On a beautiful South Bend afternoon, the 87th Blue-Gold Game was held on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Though the the final score of 17-7 in the favor of the Blue was relatively meaningless, there were some performances that stuck out.
Here are five thoughts on this year’s Notre Dame spring game.
1. Deshone Kizer Performed Slightly Better Than Malik Zaire
But it wasn’t a clear-cut victory. The battle between the two signal-callers was going to extend into fall camp regardless, but this was an opportunity for one of the quarterbacks to get a leg up. Kizer started out hot, completing his first five attempts. However, he finished at 10-for-17 for 113 yards. For the Gold squad, Zaire began very slowly, trying to hit big plays downfield time and time again. Finally, he did connect with Torii Hunter and Justin Brent on big chunk plays, but it was his 13-yard touchdown run that was the most interesting part of Zaire's day. Overall, Kizer probably has the edge but the competition is far from over.
2. Dexter Williams Ran With Authority
Tarean Folston wore a green jersey, meaning that defenders were not allowed to hit the running back that is returning from a knee injury. That gave Williams a huge opportunity to contribute for the Blue team and that is exactly what the sophomore did. His number weren’t eye-popping, but his speed and power stood out. On his 16-yard touchdown run, Williams burst through the line quickly and ran through two tackles on the way for a score. With Williams showing considerable improvement along with Folston’s return and the continued development of Josh Adams, running back looks like an area of strength for the Irish.
3. Emerging Wide Receiver Threats
Will Fuller is gone. Chris Brown is gone. Amir Carlisle is gone. There is a good chance that Corey Robinson never plays again due to concussions. While that may make the situation at wide receiver sound less than appealing, Notre Dame showed on Saturday that they have some serious talent in the pass-catching department. Torii Hunter played very well and Equanimeous St. Brown, Corey Holmes, and Miles Boykin all showed some promise. Tight end Alize Jones will become a bigger part of the offense in 2016 and early enrollee freshman Kevin Stepherson was impressive on Saturday, as he has been all spring. The Irish may lack experience at wide receiver, but they certainly don’t lack skill.
4. The Defense
While the offense showed flashes, it was the defense that controlled the day. The defensive lines on both teams did a good job of holding up against the run and the Blue front was able to put some decent pressure on Zaire at times. The secondary seemed to be in the right spots on a regular basis, though they lost a couple fights for the ball. Sophomore cornerback Shaun Crawford, who missed all of 2015 with an injury, looked very comfortable as did January enrollee Devin Studstill at safety. Studstill’s presence may have motivated senior safety Max Redfield, who played well despite missing a sprawling tackle attempt on the Williams scoring jaunt. With so many question marks surrounding coordinator Brian Van Gorder and his unit, the defense was probably the biggest positive coming out of the Blue-Gold Game.
5. Not Many Mistakes
While the game was not filled with a lot of wild, big plays, it also was not littered with missteps either. There were a few penalties, but not a lot considering it was a scrimmage five months from the start of the season. Stepherson made a mistake by not fielding a punt. There was one snap malfunction. And ball carriers dropped the pigskin after hitting the ground a few times. But there were no interceptions thrown by the quarterbacks. As a matter of fact, there were no turnovers at all. Considering that mistakes have hurt Notre Dame badly the past couple of years, a clean spring game is a very good sign.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.