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Spring game to be held at LaBar, Kelly gives injury updates

| Tuesday, March 3, 2015

An annual spring tradition for Notre Dame students and fans will be a little more exclusive this year.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly announced at a press conference Monday that the 86th Blue-Gold Game will be held at LaBar Practice Complex, the team’s outdoor practice fields, on April 18.

Ongoing construction on Campus Crossroads forced the Irish to select a different venue for the game than its usual site at Notre Dame Stadium.

Because LaBar normally contains just a few metal bench structures, Kelly said Notre Dame is currently figuring out where to put spectators.

“We’re in the process of bidding out temporary seating right now,” he said. “We’ve got a couple companies that I think we’re involved in right now, putting together bids for that. So we’ll have temporary seating in there.”

A Notre Dame spokesman said that, with temporary seating, the facility can hold only about 2,500 to 3,000 people, so the scrimmage will likely be invitation-only and not open to the public. Last year’s matchup brought in 27,986 fans.

Kelly said that might not be the only difference between this year’s spring game and those in past years.

“We don’t know whether we’ll have a partner for that relative to NBC,” he said. “That’s still being negotiated right now.”


Injury updates

Kelly said senior linebacker Joe Schmidt, who missed the last five games of the season after breaking and dislocating his ankle against Navy on Nov. 1, is “making progress.”

“[He’s] moving straight ahead, starting to move a little bit,” he said.

Fellow senior linebacker Jarrett Grace, who sat out the entire 2014 campaign with a tibia fracture, is “looking great” and keeping up with healthy teammates, Kelly said.

“As a matter of fact, we had a morning workout where I showed some clips,” he said. “He beat [junior linebacker] Jaylon Smith in a couple of cone drills.”

The head coach noted senior safety Nicky Baratti had full clearance to participate in spring practices after missing the final 10 contests of last season with a shoulder injury.

“He’s going to go,” Kelly said. “[He’s] doing everything, is in the weight room.”

Senior defensive lineman Jarron Jones’ progress, however, is not as clear as that of the other players, as Jones is still hampered by a Nov. 22 Lisfranc injury.

“He’s got those screws, and they protrude a little bit,” Kelly said. “He’s going to have to get those screws out. We’ll probably do that after break, then I think you’ll see some progress. But nothing that we’re concerned about.”


Coaching shuffle not done

Though Kelly announced Monday the hiring of four new assistant coaches — offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mike Sanford Jr., running backs coach Autry Denson, defensive backs coach Todd Lyght and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore — the head coach indicated he was not done filling in positions on his staff.

“We going to hire three more analysts — one on offense, one on defense and one on special teams,” Kelly said. “It’s going through HR right now.”

Kelly said these staff members would serve more of a quality-control role than an on-field coaching role.

“They can assist in meetings, be a part of film study,” he said. “They can be given a specific responsibility of film breakdown — ‘Hey, you’re responsible for all the third-down-and-long fronts, all the blitzes in the red zone.’ They can have a particular responsibility and oversight.”


Memories of Hesburgh

Kelly said he met University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore “Ted” Hesburgh, who died last Thursday at age 97, during Kelly’s first year coaching at Notre Dame. The two sparked up a conversation about former Irish head coach Frank Leahy before Hesburgh gave him a piece of coaching advice.

“He finished it off by saying, ‘Coach, I don’t follow the game, and I don’t see quite as well as I used to, but I still know that speed wins,’” Kelly said. “For all of that, for all that he was involved in, he still knew enough about the game to talk about speed in the game. I just thought it was so insightful for someone at that age, 92, to say, ‘Coach, keep recruiting speed.’”

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