By: Kyle Gibson

Today the media was allowed back into practice for a short viewing session and Brian Kelly held a brief press conference after which contained a few big news items including some injuries and a lost player. Here’s everything that was learned and observed today:

Kelly’s Comments

  • Sophomore Safety Mykelti Williams is no longer with the football program. No specifics given by Kelly but it’s being reported that he’s transferring.
  • WR and Kick Returner CJ Sanders is out approximately 4 months with hip flexor injury, potentially undergoing surgery. “…they are trying to decide to surgically repair it. That would be about four months. We should get him back running at full go in late July and we should get him rounded into shape for camp in August.”
  • WR Miles Boykin had surgery on an index finger fracture but should be back after Easter break
  • OL Colin McGovern and WR Corey Robinson both in concussion protocol. This is not Robinson’s first concussion.
  • Walk-on WR Chris Finke will step up to fill in for Sanders in the slot and in kick returns.
  • Praise for LB Nyles Morgan, “I think Nyles has done a really terrific job of communicating and leading the defense” “I think probably the most important thing is middle linebacker looks really, really solid for us.”
  • QBs Zaire and Kizer are getting equal reps. Wimbush taking less but enough to develop.
  • Kelly commenting on the QBs performance, ““I’m pleased with all of the quarterbacks,” stated Kelly. “Malik is a little rusty in terms of just the management of game situations and live situations. Just getting us moving quickly. DeShone is doing a very good job there. We have to keep tightening him up mechanically. I think Brandon has got a much better sense of the offense and a lot more confident in what he is doing.
  • QBs will be live at some point in the Spring
  • WR Corey Holmes getting work in the slot
  • For those thinking Torii Hunter Jr. may stay in the slot, “We want to utilize Hunter’s speed and his matchup ability on the perimeter, so we would like to keep him outside if we could. We would like to keep EQ, Hunter and Stepherson on the outside as much as we can if possible.”
  • Early Enrollee Freshman safety Devin Studstill receiving a ton of praise:

“He is running with our first group right now. He has been really good, so we have been very pleased with what he has been doing and very happy with the way he has picked up our defense. Excellent ball skills and retention. He has probably been the guy that has done the most back there.”

“It comes easy to him. He is just a natural player who has played safety and flows easily to him. It’s not hard to him. He has had no setbacks in terms of the learning curve. He had one mistake today, but it really comes easy to him. He is working at the free safety position.”

“He wouldn’t be out there working with the first group unless he had a natural ability to pick up what we are sending him,” he explained. “He has been able to pick it up as a mid-year enrollee in spring ball. He is making plays, getting lined up and getting guys in the right position. We have been very pleased.”

  • On DB Shaun Crawford: “Shaun Crawford at the nickel has been outstanding. He has looked really, really good. Cornerback is a battle and a good battle going on out there. Those two have really done a nice job. The other guys have done good things, but you asked me who has really caught my eye and it’s been Studstill and Crawford.”
  • DL Jay Hayes has been moved to DE with Elijah Taylor taking reps on the inside DT (3-tech)
  • On the O-Line configuration: “You have McGovern, Tristen Hoge, Alex Bars and Hunter Bivin, so those four guys are kind of battling out the right side. The left side is pretty set over there with Quenton Nelson and (Mike) McGlinchey. Sam (Mustipher) is solid at center. So it’s really those four guys trying to figure out what the best grouping is. They are competing and doing good things, but that’s pretty much what we have going on now.”
  • On OL Alex Bars: “We’re trying to keep him out at the right tackle position with Hunter”  “That battle is there and inside it’s Hoge and McGovern at the right guard position. As you can tell, we have a little flexibility with Bars, but other than that that’s all we have with the flexibility, other than Tristen can play the center position.”
  • Safety Drue Tranquill coming along well after returning from injury, made good one-on-one tackles.

Not a whole lot was observed in the short viewing window that wasn’t touched on by Kelly during his media session. One of the key takeaways that has been seen and then confirmed today by Kelly is the makeup of the offensive line. Mike McGlinchey has in fact moved over to left side where he and Quenton Nelson are forming a very formidable tandem. They were observed in some 3-on-3 drills today absolutely dominating any set of defensive linemen they squared off against. When they were subbed out for any other pair of lineman it was a much different result. It also appears that there is no longer a battle at center where many expected Tristen Hoge to make a push and possibly beat out Sam Mustipher. Instead Hoge is now competing for that right guard spot. Also going against what some anticipated is the fact that Bars has settled on the outside at tackle rather than at guard. He still has the ability to play inside where he did last season but it’s obvious that the coaching staff likes him better at tackle and that’s where he’ll be trying to earn a starting role against Hunter Bivin.

Another observation being made that has been backed up by a few Kelly comments is the emergence of young WRs. It was no secret that Torii Hunter, EQ St. Brown and Corey Robinson would clearly be ahead of the pack but it’s Corey Holmes, early enrollee Kevin Stepherson, and walk-on Chris Finke that are drawing the most attention. That’s not to say those first three haven’t performed well, it’s just that it was expected. Holmes came into the Spring bursting out of the gate, literally, putting up freakish numbers in the combine style testing that took place before practices began. Now he’s been backing up those numbers on the field of play. Stepherson was almost an afterthought in this recruiting class and now he’s likely well on his way to earning playing time and possibly some major minutes if he continues on his current track. Then nobody has been a bigger surprise than little walk-on Sophomore Chris Finke. Many are predicting a scholarship coming his way sooner rather than later and unlike a lot of walk-ons who earn scholarships in their later years, it looks like Finke might actually play a role in the offense or on special teams, especially if CJ Sanders has a longer recovery than anticipated. Finke standing at 5’9.5 and 175lbs is very close in size to Sanders and he’s displaying great quickness and solid hands in practice.

Last but certainly not least is what we’re seeing and hearing about early enrollee safety Devin Studstill. Apparently the kid has just got it and as it was noted above he’s taking first team reps at free safety. For those that don’t know, that’s Max Redfield’s position. This will be a very interesting development to watch as Spring progresses and on into the Fall. It now seems like there might be an actual possibility of a true Freshman starting over a veteran Senior. It could light the fire in Redfield but it can’t be ignored that Studstill is succeeding and impressing the coaching staff just a week into his first college practices at a position that Max has struggled with for 3 seasons now.