Notre Dame will officially begin Year 2 under Brian Kelly bright and early Wednesday morning. The 9 a.m. opening bell is just one of many changes that Kelly is making this Spring now that he has his feet under him and feels comfortable in South Bend.
The new start time, which was announced last month, is designed to allow players to focus on their school work during the day and is something that Kelly has done at previous coaching stops in the past. Among the other changes announced Tuesday are…
- Former OLB Coach Kerry Cooks will be coaching cornerbacks this year, leaving coordinator Bob Diaco in charge of all 4 linebacking positions. Last year’s secondary coach, Chuck Martin, will now be responsible for only the safeties. The switch was likely made to provide extra attention to the several new additions to the Irish secondary.
- Two former freshman wide receivers have been moved to the defensive backfield, Austin Collinsworth will play safety and Bennett Jackson will help fill a void at cornerback.
- Offensive line coach Ed Warriner will also be coordinating the Irish running attack this season, much like Charlie Weis’ assistant Frank Verducci in his last season in South Bend, leaving more time for Off. Coordinator Charley Molnar to focus on the passing attack.
- No news on when Michael Floyd‘s suspension might end, but he has been stripped of his captaincy. Kelly said Daniel Smith and John Goodman will compete for Floyd’s vacated spot at receiver. He also mentioned that senior Deion Walker, who has underperformed so far in college, has taken his offseason workouts to a new level and he expects Walker to compete for playing time in the Spring. Finally, he re-stated that former QB Luke Massa will also be working with the receivers this spring.
- Quarterbacks-in-training Andrew Hendrix and early enrollee Everett Golson will be fair game for the Irish defense during practice. Kelly said he wants to see his untested candidates true nature when they are under physical pressure. Dayne Crist will participate in practice in “a limited capacity” as he continues to rehab from knee surgery.
- In other injury news: Linebacker Manti Te`o will also be treated cautiously in the next few weeks. He had his knee scoped following an injury in the Sun Bowl, and frankly doesn’t have to prove too much to the staff at this point. Nose tackle Sean Cwynar has surgery on his foot and back this offseason and will not practice during the spring.
Kelly said he was excited to get his second round of spring ball underway in a press conference Tuesday. He said this year will be much more about developing the talent of individual players now that the team’s systems are in place — something that Irish fans haven’t heard in at least six or seven years.
Last year at this time, we had names taped on the helmets, were not really sure about a lot of the positions. We clearly had an understanding that we needed to hit the ground running last year, because we had to get our systems installed.
Year two now, obviously those things are in place, and it’s really going to be about skill development for our players, our charge to the assistant coaches has been really for us, as we hit the field, developing the skills of our players. And then the consistency of that unit, getting the right 11 players on the field on each side of the ball including special teams. - Brian Kelly
To learn more about Kelly’s plans for the spring, the Michael Floyd situation and other individual players you can read the full transcript of Tuesday’s press conference. Or, if you are sick of reading, kick back and watch the video.