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Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is trying to take Notre Dame from having a very good offense to having one of the best in college football.
How likely is that to happen in 2021?
Rees discussed the development of several of his players at Wednesday’s media session following practice.
1 of 13: On his Ted Lasso-like facial hair
"This was me getting bullied by the quarterbacks. They showed up day one, three of them showed up day one with 'staches. I said if you some of us are doing it, we're all doing it. So, we've got picture day today, but I let it go through the weekend, kind of break camp after this weekend. Probably cut it after that. Buchner can't grow one yet. Other than that, they're all pretty solid. Pyne and Coan both shaved their's, so they're not gonna be allowed in the quarterback picture today. I thought we were on the same page, but I guess not."
2 of 13: Offense's Growth So Far
"I've been very pleased. Obviously coming into camp there were a lot of question marks about personnel, where guys were going to step up, but I feel like as a unit, everybody has raised their level of commitment, raised their level of preparation. The o-line gelling together has shown up. We get into run situations and we've been good there. Obviously, the playmakers, you have plenty of them across the field. I mean, we are not short on playmakers. I think you've seen guys take a big jump, not only in just their performance on the field, but I think it's a direct correlation to how they prepared to get to this moment. We talked last week just how pleased we are to have Kevin back healthy and see him play the game that he loves. That's been a joy. From the top down in our running back room, it's probably as deep as anywhere in the country. I mean, when you get to C'Bo, he's been so valuable for us over the last couple of years that you know, he's a guy that we count on. Look, we are very fortunate to where we are at skill-wise. It's been a good gel of putting all the pieces together."
3 of 13: Early Blake Fisher Takeaways
"I think Blake's talent is very evident the moment you see him strap on the pads. He is a big, obviously imposing figure, but then he's a really good athlete. The combination of that makes his talent level pretty special. I think we're looking for consistency and commitment day in and day out. You're asked a lot upfront, from a mental side of things. It's a demanding position. Every day we get a new look and it's a good learning experience for him and it just helps with his development overall."
4 of 13: Braden Lenzy now vs. 2020
"Braden had a number of issues last year that limited what we could do with him. He's a guy that, this offseason, this summer, turned it up a level and you saw just how much he owned what coach Balis was preaching all summer, and it set him up to have a great camp. His speed is elite. He's catching the ball at a very high level. He's running different routes than he has in the past. He has done a lot of really good things for us. People have to respect his speed. When you have that elite trait, it can open up a lot of other things for you."
5 of 13: Austin and Lenzy's ability to stay healthy
"You're always a little skeptical, right, just naturally, but they've put in a ton of work to get back and to get healthy and to be stronger. We trust coach Balis and his staff and we trust Rob Hunt and his staff. They do a great job of getting those guys ready to play and they do a great job of communicating with us on when we can push them and when we need to pull some back. So, I think it's a group effort and it's a very collective deal from coach Balis to Rob and his staff and the coaches and making sure that we've put our players in a position that they can excel throughout a long season. But with that said, I mean our depth at the receiver position right now is where we feel like we can go about 7-deep and we feel like we have guys that can step up and go make plays. You gloss over a kid like Avery Davis, but Avery is guy who can go in at any of the three spots and make plays for you. Joe Wilkins is in the same boat. When you have guys like that with their ability, you can spell people all over the field."
6 of 13: On freshman WR Lorenzo Styles, Jr.
"Zo has done a nice job obviously. There's been some times where he's been full speed and sometimes we've held him, but look, Zo has the same trait that Braden has, he's a fast dude. He can really run. Zo is Ben Skowronek mentally, to a point where when he talks about competing and going full speed and loving the game, that's how he's wired. So, from the moment Zo stepped on campus in the spring to know, I've seen a peak level of commitment to his craft. He's a guy that catches a dig route yesterday, he slipped, and he's gone because he has that trait. So, we're very excited about him and his future and we're just trying to get him on the right page all the time."
7 of 13: Michael Mayer's skyhigh potential
"I don't mean any disrespect to any of the guys that I played with or any guys that have come, but Mike Mayer has the ability to be the best tight end to ever come here. I mean, he is a special talent. You want to talk about a guy that's wired the right way, he comes to work every single day with the mentality of he's gonna get better and he wants to go be dominant. I don't know if people understand Mike yet. He's an unbelievable kid to be around and coach because he is so eager for more and so eager to go be that guy. He is a lot of fun to be around and a lot of fun to coach. Look, Eifert was a great player, Kyle was a great player, Cole was a great player, and it goes on. Mike's ability, he has a chance to be as good as any of them."
8 of 13: Laser focus of Mayer
"I don't think it means anything to Mike. The kid is wired like, I mean, he is so focused on what he wants in this game and what he wants from this school and why he's here. There is really no outside noise that bugs him. The kid is singularly focused on what he's about and I can't say enough good things about Mike."
9 of 13: Adjustments in career, stages in life
"When I first got back, there was three guys still on the team that I played with, with Durham, Mike and Biv. This year that just graduated, that was kind of the group. I came in and they were freshmen. You share the four years and they probably still look at you that way. Now we're probably at the point now where it's coach Rees used to play here, but look, I think we've always focused on having a mutual level of respect, and I'm still young enough where I can have a good time with players and mess around, but it's probably transitioning right now. So, we're probably seeing it."
10 of 13: Mayer even better this year?
"Look, it's a similar question to when you guys asked about Kyren and how does he get better, well, you start to develop other things that he can do. As a true freshman without an offseason, to come in and play the way did, it speaks to his talent, right? I think having a full offseason, where he's able to have a year with Balis, having a spring ball, having a camp, we're starting to be able to add things to his plate, and just developing the package for him."
11 of 13: Joe Wilkins Expectations
"Joe and I, we had a pretty big heart to heart last offseason, and it starts with, just where does he want to be, where does he view himself. He's a guy that's always had talent. He's a guy that learns it easily. He's a guy that's been flexible in where he can play on the field. So we just had to get the mentality to start to flip. I think this offseason he took a huge jump forward. Starting back in February, until now, and now he becomes a guy that's consistent, the guy you can count on and someone that — his versatility gives us a lot of flexibility and it puts us in pretty good spots."
12 of 13: Staff's Dirty Dogs shirts
"So, there's a huge emphasis right now on offensively, understanding that every job that you have, whether how big or how small, is important. So, throughout camp we wanted to show guys clips where it might be a receiver blocking downfield, it might be a quarterback carrying out his fake, it might be lineman helping interiorly and just showing how those little jobs make big things happen. We wanted to emphasize the details of playing our position and how it takes all of us doing our job at 100% all the time to really lead to positive players. So it's something we've tracked. Every practice, we've shown the guys and we reward them with shirts and yesterday being goal line, short yardage and just felt like it was a good day to have the staff all wear them. That's about it and where we're at there. The guys have really rallied around it."
13 of 13: Constant Focus on Fundamentals
"I think you're always working on fundamentals no matter what part of the season you're in. I think right now you start to develop your identity a little bit. You're in the middle of camp, you're going to be put into some competitive situations, you're going to be put into some situational football and really developing who we are going to be, who is going to step up, what is our identity as an offense, and then over the next week or so you start to transition into a little more game prep."