Friday free-for-all

Friday free-for-all

Kelly touches on senior injuries, Cierre Wood's growth, the relative strength of verbal bonds and the side of college football few prefer to discuss.

Your weekly Friday morning wrap as the Irish prepare for Saturday's contest.

Don't lunge, pads low, 3-points of contact…touchdown

Cierre Wood made his Notre Dame debut with a run of 16 yards. He added a 15-yarder on the next carry; another 13-yard burst during the contest, an 11-yard catch-and-run, and tossed in a 38-yard kick return to boot.

But Wood's negatives (tentative running, poor ball security) outweighed the positives in the following four contests.

That changed Saturday vs. Pittsburgh as Wood picked up consecutive 1st Downs on 3rd Down carries and added a 9-yard run among his seven handles. Wood's apparent resurgence was a direct result of his better-late-than-never embrace of a mantra known to all successful adults:

It's the little things.

"I think Cierre's always thought about scoring touchdowns," said head coach Brian Kelly when asked about Wood's recent admission that he rarely embraced "the little things."

"That's probably the one thing he doesn't need to think about because of his ability. It's the little things that allow him to be on the field to score touchdowns. It's pass protection, catching the ball, taking care of the football."

IrishEyes offered Wood as a future anomaly at the program: a former freshman-redshirt that would one day go on the lead the team in rushing.

Kelly appears to concur. "It's clear in my mind there's no reason he can't be a premier back at the University of Notre Dame. He's starting to understand that."

My word is…subject to interpretation

Kelly was asked a hypothetical question regarding his practice with a team's verbal commitments that re-open their recruitment. Former head coach Charlie Weis offered a "if you're looking, we're looking" philosophy. How does Kelly feel under similar circumstances?

"I think the reality is there's so much scrutiny relative to the kids in the recruiting process, I've told our staff, unless I see a letter of intent, we need to keep recruiting them," he offered. "Certainly we would like to say the value of a person's word is a bond, but there are so many shifting and moving pieces out there, I'm not tripping (in error) over that.

"Would I like somebody to be that guy that says ‘Hey, that's my word and it's a bond and I'm not breaking it'? Sure, because we're not going to do it on our end. But I've told our staff, we have to keep recruiting."

For further discussion on all verbal commitments, bonding and otherwise, check our the IrishEyes' premium board, the Football Forum.

Sidelined Stars

Junior tight end Kyle Rudolph is out of the season; junior tailback Jonas Gray has been cleared to play Saturday. Redshirt-freshman tight end Tyler Eifert is expected to start (a shoulder injury had previously sidelined him for two weeks). What about seniors Armando Allen and Taylor Dever?

"Armando is still sore; we're going to be very careful with him," Kelly noted following the team's final practice of the week last night. My expectation is a game time decision (made) in pre-game. We'll run him around and see how he looks and how he feels. He wants to play. We'll dress him for sure but I'm not going to make a decision until pre-game."

Allen missed four starts last season due to an ankle injury and broken hand. Allen's injury history has been a bit overplayed of late; though he's never started every game in a season during his three-plus seasons at the University, he did appear in 28 straight contests before sitting out the Purdue game in September 2009.

His classmate Dever missed last week due to a hamstring injury. Dever, who had never started and played sparingly prior to this season, started at right tackle in each of the team's first five contests.

"Taylor right now will probably be a backup on game day," Kelly noted. "I think Matt (Romine) and Andrew (Nuss) have handled that position well, so we're going to stick with them and make sure that Taylor is 100 percent. I think he'd be afforded to us if we needed him."

Zack Martin is slated to start at right tackle for the second straight week with Romine likely getting the nod again on the left side. Romine made his first career start last week but was pushed again this week by his fellow senior Nuss.

"Andrew we moved around a lot in camp because we were trying to get him on the field," Kelly offered of Nuss's assimilation to left tackle after spending three seasons working at guard. "That's worked out well for him. Matt's really stuck with the left side and Nuss has been really flexible as well as Martin."

Kelly noted that while his spread system makes the transition from side-to-side a bit easier on the tackle (pass protection drops and sets are easier when a team employs a shotgun snap rather than the standard under-center approach), the players'(Nuss and Martin) versatility has also been key.

"It is clearly individual skill as well that Zack Martin (possesses). It's not easy to flip guys like that. It speaks well of him."

Note: While Tyler Eifert is expected to earn the technical start at tight end in Rudolph's stead, senior Mike Ragone will likely split reps with the up-and-coming first-year player.

"I feel good about Tyler, he had a very good day today, (he was) in contact too," Kelly said. "He got banged around a little bit; I was waiting to see that. He was in traffic a couple of times. He got knocked down on the ground, held onto the football."

In other news: "We landed on the moon!"

This week's Sports Illustrated featured compelling cover text stating, "I remember the first time I paid a player…" The story that followed was a detailed look at a disgraced former agent airing his dirty laundry, replete with names, regarding the illegal but not unusual practice of under-the-table offerings to collegiate athletes.

Kelly was asked if he'd seen or heard about the article that focused on college football's seamy underbelly.

"I can't say that I'm surprised by the allegations that were made or what this agent had to say. I don't think it shocks me. I can't say that I've been living in this world of coaching with my head in the ground," Kelly state. "You're concerned about it every day…when you really get down to it you have to trust your players that they're making good decisions because there's so much time that they're away from you that, boy, it's hard to be standing around every corner seeing who everybody is talking to.

"So you have to hope you have the right kind of kids that are going to make those decisions."

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