#1 -- August Attrition
Injuries ended the Notre Dame football careers of junior Cameron Roberson and sophomore Brad Carrico -- neither was wholly unexpected, though the immediacy of the development was. Sophomore Jordan Prestwood's status remains uncertain after head coach Brian Kelly announced he left the squad last week.
None of the trio had played a down at the University and of the three, only Prestwood was on the two-deep depth chart. The drop-off between left tackle starter Zack Martin and Prestwood was likely vast so unit movement shouldn't be a major cause for alarm as Kelly noted backup right tackle Tate Nichols and backup right guard Nick Martin would cross-train for left tackle action.
After that its true freshman Ronnie Stanley who'll run with the second unit in practice, but is the least likely to see the field this fall in an effort to preserve a season of eligibility.
Junior dog linebacker Danny Spond's status is uncertain. A battery of tests determined Spond did not have a concussion as originally surmised. In fact, Kelly added that Spond didn't suffer a head injury. Regardless, it seems unlikely Spond would be in football game-ready to start the season.
"This is one of those that it’s probably going to require a little more in-depth testing before we can give you a definitive answer that this is what is was," Kelly said Saturday following practice.
#2 -- Dog Days Ahead
Spond's indefinite absence opens the door for redshirt-freshman Ben Councell as the default starter. The pair were running a heated battle though from recent practice viewings it appeared Spond had maintained his slight spring lead.
Councell, who's yet to play a college down, is now backed by two true freshmen: OLB Romeo Okwara and safety prospect C.J. Prosise. Said star safety Jamoris Slaughter of Prosise: "C.J. is looking really good. Pretty fluid player and smart. He's bigger than me. Might be bigger than Zeke (Motta). He's a big guy. He's going to be a good player, he's the one that stood out."
Slaughter however was speaking of Prosise's first week at safety.
Okwara was the defense's surprise star of an August 8 scrimmage open to the media. Its notable he looked adept in coverage as its a crucial aspect of the position.
Look for Slaughter to shift down from safety and start at the Dog linebacker spot in the season opener vs. Navy and for Councell to debut in the lineup one week later when Purdue travels to South Bend.
#3 -- QB Quandry Continues
I didn't say they were "surprise" story lines…
Most observers believe its now redshirt-freshman Everett Golson's job to lose, but that hearsay and a quarter won't buy you a phone call.
Said Kelly of the competition and its progress through Saturday, the ninth of 29 scheduled practices:
"Installation is still going in. I’ve never felt like you can make a decision on a quarterback until you get your installation taken care of. We just put in quarterback sneak today. So we’re still in the minor leagues relative to installation. It will be next week relative to cleaning up and all of our installation, and then you start to look at maybe is there a separation. I think this is going to require all the 29 practice opportunities that we have. So I wouldn’t be holding your breath for an announcement anytime soon."
Kelly said Golson's biggest improvement has been his pocket presence (echoing the statements of your favorite Irisheyes.com beat writer last week) and for Hendrix, his ability to check into the correct protections and releasing the ball more quickly (decision-making).
Kelly added of true freshman Gunner Kiel, "He’s gotta catch up with the knowledge base with the other two kids. But physically he has all the skills. So that’s where there’s a little bit of a separation. I think I said this to one of our coaches, if I didn’t have those other two kids, I would not be afraid of playing Gunner Kiel. I really wouldn’t. He’s got all the intangibles that you’re looking for."
Junior Tommy Rees' initial first team reps of the season won't happen until at least Purdue preparations begin when the team returns from Ireland.
#4 -- Spots Not Secured
Kelly indicated that while none of the spots in question are safe, leaders or tandems have emerged without much surprise to date:
5th-year senior Mike Golic has impressed at right guard: "He’s taken all the first-team reps. I hope the message never comes up that everybody’s job is wrapped up, but he’s done a job for us at right guard. We knew he would. He’s a veteran. I’d be surprised if something changed there. If that means he’s wrapped it up, you can write it whatever way you want. I think he’s still in a very competitive situation, Nick Martin is a very good player. He’s going to keep pushing him."
In addition to Councell's lead at the Dog, Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams appear headed for split reps at the Cat 'backer, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese at the Will (following the latter's return from suspension after Navy) and Kona Schwenke and Louis Nix will work in tandem on the nose.
Competition at#2 tight end (Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas), second-unit receivers, and a backfield pecking order behind Cierre Wood is unknown through camp's first 10 days, at least if based on any fact. Wood's classmate Theo Riddick will be a de facto starter regardless of his depth chart designation. Riddick will play both running back and one of two receiver spots on a regular basis.
I'll have more on depth chart movement at the end of the week when more information, official and otherwise, is available. A purported player to watch moving up into the second unit is redshirt-freshman safety Matthias Farley.
#5 -- Freshmen Focus
Speaking of Farley…a healthy dose of first-time contributors appear on the cusp of 2012 action. True freshmen receivers Davonte Neal and Chris Brown have received rave reviews, both from Kelly and any media member who's stepped foot inside the gates of the LaBar Practice Complex.
Early enrollee Sheldon Day is a lock to be part of a six-man defensive line rotation while the aforementioned Okwara might begin his Irish career as a default backup Dog backer behind fellow first timer Ben Councell. Councell's classmate Jarrett Grace is likely the No. 2 Mike 'backer behind Manti Te'o. Grace will play vs. Navy thanks to his experience vs. option offenses.
It's been a quiet camp (in terms of news and plaudits from the head coach) for redshirt-freshman receiver DaVaris Daniels, but its safe to assume Daniels is no worse than the team's No. 4 receiver at present.
Two primary offensive line backups are firmly entrenched in the two-deep: the aforementioned Nick Martin at right guard/left tackle and Conor Hanratty (left guard). Nose guard Tony Springmann should debut vs. Navy and play often to keep the team's most valuable commodity--it's D-Line-- fresh for three months.
In total, 12 first-time competitors should see game action (scrimmage action) in September.
A more detailed breakdown on each will be published near the conclusion of camp.