SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame hit the practice field at 3 p.m. Saturday for its first official fall workout under new coach Brian Kelly.
The media was allowed to watch the first 30 minutes of practice, and I'd be lying if I said it was an illuminating time (we saw mostly stretching and some positional work, and of course the players are just in shorts and jerseys at this point). But here are a few minor observations from the first Irish practice of the 2010 season:
Much of the spring was about the players getting used to Kelly's fast-paced drills. They look better equipped to handle that today. The first drill after stretching for the offense is called "Tempo," where the quarterback, running back, receivers and linemen sprint through a series of plays down half the field. The pace is dizzying, and a few players were breathing heavily after the first couple of minutes. But they got through it.
Well, maybe they're not totally accustomed to the pace. During a drill where teammates try to strip the ball from each other, wide receivers coach Tony Alford screamed, "Is that as fast as you can run? Because if not, you're screwing the drill!"
Quarterback Dayne Crist wore a brace on his surgically-repaired right knee, but he ran full speed and looked sharp. Health is no longer a concern for him.
Kelly spent most of his time in the open part of practice with the quarterbacks, which isn't surprising since that position needs a lot of attention. Freshmen Luke Massa and Andrew Hendrix got their first indoctrination into a Kelly practice, and their arrival gave the team six quarterbacks to work with. Massa is tall -- listed at 6-foot-4 -- and very lanky at 215 pounds.
There weren't any depth chart surprises. Freshman TJ Jones lined up with the first-stringers at receiver instead of senior Duval Kamara, who was listed at No. 1. The starting offensive linemen, as expected, were Zack Martin at left tackle, Chris Stewart and Trevor Robinson at guard, Dan Wenger at center and Taylor Dever at right tackle. Kelly said Friday that the offensive line is the one position where there could be a lot of moving and shaking, though Stewart and Robinson sure seem like locks.
Freshman defensive tackle Louis Nix is listed at 350 pounds and if it's possible, looked even bigger. He appeared to be struggling in some of the basic conditioning drills to start practice. It's too early to say he won't contribute this year, but Nix has a long way to go at a position that lacks depth.
Not much to glean from the defense on a day when it isn't in pads or hitting anybody or even covering an offense during the open period. I did notice that nose guard Ian Williams -- whom Kelly singled out on Friday as one of the biggest weight room gainers -- appeared noticeably bigger than a year ago and certainly passes the look test for a run-stuffer.
Only four weeks until the 2010 opener against Purdue.