and then into the fall.”

Wide Receiver And Cornerback Views

“We’re really pleased with the work. Look, we have a standard and they’ve lived up to that standard. We even had three guys that weren’t even part of the mix here last spring. When you talk about McKinley and Ben and Nick, we didn’t have any expectations that they’d be on the field for us. So, here we are another year later and Clarence Lewis has gotten great, obviously work last year. We know what a guy like Avery can do. We know what a guy like Mayer could do.”

“I would argue that we have probably more known commodities coming back this year than maybe we did going into last season and that kind of sorted itself out. Long answer here, it’s going to sort itself out. There’s some really good players. Some of them aren’t in the spring, but there’s plenty of good players that are in the program that will get a chance to step up and and help this football team.”

What Expectations For Early On In The Spring They Have Been Doing Everything To Be Ready

“Their attention to detail of the technical and the tactical pieces. Because we know their conditioning element is going to be outstanding. That’s attended to daily by our strength staff. Coach Balis oversees that and does tremendous job. So we’re not worried about that. There’s always the ongoing need for our peak power and strength and nutrition and that’s an ongoing battle, but we know that when we get to spring ball, they’re ready to go and compete.

When they get into the practice, what I’m looking for is the ability to play the position and not just be the boundary corner, but you can play corner or wide corner. Not just be the field safety, but you can be the field safety, the rolled up safety. Not just the W receiver, but you can play W, X and Z. I want our players to understand the position and how it fits within the defensive structure. So, just a smart football player. Somebody that pays attention to detail and really learns the technical and tactical pieces to play this game. That’s really a huge part of spring practice.”

Expectations For Kyle Hamilton

“He’s got to get healthy. He’s not doing anything right now. So, as you know, he had postseason surgery. He’s making great strides. Then we’ve got work to do. He’s a young football player. He played two years of football and he knows he’s got a lot to improve on. We’ll get to work on that once he’s healthy, but hard to do much right now. He’s in our rehab program. Spent a lot of time with our trainers and I know he’s doing extra work with coach O’Leary and Coach Freeman to pick up our defense.”

“But now he’s got some work to do and he knows it. We’ve tried to put him in a leadership position as well. He has a SWAT team. So, we’re trying to utilize all the things that he can give us right now, while he is in fact injured.”

What’s Next

There are fourteen more practice sessions after the “Day One” practice. The team will practice three days next week, Tuesday March 30th, Thursday April 1st, Saturday April 3rd. From there the team will be practicing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday except for April 21st which is a Wednesday. May 1st is the date set for the Blue & Gold Game. The game will be televised on Peacock at 12:30 PM EST. Check with your local cable company as far as access to Peacock.

Cheers and Go Irish!☘🏈🌩

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