Irish battling spring injuries

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame football is adjusting to injuries and coaches with new roles.

With Duke transfer quarterback Riley Leonard sidelined after a second ankle surgery in two months, junior QB Steve Angeli was expected to take first time reps in Wednesday’s practice with media in attendance. Instead, we saw reps split between sophomore Kenny Minchey and freshman CJ Carr.

One of the many adjustments for the running backs taking hand-offs from the young field generals. In addition to not having Leonard and Angeli in the fifth practice of the spring, the stable is learning new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock’s playbook.

“Denbrock's offense is, I would say is more explosive. Like I was saying, he's doing more stuff with the backs, you know, putting them out and why put them out of the slot. And that's type of that's my type of play’ running back Jeremiyah Love said.

“I like how he gives us a chance to open up as running backs and you know, he trusts us to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield and get us in space more,” Running back Jadarian Price added.

Even with Love and Price primed to have primary roles out of the backfield, the largest difference is not having Audric Estime. As a junior, Estime rushed for 1,341 yards and 18 touchdowns.

“The good thing about the way that we rotate the guys, everything that we see in now, it's not like, wow, I didn't see that before we played, and we play all those guys so much. So, the issues that need to be addressed. We're addressing those right now. And those are few and far in between, or you know, they wouldn't have played last year, running backs coach Deland McCullough said.

Estime and the run game was clearly a large part of the offense making up for 29 of the 65 touchdowns last season.

The defense was just as much contributor to the success. Unfortunately, the Irish will be without star corner Benjamin Morrison.

Add it to the list of adjustments as a team and for new assistant defensive backs coach Marty Biagi, who is still the special teams coordinator.

“Coach Freeman came in and said, 'This is what we want to do.' It was it was more of hey, are you comfortable? Are you ready? And I said absolutely. And to get to work with Coach golden and coach Mickens on the back end, you know, to gurus has just been, you know, very smooth transition,” Biagi said when asked about his selling point to take on an added role.

Biagi wasn’t the only coach with added responsibility. Running backs coach Deland McCullough has potential to become a head coach in the college football world and Freeman noticed the talent after two years. Moving into his third season at the helm, he made it official for McCullough.

“Having the opportunity to be here, in this type of environment, with these type of players and coaches, and then obviously, with the favor the head coach to put me into that role. I want to make sure that I exhibit everything that needs to be exhibited in our role and continue to grow the program,” McCullough said.

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