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Football: Speeding up

Sam Werner | Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the bright side for Irish fans, Tate Forcier won’t be lining up at quarterback for Michigan on Saturday. The bad news is that the Wolverines’ new signal-caller, Denard Robinson, could represent even more of an offensive threat.

The challenge for Irish coach Brian Kelly this week is finding a scout team player that can best replicate Robinson’s unique blend of speed and athleticism, clearly a daunting task.

“You know, I don’t know that you ever can prepare for Denard Robinson at the same speed that he plays,” Kelly said in his Tuesday press conference. “But we’ve got a couple of people that we think can help us out with that.”

While the Irish faced a mobile quarterback in Purdue’s Robert Marve in the opener, Kelly noted that Robinson would be a different test, both skill-wise and schematically.

“It’s a different team,” he said. “[Michigan’s] setting up the run obviously for [Robinson]. You’re running quarterback iso. We didn’t have any of that with Marve.”

Kelly did note that Michigan’s scheme could be similar to the plays Purdue ran when backup quarterback Rob Henry entered the game for the Boilermakers. Henry ran a primarily read-option system and rushed for 16 yards on three carries.

In order to counter the quick Michigan offense, Kelly said his players needed to continue to “play fast.” After the Purdue game, Kelly criticized national media outlets for deeming the Irish defense too slow.

Specifically, Kelly pointed to senior outside linebacker Kerry Neal as a player who “plays fast,” but said that it was important that the Irish had speed at every position.

“Whether it’s Kerry Neal or any of the other 10 players that are on the field, if you’re somebody that can’t react and can’t play fast, then you struggle playing on the field for us,” Kelly said.

Kelly, though, also pointed to potential areas of improvement for the Irish.

“We’re going to have to execute better,” he said. “Clearly execution is something that we’re concerned about. We have to execute on a better level, and we have to be assignment-correct.”

More assignment football will likely mean fewer blitzes on defense. Last year, Notre Dame blitzed the Wolverines heavily, often leaving the defense exposed on several key plays. Kelly said that Michigan’s offensive style was not a good matchup for a blitz-heavy defense.

“You wouldn’t think blitzing would be the first call of duty when you play a team like this,” he said.

Despite the fact that fans on both sides may be more pumped up for Saturday’s game, Kelly said that he looked at rivalry games just like any others.

“I’ve never prepared football teams in a manner that we focus on a particular rivalry put all the eggs in one basket,” he said. “I try to keep a steady enthusiastic approach to every game.”


uKelly said that linebackers Prince Shembo and Darius Fleming, who left Saturday’s game with cramps were “fine.” Junior safety Jamoris Slaughter suffered an ankle injury against Purdue, and Kelly said the walking boot he’d been in since the injury would be removed Tuesday.

“I’m not ready to say he’s going to be 100 percent for Saturday,” Kelly said. “But some of the signs point toward someone who is making good progress.”

uKelly said the Irish could wear green jerseys when they face Army in Yankee Stadium this November because ” of the subway alums and what the green represents relative to our constituency, if you will, on the East Coast.”

He added, though, that he preferred the blue jerseys for games in Notre Dame Stadium.