Brian Kelly addressed the media on Friday to officially kick off the 2016 Notre Dame football season with the Irish starting fall camp tomorrow. Kelly addressed a number of topics on Friday as the Irish look to build on last season’s Fiesta Bowl appearance and challenge for a spot in the 2016 College Football Playoffs.
We will have plenty on what Kelly talked about on Friday throughout the weekend, but for now, here are some notes from Kelly’s first presser for the 2016 Notre Dame football season!
- There is no timeline for selecting a starting quarterback for the 2016 season. Kelly said that in the spring the staff felt like they may not have let Malik Zaire completely be himself as they kept the offense similar to what it became in 2015 around the talents of Deshone Kizer.
- The staff is committed to redshirting Brandon Wimbush this year and he will have the opportunity to challenge for the starting position in 2017.
- Kelly was noncommittal on how long of a leash the eventual starting quarterback would have. Kelly joked, “it depends on how loud you guys boo,” before saying that it would be “foolish” to say that one quarterback would start for the entire year. He also said he hasn’t resisted any temptation on playing both Kizer and Zaire.
- Kelly isn’t concerned that the locker room will be divided and knows what the identity of the offense will be.
Suspensions, Transfers, Injuries
- John Montellus is moving back to the offensive line after spending the spring practicing on the defensive line.
- Kelly mentioned that he is proud of Alize Jones for taking accountability for his ineligibility in 2016. “Notre Dame is always going to be a high academic environment and you’ve got to come to play every day.”
- Kelly downplayed the loss of Jones on the field stating that Notre Dame will go from “no touchdowns to no touchdowns” in reference to Jones not scoring a touchdown in 2015.
- Injuries – Justin Brent is about 4-6 weeks away because of a Lisfranc injury. Devin Butler is out because of the broken foot and Nick Watkins is not fully recovered.
- Grant Blankenship is no longer on the Notre Dame football roster and as far as Kelly knows he is looking at a transfer.
- Donte Vaughn is listed as a safety on the official roster, but will play cornerback.
- Kelly singled out Mike McGlinchey’s mental and physical toughness when asked about whether or not McGlinchey could be the next in line of great Notre Dame offensive linemen.
- At right guard, Tristen Hoge, Tommy Kraemer, and Hunter Bivin were the three players who will get the first look. Kelly praised 5th year senior Mark Harrell for his versatility to play all positions. “He’s worth his weight in gold.” Based on the price of gold today, that would be $6,550,000.
- The freshman corners and safeties are the ones closest to playing this fall for Notre Dame, but Kelly also specifically mentioned Tommy Kraemer and the defensive ends/OLBs – Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes, and Jamir Jones as being impressive this summer as well.
- Speaking of Chase Claypool, Kelly said that he will get a look at the W WR position.
- Daniel Cage, Jerry Tillery, and Jarron Jones are the three primary players on the interior of the defensive line. Tillery has the most versatility of the group while Cage and Jones are more strictly NT’s. Elijah Taylor is extremely strong and can hold the point well. The staff is looking for a 4-5 player rotation on the interior defensive line. They are looking for 20-30 plays a game out of each Cage and Jones.
- Eliminating the big play is the main area of focus for the Notre Dame defense this fall. They also want to play more attacking football with the corners and safeties this fall.
- The staff is confident that Nyles Morgan has gained the trust of the 10 other guys around him as well as defensive coordinator Brian Vangorder. Kelly mentioned the staff is more concerned with getting Morgan’s backup ready.
- They are going to play Shaun Crawford as much as they can and move him around if need be. Kelly also mentioned Nick Coleman as someone we’ll see more of. Donte Vaughn was singled out among the freshman mainly because of his size at 6-3. There isn’t a corner on the roster that the staff doesn’t feel like they could put on the field.
- Greer Martini may have to cross-train at the WILL and MIKE positions because of the depth the Irish have at WILL and the need for a dependable #2 MIKE. He praised Martini’s physical conditioning as well.
- Kelly thinks Equanimeous St. Brown is on the verge of doing very big things for Notre Dame. Kelly mentioned that he doesn’t think there will be one breakout star this year for Notre Dame but thinks four or five players will elevate their games on offense. St. Brown and Josh Adams, however, were singled out.
- The staff has asked Isaac Rochell to be a leader and stated that he has taken over where Sheldon Day left off in terms of being a leader in the room for the defensive linemen. Rochell has made the most gains he’s had physically since he’s been at Notre Dame this off-season. This is the first time in two years he’s been able to squat heavy and do all of the leg lifts necessary to be explosive and maintain his body weight throughout the season.
- On leadership, James Onwaulu was the first name Kelly mentioned. Cole Luke, Isaac Rochell, Mike McGlinchey, Torii Hunter, and the quarterbacks were also mentioned. Kelly said he is not as concerned about leadership as he was heading into the spring.
- The only goal for the 2016 Fighting Irish is to be one of the four teams selected for the CFP. Kelly reiterated that is the only goal for Notre Dame every year.
- Notre Dame has invested a lot in sports science across all sports to help with injury prevention although Kelly admitted it’s impossible to prevent injuries in a sport like football.
- Kelly downplayed the challenge of starting the season on the road against Texas as opposed to opening the season against a lesser opponent.
- Kelly expects the kicking games to be a strength of the team this fall. In terms of returners, CJ Sanders will get the first shot at both after his strong freshman year but others will get a look as well. Kick-off return is where the most competition will be in the return game.
- Durham Smythe can do a lot of things well. Nic Weishar has the strength now to do all of the things they need him to do to be on the field more. Kelly praised Jacob Matuska and Tyler Luatua’s ability to be an in-line blocker.
- Kelly said that the new partnership with Bleacher Report will let Notre Dame reach recruits like no other program can. While he praised last year’s Showtime show, he mentioned that the B/R partnership will allow for a much larger reach.