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Spring Practice: Your A to Z guide

Mar 26, 2010, 11:01 AM EDT

The Brian Kelly era of Notre Dame football hits the practice field today for the very first time. After months of offseason evaluations, recruiting, community commitments and press obligations, it’s time for the former Cincinnati coach to being doing the thing that got him the Notre Dame job in the first place.

The Irish kick off Spring Practice today with their first workout at 3:30 ET. Here’s an A to Z guide to get you up to speed.

A is for Attitude Adjustment. The Irish football team is in desperate need for one, and Kelly has put it at the top of his list of talking points. “I’m tired of hearing about the next NFL player coming out of Notre Dame, quite frankly,” Kelly quipped earlier in the week. The message? Get back to the roots of Irish football, and remember what made this program special.

B is for Bob Diaco. The new defensive coordinator is tasked with the hardest job in the program: to turn around a defense that failed. Diaco has already proven himself a passionate, articulate, energetic coach. But he’s also a wildcard with a fraction of the track record previous defensive coordinators Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta had. For the Irish to succeed, Diaco will have to transform an underachieving crew into a unit capable of big things. No small task.

C is for Camp Kelly. Every coaching staff has something like this, and Camp Kelly is designed to build team chemistry through the tried and true practice of working people out until they leave their lunch in the garbage can. Some of the best team-building activities have little to do with football, and these workouts will bring the team closer together. (Hopefully not just at the trashcan.)

D is for Dayne Crist. The future is now for Crist, who takes the reins of the Irish football program while still recovering from a torn ACL suffered against Washington State last year. Crist was as highly touted as they come, and he’s wowed people with his unique blend of size, speed, and arm strength. Now its up to the Southern California native to run Kelly’s spread attack, something he’ll be able to do in Spring Practice after being medically cleared by the team doctors.

E is for Edge players. Kelly claimed there are five players competing for two roles on the edge of the defense, and former inside linebacker Brian Smith is one of them. Smith will be joined by Darius Fleming, Kerry Neal, Steve Filer, and Dan Fox, all completely interchangeable in the new system. It was interesting that Kelly made it clear that Smith is strictly an outside backer, moving him inside only in an emergency. Only two guys will emerge as starters, making this one of the most interesting battles on the roster.

F is for Fourth Quarter. The Irish need to become a team of closers, and Notre Dame’s inability to close teams out physically in the fourth quarter was the demise of Weis regime. The strength and conditioning staff has already made that the mission of the offseason, and players have either shed or redistributed weight in the short time since Kelly and his staff arrived in South Bend.  

G is for Ground Game. While the emphasis of Kelly’s spread attack is throwing the ball, he’s also put together a far more prolific running attack at Cincinnati than Weis did at Notre Dame. With Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, Jonas Gray, and Cierre Wood all hoping to get reps in the backfield, there’s no reason that the Irish offense won’t have a capable ground game, something that plagued the Irish the past few years.   

H is for Harrison Smith. There was no player that drew more criticism than Harrison Smith, an athlete that wowed Irish coaches with his raw skills and frustrated fans with his inconsistent play. Moved back to a safety position after spending his sophomore season as a undersized linebacker, Smith struggled to adapt to his new job, and eventually went back down into the box. There’s no contingency plan for Smith. “If he can’t play safety, he can’t play,” Kelly said. 

I is for Inside Linebackers. With the shift of Brian Smith outside, Manti Te’o is set to anchor one of the middle linebacker positions. Who fills the other role on the inside is anyone’s guess, and while the candidates are numerous, their playing time is not. Carlo Calabrese, Anthony McDonald, David Posluszny, and Steve Paskorz are all candidates for the spot next to Te’o.  

J is for Johnson, Ethan. Irish fans are still waiting for the heralded recruit to become the player many expected when stepping onto campus. Johnson has the athleticism and size needed to be a force as a defensive end, but he’s disappeared far too often on the football field for a guy of his stature. Coming into his junior season, Ethan needs to become the force many expected the past two seasons.

K is for Kapron Lewis-Moore. KLM was mentioned specifically by Kelly in his opening comments today as one of the leaders in the offseason workouts. He’ll be leaned on heavily with Ethan Johnson to provide stability at defensive end, where he’s got the size and frame to be a force at the point of attack.  

L is for Longo Beach. There’s no more highly-anticipated torture chamber than the ballyhooed Longo Beach, strength coach Paul Longo’s summer creation devised to whip his football players into shape. Longo trucks in sand pits that maximize core strength while lowering the impact of the high intensity workouts. 

M is for Michael Floyd. While he’s dazzled many of us with his play, Kelly was very candid when he said Floyd had a lot of work to do. Off the field, Floyd’s embarrassing citation for underage drinking and a fight got him into the news. But Kelly praised Michael’s offseason training, and his ability to transform his body. “He’s lost a lot of weight, he’s down to 216 to 217, down from about the
230 range he was at when we got here.” Floyd lost the weight to better fit the fast-paced tempo of the new Irish offense. 

