Kelly challenges young secondary
Brian Hartnett | Monday, September 1, 2014
After mentioning communication in the secondary as an occasional problem in his post-game press conference after Notre Dame’s 48-17 win over Rice on Saturday, Irish head coach Brian Kelly further addressed concerns at the safety position in his Sunday afternoon teleconference.Junior safety Elijah Shumate got a last-minute start Saturday after graduate student safety and captain Austin Collinsworth sprained his MCL on Thursday. Rice passed for 226 yards against the Irish defense and had four pass plays of more than 25 yards.
“Then with Elijah and [sophomore safety] Max [Redfield], we needed somebody to pick it up,” Kelly said in the teleconference. “Neither one of those guys picked up the slack. Need to be better.”
Kelly did attribute some of the secondary’s struggles to the late starting lineup change. Kelly said Saturday that Collinsworth is not expected to return against Michigan this weekend.
“Again, we got into a very unique situation where we had 24 hours really to get them communicating more effectively,” he said. “… We can get that corrected. Both [Shumate and Redfield] are the kind of skill players we want back there.”
Notre Dame is slated to face Michigan graduate student quarterback Devin Gardner on Saturday. Gardner was 13-of-14 passing for 173 yards and three touchdowns in Michigan’s 52-14 win over Appalachian State last weekend.
Eilers joins coaching staff
Pat Eilers, a former Irish football player and member of the 1988 national championship team, has joined the Notre Dame coaching staff as a defensive quality control assistant, Kelly announced Sunday.
Eilers will take over many of the duties performed by graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy, who has taken a leave of absence from the program while he undergoes chemotherapy treatments.
“We were granted a special exemption from the NCAA while Kyle McCarthy was fallen ill with his battle,” Kelly said in his Sunday teleconference. “So Pat reached out an has been able to take a sabbatical from his work.”Eilers has taken a sabbatical from his role as managing director of Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC, a private equity firm in Chicago.
While Eilers has never coached at the college level, he is no stranger to Notre Dame. He appeared in 34 games and made 18 starts for the Irish between 1987 and 1989, spending time at flanker, split end and defensive back. After graduating from Notre Dame in 1990, he played in the NFL for six years, appearing in 61 games with Minnesota, Washington and Chicago.
“He’s got great knowledge of the game, obviously playing here, playing on a championship team,” Kelly said of Eilers. “… He’ll be helping us a lot this week with those young safeties, too.”
Michigan week begins
Saturday’s game against Michigan marks the last meeting between the Irish and the Wolverines for the foreseeable future. While there might be much off-the-field hype surrounding the game, Kelly said his players are focused on improving their individual performances.
“We really keep our focus on what our technique and our own individual work needs to get better at,” he said. “For example, Shumate and Max Redfield, they can’t be thinking about Michigan because they have to learn how to communicate better, really focus on that. [Junior receiver] Chris Brown has to do a better job of getting in and out of his breaks. We’re really focusing on the individual and what they have to get better at this week.”
Kelly also mentioned that there would be no repeat of “The Chicken Dance,” which was played over the loudspeakers at Michigan Stadium after Michigan’s 41-30 win over the Irish last season. The song was an apparent reference to Michigan head coach Brady Hoke’s comments in May 2013 that Notre Dame was “chickening out” of its series with the Wolverines.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s [Michigan’s] prerogative,” Kelly said. “They won the game. They can play whatever they want. We’re going to play the Alma Mater.”
Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]