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Football

Kelly discusses Texas, status of arrested players

| Wednesday, August 31, 2016

With Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas approaching fast, Irish head coach Brian Kelly may not know who he will start at quarterback.

“[I] haven’t figured that out yet,” Kelly said in regards to who would get the first offensive snaps. “I mean, they’re both doing the same things that we’ve been asking them to do, and that may be something that we discuss in the locker room. It’s not really an issue for us right now. It’s not something that we’ve contemplated.”

Irish senior Malik Zaire stiff arms a defender during Notre Dame’s 38-3 victory over Texas on Sept. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium.Chris Collins | The Observer

Irish senior Malik Zaire stiff arms a defender during Notre Dame’s 38-3 victory over Texas on Sept. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium.

But Kelly does know defeating the Longhorns will not be as easy as it was a year ago and praised the strides Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong has made during his tenure with the program.

“[Texas is] a team that we know well, having played them last year,” Kelly said. “[I] watched a lot of film in the off-season and [I was] seeing a football team that came up with two really big wins last year against nationally ranked teams in Oklahoma and Baylor. … Coach Strong has developed a lot of talent, has recruited extremely well. So we know that it’s a talented football team that’s playing at home.”

Texas will be looking to add No. 10 Notre Dame to its list of upset victories, and Kelly said a big key to the game will be how his young team handles the adversity of playing on the road in the first game of the season.

“[Texas] is going to be honoring their 2006 National Championship team,” Kelly said. “So [there are] a lot of things that they’ll feed off of. And what they can’t feed off of is a Notre Dame football team that gives them any excitement in a sense that we go down there and turn the football over, give them big plays. So it’s very important that our football team gets off to a good start against Texas.

“… Certainly there will be some adversity, and how we charge through that and manage it will say a lot about this football team moving forward.”

And while who plays at quarterback is an unknown for both teams going into the game, Kelly said other aspects of the team — like the running game — will be a deciding factor in the contest.

Irish senior running back Tarean Folston receives a handoff during Notre Dame’s 38-3 victory over Texas on Sept. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium. Folston is returning from a torn ACL suffered in last year's game against Texas.Chris Collins | The Observer

Irish senior running back Tarean Folston receives a handoff during Notre Dame’s 38-3 victory over Texas on Sept. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium. Folston is returning from a torn ACL suffered in last year’s game against the Longhorns.

“Both teams are going to be playing … a couple of quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “I think a lot of attention, a lot of eyes, a lot of national media and local media will be wanting to focus on that. But sometimes when you focus on the quarterbacks, you forget there are a lot of other things going on out there and there’s a lot of talented players on both sides that will have to step up and make plays.

“I think both running games are going to have to be very, very instrumental in this game. They’ve got two big, physical running backs in Foreman and Warren, and we think we’ve got great depth at the running back position as well. Adams comes off a great year. You know, certainly we feel with our offensive line, getting Folston back, that’s going to be a big piece for us.”

Status still unknown for arrested players

Kevin Stepherson, Dexter Williams, Te’Von Coney and Ashton White are all listed on Notre Dame’s depth chart and Kelly said Tuesday that if it were up to him, all four would be able to play at Texas.

“As it stands right now, they’re on the depth chart because they’re available to play as we speak and on Saturday,” Kelly said. “If they’re cleared to play as of Saturday, then we’d play them.

“The University will work their process, and we’ll continue to move forward … there’s no deadline, per se. But we kind of work as if they’re going to play, and if something changes, the University will let us know.”

Kelly said he felt there were “great lines of communication” between the Office of Community Standards and the Athletic Department.

Kelly also said he did not consider suspending the four players charged with possession of marijuana since it was the first offense for all four and said the drug testing policy for the team is meant to be both educational and punitive. He also mentioned all four players would be subject to random drug testing moving forward.

“We have a very rigorous drug testing policy,” Kelly said. “Our drug testing policy along with the NCAA drug policy — I’ve been at four schools, and I believe our policy is as stringent. When I say  ‘stringent,’ I mean we are on top of it on a day-to-day basis. But we’re also — it’s not just punitive. It’s education. And if the education part is not working, then the punitive part comes in. But I think we’ve done a great job with our drug testing policy.

“As we continue to monitor these guys, they are in a program as such and will be put on a program that they will not know when tests occur.””

Sebastian gets starting nod at safety 

Following Max Redfield’s dismissal from the team, sixth-year transfer student Avery Sebastian will get the start at free safety over freshman Devin Studstill. Kelly said Sebastian has been a solid performer all camp and that Studstill has been bothered by a hamstring injury which has limited his reps in practice.

“Devin was a little behind with the hamstring as well,” Kelly said. “ … But certainly you want to put veterans on the field, if you can. I think if Devin was clearly ahead of Sebastian, we’d have Devin on the field over Sebastian. But Sebastian’s had a good camp. He’s been really rock solid.

“ … You want to try to keep as many veterans in that starting role as possible and let those younger guys work their way into the lineup. But more than anything else, Devin put himself a little behind with the injury. He didn’t put himself behind, but the injury caused him to be a little bit behind. But he’s made up a lot of ground in a very short period.”

Also of note, the depth chart lists junior Andrew Trumbetti as the starter at left defensive end with freshman Daelin Hayes and junior Jay Hayes as backups. Daelin Hayes is returning from a soldier injury which kept him sideliner for most of his senior season in high school and Kelly said he is simply looking for the freshman to find the flow of the game in his first start at the collegiate level.

“Daelin hasn’t played a lot of football over the last year and a half,” Kelly said. ” … We’re not asking him to change the complexion of the game, but just to get into the flow of the game.”

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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