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Priorities clear for Irish in bowl game

Dec 10, 2013, 8:39 AM EDT

Malik Zaire

Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick will be in wintery New York today, for a press conference with Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood and his athletic director Julie Hermann. It’ll be another opportunity for us to hear from the Irish head coach, who has a busy week with recruiting, visiting Everett Golson, and preparing his football team for their final game of the 2013 season.

While some Irish fans batted around the idea of staying home this bowl season, the reality of winning at least six games means your coaching staff has unlocked an additional month of work with your football team. And while it’s likely too late to do too much to developmental improve the team that’ll play just a few weeks later, it can serve as a jump-start to spring practice, and a first look at players you expect to contribute in the season ahead.

On Sunday, Kelly talked about the delicate balance he and his staff will take in the ten scheduled practices the Irish will have before the Pinstripe Bowl.

“Well, we want to win the football game first,” Kelly said. “I want to send out our football team and build momentum into 2014 with a win. In particular, our seniors going out with a win, I think that’s very important.  They’ve meant so much to the program.  I think that’s first and foremost, getting a win for our seniors, and the momentum it builds going into 2014.”

The Irish walked into a bowl game with a similar 8-4 record after losing their season finale against Stanford in 2011. Matched up against Florida State in the (then) Champs Sports Bowl, the Irish gave away a lead to the Seminoles, dropping their fifth game of the season, and pushing the Irish into their offseason with a foul taste in their mouths.

Winning a ninth football game isn’t the same as playing in the BCS National Championship game, but the difference between an 8-5 and 9-4 record is sizable.

“It’s not a catapult into an undefeated season by any means,” Kelly conceded. “I don’t want to overstate that.  But it does leave a good feeling going into the offseason when you win that football game.”

Of course, winning the game is important. But with some really intriguing battles set to play out next Spring, Kelly also talked about the opportunities to work with young players that’ll likely step into big roles next season, including freshman quarterback Malik Zaire.

“I was able to work I think in the 11‑on‑11 today, which is our ones and twos working. I was able to get 20 reps of really good work with Malik today,” Kelly said. “The young guys get a lot of work.  Torii Hunter and Malik working together today.  Max Redfield played virtually all of seven‑on‑seven.  Those kind of guys getting out there today.”

With logistics not working out for Everett Golson to join the team this month to practice, the spotlight at quarterback is (temporarily) on Zaire. Andrew Hendrix’s return is far from certain, and Kelly hinted at four scholarship quarterbacks being too many to carry, a painful lesson learned with the departure of Gunner Kiel leaving the Irish shorthanded this year.

For a redshirt season, Zaire certainly made some headlines. He was put on a Twitter ban earlier in the season when he leaked out some information about his bout with mono. That ban likely returned with his commentary following Chuck Martin’s departure, where he voiced his frustrations after the news broke that Martin was heading to Miami.

Yet Zaire was a constant in press conferences, with the young quarterback mentioned almost weekly as a potential player to spark the offense. Kelly finally admitted late in the season that the plan was to redshirt the Ohio native, pushing his eligibility clock into a fifth season.

But these next few weeks are crucial for the Irish future, as both Zaire and Golson can run the football and Kelly’s spread offense, adding some continuity to a positional depth chart that after four seasons will finally have it. That will only be helpful if Zaire can take advantage of this month of work, a bonus one-on-one session with his head coach that wouldn’t have been as possible without Martin’s departure.

  1. Robert the Bob - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Just a question: Can Zaire play in the bowl game without burning the redshirt?

    • nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      BobtheRobert
      You HAVE to know the answer to that is “no”, right?

      • NotreDan - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:50 PM

        A cowardly Scotsman is NEVER a match for a clever Mick.

  2. irishdodger - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Word is that Hendrix will transfer to Miami (OH) for his final year of eligibility.

    • ibleedirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      Please let it be true..

    • joeblk10 - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      Where did that come from? Or you making that up as people tend to do on this site regularly.

    • nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      I would be shocked if AH came back.
      The comment about 4 scholarship QBs was devastating to those chances.
      Plus, if you’re Hendrix, WHY would you want to come back?
      Aside from the academic angle, the ND ship has sailed for him.

      I’ve also read in more than one place that there’s no love lost between Hendrix and Kelly.

      99% chance he’s gone.

