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Football: Heading outdoors

Andrew Owens | Thursday, April 7, 2011

Notre Dame practiced outdoors Wednesday for the first time during the spring season, giving Irish coach Brian Kelly a different view of his squad as the 82nd annual Blue-Gold exhibition quickly approaches.

“You can stretch the field a lot further [when practicing outdoors],” Kelly said. “We can do some things in our passing game and defensively, just working on tracking the ball in the air. Having more space out there obviously allows us the freedom to not have to worry that every time a ball is in the air, someone is going to run into somebody.”

Kelly said he does not expect sophomore linebacker Manti Te’o, who underwent a knee scope in the offseason, to play in the Blue-Gold game April 16. Te’o, who recorded a team-high 133 tackles last season, has been participating in practice, but the coaching staff has been cautious because of the knee.

“[Te’o] took some seven-on-seven reps today,” Kelly said. “We want to develop him over the next five days where, if we wanted to play him, we certainly could in the spring game. I don’t think we will, but we want to develop that too.”

The development of junior running back Jonas Gray has caught Kelly’s attention recently. Due to the knee injury to freshman Cameron Roberson, Gray and sophomore Cierre Wood are the only two active running backs under scholarship.

“[Gray’s focus] is getting better,” Kelly said. “He did a nice job running today. You have to remind him every time — it’s not muscle memory yet for him. You still have to remind him, but it is getting closer.”

Despite competing in their first semester of practices at Notre Dame, linebacker Ishaq Williams and defensive end Aaron Lynch have already made an impact as early enrollees for the Irish.

“It has not been a situation where every time they are in there we say, ‘Let’s do this,’ Kelly said. “They can run our defense and certainly they are going to be able to do it in the fall … Both of those guys in the fall will be able to line up and compete, but we will only do it if they can play full speed and not have to think.”

Notre Dame hosts its annual Pro Day today before hitting the field for practice Friday morning.