Notre Dame jumped into the AP poll rankings Tuesday afternoon at No. 22 after blowing by Navy this weekend. Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the vote of confidence amounted to nothing more than “white noise” for a football team that is still under construction.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said his team's ranking in the AP poll this week is not important to him.
The Irish switch gears this week while getting ready for Purdue after spending the final few weeks of their offseason preparing to stop Navy’s option attack. The host of young players who saw their first significant action in the 50-10 win over the Midshipmen impressed Kelly, but he said they will have a busy week reviewing their first game film and preparing to face a more traditional Boilermaker offense.
“I don’t know if there’s an alarm that I’m trying to set off relative to, ‘Hey, keep an eye on it, we are in big trouble here.’ I don’t believe that,” Kelly said. “There were a lot of things we were not able to do defensively that were part of our plan that we need to get to work on.”
The exterior alarm bells rang loudest in the secondary for the group of first-time starters that gave up 192 yards to a normally non-existent Navy passing attack. Freshman KeiVarae Russell and junior Bennett Jackson struggled at times to keep up with the Navy receivers on double and triple moves in man-to-man coverage.
Jackson did finish the game with seven tackles, only one behind team-leader Manti Te’o. Russell wasn’t much farther behind with five in his collegiate debut. Tackling takes on more importance against the Navy offense, and both corners looked capable of dragging down an opponent in open space. The good sign for Notre Dame this week was that most of their early mistakes were physical slips, not mental ones.
“What we liked about them is the discipline. There are fundamental and technical areas we have to improve on,” Kelly said.
The coach said he was equally comfortable with the pace of sophomore quarterback Everett Golson’s development. Golson threw for 144 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his first start on Saturday. The interception was a mental mistake, one that Kelly deemed unacceptable. Golson wasn’t shaken by the misstep, though, and his poise throughout the game was the most promising thing Kelly saw in his young quarterback.
“He did not seem overwhelmed at any time,” Kelly said. “He was extremely communicative when he got to the sideline. He could tell me what was going on. Those are all big picture, good things after game one.”
The even bigger picture gets a little murkier this week as junior Tommy Rees returns from his one-game suspension. Rees didn’t take many if any meaningful snaps during fall camp. He’ll try to unseat Andrew Hendrix as No. 2 on the depth chart this week in practice. Hendrix looked shaky at times while playing in the fourth quarter against Navy, but completed four of his five passing attempts for a total of 53 yards.
Kelly said Hendrix and Rees will both get work with the second offense during the next four days of practice, but Rees will need to get a little extra time on the field to make up for his inactivity during the month of August.
“It will be, for me, probably more about making sure that we can get Tommy up to a level where he can be sharp if he’s in a position where he had to go into the game,” Kelly said.
Sophomore running back Amir Carlisle is expected to practice this week for Notre Dame. He missed the season opener as he continues to recover from a springtime ankle injury.
Junior outside linebacker Danny Spond, who suffered a head injury in August, has been cleared for everything but contact. He could be ready to play against Michigan State on Sept. 15 barring any more setbacks. Junior tackle Tate Nichols started lifting weights last week and will have limited work in practice beginning Tuesday as he works to recover from a knee injury from fall camp.
All Quiet on the Irish Front
Notre Dame trimmed its media access this season down to one day a week for player interviews and no access to any of Kelly’s assistants on a regular basis. Kelly said Tuesday that there was no grand scheme to protect any of his players or coaches from the press.
“[The coaches work] 90 hours a week here, and I really felt like I could take a lot of that off their plate so they could focus strictly on, at the end of the day, our preparation,” he said.
The defensive coaches will have plenty to prepare for this week when watching film on the Purdue quarterbacks. Boilermaker head coach Danny Hope said Caleb TerBush would be his starter in South Bend after missing the first week for a violation of team rules.
Sixth-year senior Robert Marve threw for 295 yards against Eastern Kentucky in TerBush’s place. He and Rob Henry are both candidates to see the field at some point against Notre Dame. Kelly said Tuesday that all three bring something different to the field, and Notre Dame will have to prepare to face any of them.