SOUTH BEND — On a day when Brian Kelly continually flashed his poker
face on the quarterback question, the biggest news to come out of his
start-of-camp press conference may have been who the new third-string
That would be KeiVarae Russell, a 5-11, 182-pound freshman from
Everett, Wash., who was recruited to Notre Dame as a running back.
That Russell finds himself bolstering the thinnest and most-suspect
position group on the Irish football team is much less surprising than
the fact he changed his uniform number from 8 to 6, and that he gained
five pounds and got one inch shorter since national signing day in
“We’ve got players over there on scholarship that we expect to
contribute and make it a very competitive situation,” Kelly said of
the team’s now six cornerbacks.
As far as the team’s four quarterbacks — three of whom are in the
running to start the season opener Sept. 1 against Navy in Dublin,
Ireland — probably the most revealing answer to a staccato stream of
pleas for clarification Friday is that the team will build more
11-on-11 drills into practice to try to create separation among junior
Andrew Hendrix, sophomore Everett Golson and freshman Gunner Kiel.
Junior Tommy Rees, ND’s starter in 16 of the past 17 games, will watch
the game from South Bend, the result of a one-game suspension Kelly
handed down in connection with Rees’ May 3 arrest. Senior linebacker
Carlo Calabrese, arrested after the same off-campus party, also was
suspended for the opener.
Beyond that, it remains shades of gray where the QBs are concerned
heading into the first practice of fall training camp, Saturday
morning at 10.
“I was around here a lot and saw a focused group of players at that
position, a group that was doing a lot of film study on their own,”
Kelly said when asked about what he gleaned from his quarterbacks’
routines this summer. “Just a group of guys that know that’s a
position that requires a great deal of attention to detail.
“We feel going into practice tomorrow that all of those guys have put
in the time, the necessary time, to be the quarterback here at Notre
In other words, Kelly isn’t going to let the media or anyone else box
him into a range of possible outcomes.
Is there a timetable for a decision?
“Honestly, I would tell you it’s going to take some practices for us
to even get the reps to separate,” Kelly said. “So for me to have a
date in mind ... I mean, ideally we’d like to in a week’s time say,
‘All right, here’s your quarterback.’
“That’s what everybody would want to do, because then you get the
continuity with your offense. We just have to take this one practice
at a time before we get into those specifics.”
What areas of Andrew Hendrix’s game does he need to work on in order
to win the starting job, and the same question with Golson?
“I think you could add all the quarterbacks, if you really want to get
into it,” Kelly said.
Might two quarterbacks see action against Navy?
“I don’t know that we’ve taken anything off the table relative to the
quarterback position,” Kelly said.
A factor in quarterback play in 2012 not to be overlooked, whoever
ends up at the top of the depth chart, is the anointment of former
Irish safeties coach Chuck Martin as ND’s quarterbacks coach and
It isn’t so much the nuances of footwork that Martin brings. It’s
knowledge of defenses and knowing how to attack them. After succeeding
Kelly as head coach at Division II power Grand Valley State in 2004,
Martin moved over from the defensive side of the ball for the first
time and choreographed offense.
Brian Kelly’s old offense.
In six seasons (2004-09), which included a .914 winning percentage and
two national titles, Martin’s offenses averaged 426.5 yards and 35.1
points a game. And Grand Valley was on the positive side of its
turnover margin all six seasons, including top six finishes nationally
(among 148 D-II teams) in that category.
“My job is to run the day-to-day operations and make it look like the
way (Kelly) wants it to look,” Martin said in an interview earlier
“I don’t need a lot of hand-holding. I don’t need to run and ask him a
question. If it’s a decision that needs to be made, I’ll make the
decision. If he wants to change it on the fly, we can do that at any
time. We’re pretty adaptable.”
Kelly, too, wants to adapt. Specific ally, Martin said Kelly wants to
get back to his roots — clear as much of his schedule as possible
while still being the face of Notre Dame and get back to being the
guts of the quarterback position.
“He’s always been in charge of it, and he’s still in charge of it
here,” Martin said. “But it’s harder. He needs to be in the trenches,
and I’m not sure it’s been that way his first two years here.
“It’s not Central Michigan or Cincinnati anymore, so his time away
from the trenches is more than it’s ever been. He’s always been the
most hands-on coach in America. And to me that’s been the biggest
disconnect here. He needs to work in the trenches to make it go to the
level he wants it to go to. To me, that’s been the biggest thing.”
Personnel matters Kelly said Friday that safety Austin Collinsworth (shoulder
surgery) is the only player who has been ruled out of participating in
fall camp. Collinsworth’s return is expected to be October at the
The only player that will be limited is expected to be backup wide
receiver Luke Massa (knee).
With Calabrese suspended for the Navy game, Kelly said he will
have middle linebacker backups Jarrett Grace and Kendall Moore take
reps at the weakside linebacker position to back up starter Dan Fox.
Walk-on Joe Schmidt is Kelly’s only other option.
On Thursday night’s Weekday SportsBeat radio show, Kelly was asked
about the possibility of FieldTurf coming to Notre Dame Stadium, and
here was his response:
“FieldTurf is coming. It’s something that’s eventually going to be in
the stadium. We had a lot of construction in there this year, which
kind of put us back a little bit, but that’s coming.”
On Friday, he revisited his quote:
“Yeah, I want to go back on that one a little bit and add one word. I
said, ‘FieldTurf is coming.’ I want to say, ‘I hope field turf
“As you all know — and I’ve said this a million times — that is above
my pay grade. I’m not the one who is rolling out the turf. I know you
guys know that.
“So certainly (athletic director) Jack Swarbrick, that is his domain.
I do not want to do Jack’s job. I’ve got enough to do with my own. But
I think I’ve made it clear to all of you that I hope that’s where we
go, but that is clearly not my decision.”
A trio of Notre Dame committed recruits plan to visit campus on
Saturday for the team’s opening practice — tight end Mike Heuerman,
wide receiver James Onwualu, and linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Heuerman and Onwualu told the South Bend Tribune they’d likely be
arriving on campus early Saturday morning. Smith tweeted that he was
headed to campus on Saturday after his practice in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Also, expected on campus is 2013 wide receiver target Will Fuller from
Philadelphia. 247Sports.com reported Fuller, a three-star Penn State
commit who was offered by Notre Dame after NCAA sanctions were put on
the school, would be making an unofficial visit to Notre Dame on
Saturday. The 6-foot, 165-pound Fuller is ranked as the No. 71 wide
receiver in the country in his class by 247Sports. Rivals.com ranks
him as the No. 55 wide receiver.
After visiting Penn State with a number of Nittany Lion commitments
last Saturday, Fuller tweeted that he was sticking with his commitment
to the Nittany Lions.
Staff writer Tyler James contributed to this story.