Notre Dame suited up in full pads for the first time this season Wednesday morning and continued to focus on piling up as many 11-on-11 snaps as possible to build experience in some key positions.
At the top of that list, of course, is the quarterback position where sophomore Everett Golson and junior Andrew Hendrix continue to take the vast majority of the full unit reps. Golson led off the brief scrimmage at the end of Wednesday’s practice. He was followed by Hendrix and one series from freshman Gunner Kiel. Junior Tommy Rees, who is suspended for the season opener against Navy, did not see any action during those drills. Kelly said that split of playing time has been typical during the first week of practice.
The Irish coach said Hendrix and Golson, the two frontrunners to start the 2012 season in Dublin, each have more than 100 plays with the full offense under their belt so far in camp.
“For us scrimmaging is just an extension of getting 11-on-11 work for both units,” Kelly said. “I thought our defense showed the maturity it has with the number of players who have played a lot of football and offensively we’re a work in progress.”
Maturity in the defense showed itself on Wednesday as that group controlled much of the live scrimmage action. It’s largest question mark — the cornerback position — appears close to at least a tentative answer. Kelly said junior Bennett Jackson has all but “nailed down” one of the two starting jobs and his classmate Lo Wood is standing out among a group of players fighting for the other.
“If you ask me after the first five days, the guy that has impressed the staff the most it’s been Lo Wood,” Kelly said. “He’s breaking on the ball, tackling, communicating. I’m not anointing him that guy, but of the three … I’ve really noticed Lo.”
The other two in that group are sophomores Josh Atkinson and Cam McDaniel, the converted running back. Kelly said Wood has added 14 pounds in the offseason and hasn’t slowed down. The staff also moved freshman Elijah Shumate from safety to cornerback in case he’s needed in a substitute role this year.
Shumate impressed the coaches as a physically mature freshman with plenty of athletic ability who easily passes the eye test as a player ready for the field. He is one of a handful of freshmen who Kelly praised after their first full contact practice. A trio of receivers — Chris Brown, Justin Ferguson and Davonte’ Neal — played regularly with the first and second teams in practice this week. Kelly expects they will be fighting for a place in the rotation at the start of the season.
“It’s kind of early to really say for sure, but we’re not afraid to put them out there and they certainly are not afraid to play. I think when you really look at the young guys that compete, those are the guys that really have confidence in their ability to go out there. All three of them are very confident in themselves,” he said.
Injuries and Exits
Sophomore tackle Jordan Prestwood wasn’t at practice Wednesday and is no longer part of the team, according to Kelly. Prestwood transferred to Notre Dame last summer after one semester of early enrollment at Florida State. Kelly said privacy laws prevented him from providing any more details.
Junior running Cam Roberson’s career with the Irish also appears to be over after a long, unsuccessful rehab process. Roberson blew out his knee during the spring of 2011 and did not play last season. He was at Wednesday’s practice wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
“Cam Roberson physical was not able to compete at the level that he felt was necessary to play here at Notre Dame. We’re going to pursue a medical hardship,” Kelly said.
That makes three players who have dropped from the Irish roster since the start of camp on Saturday. Sophomore lineman Brad Carrico is also pursuing a medical hardship scholarship because of a complicated foot injury.
Irish tight end Alex Welch injured his right knee toward the end of Wednesday's scrimmage and had to helped off of the field. Junior linebacker Danny Spond also missed the end of practice with what Kelly said appeared to be a concussion.
Sophomore Amir Carlisle, who broke his ankle five months ago, looked hesitant and sore at time during the practice. Kelly said Carlisle is currently about 80 percent healthy and his good days and bad days.