The Irish football team returned to South Bend on Thursday evening, after kicking off training camp with four days in the relative calm of at Shiloh Park. With team building exercises and players bunking up in cabins to build camaraderie and a new team identity, the focus was as much off the field as on during the opening days of the ’13 season.
Relegated to wearing just helmets for the first two days and still without a practice in full equipment, no depth chart decisions have been made in these early days. But that’s not to say that there hasn’t been an agenda. After after four days of crisp, up-tempo practices, Brian Kelly feels like things have gotten off to a good start.
Once again, media hasn’t had access to any practice sessions held in relative obscurity down in Marion, Indiana. But UND.com’s Jack Nolan caught up with Kelly, and got the head coach to open up about the goals of this first week off campus.
“Any time you come into camp, you’re looking for specific things,” Kelly told UND.com. “We’ve accomplished all those things. It’s all football. No distractions here. Our kids really focused on getting better.”
That’s a quote that sounds awfully close to coachspeak, that wonderfully cliche-filled practice of saying nothing while sounding like you’re doing the opposite. But a season after getting to the top of the mountain and needing to replace veteran leaders and All-Americans like Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert, the identity of the Irish defensive and offensive units, there’s a method to Kelly’s madness.
“We have an expectation of what things should look like… We didn’t just come up with this over night,” Kelly said. “We don’t want to talk about last year. We don’t want to talk about the future. We want to talk about getting better. And we got better these four days here at Shiloh.”
Decisions at key positions like running back and safety will come. The early returns on promising freshmen like Greg Bryant and Jaylon Smith won’t likely be known by the general public until Temple rolls into town later this month, and that’s very much by design. But after four days with a team that spent the summer working at dedicated pace, those all important first looks have taken place, and the staff has begun to discover just what type of roster they have.
“We’re not ready to make any decisions long term, other than we just got a chance to evaluate,” Kelly explained. “Guys are bigger and stronger. We’ve got new players in opportunities now that they weren’t in last year and they’ve got room to grow. And then we’ve got freshman that are coming in.
“This isn’t about setting a depth chart, as much as where we are with an influx of players and guys with new opportunities.”
For all of Kelly’s comments, you can check out the video below. The Irish will be on the field tomorrow in South Bend.