The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will return to the field this weekend, and head coach Brian Kelly met with journalists Thursday to provide an update ahead of the upcoming matchup against the Duke Blue Devils.
Kelly addressed the impact of linebacker Jack Lamb’s hip injury and said, “He has been behind, quite frankly, in a very, very competitive situation, as you know. We expect that Jack is going to contribute immediately for us in special teams and continue to work and getting him back at 100%.”
On linebacker Osita Ekwonu’s role on the squad:
“Osita was going to be a niche player for us on offense, and I’ll define niche player as a short-yardage back and goal-line back. He never really left the linebacker core, so he’s been cross-trained at the position and would continue to spend most of his time with the linebackers.”
Kelly also highlighted the evolution of defensive end Daelin Hayes. The coach emphasized Hayes’ ability to learn and adapt after an injury, as well as his dedication to mental health causes.
“I think those two things, in particular, have set into action where he is today and obviously what he’s meant to our team and our rally and putting that together and then certainly as a player on the field. You got to do it on both ends. If you’re really good off the field but not on the field, you’re going to get some votes, but he’s done it both on the field and off the field and that’s why he’s garnered so much respect from his peers and that’s why he’s a captain.”
Fighting Irish Football in the Age of COVID-19
If players and coaches want to have a successful season, then health will have to be the main focus.
“We’ve had no COVID-related issues in our last four tests. They’ve been zero. So, our guys have a pretty good routine set up right now.”
Starting a Season for the History Books
Any college football fan knows this season will be unlike any other. Shifting into the right mentality will be critical for any player, and Kelly realizes this. Heading into the new season, Kelly could not deny the significance of only getting 22 of 25 practices in.
“I don’t know that you can exclude COVID from this preparation. It’s unlike any preparation that I’ve ever had. So, if we were living in a vacuum, my concerns would be like they have been for 30 years. How’s your team going to respond when it’s now game day? How do they handle going from practice to competitive mindset? Look, this team had no spring practice.”
Kelly saw promise in his players during Tuesday’s practice.
“This is a veteran team… It was extremely purposeful. It was high energy. It was done with intent. There was an attitude in the way that they went to work and there’s a difference between working with a purpose and just going out there and thinking that activity is achievement. They didn’t do that. They were looking to set a standard and they certainly did that.”
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