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Springmann out, offensive line shuffles, Irish No. 14 in AP

Matthew DeFranks | Saturday, August 17, 2013

Several Notre Dame players did not participate during Saturday’s practice, including two potential starters on the offensive line.

Both graduate student guard Chris Watt and junior guard Conor Hanratty did not have pads on. They were able to do some light jogging, biking on the exercise bike and medicine ball tossing but neither saw contact drills. Irish coach Brian Kelly said both should be ready to go for Notre Dame’s season opener against Temple in two weeks.

Junior defensive end Tony Springmann had his left knee wrapped up during practice Saturday and Kelly said he will miss the season opener. Kelly said Springmann will get an MRI in the coming days.

Sophomore running back Will Mahone missed practice with a high ankle sprain and his status for the Temple game is in jeopardy, Kelly said. Mahone was on crutches and had a boot around his right leg.

Freshman linebacker Doug Randolph will need corrective shoulder surgery and miss the entire season. The Irish already announced sophomore safety Nicky Baratti will miss the season with a shoulder injury.

Freshmen offensive lineman Colin McGovern was cleared and went full contact Saturday while freshman offensive lineman John Montellus has been progressing well from a shoulder injury, Kelly said.

Kelly said freshman running back Tarean Folston was excused from practice after a death in the family.


Offensive line shuffles

With Watt and Hanratty sidelined with minor injuries, Kelly and the Irish shuffled around the starting unit. From left to right, the Irish looked like this: graduate student Zack Martin, freshman Steve Elmer, junior Nick Martin, senior Christian Lombard and sophomore Ronnie Stanley.

While Elmer probably will not see time at left guard once Watt returns, Kelly praised his flexibility.

“Steve Elmer can play anywhere other than center,” Kelly said. “We’ve got great flexibility with him. He’s more comfortable at left tackle but if we had to play him at any of the guard positions or tackle positions, we could put him in and he could play.”

Stanley has been splitting time at right tackle with Lombard as the Irish try to nail down a starting five up front. Lombard has also been playing right guard, battling with Hanratty at that position.


Kelly defends Tuitt

Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt has recently been criticized for his added weight in the wake of an offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia.

Tuitt is listed at 322 pounds, nearly 20 pounds more than he was listed at during Notre Dame’s run to the BCS National Championship Game.

Kelly said the added weight was due to the lack of mobility allowed during Tuitt’s recovery from surgery.

“He couldn’t do core exercises for over three-and-a-half months,” Kelly said. “We had to change his whole summer workout. You know what our guys look like. He looks different because he put on some body fat our guys don’t normally put on because he couldn’t do some of the workouts that our guys normally do.

“It wasn’t because he decided to eat Cheetos on the couch and not workout.”


Robinson impresses

Freshman receiver Corey Robinson made a couple of highlight-reel catches during Saturday’s practice over senior starting cornerback Bennett Jackson. Both catches came along the sideline, an area where Kelly said Robinson excels.

“Where he catches the football, on the numbers, outside, he’s been extremely consistent in that area of the field,” Kelly said. “Where we gotta continue to work with him is when he breaks inside, he’s gotta get stronger, more physical.

“There’s no question he can help us on the perimeter. He consistently catches the football. It doesn’t matter who he goes up against, if the ball is put in the right position, he’s going to come down with it.”

Senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix said Robinson makes his job easier.

“He’s unbelievable,” Hendrix said. “Ever since he came in, he’s been doing a great job for us. He’s a hard worker, came from a great family, obviously. It’s fun coming to work with him.”


Smith stars everywhere

Freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith saw the majority of snaps with the first-team defense due to senior linebacker Danny Spond‘s absence and was asked to do a multitude of things.

He covered receivers in space (as far as the numbers), running backs in the slot and he helped in the run game as well, even leveling junior running back Amir Carlisle on a run up the middle.

Smith will likely split time at the coverage linebacker position with junior linebacker Ben Councell, Kelly said.


Williams to move up front

Kelly said junior linebacker Ishaq Williams will see more time as a defensive end than as a linebacker this season and will be “the third end” behind Tuitt and sophomore Sheldon Day.

Williams was behind senior linebacker Prince Shembo at the rushing linebacker position in defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 scheme. Williams was recruited as a defensive end and is listed at almost six-foot-six and 261 pounds.


Irish No. 14 in AP poll

Notre Dame was ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press preseason poll released Saturday morning. Earlier this month, the Irish were tabbed No. 11 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.

The ranking is Notre Dame’s highest in the AP preseason poll since 2006, when Brady Quinn and Charlie Weis led the Irish into the season at No. 2.

Four Irish opponents appear in the top 25 (No. 4 Stanford, No. 16 Oklahoma, No. 17 Michigan and No. 24 USC) while three more are receiving votes (Michigan State, Arizona State and Brigham Young).


Contact Matthew DeFranks at [email protected]