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With spring’s arrival, time for Irish to turn the page

Mar 19, 2012, 2:48 PM EDT

Kelly tunnel

The news of Tee Shepard‘s departure a week before spring practice might have hit some Irish fans particularly hard. Yet most forget that last year, the Irish were hit with an uppercut that made the departure of an unproven true freshman feel like a love tap. At this time last spring, the Irish football program was knocked to the canvas with the news of senior captain and star wide receiver Michael Floyd‘s arrest for drunk driving just days before spring practice would begin.

The arrest would throw spring practice into a wayward spin, with the uncertainty of Floyd’s status — just weeks after being hailed for making the decision to return for his senior season — permeating everything the Irish offense did. The coaching staff did their best to talk about the offseason work of journeymen like Deion Walker and John Goodman, and focus on the battle between Tommy Rees and Dayne Crist, but everyone with a rudimentary grasp of football’s basic principles knew the Irish offense would need  Floyd to survive.

Tomorrow, Brian Kelly opens spring practice with a media session, where he’ll field questions not just about the departure of his talented early-enrollee cornerback, but also about rumored position changes, key on-field battles, and the very real perception that his football program lost a ton of momentum in a disappointing 8-5 second season.

We’ll continue to take a closer look at the starters that need replacing, and the position battles that’ll need filling as the Irish log 14 critical practices before their annual Blue and Gold spring game. We’ll monitor the coaching changes that have different position coaches working with just about every player on the roster. We’ll monitor promising newcomers like Amir Carlisle, who will immediately challenge for playing time in an Irish offense desperately looking for playmakers. There’s no dearth of on-field stories to cover, and we’ll do our best to get to all of them.

But the most interesting storyline of the spring might be be the resolve of the Irish football program. After squandering nine months of forward momentum in two crazy September Saturdays, there are far fewer national eyes focused on the Irish as they prepare for a 2012 schedule that is one of the most daunting in the country.

Maybe that’s for the better.

With a quarterback race that needs to be straightened, a secondary that needs restocking, and a psyche that needs to be rebuilt, some of the best work will be done when nobody is watching. From the looks of the video below, this isn’t a program that spent the past few months feeling sorry for themselves, and they’ve gotten started prepping for a season where they’ll go from frontrunners to underdogs for much of the year.

The 80 degree weather may have made you forget it, but spring officially begins tomorrow. For the Irish, that means putting to bed a season to forget and an offseason spent dwelling on the mistakes of the past. After a winter of discontent, they’ll be more than eager for a fresh start.

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  1. smurphdoggy29 - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    Keith,
    Just wanted you to know I am throwing a little fan support your way for some encouragement, I know you are grinding away to get as much info out as possible, keep up the good fight !

    With the start of Spring Practice I just wanted to chime in with one word: Production.

    That was my platform all last year. I intend to ride it until there is some discernible improvement from the team. I believe the team has made rather commendable strides since Coach Kelly and the Staff arrived, but the largesse of 2011 threw a wicked S curve into the path of our drive to the summit.

    I believe the Coaching Staff this year will continue to motor ahead with Coach Kelly’s blueprint in hand and a great deal of motivation to drive them, the results from the Coaches are already noticeable, but we need the production to vindicate them.

    For the players it just comes down to what I have said here since last year at this time. Production. Producing from day one. Producing at your position for what your your responsibilities are. Producing at the level your skills are compatible with.

    Seems simple. I, as well as all Irish fans, know it is not simple. Yet it is not unrealistic.

    Just, as a player, allow yourself to be put in a position to excel, then produce.

    In my humble opinion only 2 positions failed at the production process last season.

    Receivers and Quarterbacks.

    At Quarterback there are a myriad of story lines that could be pointed out that show the lack of production.

    At receiver, it was all the guys after Michael Floyd. The Tight Ends and Running Backs did well with catching the ball. Yet no receiver stepped up consistently and produced. Some weren’t afforded the chances enough to, but overall they did not produce. No one emerged.

    This season I am firmly convinced there will be a breakout amongst a great number of the receivers, and I am hopeful the Quarterback quagmire (aka Brian Kelly’s Waterloo) will be satisfactorily resolved.

    Yours in extreme fanaticism

    Goldy Domer 29

    GO Irish

    Slaughter gonna Motta one two !

    • nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:23 PM

      Just get the QB thing right and cut turnovers in half and they’re WAY ahead of 2011, even if nothing else improves.

    • pjm79nd - Mar 20, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      Yeah, right: only the WR’s & QB’s failed last season. The defensive backs were simply outstanding, especially against Michigan.

  2. joeschu - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Well written KA.

    Of course, now get ready for Zapruder-style analysis of that video. Looks like Rees got the better of Hendrix, and EG took down his man in 1:1 drills. Interesting.

  3. barneysbullet - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    I’m going into this season a bit more “realistically” than last year… :)

    Still, I like our chances “if” we fly under the radar (yeah I know, good luck with that) and I do like the new and revised coaching changes/staff.

    So, come on guys; let it all hang out this spring:

    Here’s to “us”. Go Irish!!

  4. bernhtp - Mar 19, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    I want to see the sumo match between Nix and Cave.

