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Football: Crist, Floyd take part in first spring practice under Kelly

Douglas Farmer | Monday, March 29, 2010

Nearly four months after first arriving at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly saw sophomore quarterback Dayne Crist throw a football for the first time Friday. Not that Kelly was as much concerned with how Crist’s throw looked, or how his injured knee fared, as much as he was concerned with how quickly Crist readied for the throw.

“To really understand what needs to be done, they have to understand pace,” Kelly said in a news conference before practice Friday. “They have to understand how we practice first before we can get into schemes and how we’re going to do things.”

That attitude rubbed off on Crist, who could be seen hustling up to the line of scrimmage in the second drill of the year, knee brace, surgically-repaired ACL and all.

“The whole emphasis in practice is tempo,” he said. “Guys have got to learn that. Learning on the run is a big deal here.”

Crist and the rest of the offense had their chance to show what they’ve already learned from Kelly’s complex playbook in that second drill, running a no-huddle offense up the field with no defense opposing them. Without a defense looking to stop them, the biggest challenge for the Irish was knowing each play call and what it meant, as three different coaches and players signaled in the plays.

“We’ll just have to practice [picking up the calls],” Crist said. “That’s just part of our offense, as necessary as everything else and knowing the actual plays.”

The fourth play featured an audible, which resulted in an option reverse hand-off to sophomore receiver Michael Floyd.

But of the changes noticed in the first day of spring practice, the biggest changes might be the ones not seen, such as the lack of a depth chart and Kelly’s praising of freshman linebacker Manti Te’o as a leader on the defense, albeit also describing Te’o as needing improvement.

 “We’re going to compete with all of our players,” Kelly said of not utilizing a depth chart. “You will see an immersion virtually of every player in our spring practice format because it’s that important that they’re involved in the skill development.”

Kelly did allow that Te’o would begin the year as an inside linebacker, having the size to take on offensive lineman, and as a leader, but that in order to have his desired impact, he’ll need to improve.

“[Manti’s] got to get much better as a football player. He wasn’t very good [last year],”Kelly said. “And he understands that. He’s been committed to learning.”

Te’o readily agreed with Kelly’s criticisms.

“I totally agree,” he said. “Everybody makes mistakes. I just have to learn from those mistakes, and come out ready to improve and get better.”