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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Coach Kelly’s Big Questions Going Into Spring Practice

Spring Practice From Yesteryears

Well this is March so that means Spring Practice for the Fightin Irish will actually take place this month. No more flippin the calendar to see where March 23rd is located and having to count the days backwards.

So what are Coach Brian Kelly’s big concerns? What does he want to get out of 15, wet, cold, possibly miserable practice sessions between March 23rd and April 16th?

For the 62+ returnees, has Paul Longo’s strength and conditioning for January, February and most of March built upon what was started last year? How about the five early enrollees, have they bought into the system and taken advantage of the extra conditioning time? It would appear from Notre Dame’s finish last fall and the total physical domination of Miami that this guy Longo knows what he’s doing.

Can early-on some of the enrollees contribute immediately to strengthen the defense? Especially the two that drew all the late, last minute recruiting heroics? OLB Ishaq Williams and DE Aaron Lynch. You would expect them to make Special Teams, but can they at least make the two-deep depth chart? We are all looking for the defense to step it up another notch from late last fall and the Sun Bowl. Defense surely does win championships.

Speaking of defense. How will the much talked about decision of moving Bennett Jackson to cornerback and Austin Collinsworth to safety pan out? On paper it appears to make tremendous sense. Strengthen the defense. Get two guys on the field that show talent and ability and clear the logjam at wide receiver. Success will make Kelly look like a genius. Correctly utilizing talented players at the positions most needed is an art, not a science.

Can kicker Kyle Brindza push fith year newly annoted senior David Ruffer at PAT’s and Field Goals? Can he outperform Ben Turk and snatch the punting duties? Can Brindza finally give Notre Dame a kicker who can consistently create touchbacks and kick the ball through the end zone?

Will sophomore running back Cameron Roberson make enough of an impact competing for playing time with junoir Cierre Wood and senior Jonas Gray to keep Theo Riddick catching the football instead of carrying it? When healthy last year, Riddick drew enough attention to take some of the heat and pressure off Michael Floyd. You sure got to like that formula.

Will Dayne Crist’s legs be healthy enough to offer true competition at quarterback with Tommy Rees? Is Andrew Hendrix as good as the coaches say he is with his arm and his legs? Is early enrollee Everett Golson the quarterback Coach Kelly feels can best run his spread offense? We here at Subway Alumni Station cannot remember a Notre Dame spring where four intriguing quarterbacks with different unique attributes and god-given abilities will take the field at the same time in March. It is assumed that no depth chart decisions will be made until after the first week of fall camp. Kelly has too much to lose to show his hand.  Although the Team and insiders will have a much greater feel on how it all will play out come fall.

The Blue-Gold Game will be interesting to see certain talent perform but not an offense that will resemble what will take the field against South Florida come September 3rd. Coach Kelly is in a unique position to send a number of different quarterbacks onto the gridiron with multiple talents and specific play packages to wreck havoc with the opposing team’s defense.

It will be interesting who, what, and how he settles that question and the others he needs answered.

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