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Notre Dame Football Media Day Report

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Depth chart notes and season related miscellany.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Big Picture

This team is helmed by a small senior class, but it has solid leadership.  The team’s core is in the junior and sophomore classes, and freshmen will play early and often.

The team should be fun to watch, as Coach Kelly promised that the Irish will play faster on both offense and defense (and special teams, one would presume).  It should be both very fun and very stressful watching this young squad develop and build the foundation for a playoff run in ’15.  That’s me editorializing.  Kelly did not rule out a playoff run this year.

The team’s defensive strengths are Sheldon Day and Jaylon Smith.  Those are two very good players to build a defense around.  Let’s see if the rest of the defense pans out.  On offense, Kelly singled out (contradiction intended) the entire offensive line as a strength.  This is good.

The Irish are a healthy team, knock on wood.  Everyone should be a go for Rice, with Torii Hunter being a possible exception.

Kelly Media Day Presser:


Leadership

Cam McDaniel is the leader on offense.  He’s the fiery guy who will give the rah-rah speech and call people out.  Golson has made big strides as a leader.  He is not the rah-rah guy, but will hold people accountable.  A more mature EG is reported to be showing up early (with or sans lunch pail?), doesn’t miss meetings, and is leading from the front.  Say what you want about it as a foreign policy, but leading from the front is a good strategy for a quarterback.

Kelly says that he has rarely seen second year players pick up the game like Jaylon Smith.  This and the Mandel piece from SI lead me to believe that this team will be Jaylon’s sooner than later.  I think Joe Schmidt will provide solid play and leadership in the interim (and beyond).

Offensive Line

Your staring five (as of today) are, from right to left: Elmer/Lombard/Martin/Hegarty/Stanley.  McGlinchey will be the first tackle in, Hanratty the first guard.  Query whether it is disappointing that Quenton Nelson couldn’t force his way more deeply into the mix.

Defensive Line

Your two deep is

DE: Rochell, Blankenship

NG: Jones, Cage

DT: Day, Utupo

DE: Trumbetti, Williams

In a bit of a surprise, senior Justin Utupo has edged out Jonathan Bonner at 3-technique defensive tackle.  And yes, there are four freshmen defensive linemen in the two deep: Cage, Williams, Trumbetti, and Blankenship.  That thump you just heard was our very own Jamie Uyeyama.  Larz, get the smelling salts, a 40 of Molson Ice, and a funnel.  Feed him the smelling salts.  The Molson Ice is to be used topically.  The funnel is where you’ll sit during the procedure.

Hair

Coach Kelly’s haircut will no doubt have Irish fans pining for the days when Bobby Diaco’s beautifully manicured coif had Irish eyes smiling.  It just is not clear what CBK was thinking here.  He’s going with kind of a hybrid buzz cut with a low blend.  It’s longer on the top and high sides.  I think his barber is stuck in unconscious incompetence.  I mean, did he actually do ANY self scouting in the offseason?  One wonders.

Injured Upperclassmen Linebackers

Ben Councell has no physical limitations, but he’s the run stopper.  Onwualu is the starter at Sam.  He is a very hard worker and has really been about the business.

In a bit of very good-sounding news, Jarrett Grace crossed "a big threshold" in his recovery in the last 48 hours.  Before that he was controlling his foot striking more with his larger muscles, his quads.  He’s now gotten back to controlling his feet with his calf muscles.  As a result, his foot striking and gait are back to normal.  I’d love to hear read jchrapek’s thoughts on how badly I’ve butchered the physiology explanation.

Anyway, HOT DOG—it sounds like we could be seeing us some Jarrett Grace.  I always thought JG ran pretty well, but I wonder if the staff will be looking at him like Councell—a bigger body that they’ll rely on against the power teams.  Does JG supplant Schmidt at any point this season?

Kelly and Jack Nolan:

Secondary

Cody Riggs is our top corner.  He’s a leader, he’s accountable, and he can play multiple positions.  He is turning out to have been a critical offseason acquisition.  Kelly mentioned Butler and Luke as the nickel backs, though I thought Keivarae Russell’s suspension would have made Luke a starter.  Maybe Kelly meant that Luke is the nickel if Russell comes back.

Elijah Shumate will play when Austin Collinsworth needs a blow.  Kelly mentioned that AC plays with such abandon that we’d be putting him together with Scotch tape (can we not afford a stronger or more application-appropriate adhesive?) if Collinsworth played every down.  But Shumate needs to quit blowing coverages.  Baratti will relieve Redfield.

Special Teams

Kyle Brindza is one of the finest kickers in the country, a total boss, and will handle all three kicking jobs.  Greg Bryant and Cody Riggs are the punt returners.   I would kind of prefer that our number one corner not take that job if he plans on breaking with our recent punt return tradition.  Amir Carlisle will return kickoffs.  We are employing more speed on kickoff coverage.

Red zone

We did not score enough touchdowns last year.  Kelly admitted that "we need a better plan," and that plan will involve more aggressive playcalling.

On Losing to Michigan…

Kelly has done it three times.  He does not like it and will try extra hard not to do it again.

On The Suspended Four…

Eric Hansen asked about Kelly inviting The Four to eat with the team.  Kelly’s response was either very matter of fact or very passive-aggressive or both: "I want to feed ‘em.  I think that they should be able to eat."  I’ll go out on limb and speculate that Coach Kelly was rather less than enthused by Hansen’s specious comparison of the ND academic "scandal" to the UNC fake classes scandal.

Officiating

We’ll have 8 officials at the home games, versus 7.  The umpire will no longer start out over the ball and then backpedal.  This might speed up the game and could affect crossing routes.

Kyle McCarthy Coaching While Undergoing Chemotherapy

Graduate assistant and all around bad man Kyle McCarthy has had four chemo treatments and is already back to coaching.  Kyle--stay low, wrap up, and form tackle the crap out of that cancer, brother.