New backs to play large roles against Cavaliers
Alex Carson | Friday, September 11, 2015
After junior running back Tarean Folston suffered a season-ending ACL injury Saturday against Texas, it was clear Notre Dame’s backfield would be shuffled more than the Irish staff had planned on earlier in the season.
While senior running back C.J. Prosise will assume the majority of the carries for No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, a pair of freshmen, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, spent this week adjusting to their new roles in the offense.
For Williams, who had seven fourth-quarter carries for 24 yards during the 38-3 win over Texas, Brian Kelly said it was a “pretty good” week of practice.
“I think he’ll have to be involved in the game plan,” the Irish head coach said. “[He’s] certainly not ready to handle everything, but we feel confident enough that we’ll get him in the game, and we think he’s got a chance to certainly help us in the rotation.”
Unlike Williams’ relatively-quiet debut, Adams made his mark last week, scoring near the end of the first and third quarter to become the first Irish freshman running back to rush for two scores in a game since Darius Walker did it in 2004.
Kelly, however, said Adams’ preparation was different this week, knowing the role he’ll have Saturday.
“I think he probably sees himself playing more, and because of that, he’s maybe thinking a little too much this week,” Kelly said. “ … I think he was a little better when he didn’t know that he didn’t know. But he’ll be fine.
“The best way I can put it is both freshmen are still learning and they’re young, and they’ll both have to play.”
Zaire’s head staying level
After a game in which he threw as many touchdown passes (three) as he did incompletions, junior quarterback Malik Zaire received significant praise nationwide, with many “experts” placing him on early-season Heisman watch lists. However, despite the performance and the nationwide buzz, Kelly said the quarterback didn’t change his demeanor in the build-up to Virginia.
“[There’s been] no appreciable change at all; great in the meetings all week,” Kelly said. “Just the same guy. I don’t expect any change in Malik regardless of whether it’s adversity or success. He’s been around here a long time in the sense he knows how to handle himself, he knows what to expect week in, week out.
“I know this: he won’t change in the way he prepares himself.”
Showtime trailer distracts
Prior to the season premiere of Showtime’s “A Season With Notre Dame Football,” a teaser clip showed Kelly saying senior offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley was unable to accept a captainship for the 2015 season. Thursday, Kelly said he preferred not to explain the clip, and expressed his regret it got out.
“That’s something between myself and our team,” Kelly said. “It’s unfortunate that clip got out.”
But despite Stanley’s inability to accept a captainship, Kelly praised his highly-rated senior’s leadership capabilities.
“Here’s what I would say: I can tell you that I have no problem with Ronnie representing our football team,” Kelly said. “His integrity and his character are not in question here, and I wouldn’t say that if we had something here that was such that I had to back away from him.
“ … He’s still a captain in our minds in terms of the way he handles himself on a daily basis.”
Michigan rivalry still on hold
When Kelly called into “The Rich Eisen Show” yesterday, he said the chances of Notre Dame resuming its series with Michigan were “trending up.” Thursday, however, Kelly said he “picked his spot” on the show with the Michigan alum, and highlighted the difficulties in working out a return to the on-again, off-again rivalry.
“What I was trying to say is that’s a game that we definitely want to get back on our schedule,” Kelly said. “ … It’s on our radar. Let’s put it that way. We’re looking at it.
“Now, there’s a lot of juggling that would have to go on. I think they’re locked in to the mid-2020s, and we would have to be creative with different games and such.”
Kelly later went on to note that, to his knowledge, no discussions had occurred between the two schools on the resumption of the series.