Camp Notebook: Day One

Camp Notebook: Day One

No news is generally good news for a college football program on August 3rd. Of course, that relative lack of revelation makes for an uneventful press conference writeup, too. Luckily for Irisheyes.com subscribers there were just enough tidbits to consider and follow for the weeks to come as the Irish prepare to hit the practice field for the first time Saturday.

As expected, Notre Dame's quarterback situation has no set resolution date. And as reported following head coach Brian Kelly's local radio interview Thursday evening, the Irish head man has a leader in mind, but said candidate will have to translate the coach's confidence to practice field reliability to earn the nod. And more important, he'll have to perform when the lights go live vs. Navy, thereafter.

"You hope that you build the habits of doing it the right way throughout practice," said Kelly of the position. "I've rarely seen a quarterback have sloppy practices and all of a sudden turn it on in the game.  I've seen quarterbacks that have been disciplined and have made the correct reads that the game comes easier to them.

"Our evaluations will be on a lot of the practice work.  Then when you get into games, how you handle the bright lights and fast action, some handle it better than others."

As for the allowance of growing pains among his signal-callers?

"I don't have any patience for that…We have to have a quarterback that we can trust that's going to take great care of the football and get us in the right plays," continued Kelly. "As we move forward here, it's developing that trust with our quarterbacks and not accepting anything less than that level of trust of taking care of the football.

"That was the emphasis in the spring, and that will continue to be the emphasis.  But the starting quarterback against Navy is a guy that we believe carries those traits with him, and that we can trust that he's going to make good decisions."

Kelly noted that separation will likely evolve naturally through camp. "Early on we've got to be able to see three quarterbacks (Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, and Gunner Kiel.) As we move closer to finding if there is a separation, then we'll start to separate the reps.  But we don't go into (Saturday) saying, okay, he's getting 80%, he's getting 20, or he's getting 70/30.  We're not at that point.

"It's going to take some time for us to figure that out in terms of who is going to get those reps…but ultimately we want to be able to give the quarterback for Navy a lot of reps leading into the game. Where we start is we've got to be able to evaluate them based upon what they did this summer, then start to close in on what that pecking order is.  So I don't know the exact date, but we'll know it when we see it."

In an ideal world, would the team's Week One starting quarterback keep control of the position for the duration

"If he plays well against Navy.  If we get the guy and he starts against Navy and he doesn't play very well, I don't want him to start next week, nor do you," said Kelly. "But I would like, like everybody else, to prepare somebody and have a great game against Navy and then make it a difficult decision what you do in week two."

(Nearly) All Hands on Deck

Save for junior safety Austin Collinsworth, Kelly noted the Irish will begin camp with all 81 scholarship players ready to compete. His statement suggests redshirt-freshman nose guard Tony Springmann is recovered from his off-season back surgery that negated spring participation; that sophomore defensive end Chase Hounshell is okay after shoulder surgery limited him last April, and that the balky shoulder of junior cornerback Bennett Jackson is ready for contact.

As for freshman linebacker turned sophomore tight end Troy Niklas and his purported concussion and/or migraine-related head issues?

"Troy is cleared 100 percent to play," said Kelly.

Kelly noted Collinsworth's injury generally takes six months to heal, putting him out until about early November (Collinsworth has agreed to sit out the season to take a medical redshirt, and is thus eligible through 2014.), while classmate Luke Massa has made progress in his return from March knee surgery and will be limited, not out, during August camp.

Carlo Replaced by a Trio: The one-game suspension levied on senior Will linebacker Carlo Calabrese opened the door for speculation that spring star Jarrett Grace could move from backup Mike, behind Manti Te'o, to backup Will, behind Dan Fox, at least for Week One. Apparently its more about numbers than full-scale depth chart switches.

"We'll rotate in (junior) Kendall Moore.  We'll rotate in (sophomore preferred walk-on) Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace," said Kelly of the inside 'backer positions behind Fox and Te'o. "So there will be five inside linebackers that will prepare for Navy."

Calabrese, like Rees, will return for action on Tuesday prior to the Purdue game to attempt to regain his spot on the depth chart.

Freshmen Fun

It happens every summer. The inevitable question regarding a group of players yet to don a pad, catch a pass with the chance of getting hit, or tackle a single ball-carrier.

"Which freshmen (fill in the blank)." This time, it was which freshman might be able to help the Irish on Saturdays?

"I think the normal cast of characters in a sense, the skill guys are a lot further along because they don't require some of the strength that maybe some of the linemen need in those situations," said Kelly in the day's best non-answer. "I think what (strength and conditioning) coach (Paul) Longo impressed upon me was that when the freshman class came here, there was a burning desire for that group to want to contribute right away, all of them.  Every single one of them with the mindset and his characterization of this class was they're ready to play.

"Now some physically, some mentally, it's going to happen quicker.  But it's a group, the mindset was to come in and play right away."

Asked if he had a sense about what he has in his trio of frosh receivers, Justin Ferguson, Davonte Neal, and Chris Brown, Kelly offered. "Yes," before jokingly adding, "They've got great film from high school, and I usually follow your star ratings and put all my stock in your ability to evaluate them...and you think they're really good.  I'm going to run back to the office and slot them in."

Makes sense to me...

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