After Thursday’s practice, captains took to the podium in the Isban Auditorium at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex to explain the excitement of moving on from the practice field, their plans to resolve unfinished business from the Cotton Bowl, and establishing a cohesive Irish identity following last year’s undefeated regular season.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be in the spotlight next Monday, taking part in the only televised CFB game of the day. These Irish know other players might find the circumstance intimidating, yet see the matchup as the ultimate opportunity to set the tone of this season.
Coach Brian Kelly’s “next man in” mentality tied the players’ perspectives together. The team philosophy holds every man on the team, regardless of his position or rank must prepare himself to become a starter and go all in at the last second. Only time will tell if this structure will carry the Irish through the aftermath of recent injuries, such as Cole Kmet’s recent collarbone break. Kelly had expressed doubts regarding the team’s collective mindset. However Ian Book, Alohi Gilman, Khalid Kareem, and Chris Finke explained their interpretations of the Fighting Irish mental game Thursday.
The Irish quarterback will head into the new season in style as he plays his first season opener as a starter. He has newfound confidence, but hasn’t gotten rid of the need to prove himself and prove the power of his team, even though he may have gotten rid of his mustache! Book said “I feel like every game at Notre Dame’s kind of a statement game. You know, we have a big target on our back. You know, a lot of haters, a lot of doubters out there… try to treat every game like a playoff game.”
Gilman addressed Kelly’s aim to shape a team identity and explained following the disappointment of the Cotton Bowl “...we were just a team that attacked everything” in camp and practices. He clarified, however, that only the outcomes of upcoming games will underscore this.
Kareem offered his own input regarding the collective mentality of the team. “If you come off strong, you make a statement, you can definitely build upon that.” He also provided his own take on the “next man in” framework and how it has properly equipped the Irish game, particularly on defense. Kareem said, “It doesn’t matter what your role is as long as you embrace that… We’ll be good.” He went on to detail how the last year’s playoff run helped the team to develop a distinct aggression.
Finke emphasized the importance of “showing the preparation” in the Louisville game to truly make an impact. For Finke, it’s all about taking whatever the Irish coaching staff provide with “no second thoughts and attacking it.”
The Irish will take on the Cardinals Monday at 8:00 p.m. To watch the game on television, tune into ESPN.
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