Brian Kelly Purdue

Kelly kicks off 2012 season

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He already made a few waves during his radio comments last night, but Brian Kelly addressed the assembled media at Notre Dame today to discuss the start of the 2012 season. With so much still needing to play out during camp, Kelly was understandably hesitant to give too much coach-speak, but did have a few interesting comments on starting anew.

“There’s a new dynamic on our football team,” Kelly said. “There are new players that have emerged as leaders. We are certainly, from a coaching standpoint, really excited about our players. Not only as players and winning football games, but from a leadership and getting things done on a day-to-day basis.”

Let’s run through a few quick bullets before we spend the rest of the week going through these comments with a fine toothed comb.

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Kelly mentioned that he wanted to have six scholarship cornerbacks heading into the season. On the roster he had five: Bennett Jackson, Lo Wood, Josh Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, and Jalen Brown.

Now he’s got six, with the announcement that KeiVarae Russell, recruited as a dual-threat running back, will start the season as a cornerback.

Interestingly, Kelly felt like Jackson, Wood, Atkinson, and McDaniel, another converted running back who switched to corner after Tee Shepard left Notre Dame, are out in front.

“We feel really comfortable with those four,” Kelly said. “Jalen Brown has to continue to improve and emerge for us and we’ve moved KaiVarae Russell over to the defensive side of the ball to be our sixth scholarship corner.”

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There’s plenty to get to when we discuss quarterbacks, but someone asked Kelly how much patience he’ll have for the new starter, whoever that might be. His answer wasn’t exactly surprising.

“I don’t have any patience for that. I want it done the right way,” Kelly said, after pausing to choose his words. “We have to have a quarterback we can trust that’s going to take great care of the football and get us into the right plays. As we move forward here, it’s developing that trust with our quarterbacks. Not accepting anything less than that level of trust and taking care of the football. The starting quarterback against Navy is the guy that carries those traits with them and that we can trust he’s going to make good decisions.”

***

Lastly, freshman number assignments have been a great source of speculation. With the roster being under lock and key throughout the summer and veterans shifting jerseys as players depart, here are some number assignments that caught my eye:

No. 1 – Gunner Kiel, QB
No. 2 – Chris Brown, WR
No. 3 – Amir Carlisle, RB
No. 6 – KeiVarae Russell, CB
No. 10 – Davaris Daniels, WR
No. 15 – Justin Ferguson, WR
No. 16 – Chris Badger, S
No. 19 – Davonte Neal, WR
No. 22 – Elijah Shumate, S
No. 29 – Nicky Baratti, S
No. 31 – John Turner, S
No. 32 – Will Mahone, RB
No. 34 – C.J. Prosise, S
No. 45 – Romeo Okwara, LB
No. 61 – Scott Daly, LS
No. 75 – Mark Harrell, OL
No. 78 – Ronnie Stanley, OL

The long standing debate about how the Irish would have two offensive players wearing No. 3 was solved with the most logical solution. Neal wears No. 19, while Carlisle keeps No. 3.

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On the subject of Amir Carlisle, Kelly delved a little deeper into the talented USC transfer who plans on inserting himself right into a crowded race at running back.

“I think if you take what he did at USC as a true freshman, and now his summer workouts, he’s an explosive players,” Kelly said. “He’s someone that can get big chunk plays at the position. A kid that wants to be the best. He’s got a great make-up and a desire to want to be ‘the guy.’ You love that when you’ve got a number of really good players at the position and he’s not discouraged one bit that he’s going to come in and be the guy. You like that kind of confidence. He has that kind of confidence in his ability and he’s got a great burst.”

I think I’ve been pretty open about my excitement for Carlisle. Even though he missed spring practice with a broken ankle and still isn’t 100 percent, I fully expect him to be a difference maker in this offense, as evident by the No. 12 ranking I gave him individually in my Top 25.

Report: Tarean Folston won’t return for fifth year

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
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Tarean Folston will declare for the NFL Draft. The senior running back, who has a fifth-year of eligibility available after a medical redshirt in 2014, will instead turn his focus to preparing for the professional ranks. Irish Sports Daily’s Matt Freeman broke the news, confirming the decision with Folston.

The departure wasn’t totally unexpected, though Folston was also a candidate for a graduate transfer. But after running for 1,712 yards over four years, the 214-pound back will hope an NFL team takes a shot on him, likely looking at tape of Folston the underclassmen to make their evaluation.

The Cocoa, Florida native burst onto the scene as a freshman against Navy when he ran for 140 yards on 18 carries in the Irish’s 38-34 win. He was Notre Dame’s leading rusher in 2014, running for 889 yards and 5.1 yards per carry  and six scores in 2014.

Expected to do big things in 2015, Folston’s season lasted just three carries, a torn ACL suffered against Texas in the season opener. After Josh Adams emerged that season, Folston fell behind him in the depth chart, getting just 77 carries in 2016.

