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Football: Starting Time

By Matthew DeFranks | Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When Notre Dame’s depth chart was released Tuesday afternoon, freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith was listed as the starter at outside linebacker, replacing retired senior linebacker Danny Spond.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said his prized five-star recruit had to work for the job, beating out junior linebacker Ben Councell to earn a start against Temple in the season opener Saturday.

“He was No. 3 on the depth chart when they ran out there, even though there wasn’t a depth chart posted,” Kelly said of Smith. “He didn’t go with the first group. Danny Spond was with the first, Councell was second and Jaylon was third, and he went out and he did his job.

“He’s been great, and he’s put himself in a position now to do some great things.”

Senior safety Austin Collinsworth beat out sophomore safety Elijah Shumate to earn a starting spot alongside junior safety Matthias Farley in the defensive secondary. Kelly said the two players will each see significant playing time.

“I think it’s a 1A, 1B situation,” he said. “Depending on where we are in the game, down and distance, a lot of those factors will be involved. I think you’ve got to look at both of those guys playing an equal amount of football.”

Sophomore Ronnie Stanley locked down a job at right tackle, pushing senior Christian Lombard inside to right guard. Kelly said the right tackle position is very fluid, and freshman Steve Elmer is expected to earn minutes also.

“We have great confidence that Steve Elmer could go in there and start for us if we needed him to, as well, and it’s not out of the question that he could be playing there at some time on Saturday, as well,” Kelly said. “I think you should keep an eye on both of those guys playing some right tackle for us.”

Mass moves to Friday

The traditional pre-game Mass on Saturdays has been moved to Friday, Kelly said. He said the team will always have the Mass, but that his team thought about the lead-up to the game when making the decision to move the Mass.

“We’ve been able to work together to give our student athletes the best schedule leading up to kickoff,” Kelly said. “That’s simply been it … not to exclude anything or take away anything that is important to our traditions or our history but simply give our student athletes the best opportunity to be successful when we kick that football off.”

Kelly also changed the usual team walk over to the stadium before the 2011 season, walking to the stadium from the Guglielmino Athletic Complex instead of the Basilica. He said he wants the team to do all the traditional events but to not be overloaded with activities.

“I think we’ve come to a nice schedule in working with our administration that our players have a very similar schedule now that mirrors what we do on the road and what we do at home,” Kelly said.

Looking ahead to Michigan?

Kelly said he worries that some of the veteran players are looking ahead to Notre Dame’s second week showdown against rival Michigan instead of focusing on the Temple matchup.

“[I worry about it] every day,” he said. “Every single day I talk about I’m not that far removed from South Florida. That’s what I do. This is my livelihood, so I think about all those things.”

In 2011, Notre Dame turned the ball over five times and dropped the season opener against South Florida 23-20 before playing a night game at Michigan the next week.

“We focus on Temple,” Kelly said. “I talk about it every day. I talk about the importance of playing this game and focusing on this football game. It’ll be a topic of conversation again today, tomorrow and every day leading right up to the Temple game.”

Will Mahone out

Sophomore running back Will Mahone will miss the game Saturday with a high ankle sprain. He was part of a five-man running back competition for carries.

Kelly said no other players will miss the game, other than the ones already announced.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu