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Notre Dame Media Day: Kelly focused on improvement

Sam Werner | Tuesday, August 17, 2010

With 13 practices down and 16 to go before Notre Dame’s Sept. 4 opener against Purdue, Irish coach Brian Kelly met with the media Tuesday as part of the team’s annual media day.

 Kelly said that the goal of the first week of practice was to establish the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and going forward he will be focused on forging a team identity and preparing for the Boilermakers.

 “Players are starting to separate themselves as to what we believe to be their roles,” Kelly said. “We’re identifying and defining, at the same time, roles for our players. I think it’s very important at this juncture that our players understand that it’s not just about being first team, it’s about being part of our football team this year.”

 Kelly added that sophomore linebacker Manti Te’o and junior wide receiver Michael Floyd have assumed leadership roles on the team. It may have come as a surprise to Irish fans when Kelly said that he thought Floyd was “over-hyped.” So far in fall camp, though, Kelly noted that Floyd has exceeded his expectations.

 “In 20 years, I have not had a player who has worked as hard as Michael Floyd has worked,” Kelly said. “And I mean that. He has out-worked everybody on the offensive side of the ball to the point where he has single-handedly set the bar for everybody else needs to bring their play.”

 Kelly also said that freshman quarterback Tommy Rees has pulled even with junior Nate Montana in the race to back up junior Dayne Crist.

 “[Rees] is really savvy,” Kelly said. “He’s a smart kid. He has those intangibles of a quarterback relative to seeing things before they open up.”

 In addition to Rees, Kelly listed eight other freshmen that must be prepared to play this season. The list included wide receiver T.J. Jones, tight end Alex Welch, offensive tackles Christian Lombard and Tate Nichols, wide receiver Austin Collinsworth, cornerback Lo Wood, and linebackers Prince Shembo and Danny Spond.

 Along the offensive line, seniors Dan Wenger and Matt Romine are easing back in to practice after suffering concussions last week. Wenger is still fighting junior Braxston Cave for the starting center spot, and Romine is competing with seniors Taylor Dever and Andrew Nuss for the top slot at right tackle.

 Kelly said that Lombard and Nichols benefited from the increased practice time with Wenger and Romine out.

 “[Christian] Lombard and Tate [Nichols], better get to know their names because they’re really good football players,” Kelly said. “They’re true freshmen. They’re learning every day. We’re going to play the best guys. If they end up being the best guys, and they’re two freshmen out there, that’s the way it is.”

 Finally, Kelly reiterated his plan for turning Notre Dame into a winning program.

 “The first thing is you got to stop losing,” he said. “I look for all those things that can keep you from winning because I know how to win and I know what the things are that needed to be put in place here. Our players right now have cut out a lot of the losing things. To me, that’s how you win.”

 Ultimately, his main goal is continued improvement.

 “At the end of the day, I want our football team to be better in November

than they are in September. If they are better in November than they are in September, I’ll be pretty happy.”