Meeting with the media after practice yesterday, Brian Kelly got back on the hamster wheel and brought us more of the same.
“We’re in the midst of pretty boring times for all you folks,” Kelly said. “It’s preparation and doing the things we need to do each and every week. Making sure we stay on task. Like I said, I don’t even know why we have a press conference today because I’ll bore the heck out of you guys.”
That said, Kelly did give updates on a few key injuries, most notably Ethan Johnson and Theo Riddick. Theo practiced for the first time Wednesday, but Kelly won’t be starting him at the slot receiver position on Saturday.
“He ran around today,” Kelly said after Wednesday’s practice. “I don’t think he’s going to be a guy that can come in and start for us. We’re hoping we can utilize him in a role and try to get him engaged in the game. We’ll continue to practice him, continue to work him out and see where we go from there.”
If you’ve been paying attention that’s all but code for Theo Riddick’s not playing on Saturday, especially with the emergence of Robby Toma last week. Kelly talked about finding a role for Johnson as he worked his way back from a high ankle sprain and his only role was on the sideline healing, as that’s what you do with a high-ankle injury. Of course, a wide receiver with a balky hamstring is pretty close to the same thing. Riddick’s only going to make an impact at full speed, with his game not exactly predicated on finding holes in zones and being a possession receiver.
Meanwhile, Johnson continues to stay on pace recovering from his high-ankle sprain, and Kelly talked about how important the senior has been from a leadership point of view.
“Certainly he’s had an influence on making sure that the program continues to grow in the way that we’ve put in front of him,” Kelly said. “All of our seniors have done a nice job of echoing the things that I want them to do. And they’ve done it by their actions too. It hasn’t just been lip service. Ethan’s been that. He’s battled through some injuries this year. All of them have had a huge impact.”
Lastly, any worries that Manti Te’o will be slowed on the injury front were alleviated by Te’o himself. The junior linebacker — unwilling to talk about if this will be his last Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium — is back on pace to play every down, thanks to discipline and patience tending to his sore ankle.
“The biggest challenge for me was to not be able to do certain things,” Te’o told the Chicago Tribune. “Managing the ankle was hard, but the main problem for me was not being able to run full speed like I want to, not being able to explode like I want to. Over the past couple weeks, we have kind of brought me back to where I want to be, moving, changing directions.”
Worrying about whether or not this is Te’o last game is wasted energy at this point. It’s clear the junior linebacker is among the most talented middle linebackers in the country, but Manti’s decision will likely come after a lot of thought and discussions with his family and the coaching staff.
More important than anything, he’s finally back to a place where he can play without serious limitations, though I highly doubt his ankle is 100 percent healthy.