N is for Now. As Kelly said in his opening remarks, “We don’t have five years to put this thing together. We’ve got to do it right away.” That is music to the ears of Irish fans, who have endured a 15-21 stretch over the past three seasons after consecutive BCS appearances. 

O is for Offensive tackle. With the move of Lane Clelland to defensive end, that leaves three scholarship tackles left on the roster. But Kelly didn’t seem overly concerned, citing the spread as reason to believe that he’ll be able to cross-train guards and tackles more freely. Expect guys like Trevor Robinson and Matt Romine to be beneficiaries of the change, as they’re a more athletic breed of tackle that could flourish in the new system. 
P is for Position Changes. While Lane Clelland, Theo Riddick, and Steve Paskorz are the three players switching positions for Spring Practice, Kelly made it clear that player evaluation happens every day. There’s no reason to think that there couldn’t be a few more shifts before the spring session is over.

Q is for Quarterbacks. While Dayne Crist is certainly getting the first chance to win the job, Kelly is relying on Nate Montana to provide competition, while Tommy Rees learns the role. One thing Kelly made certain. “This is a quarterback driven offense. I’ve got a library, I just need to know what they can handle first.” Kelly will install as much as Crist and Montana are able to absorb. 

R is for Return to Roots. When asked what he’d like to accomplish this spring, Kelly remarked that he’d like to “Get the fight back in the Fighting Irish.” That means going outside in the snow at 5 a.m. for a surprise workout, and not necessarily taking advantage of all the amenities that the Irish have at their disposal with the first-rate facilities at The Gug.  

S is for Stopping the Run. No defense can succeed without stopping the run, and Kelly has made it known that it’s the first order of business for Bob Diaco’s troops. The 3-4 alignment should help, and Ian Williams will be the guy at the point of attack. Last year’s defense struggled because they had no way to stop a running game. 

T is for Tackling. The Irish stunk up the joint when it came to tackling. Whether it was a lack of practice time, a lack of will, or a combination of both, the defense missed way too many tackles last year, and it’ll likely be a big point of emphasis for Spring Practice. Going back to the basics and Football 101 should be a big part of Spring Practice.

U is for Up Tempo. Kelly equated the difference in the Irish offense from the previous one to the difference between a half court set in basketball to a run-and-gun attack. Everything will be up-tempo this spring, from the two hour practices to the 24 five-minute segments that each session breaks down into. 

V is for Volume. Work Volume is one of the most important facets of Spring for Kelly. What can this team handle? Volume is also for sheer volume, as Kelly’s emphasized the need for players to trim down. “Change in cargo load. Too much cargo, it needed to be lowered. It’s absolutely crucial to what we do. We’ve got to have guys that can run.”

W is for Wide Receiver. The battle on the perimeter is the Spring’s best. No longer will the Irish be playing a majority of two-wide sets, they’ll be an opportunity for three, four, and five receivers on the field, who they’ll be is anyone’s guess.

X is for X receiver. Golden Tate is gone from the X spot, and the job will likely be filled by senior Duval Kamara, who at one time was considered the next big thing among Irish wide receivers. But expect John Goodman, Shaq Evans, and Deion Walker to get a shot at winning this wide open battle to play opposite Michael Floyd, and Theo Riddick, Roby Toma, and Tai-ler Jones to fight for time in the slot. 

Y is for Youth Movement. With the exception of Manti Te’o, the bottom of this roster has yet to step up and provide a difference maker. At times of transition, the Irish football program hasn’t struggled with its veteran players, but its been the underclassmen below them that failed to keep things going. Weis was doomed by his inability to get the youngest members of his roster ready to play, something that Brian Kelly and his staff pride themselves on.

Z is for Zibby. The Notre Dame defense is in desperate need of a tough guy leader like Tommy Zbikowski, the last blue-collar leader who seemed to leave it all out there on the football field. Zibby may have had some limitations as a football player, but toughness was never one of them. For the Irish defense to get back their swagger, they’ll need to channel their inner-Zibby. 

