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Football: Getting “close”

Douglas Farmer | Friday, August 27, 2010

One day after only describing practice with disappointed sentences sprinkled with harsh words, Irish coach Brian Kelly said his team was “close” Thursday after practice.

“We’re getting close,” he said. “Today was a pretty good day for us in terms of bouncing back from what I considered a sloppy practice. Our guys came with a purpose today.”

Kelly said Notre Dame worked on some of the same situations Thursday that they did in Wednesday’s practice.

“We got a lot of the things done that we needed to,” he said. “Our goal line work doesn’t get a lot of attention during the year, although it is important in terms of punching it when in those short-yardage situations.”

For most of the fall, the Irish practiced for about two hours per session, but in the past two days, they only spent 2 hours and 20 minutes on the field, and Friday will be another short practice.

“[Today] will be very short, but one that they will have to bring a mental edge do it,” Kelly said. “We’ll have our bench control script, which is about 49 different scenarios that will occur during the game … We’ll do that in the Stadium. We’ll put the headsets on and do a dry run.”

Kelly said when he first started as a head coach in 1991 at Grand Valley State University, his bench control script only ran 16 scenarios deep. Now, he even has a scenario that involves the head coach running.

“One is how to take a timeout in a two-point play situation, when, clearly, the linesmen, the umpire and the referee get situated so they can’t see you from your box area,” he said. “So we even added a 49th [script] where I get to run out of the coach’s box, which is a lot of fun, out to the middle of the field to call timeout.”

Another example is a “turtle punt,” which the Irish would use when in a punting situation near their own goal line and want to run some time off the clock.

“It’s really a mental approach because you have to be locked-in to the different situations that are occurring,” Kelly said. “Understanding personnel changes, for example.”

Once Notre Dame goes through those 49 scenarios, including Kelly’s dash to midfield, fall camp will have come to a close, and preparation for the Sept. 4 opener will begin.

“That’ll be our last day relative to the preseason,” Kelly said. “The preparation then is 100 percent on Purdue.”


u Less than a week after declaring junior inside linebacker Anthony McDonald doubtful for the season opener, Kelly changed his tune Thursday.

“He’s gone from doubtful to questionable,” Kelly said. “We’re moving in a direction that we think we may have him in a back-up capacity for Purdue.”

u Another linebacker took a step in the right direction Thursday. The NCAA Clearinghouse declared freshman Justin Utupo fully eligible. Utupo can now both practice and compete.

u Sophomore cornerback E.J. Banks will rejoin the Irish Tuesday, but now in a role on the scout team. He will be unable to play in games, and is not on scholarship, Kelly said.

Banks left the team for undisclosed reasons earlier this fall, and Kelly said Banks made the choice to come back in the new role.

“He wanted to come back to Notre Dame. He wanted to be on the team, and he wanted to prove himself,” Kelly said. “So he is going to get the opportunity to prove himself, both on the field and academically.”