      • getsome99 - Dec 13, 2013 at 10:19 AM

        Why not bring AH back? You said we need more ILB’s. Maybe he can pack on 25 lbs during the offseason.

    • wisner74 - Dec 10, 2013 at 12:58 PM

      Dodger, that’s a joke, right? As in following in Gunner’s footsteps?

      Other than that, I think Nude’s got the right angle on Hendrix.

    • ibleedirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      I don’t want him to come back just for the simple fact that I can’t take any more coach speak about how he’s got a firm grip on the artsy fartsy part of the game now, its a three man race at the QB position, half the locker room wants Hendrix to start, they are battling for reps blah blah blah. Just one great QB and a strong back up please, for once. Sounds like Hendrix has a fine future outside of football, its time to start it.

  3. paulhargis53 - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    The F’N Pinstripe Bowl?! Rutgers by 16.

    • windycityirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      My guess is Notre Dame will score a point for every “thumbs down” you get for that comment.

      Rutgers will get a point for every “thumbs up” you get

      ipso facto the game will be a blowout :)

    • papadec - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Paul – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…………………. too funny!

    • dickasman - Dec 10, 2013 at 7:58 PM

      I think the best way to look at this game would be strippers vs pornstars. ND will be the strippers because strippers are bit more classy and do things on da d lo. And I’d be hoping for a stripper win because strippers have more class and they don’t swallow.

  4. bearcatirishfan - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    At least you are consistent mr. Hargis…smooches.

    • domerboyirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      Enough already! I though most of the guys that posted here were smarter than this. (Well maybe not Dickassman?!…Just kidding)

      If you completely ignore Paul Hargis, then he will go away eventually. I wouldn’t even give him the satisfaction of a ‘thumbs down.’ Fact is that I’m tired of having to scroll past his comments, and everyone else’s follow up comments to get to the solid, interesting, fun, relevant commentary that I enjoy with Keith’s articles. If he comments on this post, he will not get a response from me. It certainly isn’t worth the effort. Let him say what he wants and let him go away. When he pops back in occasionally to try and annoy you, skip over it and move on. No need to feed the trolls.

      Go Irish.

      • papadec - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        The funniest part of the Paul posts is that so many of you take him so seriously.

      • nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:13 PM

        papa,
        Exactly right.
        Don’t know if I am more amused by his posts – some of which are pretty funny – or the guys here who get pissed off at him.

        He’s having a field day with this PInstripe Bowl, and fact is I don’t blame him.
        I know it’s not 1970 anymore Dorothy, but it still tweeks me ND accepts bids to these kind of bowls

        Rutgers? Seriously? ND that badly strapped for cash?
        Embarrassing, IMO

        But I’ll be watching.
        I think

        Tommy’s big farewell. How could I pass that up?

    • wisner74 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      What if you were to find out that Hargis is, like, some pimply-faced 13 year-old kid? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed that you’ve been wasting your time replying to him?

      • ndgoldandblue - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:41 PM

        Or, what if it was Keith posting as a troll in an attempt to unite all of us? It seems to have worked to a degree. That reminds me. I once saw a thing on VH1 where John Mayer disguised himself in a bear costume, walked around the parking lot before one of his shows, and threw around a bunch of insults toward himself, trying to get members of the incoming crowd to agree with him. Every single person defended John Mayer to an unknown John Mayer.

      • nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:56 PM

        Unite all of us – who will never meet in person – for what purpose?

        Some sort of cyber kumbayah?
        So we can amass around some common IP address and … do WHAT?

        This is Sargeant Schultz-esque

        Jesus … Sweet Lord …deliver me

        C’mon MAN.
        I’d like to think Keith has better things to do than that.

      • Keith Arnold - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:46 AM

        Can safely say that I’m not posing as Hargis.

      • ndgoldandblue - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        I was not being serious. I’m pretty sure Keith has more important things to do with his time. nude, you should know by now that I’m not one for off-the-wall conspiracies. Purely in jest.

  5. ibleedirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Win, lose or draw in the bowl game, the Irish are going to have plenty of momentum going into the 2014 season. Why you ask? Because, (you heard it here first) 2014 is the year the light comes on for Ishaq Williams….

    • dudeacow - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      I don’t know if you’re joking or not… but Ishaq is definitely a bust. He will never live up to his potential, even if he took a redshirt year which would have greatly benefited him. He should have been moved to tight end early in his career. Now here’s to Romeo Okwara starting over Williams and lighting up quarterbacks next year!

      • ibleedirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        Joking. 100%. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen a guy, with a body like that, get so easily and consistantly taken out of a play by a mediocre blocking. I’m sure I have, I watch a pathological amount of football, but no example comes to mind.

    • wisner74 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Ishaq reminds me of an early “90′s Bears #1 draft pick — Alonzo Spellman from Ohio State. The guy looked great in pads, and sure looked like a defensive end. Great measurables also. But he never amounted to much in the NFL despite being given years and years of opportunity to prove himself. (Also had a cool name like Ishaq does.) Like Alonzo, Ishaq just doesn’t have the instincts to make use of his physical gifts.

      • nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        Or how about Michael Haines, another great Bear #1 pick.
        I think he got a sack before he was cut
        3 years later.

    • nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      I wrote that “Ishaq is a bust” 2 years ago, and about 50 clowns jumped me and wanted me banned
      I wrote it again 15 months ago, and it was down to 20 clowns
      I wrote it 6 months ago, and only Ishaq’s momma wanted me banned

      By that point, even I think even Ishaq with me.

      There’s a trend here, boys. There’s a trend.

      • viktory2013 - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:00 PM

        Mr. Nudeman; re: Tommy’s big farewell.
        Mercifully, it’ll be the last time I ever have to hear the words “Notre Dame quarterback” and “Tommy Rees” in the same sentence. HALLELUJAH!

      • whiskeystraight - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:55 PM

        Ishaq is a 4-3 DE, not a 3-4 OLB or DE. He’s just not a good fit in this defense. He needed to go somewhere that he could have bulked up to 280 with his had on the ground. He’s not a space player. His first two years he spent trying to learn the wrong position and now they decided that maybe he could play DE at 255? Insanity. He is talented. He just needs to be in a different system.

      • nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:07 PM

        whiskey
        A reasonable opinion but I massively disagree
        They have had him at DE and OLB. Neither has woked
        WTF? Should they try him at center?

        I’ve never attended an ND practice but my take is he just doesn’t have a “lights-out-Mant-T’eo-I’m gonna hit-your ass” attitude. So they could bulk him up or bulk him down.
        I just don’t think he cares enough.

        My opinion.

        Disagree? Tell me just one play in the last 3 years that is an iconic Ishaq play.

        I’ll take my answer on the air.

        HANG UP

      • Keith Arnold - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        This is the quintessential Nudeman comment:

        I called Ishaq Williams a bust first! Right after his true freshman season!

        I think you were probably the same guy that said Harrison Smith should be booted from campus, too.

        Has Ishaq lived up to a “five-star” billing? No, not yet. But he’s also played behind one of ND’s best pass rushers of the past two decades in Prince Shembo and had this season ruined by an injury.

        I’m not saying you need to give a guy four years before deciding how good he is, but a guy like Mike Goolsby didn’t do anything for the first three years after his Parade All-American entrance, and he played well his senior season. And every year a new upperclassman emerges at Alabama and shoots up draft boards.

      • nudeman - Dec 11, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        Thanks Keith. Bah humbug to you to.
        Would have responded sooner but had to get online with Amazon and cancel your Christmas gift.

        Listen, I am hardly the only guy who’s been calling this guy a disappointm’t
        When you’re a 5 star guy much is expected, but after 3 years I have no recollection of him making any big plays.
        He’s been around the ball a little bit, he’s made a couple tackles, but Jaylon Smith who’s been at ND 1 year has done more than Ishaq in 3.
        I don’t see speed, fire or aggressiveness.

        The last 2 years we’ve heard the same mantra from the coaches:
        “He’s starting to get it”
        No he isn’t.

        Just like Hendrix:
        “He’s knows the whole playbook and is comfortable now”
        No he doesn’t and no he’s not.

      • mediocrebob - Dec 11, 2013 at 5:07 PM

        Do we still rely on stars from recruiting websites? If so, by a few sites, we’re relying on a 3* QB to make this offense as electric as some are calling for.

  6. tburke9601 - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Two years ago, we play in the Champs Sports Bowl against FSU. Since then both teams have gone undefeated in the regular season and both will have played for the BCS championship. I can only hope and pray that both teams when said and done, will have lost to a team from Alabama! It sucked that it happened to my Irish, but I would love to stick it to all my FSU friends the same way they did to me.

