Summer is no time for ‘vacation’ for developing Notre Dame players

Notre Dame redshirt sophomore defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji
Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool hauls in a pass during a training camp practice last August at Culver Academies. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly on the field during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring college football game Saturday, April 21, 2018, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)

It’s quiet on the campus of Notre Dame this morning. All grades were submitted by yesterday following last week’s final exams and commencement weekend begins Friday. However, the term “summer vacation” for the Notre Dame football program is a misnomer.

“I think there’s so much more that we need to do in terms of our preparation,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said last month following the annual Blue-Gold Game. “When we get back here in June, really, we need to continue to develop physically. So there will be some hard months here in June and July for us.”

For redshirt sophomore defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji, the developing physically part he has gotten down pretty well. It is the rest of his game that needs to catch up with how he has transformed his body into a 251-pound beast, according to his coach.

“If you look at his numbers in the weight room,” Kelly said, “you would say, well, that should translate. He’s been one step behind everybody, just picking up the nuances of the game and I think it’s coming to him.”

Ogundeji showed glimpses of what is possible in the spring game. He totaled four solo tackles and had a couple of sacks to go with a pair of tackles for a loss. He is projected to back-up junior Khalid Kareem, but Kelly made it clear that Ogundeji will get time on the field no matter his role.

“He’ll be part of our rotation,” Kelly said. “We’ll need him. He’s long. He’s very strong.”

The Irish players will have to spend the larger portion of the next two-plus months coaching themselves. The Irish strength staff can do some work with the players, but football-involved activities is player-driven.

Kelly explained that Ogundeji is going to have to make the most of that time in preparation – mentally – prior to training camp.

“He’s got the physical traits,” Kelly said. “He’s got the mental traits, too. He’s a really, really tough kid but just picking up the game, being more comfortable, and confident and as that kind of continues to unfold, I think you’re going to see him playing some significant football for us.”

CLAYPOOL CONTINUES TO EVOLVE

Like Ogundeji, junior wide receiver Chase Claypool has as much development mentally to do over the next few months as anything.

His coaches were pleased with his evolvement over the spring practices and that needs to continue heading into fall camp.

“A lot of that is getting his intensity level in the right place and his emotions,” Kelly said. “He wasn’t one of our cool, calm and collected guys last year but he’s really worked hard on that and the way he’s practiced has allowed him to be much more focused.”

Second-year Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long wouldn’t set limits on Claypool’s potential when asked about the 6-foot-4, 229-pound pass catcher. The coach left it as Claypool can become as good as he wants to be and according to Kelly, that was what the youngster demonstrated this spring.

“He’d have the occasional drop last year, here or there, maybe in a missed assignment,” Kelly said. “But since he’s found that optimal zone for him to be when he plays, he’s been so much more consistent.

“If he continues to trend this way, you’ve got another big, rangy, physical wide receiver that we can put on the field.”

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