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Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly provides updates for game against North Carolina

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Injuries, Howell, and more

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 USC at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At 6-1 and ranked #11, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a lot to play for this season. Perhaps the biggest question right now, is if the Irish can win out and see where the chips fall. Up next is another home night game, and this time it’s the North Carolina Tar Heels that are coming to town.

On Thursday, Brian Kelly was available to provide some updates for Saturday’s game.

One man down and another might be up

We all knew that Kyle Hamilton was going to be out for the game against UNC, but as far as his future goes — that’s still up in the air.

“Kyle Hamilton’s doing well. He’s been actively involved with coaching this week. This has been a coaching week for him. He’s done a really good job. He’s working with the safeties. Totally engaged, being a captain, obviously doing a great job. So, pleased with that. Had PRP earlier in the week and then we’ll see where he is. But moving around, obviously not practicing, been in weight training. We’re training around the injury right now.”

The Irish were without Chris Tyree against USC, but it’s looking more likely that he will be able to play on Saturday. As good as Kyren Williams is, getting another weapon (and one with all that speed) back on the field is important for a game that the Irish might need 35+ point to win.

“In terms of Chris Tyree, we’ve made the progress necessary for him to be penciled in on kickoff today, so he’ll get the first team reps on kickoff and he’ll get reps in our Thursday second team running back reps. So, the natural progress. Now he’s gonna have to show us today at full speed that he’s ready to go. But we like where we are at going into today’s practice.”

In place of Kyle

It will come as a familiar sight for Irish fans with Kyle Hamilton out for UNC. Last year’s first half departure of Kyle saw D.J. Brown play a terrific game. What’s in store this year?

“I would add KJ Wallace into the mix as well. He would be part of the four-player rotation at the safety position with Isaiah Pryor and Wallace as the other two safeties (in addition to Houston Griffith and DJ Brown).”

Should the Irish need to use a fifth player, Xavier Watts has been training there — and has been getting help from Kyle Hamilton.

“Xavier had a calf strain and it really set him back a little bit. We were hoping he’d be further ahead in terms of his development where we wanted him. We’re really high on and you know I’ve been probably his biggest advocate, but unfortunately the young man has had some soft tissue injuries that have put him back a little bit. But he’s ready to go this weekend. So, he would be a fifth for us at the safety position, if we were called to go that far down. He’s been cross training both that the safety and the nickel position. Actually Kyle Hamilton has been working with him directly one on one this week. That’s kind of been his his student. Really like his upside, so that would be the five.”

Sam Howell and friends

Sam Howell has primarily been identified as one of the best passing quarterback in college football, but this season he has done a lot of damage on the ground as the Heels’s second leading rusher.

“Sam Howell, he’s difficult to bring down. He’s big, he’s strong. They’re running him a lot more as you know. Quarterback draw in particular is problematic for most because you’re trying to defend the width of the field. It creates great space for him to run. He’s tough, he’s physical and he’s difficult to defend when he decides to run the football.”

Howell’s top target is Josh Down, and the Irish are well aware of the damage he can do.

“When you’re outside, you can roll the coverage, you can play somebody over the top, you have the opportunities to do things of that nature that, whether you spit a safety down. That’s what you have to do with the slot receiver. Your health has to come from top down and it forces you to show your coverage. A player like Sam Howell, he’s obviously going to get some pre snap reads that are gonna allow him to put the ball where he wants to. It makes it a little bit more difficult of coverage. We’ve got to disguise some things and do a really good job of getting him down after the catch. That’s really the most important thing for us defending a guy that is dynamic like him.”

Picking up the pace

Notre Dame changed things up against USC. The Irish used an up tempo offense, but Kelly says that the improvement in terms of production was more about better execution than their pace.

“When you’re outside, you can roll the coverage, you can play somebody over the top, you have the opportunities to do things of that nature that, whether you spit a safety down. That’s what you have to do with the slot receiver. Your health has to come from top down and it forces you to show your coverage. A player like Sam Howell, he’s obviously going to get some pre snap reads that are gonna allow him to put the ball where he wants to. It makes it a little bit more difficult of coverage. We’ve got to disguise some things and do a really good job of getting him down after the catch. That’s really the most important thing for us defending a guy that is dynamic like him.”

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