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Kelly talks Ragone, Irish, Spartans

Sep 14, 2011, 1:24 AM EDT

Gary Gray Robert Blanton

Brian Kelly ran down the state of the Irish football program, and the biggest headline of the presser was the loss of fifth-year senior Mike Ragone to an ACL tear.

It’s horrible news for Ragone, who suffered his third major knee injuries in his football career — with an ACL tear as a high school senior and again as a sophomore. Ragone came to campus as one of the most highly touted prep tight ends in the country. While he never lived up to those lofty expectations, he did fill a big role for the Irish in the running game, and will continue to throughout the season.

“I’m pretty disappointed for him. He’s been a warrior for us in a sense,” Kelly said. “He’s battled through a lot of injuries. He loves to play the game. He loves competition, and we’re really going to miss him. He’ll still be around our football team. He’s going to help mentor some of our younger players, and that brings us to the other tight ends.”

Here’s more from BK:

Staying with tight ends, Ragone’s injury could really hurt the Irish running game, with Ragone now being replaced by guys like sophomore Alex Welch, true freshman Ben Koyack, and little used Jake Golic, who has been recovering from a broken arm. While Welch and Golic weren’t available last week, they’ll both be full-go this week at practice.

“Alex Welch is cleared to practice and compete, Jake Golic has been cleared to practice and compete, as well,” Kelly said. “So unfortunate to lose Mike. We do get a couple of tight ends back.”

Koyack filled in admirably for Ragone last week, a true freshman that probably didn’t think he’d see the field at all this year with a depth chart well stocked.

“In terms of assignment, he was assignment correct,” Kelly said of Koyack. “All in all, he did a nice job. He’s a kid that’s not rattled. I really love his demeanor. First time we put him on the field he didn’t have that look that sometimes you’re concerned about. I think Ben is going to be fine for us.”

Of course, watching the tape, you notice Koyack in on some unfortunate snaps, most notable Cierre Wood‘s fumble and a few failed short-yardage plays. It’ll be interesting to see how the tight end depth chart shakes out next year. Technically, Ragone could apply for a sixth year, which would keep the tight end depth chart unchanged in 2012.


I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Aaron Lynch would’ve already made an impact, particularly getting after the quarterback. I certainly predicted big things for the freshman, who has yet to make a real dent in the stat sheet. Of course, when you think of the first two quarterbacks the Irish have faced, they’re far from traditional drop-back throwers, with B.J. Daniels and Denard Robinson putting more pressure on playing assignment correct football than pinning your ears back and getting after the quarterback.

After both Lynch and Stephon Tuitt failed to see the field against Michigan, Kelly knows he’ll have a chance to unleash his freshman duo against traditional drop-back passer Kirk Cousins.

“We’ve got to get them on the field, there’s no question,” Kelly said. “We’re committed to getting them some more playing time and getting them on the field and helping us continue to build our defense.”


Lastly, Gary Gray didn’t go from a good football player to a bad football player in two weeks. But at cornerback, it’s tough to hide mistakes, and Gray is suffering from some frayed confidence and a lack of composure when playing the football in the air.If there was any thought of Kelly giving Gray a bump down in the depth chart, it hasn’t happened yet.

“He’s got to have a short memory at that position,” Kelly said. “You’re going to have a day like that. It’s unfortunate that people look at that one position because it’s not just Gary Gray that we put this loss on. There’s a lot of situations. If we don’t turn the ball over, Gary Gray’s name is not even brought up. Gary is going to be fine. He’s a senior. He’ll bounce back. He had a great game last year against Michigan State, and he’s been really solid for us. So we need Gary Gray to come up and play good football this weekend against Michigan State.”

Expect the Spartans to test Gray early. In many ways having an accurate passer like Cousins actually helps Gray, as he really struggled against the under thrown ball, something Robinson did a lot of… not necessarily on purpose.


  1. NDfan1224 - Sep 14, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Let’s hope the Irish come out and play solid against this Michigan St. team

  2. bernhtp - Sep 14, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Too bad about Ragone. I really feel for the kid given all of the lumps he’s taken.

    I guess Irish fans here have expended all of their emotional energy given the lack of new posts; the only post here being the same guy hawking his semi-literate website on the otherwise unrelated Notre Dame and Nebraska football programs.

    I hope the Irish come through big this week and reinvigorate our spirits.

    • notredamegrad - Sep 14, 2011 at 4:35 PM

      Here’s something for you, bernhtp.

      Michael Floyd and Mike Ragone (at about 2:05) batting off of the pitcher for the ND softball team. Kinda fun. Definitely need to stick to football, though.

      All the best to Ragone – his blocking will be missed (and here’s hoping that Eifert can step into his shoes on that count).

      • bernhtp - Sep 14, 2011 at 5:05 PM

        I saw this last year and it was really cute. MMF has the most dreadful swing I’ve seen this side of T-ball. He obviously needs to keep his day job. Ragone looks like he’s played some baseball and nailed it once he got used to the unusual timing of fast-pitch softball.

        It’s sad Ragone, a kid with so much athletic ability, had this terrible bout of bad luck. I can’t imagine him coming back for a sixth year considering his experience. I hope his luck in his future life goes much better.

    • dickasman - Sep 14, 2011 at 10:23 PM

      that’s ok…he’s happy he can go back to smoking marijuana full time again.

  3. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 14, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    Tough news for Ragone and the Irish. Here’s hoping you have a speedy recovery Mike.

  4. trbowman - Sep 14, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Terrible to hear that about Ragone. My best wishes to him going forward.

  5. dickasman - Sep 14, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiikeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyy, hit me up lessss smoke some boooooooooooooongggggg! drown sour sorrows brollerskates!

  6. NDfan1224 - Sep 15, 2011 at 9:22 AM

  7. no1ndfan - Sep 15, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    I love the Irish.

    We have some terrific players, and only terrible luck has made us 0-2.

    My question is, however, can the coaching staff hold the team together if we lose to the Spartans?

    I think that Michigan State has overall a much better team than us this year.

    Things could really go off the rails if we start 0-3.

  8. 10of14 - Sep 15, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    Wow, Irish fans are soft. I played the game and did so at Gary Gray’s position. As opposed to saying Gary has HORRIBLE technique, I will state that the Irish must have a depth problem BIG time at that position. Gray has either been out of position or over-matched the first two games. Either way, the Irish deserve better. This is a coaching decision. Friend have said that the blame for the two losses are squarely on the players……not here. Gary Gray is NOT a starter and if the coaches set on him, the first two losses are squarely on them. Oh, BTW, MSU is pass happy and will throw every pass at #4.

  9. 9irish - Sep 17, 2011 at 8:20 AM

    In the post, Keith, you mentioned some of those passes that got caught, and I could not agree more. Robinson was just throwing up some quackers and the recievers kept coming back, the way that they were looking, when the secondary was not expecting a duck to be back there like that…no excuses, but there were several of those that looked like he had no idea where they were going…they were very, very fortunate

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