Charlie Weis invited the media to watch the full two-hour practice Saturday morning from the press box of Notre Dame Stadium. The team was in full pads, and the weather was rainy with a slight breeze. As everyone expected, special teams was the priority of practice, however we did get to see roughly 20 snaps of offense versus defense.
-James Aldridge appeared to be running full speed during sprints at the end of practice. D.J. Hord and David Grimes were running very gingerly during sprints. While the rest of the team was sprinting, Victor Abiamiri and Mike Richardson were riding the bike. Abiamiri participated in the drill against the offense, but he is obviously still limited. Bob Morton, who played center the whole practice, was doing sit-ups and push-ups as everyone else ran sprints.
-Terrail Lambert played cornerback opposite Ambrose Wooden with the first unit and opposite Leo Ferrine with the second group. Mike Richardson didn’t participate in the scrimmage.
-Linebacker Maurice Crum went through initial drills with the linebackers, but did not lineup during live action. Same story for Joe Brockington.
-Brady Quinn and Evan Sharpley came out wearing red jerseys while David Wolke and Justin Gillett were in yellow. That could be a sign of the quarterback depth chart.
-During live action, the starting defense played the first half of the plays. Running everything out of a two or three tight end set, the offense did not attempt a pass against the first-team defense, running mainly tosses and off-tackle plays.
-Only the first-team offense participated. The offensive line had Paul Duncan at right tackle, Brian Mattes at right guard, Morton at center, Dan Santucci at left guard and Ryan Harris at left tackle. Duncan and Mattes looked to be holding their own, but the plays were called to their advantage. John Carlson and Marcus Freeman were the primary tight ends, with Tim Gritzman seeing some action. Darius Walker and Travis Thomas rotated at tailback. They both looked quick and elusive. Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight rotated the lone receiver spot. Asaph Schwapp was the fullback.
-The first team defense looked like this. Abiamiri was at left defensive end, Derek Landri and Trevor Laws were the tackles and Ronald Talley at right defensive end. The foursome made good penetration on a few plays, making a couple stops behind the line of scrimmage. The linebackers were Steve Quinn at Will, Mitchell Thomas at Mike and Anthony Vernaglia at Apache. The three linebackers didn’t get much going, Vernaglia was even planted by Schwapp on one play. The secondary had Wooden and Lambert at corner and Tom Zbikowski and Chinedum Ndukwe at their usual safety spots. Lambert had a nice hit on Thomas.
-When the second team defense entered, the play calling opened up a bit. All of Quinn’s passes seemed like they went to his second or third check. He hit Carlson over the middle for about 20 yards on one play. Almost everything else was thrown underneath into the flat, however Gritzman dropped the same 20-yard pass later that Carlson hauled in earlier. The defensive line had Dwight Stephenson Jr. at left defensive end, Pat Kuntz and Derrell Hand at the tackles and Justin Brown at right defensive end. They were able to get good pressure on Quinn on a few plays. The linebackers were Kevin Washington at Apache, Nick Borseti at Mike and Scott Smith at Will. Washington dropped an interception. Borseti had a nice tackle for a loss. Lambert stayed out there with Ferrine. David Bruton and Ray Herring were the safeties.
-Ryan Burkhart was in attendance and got a good look at his future competition. Carl Gioia hit field goals from 38 and 35 yards, but also missed from those distances later in practice. There is no doubt Gioia is ahead of both Bobby Renkes and Pablo Nava in all facets of the kicking game. His problem is consistency. Geoffrey Price showed good leg strength on a few punts but shanked his first attempt of the morning. Gioia had good air under his punts but only about 30-35 yards of distance. Nava appears to have good leg strength but not to sure where that ball is going off his foot.
-George West, Lambert and Ferrine got the bulk of the work at kick returner. West had problems catching the football, but once he did corral the ball, he looked like he had some potential. Lambert was the only guy not to fumble any opportunities. West also struggled catching the ball in punt situations. Zbikowski looked like, well Zbikowski. Though all the returners looked like they can make a guy miss, there weren’t any big plays.
-Hord, Chase Anastasio and John Sullivan all jogged steps of the Stadium at one point during practice.
-The starting kickoff coverage unit was Richardson, Travis Thomas, Mitchell Thomas, Vernaglia, Carlson, Casey Cullen, Steve Quinn, Herring, Bruton and Wooden. Gioia kicked off. Lambert and Ferrine were the visors on the punt-return team.
-Also spotted at practice were Demetrius Jones, Zach Frazer and Barry Gallup as well as Burkhardt.