Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush, both see some opening-day positives in his play
CULVER – Notre Dame football opened up its 2018 training camp Friday at idyllic Culver Academies with the Fighting Irish running drills just a long field goal from the soft waves lapping along the shores of beautiful Lake Maxinkuckee. At times throughout the nearly three-hour session, redshirt junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked as picture-perfect as his surroundings.
“I thought that he did some really good things,” veteran coach Brian Kelly said of his starting quarterback. “There are things that he has to build on.”
Early in the practice, Wimbush hit freshman wide receiver Lawrence Keys with a laser-target bomb that resulted in a score (if the coaches were charting such). However, there were a number of throws later in the practice that – like the ones that occurred far too frequently during the 2017 season – made those observing the practice scratch their heads.
“Be consistent,” Wimbush said following the practice of his primary goal for training camp.
Wimbush had a number of overthrows late in Friday’s practice, as well as a pass that got picked off by linebacker Drue Tranquill. However, Kelly saw enough positives from the session that he felt good about how his quarterback performed.
“In particular, out of the pocket throws,” Kelly gave as a specific example of what he liked. “He kept his posture up. He clearly has built on some of the things that he was concerned about last year, where it got to him mentally.”
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Wimbush has spent extensive time since January working with quarterback trainers, most notably on managing his footwork, which often wasn’t executed properly and led to poor throws, he explained. But he also spent time developing chemistry with his pass-catchers this off-season, which should lead to a more productive season, as well.
“I tried and I was intentional about spending time with the guys,” Wimbush said of his summer. “We threw three times each week. Since I have been here, I have never done that.”
Kelly saw growth Friday in the ability of Wimbush to throw simple passes, which because of poor mechanics, became very difficult to do last season.
“Physically,” Kelly explained, “he threw screens well, which we couldn’t throw screens very well last year. The throws on the move, I thought that he did a really nice job.”
Kelly spoke Thursday of the inability (or unwillingness) for Wimbush to be patient enough to work through his progressions and make the right (and accurate) pass.
Wimbush explained Friday that he has focused on executing that task better and watching film of Friday’s practice will tell him whether or not he is heading in the proper direction.
“Everything ties into your feet,” Wimbush said. “You can watch film and watch my feet specifically and see if I am going to complete a pass.”
At times last season, Wimbush explained, he would lengthen his stride when throwing, which caused his balance and accuracy to waver. However, he has been focused on keeping his stride much more compact throughout the spring and summer and now into fall camp.
“You can tell if I am doing it right,” Wimbush said, “and going through my progressions, just by looking at my feet.”
Kelly said on Thursday that Wimbush was his clear No. 1 quarterback and on Friday he said that he was going to be patient with him before challenging him defensively.
“We want to stay away from the (defensive) pressures while we don’t have the gear on,” Kelly said. “It’ll be more like practice six and then you pick your spots, accordingly, along the way.”
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