    • onward2victory - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      Don’t we have to pull for ACC teams now?

      • papadec - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:43 PM

        NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • tony34343434 - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:55 PM

        We only watch one team in this house right Rudy! yeah

        We root for our school and only ours, we are not the girls of the SEC rooting for 14 schools because they are too insecure to root for one.

    • shamrocknroll - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      No way. Gotta pull for FSU–I’m sick and tired of the SEC/ESPN racket.

      I’d like to see the ACC and the Pac12 start chipping away at the “dominance” of the SEC.

      Here’s to FSU this year, and the Irish in 2014!

      • tburke9601 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        I hate the SEC as much as anyone, especially since I live in Fla, just south of Gainesville and have to deal with all the UF fans . But to say you are gonna pull for FSU or Miami because they are in the ACC! Come on. As an Irish fan, can you really pull for either one of those teams? That is the equivelant of asking a Jets fan to want the Patriots to win the Superbowl so we they can chant AFC East baby! Really! Come on guys.
        We are better than the SEC lets not stoop to their level.

      • shamrocknroll - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:28 AM

        In a game in which we don’t have a vested interest? Yes. I can enjoy the game more by pulling for the team that, with a win, will strengthen the conference we now have an affiliation with.

        How does that not make sense?

  7. mtndguy - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Golson logistics issues getting to South Bend to practice? Are you kidding? After what he did to get suspended, he’d better bust his hump to make the most of his second chance.

    • dudeacow - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Golson could only practice with the team once, so BK didn’t think it made sense to throw Golson in for one practice.

  8. paulhargis53 - Dec 10, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Domerboy: Talking ABOUT me is the same as responding. You sound like you are on the verge of a gripper. Calm down.

    Walk with Jesus, sir.

  9. fnc111 - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    What did going to a bowl game in 2010 do for Kelly and co.? He proceeded to go 0-2 to start the following year and it was against rather weak competition I might add. The second of the two is when I really turned on him. Today is a great day for the politician to con more people into thinking he didn’t do an awful job this year.

    Skunk hair is still in big trouble in Detroit. Kelly might be coaching his last game at ND on the 28th. The Lions regular season ends the next day. Interesting timeline.

    Anyone trying to sell you that the extra practices for a bowl game give you momentum into next season are lying to you.

    • c4evr - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:44 PM

      There’s a better chance he’s at Moeller High School than with the Lions next year. And, after there years of them with little evidence they actually do anything, agreed on the extra practices nonsense.

      • mediocrebob - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:42 PM

        Troll of all trolls.

    • shamrocknroll - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      Somebody get FNC his nurse and put him back to bed.

  10. viktory2013 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Kind of wish Kelly had integrated Zaire into the offense this year instead of jacking around with Hendrix. That extra year of eligibility is a long way down the road, and if he’d used Zaire in relief roles this year, it wouldn’t be such a crapshoot next season. Not sorry to see Rees and Hendrix go, but Golson better be ready to rock and roll from day one. If he’s got his head together, Golson has all the weapons in place to kick ass next fall, and Zaire better be ready to jump right in.

    • NotreDan - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:03 PM

      THANK YOU ALAN!

      (to get that, watch the first Hangover, right at the part where they get the cop car and Stu is being a giant pansy, and Phil is trying to get him to appreciate how fun the night must have been, and Alan pipes up and says “I think the cop car part is pretty cool”, and Phil says….)

      Zaire should have been #2 this year, and should have gotten some experience.

    • mediocrebob - Dec 10, 2013 at 11:44 PM

      Yeah should’ve wasted a year for him so the Irish could’ve lost a few more.

  11. runners00 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    “Con more people into thinking he didn’t do an awful job this year”?

    He had a backup quarterback who served as a starter — for the entire season. So this usually doesn’t work out for the long haul. Look at Florida this season. They couldn’t beat Georgia Southern w/ a backup and they’re Florida, one of the great powers of the SEC and in college football with a recruiter’s dream for a backyard.

    Kelly did a decent job in 2013. There were moments when I could not believe what I was seeing — the Oklahoma start comes to mind, the entire Pitt game was brutal — but there were other times when I thought we looked pretty good. We stuffed BYU in key moments. Michigan State could not move the ball effectively against us (and admittedly, we had some charitable officiating but that was on their defense; their offense never really got going). We hung with a very good Arizona State team and eventually put them away down the stretch.