  5. ER Jedi - Mar 19, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    If nothing else after watching that video, I’d say this team as well as Kelly’s others, just looks so much more physically fit than the teams under Wise.

    • nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:14 PM

      Weis

      • ER Jedi - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:32 PM

        Yeah, that guy too

  6. nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    BTW, on BK’s presser tomorrow I wouldn’t expect an ounce of candor on Tee.
    His comments will be constrained because of:
    1) LEGAL REASONS: if the kid was on track to get 6 Fs, I don’t think the Shepard family wants that in the news
    2) COMMON DECENCY: no need to further embarrass Tee, and besides, he’s done a fine job of that himself
    3) RECRUITING: doesn’t want to scare off recruits who might already be a little intimidated by ND’s academics

    Having said that, I still hope you can get BK to refute this alleged health issue, which I say is nothing more than a face saving move by the family.

    And scratch my earlier question as to whether Tee can come back.
    He ain’t coming back.

    Ever.

    • bernhtp - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:53 PM

      As I said before, there will be (virtually) no official word on Tee from the university other than what has already been said. I suspect Keith knows much of the story from his back channel checking, but only in confidence. We will eventually hear it from other sources.

    • dmac4real - Mar 19, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      Lets Just not worry about it. There is nothing that can be done about it now. All we can do is recruit CB’s in this class (actually actually land more than 1- Kelly disappointed me LARGELY with this) and focus on the guys we do have. It sucks that we are going to rely on 4 guys who have barely played, but its all we can do. Time to coach up Bennet Jackson, Lo Wood, Jalen Brown and Atkinson. Get it done BK/ Bobby Elliot.

      Btw Bob- Hope you enjoy your new job. Id sounds like a blast to have 4 corners on the ENTIRE roster. smh…

    • Tim's Neighbor - Mar 20, 2012 at 4:14 AM

      Six F’s? Six? Would an EE really be taking 6 courses his first semester? That isn’t even rational*. Unless you have a source, quit spreading rumors.

      *Notre Dame requires 120 credit hours. Each class is generally a 3 hour course. This means that over 4 years with 2 semesters each, a student would take 15hours. An EE gets an extra semester, which means 13.33 (repeating of course) hours per semester. Also, football players take summer courses, allowing and EE to take up to 4 summers (almost a semester’s worth). This means an EE would average about 12 hours a semester. That’s generally about 4 classes and at most 5. Six F’s? Come on, nudeman. Don’t be so gullible. And quit spreading rumors like a junior girl at prom.

      • nudeman - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        Tim’s Neighbor
        I picked the number out of the air to make a point.
        From all accounts Tee paid no attention to academics, missed a ton of classes (and football activities), thought he was majoring in Facebook, and was on track to fail everything he was enrolled in.

        So he quit right before mid term grades came out, citing a health issue.
        But somehow he’ll be ok to start working out in a few weeks. Huh?

        He’s getting terrible direction and/or making terrible life decisions.
        Do you realize he hasn’t even played football since 2010?

        Pretty clear what went on at ND with Tee.

      • andy44teg - Mar 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM

        Easy, buddy…it’s called sarcasm and/or embellishing.

      • andy44teg - Mar 20, 2012 at 12:12 PM

        @ Tim

      • Tim's Neighbor - Mar 21, 2012 at 5:15 PM

        1. I do know that he hasn’t played since 2010. Regardless, that has nothing to do with your comment. Even if I didn’t know, what you said is still irresponsible. Character assassination is an elementary logic fail. You’ll need to do better than that.

        2. “From all accounts” What accounts? This is vague. Sounds like the rumor mill to me. If you have a reliable source, share it. Saying, “Wow, I noticed Tee was up awfully late on Twitteron school nights” is more reliable than “from all accounts.”

        3. Poorly done sarcasm and embellishment is just as dangerous as lying or starting rumors. It was incredibly reasonable to infer that nudeasman’s comments were meant to be factual. ND holds itself to higher standards, so we as fans should hold ourselves to higher standards. If you want to continue to dabble in written satire, go read the Onion and pick up a thing or two.

  7. ndfanwabashman - Mar 19, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    Who was that earning the scholarship?

    • dmac4real - Mar 19, 2012 at 10:52 PM

      Chris Salvin….Mostly an ST player. Hes the guy that sprung the GAIII TD return vs MSU by taking out two guys.

  8. papadec - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:51 PM

    dmac – thanks. I couldn’t make out the name either. Way to go Chris! I think it’s a great move by the coaching staff to boost the morale of guys who bust their chops, week in & week out, helping to prepare the starters for game day. I don’t think Kelly would have done it, unless Chris really deserved it. So once again, good for you Chris.

  9. tony34343434 - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    We all wish Tee S. good luck, lets move on, he is an 18 year old kid who never played a down in college, we have had tons of recruits who never panned out at ND, so it is not the end of the world. We need to start winning period, BK has enough talent, more than Boise, TC, CINN etc. We need to win games that will solve all problems. Show promise, less turnovers something to believe in. It is his job to coach the players he has AND MAKE THEM BETTER, MAKE THEM INTO MEN. Let’s go BK this is a huge year for you. Let’s go Irish!

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