Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced that the four underclassmen who were arrested last weekend are back practicing with the team. He announced this after the dismissal of Max Redfield and the indefinite suspension of Devin Butler, who was recently formally charged.
It’s really no surprise that these 4 are back practicing with the team. However, it did surprise (at least me) a little bit that Kelly said that if it were up to him, these 4 would play in the opener against Texas. He’s said that while he would allow them to play it, is still up to the University itself to determine the fate of these guys. While realistically I think that these guys will face a suspension of a few games, I don’t think any real punishment is going to come of this.
Some of the national media is giving Kelly a hard time on being quick to dismiss Redfield and suspend Butler, but handle these underclassmen (who can help out the team in future years) “internally”. While I can see a valid argument there (Saban did the same thing), I think Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated made a great point/angle that I haven’t seen too many national guys say: Redfield (a senior) should have been a better team leader to the 4 underclassmen and that these younger guys were possibly led astray from a senior leader. Is that throwing Redfield under the bus? Sure. But it makes a lot of sense. Should Coney, Stepherson, White, and Williams have made a better judgement call? Absolutely. But remember, these guys are still 18 and 19, and Redfield was a senior who started 23 games. So it’s easy to see them following his lead.
I’m hoping for a silver-lining from the situation in this: the offseason was focused on who the starting quarterback would be. When Kelly announced both would play, Kizer and Zaire were both openly unhappy about the decision. I’m hoping that this situation helps re-focus the team and brings them together for one common goal. There’s no guarantee that this will happen, but maybe we will see some team leaders emerge. Don’t forget, this Irish team is desperately needing leaders to step up with the departure of dominate personalities in Brown, Fuller, Smith, Schmidt, Russell, Day, Stanley, and Martin.