Kelly takes stock after weekend scrimmage

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With three weeks to go before Notre Dame’s date with Purdue, the coaching staff put the players through a full-contact scrimmage Saturday morning, before loading buses for an afternoon of sun and fun at nearby Diamond Lake. While the scrimmage took place behind closed doors from the media, Kelly spoke with reporters after and gave some insightful comments.

Talking about the offensive line, it looks like three jobs are locked in, with Zack Martin seizing control of the job at left tackle and Chris Stewart and Trevor Robinson entrenched at guard.

“Zack has been our most consistent. Your left side right now is Stewart and Zack, obviously they’re doing a great job,” Kelly said. Robinson is firmly ensconced at the right guard position. We’re still
battling at center and right tackle. But I think those are pretty good
battles. Wenger and Cave are pretty good, Dever and Nuss are pretty good. So whoever wins it, we know
we’ve got a pretty good starting five.”

You can’t help but think Wenger’s concussion could be the break that Braxston needed to grab hold of the starting quarterback center job, and if that’s the case, it’s more bad injury luck for Wenger, who has battled injuries through most of his career at Notre Dame. As for right tackle, both Dever and Nuss are fighting for their first starting spot, with Nuss being the more versatile of the two players, having spent most of his time at guard.

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Shifting to quarterbacks, it looks like there’s a battle for number two, and freshman Tommy Rees is the one stepping up to push Nate Montana.

“Tommy Rees has done a really nice job,” Kelly said. We’ll have to decide where he
is, but he’s in hot competition to be the No. 2. That’s to be decided.
But he did a nice job running the offense.”

Rees’ semester this spring likely helped give him the comfort needed to make a charge during fall camp, but as Kelly put it candidly, the offensive conversation starts and finishes with Dayne Crist.

“Listen, at the end of the day, this whole conversation can be in a few
words: Dayne Crist is getting better every day,” Kelly
said. “The rest of this other stuff? It’s good. But
it’s really going to focus on Dayne’s ability and the upshot is, he’s
doing a nice job.”

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If you’ve been following preseason camp, you may have noticed that Kelly and the staff have been quiet about Michael Floyd, surprising considering he’s one of two preseason first-team All-Americans. It appears Kelly may have noticed, too.

“I haven’t talked about it, but Michael Floyd probably had his best day today,” Kelly said. “Sometimes the best players get overlooked the easiest, because you just expect that. When you’ve got Michael Floyd playing well for you as a one-on-one match-up guy and you’ve got Rudolph in there who wasn’t in there, and you’re running the football, that’s a good day relative to balance on the offense.”

Staying with the wide receivers, it looks like Theo Riddick has locked up the slot receiver position, with Duval Kamara battling TJ Jones and Shaq Evans for the outside receiver position opposite Floyd. And while Jones grabbed most of the headlines after spring practice, Kelly didn’t mince words when talking about the upside of Riddick.

“I really have high high expectations for him. He’s an elite player,” Kelly said. “He’s learning a position, but I think we’ll be talking a lot about Theo Riddick as we move through the season.”

Calling Riddick an elite player is high praise from a head coach, and if the Irish keep Rudolph and Floyd on opposite sides of the defense, Theo will have plenty of room to dominate the middle of the field.