Chip Long discusses quarterbacks, development of skill-position players
Daniel O'Boyle | Friday, April 13, 2018
Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long talked about some of the pieces of his 2018 offense, including sophomore quarterback Avery Davis and junior wide receiver Chase Claypool, after practice Thursday.
Davis, who did not see the field last year, looked set to be the odd-man-out among scholarship quarterbacks for 2018, with senior Brandon Wimbush, junior Ian Book and incoming freshman Phil Jurkovec all set to play a part in a battle for the starting job. However, Davis’s athleticism and the relative lack of depth for the Irish at running back has led to Long using the quarterback all around the offense. Long said he likes what he’s seen of Davis so far.
“He’s been explosive,” Long said. “He’s a guy who picks things up real quick. He’s got really good instincts as a route-runner when he’s out there — you can tell that he’s gained that from being a quarterback. He can make guys miss, he’s really talented. In the past week, he’s probably been the most explosive guy on our offense. This past week, he’s been really, really exciting.
“He’ll be in the backfield at running back, he’ll be at receiver and when our [third-team offense is] in, he’ll get quarterback reps. The last few practices, he’s really done a great job at receiver and running back for us. You can see the confidence in him, the speed with the ball and the power he’s running with.”
In terms of the two currently-enrolled quarterbacks in the conversation for starter, Long said neither of the two — Wimbush and Book — has fully separated himself from the other yet, but both have played well, especially of late.
“They’re both playing really well right now for us,” Long said. “Ian struggled early in the spring, but he’s coming on now. Brandon’s been really solid. He’s more confident back there than last year. But they’ve both had their good days, and there hasn’t been an awful day.
“We’re working on them with pressure in the pocket. A lot of two-minute situations where they can show they’re calm, not panicking. And they don’t panic. They’re calm and confident in there.”
Notre Dame has been known for producing top tight ends historically and as of late. So with a group of top recruits in the 2018 tight end group, Long — a former coach of the position at Illinois, Arizona State and Memphis who also played the position in college — said he believes his group this year could have a major impact, praising returning starter and senior Alize Mack and sophomore dual-sport athlete Cole Kmet, who is currently in the midst of baseball season.
“Alize — he’s done a really, really good job,” Long said. “Probably the most consistent he’s been. He hasn’t had a bad day yet. Cole Kmet has been outstanding. Obviously, he has double-duty, but he’s done a great job. You can see some days where it wears on him a little bit, but he’s done a great job; he can blossom this spring. [Sophomore tight end Brock Wright is] coming back from a shoulder injury, he could be a great player. The rest, we just need to get healthy.”
Junior wide receiver Chase Claypool is the leading receiving threat returning for the Irish in 2018 after the NFL Draft declaration of Equanimeous St. Brown and the dismissal of Kevin Stepherson. Long said Claypool, who last week returned to full contact after recovering from a shoulder injury, has the opportunity to achieve greatness if he can fully commit in 2018.
“We’re still counting on him to grow. Obviously, he’s a great talent, but he’s got to come on and find out what’s important for him,” Long said. “The moment he does, he’ll be a great player. His shoulder held him back a little, but when he decides to be great, he will be great.”