Brian Kelly knew the question was coming yesterday. It was only a matter of when. “What is the status of Dexter Williams for week one” has been one of the most talked about topics of the off-season for Notre Dame. For months it’s been rumored and inuendoed that Williams is facing a similar “suspension” to that of Kevin Stepherson last year. On Thursday, Brian Kelly offered little in terms of clarity on Williams’s status.
“He’s going to be, you know, on our roster,” Kelly said when asked if Williams will be available week one. “We’ll see who — who ends up playing against Michigan, but he’s on our football team and I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished in the summer,” he would go on to add.
That is really neither a confirmation or a denial of a suspension. Now, it is important to note here that Kelly legally cannot comment on any disciplinary action, due to privacy laws. So, perhaps his answers was merely him doing his best to skirt the topic without breaking and laws or lying to the media.
At this time last year the same exact speculation was running rampant regarding then sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson. It was rumored for months that Stepherson was suspended for the first four games of the year. Kelly never confirmed the suspension, but Stepherson was running with the third team receivers all fall camp long – a clear indication that Stepherson was not in line for real action in the early weeks of the season.
The one stark contrast here is in how Kelly described Williams’s off-season. “Really, the best summer that he’s had since he’s been here,” Kelly said. “He’s put on eight to ten pounds. His volume is up in terms of his ability to sustain his cardiovascular at a high level. He can go. He struggled with that at times last year. He’s physically fit, in great shape. He’s in the best position that he’s been and he’s going to help our football team next year,” Kelly said of his senior running back yesterday.
Now contrast that to what Kelly was saying about Stepherson at the end of August last summer just eight days before the season opener.
“We’re not going to put you in a competitive situation – or on the field – based on your talent. You have to exhibit the traits that we’re developing in our players,” he said. “Those traits are coming along, he’s making progress. But his attention to detail, his focus – all of the traits we require all of our players to have – he’s working on and he’s getting better. When he exhibits all those traits, he’ll find himself on the field.”
So while Kelly did not offer much in terms of a confirmation or denial of any suspension for Dexter Williams yesterday, he was much more effusive in his praise of Williams than he ever was of Stepherson last season.
What will be interesting to see if where Williams lines up in the pecking order at running back today and through the rest of camp. If Williams is first or second, it would be shocking if he didn’t play in the opener. If Williams is running fourth behind say Tony Jones Jr, converted wide receiver Jafar Armstrong, and either of the freshmen (C’Bo Flemister or Jahmir Smith) we will have our answer – even if we never hear the words from Kelly.