Author: Keith Arnold

Rice v Notre Dame

With roster still in flux, Kelly plans on being at 85 by Texas


For the first time in over a decade, Notre Dame has a roster crunch.

As Notre Dame’s fifth-year candidates submit their applications to the university, Brian Kelly plans on moving forward and using every minute he has to figure out his roster.

“You have to be at 85 when you kick off,” Kelly said of his maximum-capacity roster. “We’ll be at 85 when we kick off.”

That’s a far cry from the team’s of recent memory, when coaching transitions, recruiting washouts and roster holes left many Notre Dame football teams involuntarily working with far less than a full allotment of 85 scholarship players. (By rough count, Notre Dame’s 2007 squad—where Tyrone Willingham’s recruiting woes had officially caught up to Charlie Weis—had just 74 scholarship players.)

But after seasons of coming close, it appears that the Irish will have a full 85-man roster come the Texas game. And how they get there remains to be seen.

Kelly confirmed that all seven fifth-year players—Nick Martin, Joe Schmidt, Amir Carlisle, Chase Hounshell, Jarrett Grace, Everett Golson and Matthias Farley—have submitted their paperwork to return. Who ends up back with the Irish in 2015? We’re not quite there yet.

“They’ve all turned them in. They were due last Friday and they were all turned in. We should have an answer on whether they’ve been granted a fifth year,” Kelly said.

There are givens: Martin, Schmidt, Farley and Carlisle all are in the staff’s plans for 2015. It appears that Grace is as well, a miraculous return from injury all but complete. Add to that graduate transfer Avery Sebastian, the Cal safety has signed a letter-of-intent and will play out his eligibility at Notre Dame.

Golson, the team’s most important fifth-year player, looks to be returning as well, though Kelly acknowledged that he isn’t 100 percent certain what the quarterback will be doing until he’s enrolled in summer school. Even Hounshell, working as a reserve tight end after spending four seasons as a defensive lineman, is doing his best to earn a spot as a blocker.

As Kelly discussed the situation, it didn’t sound like a man facing difficult decisions. And after poking around with some contacts in the program, it’s certainly on the radar, though hardly the concern that it is amongst the hard-core fanbase.

That’s because Notre Dame’s head coach is well in control of his roster. And he has been doing his job long enough to understand that every year, unplanned attrition hits.

Tim O’Malley of Irish Illustrated did the digging, but in every season since 1980, the Irish have had a football player transfer out of the program. (A media guide change made any additional searching too difficult to continue.) So while we’re not sure who it could be, 35-plus years of data points to Kelly and the Irish being just fine.

Speculating on transfers isn’t easy. Nor is it habit to put into print baseless speculation. But potential transfers could include younger players buried on the depth chart. Or veterans in a similar situation. It’s not hard to see who those players are, and it’s likely they’re the ones doing their due diligence this spring, ready to make a move when classes end.

We already know that KeiVarae Russell is set to return this June. Ishaq Williams‘ return isn’t as clear, though Kelly said he’ll have a conversation with Williams after spring practice ends as he looks for clarity inside the program and Williams needs to be readmitted to the university. In all likelihood, Williams is on the bubble.

One thing may be changing inside Notre Dame’s program. After keeping certain malcontents on the roster and allowing them to stay through graduation, there’s reason to suspect that the tightened numbers have Kelly and his staff reconsidering that policy.

While we’ve seen the ugly side of oversigning—just look at what’s going on at Ohio State as Urban Meyer tries to shed scholarships before next season and what’s gone on in the SEC the past decade. But as Kelly gets his roster capable of competing with the elite in college football, he takes an NFL approach to the process.

“It’s a salary cap. You’ve got to get to your salary cap,” Kelly said. “We’ll get to 85.”

Blue-Gold Game: Rules and Format for 86th annual spring game

Louis Nix, Steve Elmer

Notre Dame released the official rules and format for the 86th annual Blue-Gold game. As the LaBar Practice Fields transform to house an intimate live viewing audience, an elite group of recruits and a NBCSN television production, let’s get the basics down as we begin to dig deeper into the spring finale.



* First half will be two 12-minute quarters with normal clock stoppages.
* Second half will have two 15-minute quarters with running time.
* No play clock.
* Clock stoppages for injuries and timeouts. (Each team will get three time outs.)

Kelly estimated that last year the Irish ran roughly 30-plus plays while the second half averaged 19 plays per quarter. So look for something similar on Saturday.



The offensive players will wear blue while defense will wear white. That includes quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, who last year wore red with the rest of the quarterback depth chart.

(It will not include defensive tackles Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day, who hoped to get action in the “Irish Chocolate goal line package.” Kelly killed those dreams this morning.)



* Each possession begins on the 35-yard line.
* No kickoffs.
* All punts will be fair caught. (There’s a John Goodman joke here somewhere.)
* No overtime.




Touchdown: 6 points
Extra Point: 1 point
2-point Conversion: 2 points
Field Goal: 3 points
Big Chunk Pass (25+ yards): 2 points
Big Chunk Run (20+ yards): 2 points



Touchdown: 6 points
Turnover Forced Before 50-yard line: 4 points
Turnover Forced After 50-yard line: 2 points
Defensive Stop Before 50-yard line: 2 points
Defensive Stop After 50-yard line: 1 points
Safety: 2 points
Sack: 1 point


Quarterbacks will be live during Blue-Gold game

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

With Notre Dame Stadium under construction, this was already going to be a different kind of Blue-Gold game. But when Brian Kelly announced that quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire were going to be live for the first half, he confirmed it.

Amidst a quarterback competition that’s been the story of spring practice, Kelly announced that the competition will continue with live snaps for both quarterbacks during Saturday’s Blue-Gold game. It’s another reason to tune-in and watch the spring game, broadcast live Saturday at 12:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

“The quarterbacks will be live in the first half,” Kelly said after Wednesday’s practice. “So Everett and Malik will get a chance to really show themselves and be involved with everything within our game plan and compete.”

After years of having the quarterbacks in red jerseys, seeing teammates go after their own quarterback will be a different experience. While Kelly said the refs will have a “quick whistle,” getting a look at Brian VanGorder’s defense going after Golson and Zaire will be fun to watch.

It’ll also be a necessity for the coaching staff, who continue to evaluate the play of both quarterbacks as an interesting spring comes to a close. Kelly talked about the decision to keep his quarterbacks live, acknowledging that each guy needs the full-go aspects of the game to show his progress under live conditions.

“Both of them are guys that require that element in their game,” Kelly said. “Both of those guys need to be who they are, and that’s who they are. They’re guys that need to move in the pocket, they make plays with their feet and we want to be able to run the ball as well.”

While most have focused on the competition between the quarterbacks, Kelly opened up about how the coaching staff used the spring to advance the skill-sets of each signal caller. So while most thought Golson’s extensive playing experience likely gave him a head start on the starting job for 2015, Kelly talked about the different lenses they’re using to evaluate their quarterbacks.

“For us, it’s been working on what we perceive to be what their weaknesses were, not necessarily game experience, because you can’t duplicate game experience,” Kelly said. “We know what they look like when they win the game.

“For Everett, it’s been pocket presence and taking care of the football, so we’re really evaluating him on those things. For Malik, it’s accuracy and throwing the football and managing the offense. Our evaluation has not been about the game experience, because we’ve seen them both play and we know how they react in the game. So it’s really been about evaluating them on those criteria.”

On Saturday, we’ll get our longest look at the two quarterbacks up for the job. After Zaire outplayed Golson in last year’s spring game—though facing very different defensive play calls and while wearing red jerseys—it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out on Saturday.