Brian Kelly said Thursday that Stephon Tuitt did not mean to say he will return in 2014.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said Thursday that junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt “stumbled into a question and answer” about whether he will return to school for his senior year in an interview with The Observer, the campus student newspaper, on Wednesday.
“I think he was saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve got another year. I’m coming back.’ I think his intentions weren’t to say that he was necessarily making a decision. I’ve pretty much made it clear to our players that anyone, including Louis Nix, we had this for Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert before, that any decisions relative to the status that our players have relative to the NFL, we’ll exhaust all of their means relative to the NFL and their draft status as well as talking to their family members at the end of the season. No decisions will be made as long as I’m the head coach here until the end of the season.
“We won’t be making any announcements. I think Stephon got caught in the question in an honest answer to a question that I think he probably wishes he had answered a little better.”
In an exclusive interview with The Observer, Tuitt said, “I’m coming back next year. I still have one year.”
When asked to confirm the response that he would be returning, Tuitt replied, “Yes.”
Kelly said he thinks a number of factors have led to players such as Te’o, Eifert and Michael Floyd returning for their senior seasons in recent years: the desire to get a degree, wanting to improve their draft status and having the opportunity to play with their teammates one more time.
• In the team’s first full game without junior inside linebacker Jarrett Grace, fifth-year senior Dan Fox “won’t come off the field for us. We need him to play a lot of football for us.” Junior inside linebacker Joe Schmidt will also play in Grace's absence.
• Kelly said he feels comfortable with senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix running the entire offense and that he’s not solely a change-of-pace signal caller behind senior Tommy Rees.
• The program replaced the Notre Dame Stadium grass after the loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 28. The team practiced at LaBar Practice Fields on Thursday instead of its typical routine of practicing inside the stadium two days before the game. Kelly said there’s some “uncertainty” about the turf Saturday when unranked USC comes to South Bend.