Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 16 of 55 APRIL 2019 17 BY LOU SOMOGYI S pring practice began March 2, followed by sessions March 5 and March 7 before the school and team went on spring se‑ mester break from March 9‑17. Practice was to resume March 19 before concluding with the annual Blue‑Gold Game April 13 in the 15th and final allowed practice. Overall, Notre Dame returns seven of its 11 starters on offense and six of 11 on defense from last year's 12‑1 team that advanced to the four‑team College Football Playoff for the first time in the five‑year history of the event. The returning starters on offense are senior quarterback Ian Book, senior wide receiver Chase Claypool, fifth‑ year senior slot receiver Chris Finke, senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg, junior right tackle Robert Hainsey, se‑ nior right guard Tommy Kraemer and junior left guard Aaron Banks. On defense, they are senior defen‑ sive ends Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara, fifth‑year senior linebacker Asmar Bilal, senior safeties Jalen El‑ liott and Alohi Gilman, and senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. Notre Dame also needs to replace four‑year starters Justin Yoon and Tyler Newsome at kicker and punter, respectively. On the heels of Notre Dame win‑ ning a minimum of 10 games in con‑ secutive years for the first time since 1991‑93, 10th‑year Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly and his staff are conveying an elementary mes‑ sage on the perils of complacency. "What you did last year has no car‑ ryover to this year in that just because you know how you do it doesn't mean you can do it again," Kelly said the day prior to the opening practice. "You have to work at it again — and this is work. That's where teams get lost in the inability to do it again: they think because they know how to do it that they automatically can do it again. "It's not [about] knowing how to do it; it's putting in the time and the effort and the sacrifice — that's really hard. Pushing that rock up the hill again is what they have to do again. I just sensed that early on [in winter conditioning] some of them wanted to run up the hill without the rock. They understand they have to push the rock back up the hill." At least through the seven‑week winter conditioning period, Kelly said a humble business‑as‑usual ap‑ proach remained relatively steadfast. "I haven't seen any change in terms of how we've worked," he said. "Our process has been the same every day in terms of what are expectations. We haven't put it on wins, we haven't put it on anything else other than how we need to focus on the day to day. "… Our guys have not really even talked about anything but how they can work to get better every day." An example to Kelly is the cur‑ rent 27‑man sophomore class, which didn't need to help much as fresh‑ men during last year's 12‑1 march. "They need[ed] this offseason to really understand what it takes to put themselves physically in posi‑ tion to compete at the highest level," Kelly said. "They really don't get that until now. They're starting to under‑ stand what it takes, the grind of it. "… They kind of ride the bus a little bit that first year and it's kind of nice. Now they've got to get in, they've got to dig, they understand how hard it is now. There's a different kind of com‑ mitment level that this group has. It's starting to show itself." Kelly said the 2019 captains likely will be named shortly after spring drills finish April 13, whereas the past two years it was prior to spring. For now, he just wants to see a continued level of commitment and accountability. The best bets are the eight players — Book, Finke, Eichenberg and Hain‑ sey on offense and Kareem, Okwara, Gilman and Elliott on defense — who were named the leaders of the SWAT Teams during winter conditioning. SWAT is the acronym for Spring/Sum‑ mer Workout Accountability Teams, where a points system is in place, from production in the weight room to academic achievement to tidiness in the locker room, to declare a winning group at the end of the offseason. Here is a summary/overview of the initial three practices: MOST CAREER STARTS Offense WR Chase Claypool 20 (12 starts in 2018) OG Tommy Kraemer 19 (10) OT Robert Hainsey 16 (13) OT Liam Eichenberg 13 (13) QB Ian Book 10 (9) WR Chris Finke 8 (7) TE Cole Kmet 7 (7) OG Aaron Banks 6 (6) OG/C Trevor Ruhland 5 (5) RB Tony Jones 4 (3) RB Jafar Armstrong 2 (2) TE Brock Wright 1 (1) Defense S Jalen Elliott 26 (13) CB Troy Pride 19 (12) S Alohi Gilman 13 (13) DE Khalid Kareem 13 (13) DE Daelin Hayes 13 (1) DE Julian Okwara 12 (12) LB Asmar Bilal 10 (10) CB Donte Vaughn 5 (1) CB Shaun Crawford 3 (0) LB Jordan Genmark Heath 1 (1) S Houston Griffith 1 (1) INJURY REPORT Several players underwent surgery this winter or last fall that will either limit or preclude them from partici‑ pating in spring drills, particularly in contact or "thud" drills. • Senior cornerback Donte Vaughn had a torn labrum that he played with last season, but it was surgically repaired this winter. • Fifth‑year senior cornerback Shaun Crawford is recovering from his second ACL surgery (last Au‑ gust). The injuries to Crawford and Vaughn are a main reason why junior SPRING TO ATTENTION Fighting Irish begin process anew to return to College Football Playoff contention Senior safety Jalen Elliott leads all returning Fighting Irish players with 26 career starts, and is one of 13 returning starters on offense and defense. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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