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Kelly talks safeties, improvement to run game, Kizer’s development

| Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Senior running back C.J. Prosise runs through a hole in Notre Dame’s victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday on his way to 198 rushing yards.Emmet Farnan
Senior running back C.J. Prosise runs through a hole in Notre Dame’s victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday on his way to 198 rushing yards.

Though he didn’t see the field in last week’s win against Georgia Tech, junior safety Max Redfield should be ready to go for Saturday’s game against Massachusetts, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in his Tuesday press conference.

Redfield broke his thumb in the season opener against Texas and struggled with tackling with a cast on his hand the next week against Virginia, starting both those games alongside senior Elijah Shumate. Sophomore Drue Tranquill took Redfield’s starting spot against Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense but later suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

“A lot of that was predicated on his ability to tackle with his hand,” Kelly said of Redfield. “He feels really good and confident that he can do that. We believe that that’s going to be the case.

“We’ll test him a little bit this week. We’ll make sure that he tackles. But all indications are that he’s going to be able to play at the level that he played with at Texas and he did at the end of last year. So if he does, we’re a pretty good football team with him back there.”

Kelly said Notre Dame has moved freshman safety Mykelti Williams up from the scout team for practice this week in response to Tranquill’s injury.

“I think we are still kind of evolving there,” Kelly said of the safety position. “ … [senior] Nicky Baratti is going to have to play more of a role. And Mykelti Williams, we’ll bring up to our defensive team and get him some reps and some work, as well. And then there’s still some other thoughts as to some other players that we’ll work into some different roles.”

Tranquill’s absence brings Notre Dame’s season-ending-injury count up to six players. Kelly said his team’s depth has allowed it to remain undefeated three games into the season despite those setbacks to its starting roster.

“I don’t know if we’d have been able to do some of the things that we are doing with the number of injuries that we have currently had back in 2012 — matter of fact, I’m certain we wouldn’t have,” Kelly said. “We still have a long way to go. We have a lot of games, a lot of big games. We’re going to have some more injuries.

“ … Those comments reflect probably more about the depth of our team and the ability to continue to move forward and continue to win. So I think that that’s probably the crux of it, was depth and quality depth that allows you to continue to win.”


Run game development

For the first time since 1996, the Irish offense has run for 200 yards in each of its first three games. Leading that attack is senior running back C.J. Prosise, who stepped into the starting role after junior Tarean Folston’s ACL injury.

While Prosise has carried the bulk of the load for Notre Dame, Kelly said he hopes to bring freshmen running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams along at a quicker pace in practice this week for game play.

“We’re going to get there, and we need to accelerate it because C.J. is getting a ton of carries, and we certainly can’t afford to lose him. He’s a horse right now,” Kelly said. “But those guys need to continue to learn during the week so we can get them in. We want to get them in the game but we can’t afford to have key mistakes during the game, as well, and we had some key mistakes, especially in the red zone that we’ve got to clean up, and we clean them up during the week.”

Incorporating junior Mike McGlinchey and sophomore Quenton Nelson into the starting offensive line helps the run game by adding a new element, Kelly said.

“They bring a nasty attitude and a toughness to that group, where you’re now met with [junior Steve] Elmer, [graduate student Nick] Martin and [senior] Ronnie [Stanley], that have a lot of game experience,” Kelly said. “You have two tough guys now that kind of mold that group into an experienced and tough group.

“So I think they bring a lot to the group. The brains of the operation is still in those veterans. It’s still in those three guys that have played a lot, and they kind of set the tone for the group: the attention to detail, holding them to high standards. But there is now a toughness to that group that I think — those guys are hard workers and play hard and play tough.”


Correcting Kizer

While Kelly said he was impressed with the “big-picture stuff” in sophomore DeShone Kizer’s performance against Georgia Tech — throwing for 242 yards and a touchdown — the head coach said he’d like to see his quarterback work on more fundamentals in the next week, especially ball security.

Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer took the reins from Malik Zaire in his first start for the Irish, a 30-22 victory over Georgia Tech.Emma Farnan | The Observer
Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer took the reins from Malik Zaire in his first start for the Irish, a 30-22 victory over Georgia Tech.

“I was a little bit concerned with the ball being a little bit loose at times,” Kelly said. “Ball came out one time, a screen situation, where it was intentional grounding, but we’ve got to eat that. I think there was another time on a run where the ball came out at the end of a run.”

Kelly said he also wanted Kizer to tighten up his footwork, accuracy and cadence in practice. The head coach said Saturday he attributed Notre Dame’s four false starts against Georgia Tech to the team still getting used to Kizer’s longer cadence.


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Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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