Kelly talks investigation, captains, Alma Mater and injuries
Mike Monaco | Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell, senior receiver DaVaris Daniels, senior defensive end Ishaq Williams and graduate student linebacker Kendall Moore are out for this weekend’s season opener against Rice, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.
Kelly, who held his weekly press conference in the Isban Auditorium at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, said he has received “zero” updates on the University’s ongoing academic investigation that has held the foursome out of practice and competition.
“It really has not been an issue for a moment with our football team other than that they care about their teammates,” Kelly said about the mindset of the rest of the team.
Kelly said he has not felt “out of the loop” or “blindsided” at any time during the investigation.
“I think the information that was ascertained in this matter was pretty straightforward,” Kelly said. “It was quick. Once they were able to confirm the information, [Notre Dame Director of Athletics] Jack [Swarbrick] let me know. At no time did I feel that.”
If some or all of the players were to be cleared in the midst of a game week — say, Wednesday — Kelly said it would be tough to say if the players would be available to play just days later.
“Hypothetically I would say that’s a doable situation, but we’ll have to see,” he said.
Four captains named
Irish head coach Brian Kelly announced Notre Dame’s 2014 captains Tuesday evening via his Twitter account.
Irish graduate student safety Austin Collinsworth, junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day, senior center Nick Martin and senior running back Cam McDaniel will serve as the team’s captains this season.
During his weekly press conference Tuesday, Kelly said the Irish were still in the process of deciding and would likely have it “wrapped up” within the next 24 hours.
Left tackle Zack Martin, cornerback Bennett Jackson and receiver TJ Jones were the 2013 captains. Linebacker Manti Te’o, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, Martin and tight end Tyler Eifert captained the squad in 2012. In 2011, safety Harrison Smith served as Notre Dame’s lone captain. Notre Dame used captains on a game-by-game basis during the 2010 season, Kelly’s first year in South Bend.
Collinsworth played in 13 games (making 11 starts) in 2013, following a lost 2012 season due to a shoulder injury suffered during spring practice. The Fort Thomas, Ky., native logged time in all 26 games during his first two seasons in South Bend.
The lone junior of the captains, Day stepped into a starting role in 2013 but battled an ankle injury, making eight starts. As a freshman, Day played in all 13 games and tallied 23 tackles.
Nick Martin started the first 11 games last season at center before missing the final two with a knee injury. His older brother, Zack Martin, was one of 18 two-time captains in Irish program history.
McDaniel led Notre Dame in carries (152) and rushing yards (705) last season and is expected to be part of a three-pronged attack along with sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston.
Change in Alma Mater policy
Kelly confirmed Notre Dame has changed its Alma Mater policy, saying the Irish will remain on the field at Notre Dame Stadium and sing regardless of the game’s outcome.
“I brought it to the players just like I brought it to the players last year,” Kelly said. “We have a Unity Council. I addressed it to our players last year at the Unity Council. We decided as a team that that’s not what we wanted to do. This year we brought it back up to the Unity Council and they voted that that’s something that they wanted to do.
“So I’m all for what my team wants to do. We’ll make that work.”
Last season, Swarbrick wrote a letter to The Observer explaining the football team only sings the Alma Mater after victories at home. Swarbrick’s letter was written in response to the post-game confusion surrounding the policy after Notre Dame’s 35-21 loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 28.
Senior linebacker Jarrett Grace (leg) is out for Saturday’s game, according to Kelly.
“I think we’re making the kind of progress that we were hopeful for with Jarrett Grace,” Kelly said. “I think it’s a little better every day.”
Sophomore receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (groin) is “ahead of schedule,” Kelly said, though Hunter Jr. will miss Saturday’s game. Hunter Jr. may do some running next week, in which case Notre Dame would evaluate where things stand during Purdue week, per Kelly.
With Hunter Jr. out of the mix for the time being, freshman receiver Justin Brent has ascended into the two-deep. Kelly praised Brent’s physical traits but said the rookie is likely just keeping the “seat warm” until Hunter Jr. is fully healthy.
Sophomore receiver Corey Robinson had a pin placed in his fractured thumb Friday and returned to practice Monday, Kelly said. Robinson is “a go” for Saturday, per Kelly.