The Irish made their debut inside Notre Dame Stadium a couple days early this afternoon. Head coach Brian Kelly worked his team out inside the 80,000-seat arena Thursday to try to break some of the mystique of playing there for his players.
Notre Dame kicks off its home opener against Purdue Saturday at 3:30 p.m., which will be the school’s first chance to debut the new noisier atmosphere they are trying to promote inside the stadium. Kelly said he was hoping to see more energy out of his players as well.
“I felt at times we ran into the stadium like we were running into the Basilica or we were running into the Grotto,” he said. “We’re running into the stadium, a football stadium. I want our guys to feel comfortable in there. We were in there [only] six or seven times last year.”
Kelly said the energy level, at least during the week of practice, was not a problem for the team as they recovered from their overseas trip to Dublin last weekend. The team went longer and harder in Tuesday’s practice than during a normal week, and the coaching staff was happy with the focused response.
The grass inside Notre Dame Stadium, a point on contention during the past few seasons, held up just as well as the players during Thursday’s practice. Kelly said he intended on continuing to practice there each Thursday as long as the turf could handle an extra couple hours of pounding each week.
Quarterback Questions Continue
The Irish jumped from one quarterback competition to the next this week as junior Tommy Rees returned to action to challenge classmate Andrew Hendrix for the backup role. Kelly said Thursday that both were prepared to play but neither was a clear cut No. 2 on the depth chart yet.
Rees was a bystander for much of fall camp while serving a one-game suspension for his arrest last May. Kelly said he saw improvement in accuracy for last year’s starter during this week’s practice.
“I just think he continues to get better in ball position and ball placement and putting it away from the defenders,” he said.
Sophomore Everett Golson’s evolution at quarterback this week started to press more into the mental side of the game. Kelly said Golson is learning to read defensive fronts and be more active in making calls along the line of scrimmage. For the time being, he gets assists in that department from veteran offensive linemen like center Braxston Cave and left tackle Zack Martin.
“There’s great communication with those veterans up front in terms of helping him every play,” Kelly said.
In Other News
- Sophomore running back Amir Carlisle is physically just about where he needs to be to contribute to the Notre Dame offense. Mentally, he still has some work to do before he can crack a crowded backfield lineup. The USC transfer broke his ankle this spring and likely won’t play in a game for at least a couple more weeks.
“This was really his first week of true practice. We tried to make it akin to the first week of preseason camp for him. That’s kind of where he was at,” said Kelly, who didn’t rule out redshirting Carlisle for the year if he isn’t ready to play by mid-season.
- The coach was unfazed by some early kicking mishaps for the Irish last week against Navy. Senior Nick Tausch missed his first extra point attempt of the season, sophomore Kyle Brindza duffed an early kickoff and senior Ben Turk got off a less than stellar punt in his first attempt of the season. Kelly said all three played well in practice this week and chalked their mistakes up to first game jitters.
- Senior Carlo Calabrese is expected to be on the field at his regular Will inside linebacker spot on Saturday against Purdue. He’ll split time with senior Dan Fox just as that pair did a year ago. Calabrese missed the season opener in Dublin because of a suspension stemming from his May arrest.