    We need to improve, though, to beat Stanford and to avoid letdowns like the one at Pittsburgh. I think the tackling, in particular, has to get a lot better. Perhaps these additional practices will give us some advantage going into 2014. Bottom line, though, is that we are not going to have a backup as a starting quarterback to start the 2014 season. Even with the loss of some good seniors, we should have a decent season.

    • c4evr - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:47 PM

      If the tackling – football fundamentals 101, by the way – is still suspect after three years, what leads you to believe that what Kelly and coaches are doing on a daily basis in practice will produce any other possible results? As the saying goes, practice makes permanent.

      • runners00 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        They were amazing last year. it wasn’t just T’eo. It was everyone. That’s what makes me think that this was a down year in a lot of respects. We had a lot of defensive injuries (particularly up front) and that increased pressure in the secondary. We also played some very strong offenses this year.

        Like I said above, the game that really threw me was Pittsburgh. I was like, “Who is that team?” The other games — wins and losses — I understood. It’s hard to beat Oklahoma with a team full of great players. They’re deep and fast. We made some mistakes early and those mistakes killed us.

      • mediocrebob - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:07 AM

        You act like nobody could tackle on the team. Farley and occassionally B Jackson are the only ones that struggled. And Jackson really wasn’t that bad.

        You want to see some bad tackling? Watch this buckeye defense.

    • domerboyirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM

      Good points. Although I never like using the phrase ‘losing good seniors’. Everybody loses good seniors. Who you have in the pipeline is the difference between ‘reloading’ and ‘rebuilding.’ We have brought in enough talent in recent years that we can lean toward reloading. IF we get better, less one dimensional QB play, we should do well enough.

      • viktory2013 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        Don’t think the seniors we’re losing (with the exception of Nix and Jones) are particularly good. Think the next guys in will be more than adequate.

      • runners00 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        i agree with this comment, Domer. We have to be multi-dimensional on offense. And, yes, we have to have a better secondary and better work at the inside linebacker position.

  12. mediocrebob - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Won’t they have 4 scholarship QBs after next season with Ghoulstein, Meeleek, Da’sean and Barnett?

    • jpwills19 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      Barnett is a junior in HS right now.

      • mediocrebob - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:49 PM

        Yes so next year he will be a senior in high school. So he could be reporting as early as next winter. Meaning his freshman year in SB will be Golson’s last season, with Zaire in his RS Jr season, and Kizer in either his sophomore or RS fresh season.

      • papadec - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

        So then they’ll have four QBs the following season, and probably red shirt Barnett.

    • mediocrebob - Dec 10, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      I guess that’s my question. BK doesn’t want 4 scholarship QBs again but they will in 2 seasons. So if he doesn’t want to keep Hendrix or Massa, you’d think it may have more to do with his confidence in those two and the need to keep another 5th year that would be more beneficial.

      • italianirish - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:11 PM

        I thought Kelly said he wanted a quarterback every recruiting cycle.

  13. nudeman - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Hargis for President.

    • mayesdays - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      Urban for Vice!!

      • ndgoldandblue - Dec 10, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        Nice.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 10, 2013 at 5:23 PM

      Didn’t Judy Blume write a book called “are you there god? It’s me Hargis.”

      • mayesdays - Dec 10, 2013 at 6:52 PM

        Hilarious!

    • tburke9601 - Dec 11, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      Hey nude, give us a run down of all the trolls that have visited us but are nowhere to be found. I remeber sinister and Harvey Updike, but that is it. And in your opinion who is/was the most hated troll out of all of them?

  14. NotreDan - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    People come, people go. The diehards just drink whiskey and chortle at the #$%*lickers that show up here and try to be witty.

    Me and nude were talking about a men’s retreat in Manhattan the weekend of the 28th.

    Any takers? Steak, whiskey, cubans and dickasman’s stripper posse.

  15. 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    retreat?

    i’ve never heard of a retreat with steak, whiskey, cigars and strippers.

    sounds more like “hangover 3″/”hall pass” to me.

    then again, if dick’s attending, it sounds like “deliverance” without the canoes and albino banjo playing.

  16. deadman3020 - Dec 11, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Keith-1 Nude-0…….

  17. dirtydrew - Dec 14, 2013 at 2:19 AM

    Don’t get embarrassed like usual.

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