If Notre Dame can execute its two-minute drill with the same precision as its deadline for today’s 6 a.m. practice, a successful season could be in the works.
Notre Dame practiced at 6 a.m. today to help get its collective body clock ready for Saturday's game in Ireland.
After cancelling the early-morning workouts last week to keep the team’s regular afternoon schedule, head coach Brian Kelly had a 6 a.m. practice scheduled today (Aug. 29) prior to leaving around 6 p.m. today for Ireland.
“Got my first e-mail about the music [at practice] being loud at about 7:45,” Kelly joked.
“To get young guys up in college life and all in the locker room by 5:20, you’re always apprehensive. I think I was looking at the clock every five minutes. But when [director of football operations] Chad Klunder said ‘all accounted for’ at 5:20, I had a sigh of relief because I made it pretty clear that if anybody was late, they would be staying in South Bend.”
The Wednesday session was more like a Thursday game-management run through, including down-and-distance, end-of-game situations, etc., to rehearse. Regarding the overall game plan, that hay was in the barn earlier this week with all of August to prepare.
After practice, the players were in class the rest of the day before reconvening in the early afternoon for a meeting and weight training prior to dinner and the bus trip to the airport. The goal was to keep the players fully occupied throughout the wee hours of this morning, through the academic schedule and through the afternoon so that they get their sleep during the flight overseas.
“We’ll get up Thursday, go to the hotel breakfast and get into a routine relative to practice and get them early in bed Thursday, Friday — and now we can be adjusted to the time difference,” said Kelly of the Navy kickoff on Saturday that will be 9 a.m. EST in the United States. “Go through our normal walk-through on Friday and play the game on Saturday.”
The team is expected to arrive back in South Bend at approximately 1:15 a.m. Sunday morning.
This will be Kelly’s second trip to Ireland. The first was in the west coach of Ireland on more of a golf tour.
“I learned a lot about Ireland,” Kelly said. “Guinness usually travels in pairs, never a single Guinness. Paddy’s is the preferred Irish whisky over some of the other well known — and that my golf game really stinks.”
Don’t expect the current Irish players to receive the same education about the country’s libations.
No War of Words
Earlier this week, former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana, whose son Nate played for Kelly in 2010 before transferring, made some unflattering statements about the Irish quarterback situation with sophomore Everett Golson.
Said Montana on ESPN's Scott Van Pelt Show: "Kelly can't figure out what he wants. Every one of his quarterbacks that he has, he claims is his next star, but he doesn't last long with him. [Golson is] probably the least talented thrower that they have, so maybe they're looking to run the ball with him."
Kelly didn’t take the bait when he was asked if he had a response to the comment.
“Joe Montana is an icon and he’s entitled to his opinion about our football team,” Kelly said. “I think that’s probably all I’d say about that.”
The Irish will have about 67 of a possible 85 scholarship players available to compete this Saturday. Injuries, transfers and four suspensions — quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese earlier this month and running back Cierre Wood and defensive end Justin Utupo this past weekend — has whittled down the list.
• Outside linebacker Danny Spond, who was the victim of a severe migraine the first week of practice is “getting close” to being able to practice again after partaking in conditioning recently.
• Junior offensive tackle Tate Nichols is recovering from a knee injury and will be “half rack” — helmets and shoulder pads — for next Monday’s practice.
• Fifth-year senior receiver John Goodman has been resting a bit of a groin injury that Kelly indicated seems to have resolved itself.
• Kelly said the four captains chosen on Monday were not voted on by the players but selected by he and his staff.
“I felt like I knew our football team well enough and what their desires would be relative to captains,” he said of tight end Tyler Eifert, offensive tackle Zack Martin, defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore and linebacker Manti Te’o.
• Inside linebacker Jarrett Grace and offensive guard Conor Hanratty are two sophomore who have been relatively under the radar but have been establishing themselves as quality backups.
“Not only is [Grace] a big, physical, strong kid, he’s got great instincts at the position,” Kelly said. “He’s not just a kid that has great size ... very smart football player. Conor Hanratty is just a tough, gritty, throwback kind of offensive guard who gets in there."
• Kelly reiterated that strength in the trenches is what has given him the most comfort about this season.
“A team that you’re confident that it can stop the run and you can run the football, too,” he said. “That’s a pretty comfortable feeling as a coach, that you know that you can run the football and feel like you can stop the run.”