“No, nobody’s out. We have a couple of guys injured that are still going to try to go,” said Irish head coach Marcus Freeman. “We’ll see how this week goes, but no new injuries. Nothing that has happened during bowl practice. Nothing like that.”
“Probably be able to tell you Thursday. By Thursday I’ll be able to tell you and have a better idea. After practice today and tomorrow I’ll have a pretty good sense of it.”
Starting defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola was out of uniform at Monday’s practice per (a photo) via Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman. As of Dec. 11, Freeman had deemed TaRiq Bracy (hamstring) and Tobias Merriweather (concussion protocol) fit to practice after missing the season-finale at USC.
Along with running back Logan DiggsBracy is scheduled to meet with the media today following a closed Irish practice.
Tyler Buchner will start, as expected, but barely used backup Steve Angeli has earned practice time with Tommy Rees’s first unit as well. Including some on tap this week.
“Right now, that will probably be the plan. We will go with Tyler with the ones. Both Tyler and Steve have been playing with the ones. They’ve gotten reps with the ones this week and during bowl prep. As we get down here and get closer to game time, Tyler will be with the ones and Steve Angeli will be with the two, and Ron Powlus will be with the three.”
Buchner hasn’t taken a hit since breaking his collarbone against Marshall—of course, neither has Angeli—at least not since joining the second unit as the since-departed Drew Pyne’s backup.
“He’s doing great. He’s progressing. To not play football for so many weeks, every day he gets better and better in his decision-making and really just getting back there and having live reps,” said Freeman of Buchner.” Obviously he’s not getting hit. He’s in the red. All of our quarterbacks wear red, but to have him out there getting live reps has been really good.”
Buchner and Angeli didn’t get hit but the rest of the team did.
“We kind of looked at the structure of practice and have taken some of the ideas we had last year and some of the things this year and then we’ve changed over during bowl practice in terms of how long we’re practicing,” he said Freeman of his first full bowl session compared to last year’s whirlwind that ended in defeat against Oklahoma State. “What type of practice is it? We’ve had some good, fully-padded tackle practices for our guys that need to tackle and need to get out here and have some good live reps.”
WILL YOUTH BE SERVED?
Probably, because the Irish lost not only Pyne but Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey, which means options abound. But per Freeman, only in an effort to augment the team’s overall effort.
“It would be to help us win. It’s not for charity, it’s not just to see what guys can do,” he noted of playing younger players, especially when asked about the defense. “We’re going to put guys in places because we believe it’s what gives us the best chance to win.”
One rookie who received time in November was a linebacker Jaylen Sneed. The snaps were both game-critical (Navy) and mop-up duty (Boston College) while starting on the kickoff coverage unit for three contests—thus maintaining a season of eligibility heading into the Gator Bowl.
“He’s one of those guys who had the opportunity to develop,” said Freeman when asked specifically about the South Carolina native. “Those 10 practices, it was really an opportunity for guys that need to develop to get the opportunity to get a lot of meaningful practice reps. He’s done a great job, and has played a couple of different positions and I think he’ll do some good things on Friday.”
Sneed commented on his bowl preparations before the team broke for Christmas.
“I feel like I’m getting a lot more opportunities. I’m a lot more comfortable with the defense,” Sneed said. “I feel that coach (Al) Golden believes in me, he trusts in me. And he always wanted me to be the player that I can be, and it just took time. Over the season, just to keep chopping at the wood.”
Sneed noted his improvement wasn’t only mental, ie, acclimating to a college defensive scheme. He’s bigger…by about 23 pounds from 197 to 220.
“I mean working with (Matt) Balis, one of the best strength coaches in the world, in the nation. He’s just gotten me so much stronger. I’ve gotten way more powerful,” Sneed continued. “My punch, able to go off the edge if I want to, able to long-arm defenders when I need to. It just made me a lot more physical guy, because it makes me feel stronger and like I can do it.”
Asked about the Rover position where he tutored under seniors Jack Kiser, Sneed offered, “I feel like I’m a very good pass rusher. I feel like I can rush the edge pretty well, because I did in high school. I felt like I’m a strong kid. I’m fast, and me and Jack Kiser kind of like the same build, same mobility so we move well.”
And the position’s greatest challenge?
“Definitely covering tight ends one-on-one and receivers one-on-one,” Sneed noted with a chuckle.