Kelly discusses competitions at linebacker, quarterback
Alex Carson | Monday, March 30, 2015
When Notre Dame takes the field in September, it will have three middle linebackers — sophomore Nyles Morgan and graduate students Jarrett Grace and Joe Schmidt — who could stake a claim on the starting position.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly indicated Saturday that all three are in his plans at the position for 2015.
“I don’t think we’re just gonna say, ‘This is your job, you go take it, and you’re the only guy,’” Kelly said. “You’re going to have a committee of players there that are going to help and give us great depth at the position.”
Grace, who missed the entire 2014 season after breaking his leg against Arizona State on Oct. 5, 2013, is close to being fully recovered and might come back better than before, Kelly said.
“He could be better [than 2013]. He could be,” Kelly said. “Monday, we’re going to go easy on him; Wednesday, we’re going to turn him loose in the full live scrimmage.”
Kelly said he also is pleased with Morgan’s determination to get on the field.
“I just love the kid, he’ll do anything to get back on the field,” Kelly said. “He loves the game of football. He loves it. He has a passion for the game and continues to learn.
“ … But Jarrett Grace and Joe Schmidt are smart football players too, so we’re going to have a really good problem there with the number of players that can help us.”
As has been the case all spring, Kelly said neither graduate student Everett Golson nor junior Malik Zaire were seeing more first-team snaps in the quarterback competition.
“There’s a clear rotation. It’s 50-50,” Kelly said. “Everett was with the first group [Saturday], Malik started [Friday]. It’s been balanced. So they’re splitting reps with the first team, and they will continue to do that for the spring.
“We flip them in our practice itself. They’ll rotate. For example, if we go seven-on-seven, they’ll alternate reps. They’ll both get first-team reps and second-team reps.”
Kelly said he was not concerned about the way Zaire was approaching the competition.
“ … Whatever way [Zaire] sees it and whatever way he processes it in his own mind, I’m not really that interested in how that works for him, other than — we’ve got two guys that can go out there and compete every single day to be the best player they can be,” he said. “And it’s our job to compare them, to coach them, to teach them. And I think he knows it’s an incredibly competitive situation every day.”
Earning Kelly’s trust
Amongst some of the younger players trying to move into the fold in 2015, freshman defensive lineman Jerry Tillery — who practiced with the first-team group at times Saturday — has stood out as worthy of Kelly’s trust, he said.
“Everyone else is in the process of doing that,” Kelly said. “[Sophomore offensive linemen] Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson, they’re in the process of doing that. [Freshman linebacker] Te’von Coney is in the process of doing that.”
Bars and Nelson are currently in a battle for the starting spot at left guard. While Kelly said he is impressed with both players, he would not expect either of them to move to a different position on the line in order to start them both.
“I would say they’re competing for one spot there, would be my feeling right now,” Kelly said. “That could change possibly, but that’s my feeling right now.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Andrew Trumbetti (virus) and junior receiver Corey Robinson (concussion) both sat out Saturday’s practice, but Kelly said both should be back soon.
“Trumbetti still has that virus, he’s really close,” Kelly said. “I would say he probably gets cleared to do some activities [this] week. Corey Robinson had his physical today, passed his AXON test, so he’s probably going to get some work in [this] week.
“I think those were the last two guys that were out. They should get cleared by [this] week and we should have everybody, at least in some form, in practice on Wednesday, knock on wood. That’s pretty good for spring ball.”