The move clarifies a depth chart that looked to be unchanged heading into next season. But with Folston’s exit, rising sophomore Tony Jones will join Adams and Dexter Williams in the rotation. Fellow sophomore Deon Macintosh and incoming freshman C.J. Holmes will also compete for playing time.

Quenton Nelson will return for his senior season

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty
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Brian Kelly’s talked about the rare 6-star recruit: Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o, Michael Floyd, Zack Martin. Well, add Quenton Nelson to the list. Notre Dame’s starting left guard has made it official that he’ll return for his senior season.

The New Jersey native adds another key building block to the Irish offensive line, returning with Mike McGlinchey to anchor Harry Hiestand’s unit. Like McGlinchey, Nelson had an option to be selected high in next year’s NFL Draft, staying in school even after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL’s Advisory Board, per Irish Illustrated.

Nelson took to social media to make the news public, with the NFL’s declaration deadline set for January 16.

“Excited for this team to grow every day this offseason by putting in nothing but hard work and grinding together. When we reach our full potential, look out. I’m right behind you Coach.”

Nelson was named a team captain for 2017 at the year-end Echoes Awards Show. He earned second-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and was rated by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2017 draft class, a grade he’ll likely carry into next season.

Clark Lea formally named Linebackers Coach

clark-lea
UND.com
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Notre Dame formally introduced new linebackers coach Clark Lea on Thursday. The press release for the 35-year-old  included the following quote from the new assistant who has worked at Bowling Green, UCLA and Wake Forest, and rejoins Mike Elko in South Bend.

“I’m humbled to be a part of the Notre Dame football program,” Lea said in a statement. “It’s an honor to represent such a prestigious academic institution, and to be a part of this program’s rich tradition of athletic excellence. I’d like to thank Jack Swarbrick and coach Kelly for this tremendous opportunity. I’m excited to get to work building relationships with our players, and do my part in helping coach Kelly execute his vision for the program.”

That work has already begun, with Lea on the prowl as the recruiting dead period ended and the rebuilt Irish staff hit the road. Yesterday, Lea was with defensive coordinator Mike Elko visiting commit David Adams, a key piece of the Irish puzzle on the defensive side of the ball. That starts a mad rush that’ll keep Lea’s belongs in boxes until after the first Wednesday in February, as Elko and his reshuffled defensive staff open their recruiting board, finding replacements for a handful of de-commitments and pieces that’ll fit Elko’s scheme.

If there’s any reason for optimism after a tough few weeks in recruiting, it’s the young staff that Kelly has assembled. The youth movement includes not just Lea, but the 39-year-old Elko. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is just 33, moving to Notre Dame after one season at Memphis. Running backs coach Autry Denson just turned 40 while special teams coordinator Brian Polian is practically long in the tooth at 42. (All that comes before the expected announcement of 25-year-old Tommy Rees.)

Lea’s pedigree is rock solid, earning kudos in 2012 for his work as Linebackers coach at Bowling Green, Football Scoop’s Linebackers Coach of the Year.

“Clark is a wonderful addition to our staff,” Kelly said in the release. “Obviously, he brings a substantial amount of knowledge about coach Elko’s defensive system — having worked with Mike at both Bowling Green and Wake Forest. Clark has demonstrated throughout his career an ability to not only identify unique talent in the recruiting process, but also develop that talent into high-production linebackers. As a former student-athlete, he will relate exceptionally well with our kids and provide tremendous mentorship throughout their careers at Notre Dame.”

 

 

 

Reports: Lea, Alexander added to Irish coaching staff

delvaughn
ASU Sports Information
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Brian Kelly is adding to his rebuilt coaching staff, reportedly finalizing deals with Wake Forest linebackers coach Clark Lea and Arizona State assistant DelVaughn Alexander. Lea will reunite with Mike Elko and coach linebackers and Alexander will coach wide receivers. While both hires are still going through formal university vetting, the Lea hire has long been rumored before being reported by SI’s Pete Thamel. FootballScoop.com broke the news on Alexander, before multiple outlets confirmed the report.

In Lea, Elko brings a piece of his coaching staff with him to South Bend. The 35-year-old spent last season working in Winston-Salem and spent three seasons at Syracuse before that. He worked with Elko and Demon Deacons head coach Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and has spent time as an assistant at UCLA as well. He earned three letters at Vanderbilt, a 2004 graduate.

Alexander is a veteran presence to help replace Mike Denbrock and fill his void coaching receivers. He’s also a coach with first-hand knowledge of new coordinator Chip Long, having worked alongside him in Tempe under Mike Norvell. The move also comes in time for the reopen of the recruiting season’s home stretch, bringing a capable West Coast recruiter to the staff at a time when Notre Dame’s 2017 class is leaking a bit of oil.

Alexander played wide receiver at USC, playing for Larry Smith and John Robinson, before breaking into the coaching ranks there as a graduate assistant. He’s also had stops at UNLV, coached for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego, and spent significant time at Wisconsin and Arizona State where he coached multiple positions, taking over tight ends after Long left for Memphis.