SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- This was my first trip to Notre Dame Stadium and I was looking forward to the game-day experience. While the tailgating I saw on the way to the stadium was what I expected, the humidity that smothered me like I was wrapped in plastic wrap wasn't.
It was the type of humidity that made me feel like I was in my backyard in Houston. I hate humidity because you can't escape it. Humidity is stifling. It turns out that the humidity was nothing more than foreshadowing for what was to come from Notre Dame's defense on the field.
The crowd was filled with burnt orange from the Longhorn fans who made the trip for their season opener, but for all of the fans in the stands, the prospects on the field were primarily in gold helmets.
When scouting, it can be difficult to get a good feel for prospects if you spend time trying to see everything and everyone on every play. Here is what I saw from the prospects I studied in Notre Dame's 38-3 win on Saturday night.
Defensive tackle Desmond Jackson
Jackson has big arms and a desirable frame to play inside, and he did show some pop at times in his initial punch. His pad level rose too high at times, which caused him to play off-balance. Jackson, who had three total tackles in the game, looks like he lacks quickness to be a factor as a pass rusher.
Running back Johnathan Gray
Gray showed average bounce to the outside while accumulating 40 yards on eight carries. I'm trying to figure out if he is any better than former Longhorn RB Malcolm Brown as a pro prospect. Gray had a relatively decisive night as a runner, but he was only able to get what was blocked for him.
Defensive lineman Sheldon Day
Day plays outside on base downs and often bumped inside on passing downs. He has an unusually squatty frame to play at defensive end. Day is quick off the snap, and gets up the field as a pass rusher pretty well for a bigger guy. He recorded one sack and four quarterback hurries, showing impressive change of direction in pursuit of the quarterback and the ball. He never had to face much of a challenge from Texas' running game.
Linebacker Joe Schmidt
His scouting report for the night feels cliched, but what you see is what you get. Schmidt is a hustle player who never lets up. However, he is small for his position and has below-average athletic traits. He has limited range in pursuit and as a tackler.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith
Smith, one of the most explosive players I studied this summer did not disappoint, registering a sack and a tackle for loss. Smith didn't have to pursue many runs wide, but did it easily when needed. He still sits back on the second level far too much while waiting for linemen to get up to him rather than getting downhill and attacking the line of scrimmage against the run. Smith has fantastic juice as a pass rusher and played with his hand in the ground on some sub packages. Scouts might need to start considering him as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker thanks to his edge speed and potential to rush the passer.
Cornerback KeiVarae Russell
Russell was making his return after serving an academic suspension for all of last season. He was frequently used to cover the slot rather than outside receivers. Russell had a good feel for sifting through combination routes and maintained a decent feel for receivers out of breaks. He got burned for a 48-yard catch on a post route in which he failed to show recovery speed to close out the receiver after being beaten.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley
Stanley is one of the top pass protectors in the college game and that was obvious Saturday night. He uses a quick-set to get on top of defensive ends quickly on pass plays. Stanley has good technique in pass sets, but still is showing inconsistency as a run blocker in man-to-man combat.
Wide receiver Will Fuller
Fuller had a monster game (seven catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns), but a big part of it was busted coverages and mistakes in the secondary, so it makes it harder to get a feel for his overall skill set. I did see good quickness out of breaks and at the top of his routes. His ability to change speeds inside of his routes caused problems for the Longhorns' secondary. Fuller is very thin and showed a lack of willingness to stick his nose in as a blocker.