Notre Dame Finishes Temple Prep

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly met with the media following the team’s practice inside Notre Dame Stadium today in preparation for Saturday’ season opener against Temple.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly met with the media Thursday evening for the last time before Saturday's season opener.

Freshman quarterback Malik Zaire is out for Saturday’s game with mononucleosis. Receiver Luke Massa has taken reps in practice and will replace Zaire as the third-string quarterback this weekend, Kelly said.

Kelly added that Zaire is “on the back end” of the sickness and that they are hopeful he will be able to practice Monday.

“(Massa) holds on extra points for us ... he’s playing some wide receiver,” Kelly said. “He could get us out of the game Saturday. I don’t want to play him if I don’t have to and it would have to be in an emergency situation, but he can get us out of the game Saturday.”

Starting senior quarterback Tommy Rees will handle the bulk of pre-play reads and line calls, as opposed to center Nick Martin, who is starting his first game Saturday.

“We’ve made adjustments with a younger center and Tommy will do a lot of that work,” Kelly said.

Earlier in the week, Kelly mentioned Martin and defensive lineman Kona Schwenke as the players who impressed him the most during fall camp. Thursday, he listed freshmen Cole Luke — because of his ability to adapt to the nickel position — and James Onwualu as the most impressive duo among the freshmen.

“(Onwualu) went from a guy that was a try-hard guy, whatever we asked him to do to he’s (now) catching the ball much more consistently, route running,” Kelly said. “(Luke has) had to learn nickel, but now you’re playing two coverages. … There’s a lot on his plate, but he’s made some really good process.”

Junior Josh Atkinson recently began playing some wide receiver with the Irish carrying so many defensive backs on the roster. Kelly said it will take some time to get him on the field.

“I want to find a place to get him on the field. I think we can find a role for the kid, but it’s going to take some time to get him on the field offensively,” Kelly said. “He’s got to catch the ball more consistently, but he’s all in on trying to do that.”

Wide receiver C.J. Prosise’s omission from the depth chart released Tuesday surprised some, but Kelly said the coaching staff is not down on the freshman.

“C.J.’s been steady for us. We’re going to ask him to do some specific things. He’s not going to be that guy like Robby Toma. Robby was on the field a lot for us. He’s not going to fit in like Robby did. He’s going to do different jobs and do them well for us. He’s not going to be an A-to-Z slot receiver for us like Robby was.”

Kelly also said defensive linemen Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt could play almost all the snaps depending on the opponent.

“It depends on what the weather conditions are and what kind of game it is,” said Kelly, who added that it would be more likely for the pair to play extensively against physical teams like Stanford or Michigan State than against a team that spreads the field.

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