CULVER, Ind. - Wednesday was half work and half fun for the Notre Dame football team as the Irish had a well-balanced third full day at Culver Academies.
After a standard morning round of positional meetings, Notre Dame held its first semi-padded practice of the fall as the team donned its shoulder pads for the first time and got to push their friends around just a little bit more on the field. After lunch, the Irish had the option to enjoy the waters of Lake Maxinkuckee as many players went tubing, wakeboarding or water skiing. Several more went fishing from the dock.
After dinner and a round of offensive and defensive unit meetings, the team's evening snack had a summer camp twist as the Irish got to make s'mores, grill hot dogs, eat watermelon and more at a bonfire cook out.
On today's practice
"Today was probably a little bit of an overload -- it's our third day so a lot of installation. You always worry about the third day cause guys maybe start thinking too much. The first two days guys are just running around without a ton of installation. We've got to keep that in mind. Our guys are working hard. This is a marathon and not a sprint. These are necessary days in the big picture of things."
On the carry over did you get from OTAs
"It's been very smooth in terms of the retention. The good-bad of a day like today when things did not go smoothly on both sides of the ball was due in part to us putting a lot of stuff in. We stacked a lot at these guys going into the third day and that's a good thing. We'll smooth things out later because we had a lot of retention."
On the offense having a similar aggressive approach as the defense
"Philosophically we come from the same family. We both want to dictate the tempo on both sides of the ball. You have to create a mentality. We're going to play a lot of players. That's a great thing and our kids know that so it gets their attention. We want to play fearless and with that mental toughness and aggressiveness. We are creating that right now in camp."
Guys standing out to this point of camp
"I'd say it's the younger guys that played small roles last year. They are really starting to show themselves this season. Chris Brown is going to play a prominent role. Will Fuller is going to play a prominent role. I think you are going to see a lot more from guys like Devin Butler and Cole Luke. I think many know that we are going to need some young guys to provide some pass rush. I think you are going to see a lot of guys in the mix on third downs. Quite frankly, it's going to be a lot of names that you haven't seen before and some guys in different positions as well. We're creating those opportunities for those guys.
"Our depth is probably as good as we've ever had, in my opinion. Now, we had some great front-line players over the last four seasons, but in terms of depth, I'm not afraid to say we've got a lot of depth. We're just not as experienced but they will get a chance to show it."
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
With a number of viable options in the secondary this fall for the Irish, senior Matthias Farley is trying his hand at safety once again. Farley played in all 13 games last fall at the position, starting eight contests, but was used mainly as a cornerback during the spring. That time has made Farley a better safety in that he can better sense how the rest of the secondary comes together to work as one unit in new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's system.
"Having played corner and nickel in the spring, I understand better how things fit," Farley said. "It's not a big adjustment. The nickel and safety are connected. When you understand that, it makes for a smoother transition than if you came in without knowing anything.
"When you have guys who have experience, there's a lot more communication. Everybody's on the same page and if somebody's out of position, you have guys who can see that and correct it a lot faster. It makes a big difference across the board that we've played together and have played multiple positions."
Helping the secondary fuse was a change in NCAA policy which increased the amount of football-related activity student-athletes can participate in over the summer. The newly-approved OTAs (organized team activities) allowed for more coaching oversight of summer workouts and the results have been positively felt by the Irish as Notre Dame attempts to master Van Gorder's scheme.
"The offseason OTAs made a huge difference from the standpoint that it's a new defense for everybody," Farley said. "To be able to see that and go through install again helped everyone acclimate quicker to the new schemes."
STRONG AND TRUE UPDATE
Jess Atkinson of 3 Penny Films is once again documenting Notre Dame's preseason camp for a Strong and True program that will air on the NBC Sports Network at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 25. On Wednesday, Atkinson was on the water shooting players enjoying Lake Maxinkuckee. Amongst the highlights was Austin Collinsworth showing off some impressive aerial wakeboarding skills. He also got a ton of practice footage, evening campfire and numerous other camp-related activities.
Time to wake up! Also time to follow our Vine account. https://t.co/78WcqcN4BI-- Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 6, 2014