Sheldon Day helps keep things light at practice, here teasing assistant equipment manager Adam Myers.

Preseason Practice Update - August 12

Aug. 12, 2015

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It’s midway through the first session of Notre Dame’s first two-a-day of the 2015 preseason and the defensive line finds itself on its own for a few periods while the bulk of the team does a pass skeleton drill on a different field.

The second teamers are due for some extra work with defensive line coach Keith Gilmore’s group blitzing against a stationary offensive line. Sheldon Day volunteers to be the center of that line and urges freshmen and other third and fourth teamers to form the rest of the line.

One player charges through the A-gap instead of the B-gap and Day gets on him as much as Gilmore although doing so with a loving smile. Day suggests to Gilmore that the group needs to work on a certain play that practice tape review showed they didn’t quite have down, and the unit did just that.

Freshman Jerry Tillery a 6’6-1/2″ 305-pounder may have some size on the 6’2″ 285-pound Day, but the affinity for the team captain is blatantly obvious as the promising youngster bumps Day with every pass during the non-contact drill. Tillery’s bumps often being returned by a good hard, but not mean, shove from Day.

When another group is up, Day is keeping things light-hearted while his peers go through their paces. He jokes from the sideline with fellow starters Romeo Okwara and Isaac Rochell. He even messes with assistant equipment manager Adam Myers about his appearance. Anyone within shouting range of Day is a potential target for the jovial Indianapolis native.

The offensive line comes over for a series of pass-rushing drills. Day supports his fellow defensive linemen as they attempt to charge one at a time past their offensive trench-mates. The drill nears completion and Day has mainly faced the second-team offensive line. Sensing the rotation will also have his final rep come against a backup, he starts to call out preseason All-American Ronnie Stanley.

Stanley and others chuckle at the challenge but, like Day, Stanley is a good teammate. He refuses to cut the line and lets Hunter Bivin stand in trying to keep Day away from the imaginary quarterback.

“I’m just trying to be the Energizer bunny and make sure that we come out consistent every day,” Day said of his leadership role with the unit. “I need to to make sure that we can start growing the defense to be the dominant force around here and put intimidation into our opponents’ eyes.

“Being out there with the guys — feeling their energy and they’re flowing off of my energy — we connect. We keep flowing. If I see somebody down, I’m picking them up. It’s all about keeping each other to a high standard.”

A few minutes later, senior manager Drew Vista blows the air horn. It’s time for full-contact 11-on-11 drills. Day battles around the point of attack. Sometimes he is stopped cold by center Nick Martin and others. Sometimes he slips through into the backfield. It is a punishing matchup for about 10 plays before the second units come onto the field and Day heads to the sideline with his teammates.

This Day is not the one seen on the other field. Day says almost nothing. His hands are on his hips and he glares at the offense. His eyes never leave the field. He may be making mental notes for later film study, but he isn’t expressing them. He is surrounded by his teammates and support staffers but isn’t saying a word to anyone about anything. He takes a swig of water and stews, waiting until the ones are back up, charging like a bull into the defensive huddle when that moment comes.

“It’s time to flip the switch,” Day says of the moment when practice becomes a game, or at least a reasonable facsimile of one. “Like coach (Brian) Kelly preaches to us all the time. When it’s time to go, put your hand down (in the dirt) and be ready to go to war. Marcus Luttrell said that too the other day — flip the switch.”

With these two Days, the wise-cracking, effervescent mentor of the defensive line and the ferocious unrelenting cog at defensive tackle, Notre Dame knows it has one of the keystones in a defense that could match some lofty expectations in 2015.

“My job is seeing how it’s done right on film and how we can work to make it our own,” Day said of his dual roles. “How we can make this 2015 line’s own special unique ability and see how we can match what we did last year and even go beyond that.”

WEDNESDAY IN REVIEW: “Hump Day” was truly a figurative mid-week mountain to climb for the Irish. Notre Dame held its first two-a-day session at the LeBar Practice Complex.

The first day of camp on campus for the Irish saw a large amount of visitors. Not only did the first four NFL scouts of 2015 attend the morning practice, but both sessions saw the first visit by SHOWTIME’s camera crews. The cable network announced on Tuesday that it will produce a 12-episode series “A Season With Notre Dame Football” and began taping the next day. The 30-minute show will air on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET beginning on Sept. 8 looking back at camp and the season-opener against Texas.

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— written and compiled by Leigh Torbin, athletic communications assistant director, and Michael Bertsch, director of football media relations