Brian Kelly says Kevin Stepherson to dress against Temple
Daniel O'Boyle | Friday, September 1, 2017
With less than 48 hours before Notre Dame’s season kicks off against Temple, the status of sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson remains unclear, as Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Stepherson will dress for Saturday’s game, but continued to avoid clarification on whether Stepherson will be suspended.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my players relative to their expectations,” Kelly said. “They have to meet expectations, everybody’s under the same guidelines, but he’s working on it and he’s getting better.”
Stepherson has appeared mostly with Notre Dame’s third team offense during practices this offseason, despite being second among returning Irish players in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Kelly initially put the sophomore’s reduced role down to a hamstring injury and the Irish depth at his position, but was asked whether Stepherson was suspended on August 24th, and declined to give an answer.
If the Irish kick off first against Temple, junior kicker Justin Yoon will be the player who gets the Irish season underway. Freshman kicker Jonathan Doerer was initially expected to handle Notre Dame’s kickoff duties, but Kelly announced that it will be Yoon kicking off instead,with Doerer set to take over later in the season.
“He’s a little tired,” Kelly said. “He hit the wall a little bit. He will eventually take that duty over, he has a big leg, but he’s a little tired. We’re going to hold off the grand opening and let Justin do it. Justin’s hitting the ball very well.”
On Aug. 29th, the NCAA denied immediate eligibility for sophomore safety Alohi Gilman, meaning he is currently set to sit out the 2017 season. Kelly said Notre Dame has filed an appeal of the NCAA’s decision in the hopes that he can make an impact for the Irish this year, but there is currently no timetable for a response.
“We have filed an appeal of Alohi’s denial,” Kelly said. “We feel like it warranted an appeal and we have filed the appropriate paperwork. They gave us a sense of how they put the committee together and we don’t believe it will take a long time to hear back.”
The Irish enter the season with a relatively clean bill of health, with junior defensive tackle Elijah Taylor’s lisfranc fracture suffered in March one of the only injuries for Notre Dame this offseason. Kelly said that not only has his team’s health been impressive this offseason, but their overall preparation has been too.
“It’s the healthiest preseason I’ve ever had,” Kelly said. “The preparation is as good as I’ve had as a head coach in all facets. That’s why I’m excited and really looking forward to watching this group play.”
“I think if we look at everything, we’ve done some things, we made some substantial changes in the weight room and they weren’t necessarily personnel driven, they were philosophically driven in order to advance ourselves with a combination between art and science. I think that in terms of the science, that’s really helped us in that preparation. And then splitting the technical with the tactical. There’s a time to work on the technique and there’s a time to work on the game-planning. Our players know when we’re working on gameplan and when we’re working on technique. All of that together has made that our most prepared offseason I’ve ever had here.”
Kelly had praise for junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush going into his first start for the Irish.
“Everything he does is extremely intentional,” Wimbush said. “There’s no wasted movement, there’s no fluff about him. What he says he means, what he does is intentional. If he goes up and shakes your hand, he means it; if he watches film, he’s intentional about that. That’s a joy as a coach. You want to spend time with somebody who’s that passionate about what he does. As it relates to our guys, I think if there’s any flaws there, sometimes you’ve got to be that bad guy, and he’s got really good at that and at holding them accountable, telling them where to go and what to be. I think that’s where the growth is with Brandon.”
The Irish will hope to see an immediate impact this season from its freshman class, rated the 13th-best recruiting class in the country by Rivals.com. However, Kelly said he planned to avoid leaning too heavily on his younger players.
“We can’t rely on freshmen to have such a substantial role that we would be unprepared if there was a time where we would have to help them out,” Kelly said. “It’s foolish to think that their volume is going to be something they can sustain over a heavy, heavy workload, but we’re prepared for that.”