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Football: Slow motion

Douglas Farmer | Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Irish have finally slowed down Brian Kelly’s frenetic pace.

Figuratively, not literally.

Now in the eighth of 14 practices before the Blue-Gold Game, sophomore quarterback Dayne Crist and the rest of the Notre Dame offense have started to grasp the plays well enough to not be flustered by the quick tempo of practice under Kelly.

“The speed of what we’re doing is something we haven’t really seen before,” Crist said. “But I think now that we’ve practiced it guys are starting to get a feeling for it. It’s definitely not slowing down greatly, but it’s slowing down enough for guys to apply their knowledge of plays and schematics on the field.”

Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar echoed Crist’s comments.

“The last two practices they are starting to show that they understand working at the tempo that we want them to,” Molnar said. “They understand our base protections, our base runs, our base formations. [The offense is] really starting to play now with the effort that we ask them to.”

Monday’s offensive first unit showed some of the changes Kelly spoke of after Saturday’s two-hour scrimmage. Early enrollee Tai-ler Jones lined up alongside senior Duval Kamara and junior Michael Floyd.

“TJ has been very consistent since the first day of practice,” Molnar said. “[Jones] very rarely drops the ball, very rarely makes a mistake. Beyond the fact that he’s brand new to football, he certainly possesses the skill set that we’re looking for. We’re going to give him every opportunity to learn and mature and kind of become a redshirt freshman in the fall.”

On the offensive line, junior center Braxston Cave delivered the first snap to Crist, with sophomore Zach Martin in position at left tackle and senior Taylor Dever at right guard.

“I think we get closer [to picking the top five linemen] every day, but it’s going to be a never-ending process and it may even go into the season,” Molnar said. “I know Coach Kelly would love to settle us down into five main guys, but at this point it would be way too early to say that we found our five for the season.”

The movement in the depth chart and the grasping of Kelly’s spread offense coincided with the removing of tape from each player’s helmet, bearing his respective name.

“It was symbolic. We’re progressing into a team,” Crist said. “Now we’re playing for the gold helmets and the University. I think even those little things, paying attention to detail, are symbolic of how we’re growing as a team and progressing as a team.”