Notre Dame Football: What to Look for During Spring Practice

James ToljCorrespondent IIMarch 22, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29: Running back Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fight Irish rushes upfield in the first quarter against the Florida State Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl December 29, 2011 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Fans of Notre Dame Fighting Irish football may not be too concerned over what happens in the spring, but if a person looks closely enough, then they could find answers to vexing depth chart questions.

One of those questions is: Who will end up starting at key positions on the offensive line, at cornerback, wide receiver, quarterback and linebacker?

Obviously, not everyone is on campus just yet, but it is doubtful that many freshmen will come in and grab a starting roll.

And while sure starters like Braxton Cave still need to get healthy enough to practice, after injured starters are factored in, the picture begins to get a little clearer. And a picture is worth 1000 words.

To fans, the most pressing position battle is at the quarterback spot.

Fans can't expect to get a whole lot from the first few practices and should wait until later in April to start making major assumptions.

However, if fans did read anything into the starting day of practice, there would be a novel's worth of information.

Coach Brian Kelly has said that all four quarterback candidates could potentially start and that the playbook would essentially be dumbed down so that junior Tommy Rees doesn't have an advantage over the others. 

As reported by Tim O'Malley of, on the opening day of practice, Rees started the quarterback drills with the first-team unit, and Andrew Hendrix replaced him to get some first-team repetitions as well.  Everett Golson, on the other hand, worked with the second-team unit.

Now, if it was the end of spring practice, one might assume that Golson is behind the other two players aforementioned, but it is still too early to tell.

Gunner Kiel impressed coaches with his physical abilities, but he watched from the sidelines often due to his lack of knowing the playbook and terminology. 

On the offensive line, the left side had some familiar faces with the first unit. Zack Martin remains at left tackle and Chris Watt at left guard (there was some speculation that one might switch to the right side).

Mike Golic, Jr., who replaced Cave at center after his injury last season, was once again playing in Cave's absence.

O'Malley also wrote that Christian Lombard played right guard and Tate Nichols was at right tackle on the first-team, so it seems the two are out in front for openings along the offensive line (unless Golic, Jr. moves once Cave returns).

Brian Kelly mentioned DaVaris Daniels' physicality and writer Keith Arnold seconded that as he stated the young wideout looked "quick off the block" (also giving props to Luke Massa for a catch), but O'Malley said that Daniels was part of the second-team behind John Goodman, T.J. Jones and Robby Toma. 

Daniels could very well work his way until the first-team unit though.

Also enlightening in O'Malley's piece was that Toma was the only non-running back in a group overseen by Tony Alford. 

Alford is coaching running backs and slot receivers this year, but now the speculation that there will be more crossover between the running back and slot receiver positions seems to have more credence because the groups practiced as a solitary unit.

No major surprises at cornerback. While Arnold gave high praise to Josh Atkinson and Cam McDaniel in his article, Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood worked with the first-team.

Inside linebacker is set with Manti Te'o and Dan Fox as starters, but outside linebacker, like quarterback, is a four-man race. 

According to another piece by Arnold for, Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams will probably be the ones battling it out for Darius Fleming's cat linebacker spot, and Danny Spond and Ben Councell will compete for the dog linebacker role.

There was quite a bit to take in during the first day, but as full-contact practice approaches, more will be revealed.

Brian Kelly will be quick to announce any other position changes as well, but by watching which unit players practice with, fans will be alerted to any other switches. 

So far, former running back Cam McDaniel is now playing cornerback (and has looked pretty impressive there).

Also, Matthias Farley is going to play safety after practicing with the wide receivers last year.

Eilar Hardy, who suffered an ACL tear last year, could ultimately end up moving to corner because of the growing depth at safety, but only time will tell.


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