  1. robertg - Mar 29, 2010 at 1:37 AM

    1. just to clear the record, we never threaten to sue or actually sue anyone who simply disagrees with us. in fact, we invite anyone who disagrees with us to state so, hopefully with some supporting evidence with online or other references that we and other readers can check and verify.
    2. our threats and actual lawsuits( we do get to every single case) are limited to those posters who choose, despite many warnings, to put civilly actionable and fraudulent statements about us online, with examples being fraudulent statements that we are mentally ill, drug or substance addicts or criminals of some type, or not real attorneys. the distinctions between disagreements and these types of actionable conduct are simple enough.
    3.we understand that our posts have had, and are still having. extremely adverse effects on the revenues of irish illustrated, the south bend tribune, and other so called notre dame fan sites that have been conning naieve notre dame fans out of millions that should have been going to the university of notre dame for many years, not into the pockets and fancy lifestyles of the proprietors of these websites.
    4.we are certainly very pleased that we have saved quite a number of real notre dame fans from getting ripped off by these websites and we understand why the proprietors are very angry with us and they have every reason to be both angry and fearful.
    5. national litigation projects have to be done in a certain order.
    6. in the case of this project, eliminating the corruption at the ncaa, conference, and schools that cheat levels have 1st priority.
    7. however, we will get to the notre dame matters in good time in the civil courts and the proprietors of these websites will find themselves with problems much more serious than declining revenues.
    8. all of their fancy houses, cars, and material possesions that they have purchased with the millions that they have conned out of naieve notre dame fans for so many years will be gone forever and these people will have to find some real honest work in order to survive.
    9. we make our money by winning civil cases, either by settlement or at trials. since we represent only ourselves, we do not collect any fees from any 3rd parties. if someone else has a worthy case, we purchase their causes of action for cash and become the plaintiffs ourselves.
    10. for anyone who wants some recent examples, look up the enron and mci worldcom civil rico cases online. we are very thorough and very deadly.
    11. for a mere $9, anyone can go to LexisNexis by credit card online and print out and read the unanimous opinion of the 3 judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in United Energy Owners Committee, Inc. and Robert T. Gilleran vs United States Energy Management Systems, Inc. et al.;837 F.2d 356;1988 U.S. App. LEXIS 129; 10 Fed.R. Serv.3d(Callaghan) 253 ( CA 9, 1988, Judges Nelson, Hall, and Thompson, opinion by Judge Hall).
    12. anyone who prints out and reads that opinion will find that i personnally briefed, argued, and won that case all by myself.
    13. as anyone who reads the opinion will learn, the 3 Judges, who are among the most prominent Federal Judges in the US were very impressed by the excellence of my work and these judges do not give out praise often.
    14. what will not be apparent to anyone who does not know the area of civil rico litigation extremely well, as we do, is that this opinion is the landmark decision which made civil rico litigation possible all over the US.
    15. cases like this had been attempted by prominent attorneys all over the US, who had all failed before i succeeded. that case got so much national publicity that the case served as the founding stone for the informal groups of attorneys all over the US with whom i have worked for years on national litigation projects, such as this project.
    16. in the case of this national litigation project, we will be donating most of what we collect to worthy causes, such as the university of notre dame.
    17. we certainly hope that many more real notre dame fans refuse to send any more funds to the proprietors of these so called notre dame fan sites.
    18. anyone who bothers to read has the written published opinion of 3 of the most prominent Federal Judges in the US to weigh against the statements of some internet posters who do not have the guts or integrity to post their real names, let alone their credentials or backgrounds.
    GO IRISH!!!

  2. Paul - Mar 29, 2010 at 6:36 AM

    Great round up and insight again Keith – big fan of your updates.
    Do you know if there are any plans for NBC to show all the 2010 games Live on the internet like the USC game last year?? I’m a massive ND fan in Ireland and it would be great to see the Irish games live every week come Sept!! Looking forward already to the Irish coming to Dublin in 2011!

  3. NDstudent - Mar 29, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    I give you Robert T Gilleran.

  4. The Mitz - Mar 29, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    Wow, this guy is a real piece of work. Notice what he was disbarred for.
    Takes a lot for lawyers to turn on one of their own. Kudo’s to him. He did that in grand style.(Chuckle, chuckle)

  5. jeffreyallan - Mar 29, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    atta boy Keith! clean up this blog, take out the trash and bring it up to Irish standards.

  6. Ron Judge - Mar 29, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    OMG RobertG get a friggin life, it’s time to move our of your moms basement. STOP POSTING, nobody gives a rats azz about reading 5 pages of your bullet point garbage. GO create your own blog and if people find it interesting enough you will have an ear to voice your future opinions. But normal people come to this site because we are interested in what the “originator” of the article has to say, NOT YOU!
    Keith great article… please block this ao from posting, we are not interested in his comments. Thank you

  7. Keith Arnold - Mar 29, 2010 at 7:12 PM

    Let’s keep the comments on the article, instead of attacking people. I think you’ll notice that certain commenters won’t be visiting as much, but that doesn’t mean people can make individual attacks.
    There are plenty of interesting things to talk about now that Spring Football is here. Let’s try to keep things that way.

  8. Sgt. Moon - Mar 31, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Ok Keith, I will do my best to stay on the topic of ND football.
    Just one last question, there are some rumors going around that they are going to use RobertG’s head as a football, and the rest of him as a tackling dummy. Can you confirm this?
    Technically, this is a football question.

  9. George - Apr 2, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    Robertg claims “charlie and his staff left behind fine lists of recruits” and that Coach “kelly and his staff have pursued each recruit on those lists with very little success”. I’ve never seen a coach at ND in my 33 years of watching, that set the world on fire recruiting his first two months.
    How about giving the current staff a chance. The same chance you’d want to give Coach Weis. Nothing more, nothing less.

  10. George - Apr 2, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    Hey RobertG,
    You don’t have to pay Lexis or West to get the case you speak of. I guess you don’t do a lot of legal research.

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