SOUTH BEND – Brian Kelly won't have to wait until the season starts to
discern how much depth the Notre Dame football team has.
One week into training camp, it's already being tested.
The third-year Irish head football coach confirmed Saturday that
junior tight end Alex Welch is out for the season with a torn anterior
cruciate ligament in his right knee. The injury occurred late in
Wednesday's practice that was open to the media.
Kelly also conceded junior drop linebacker Danny Spond is out
indefinitely with what was originally diagnosed as a concussion.
“We've been able to eliminate some things,” Kelly said of Spond's
condition. “First of all, he did not have a concussion. We exhausted a
number of different tests. He's come back clean on all of them. We're
going to do a little more work before we move any further with him
relative to contact and getting him on the field.
“I'm not trying to be evasive, but they've eliminated head injury as
well. So we can't give you a specific, because they've done so many
tests that have come back clean, but yet obviously there are still
some symptoms as well.”
There wasn't any guesswork with Welch's injury. And of the four
players who have fallen off the Irish roster since training camp
started on Aug. 4, the key backup from Cincinnati Elder figured to see
the most playing time this season.
Previously, running back Cam Roberson and offensive tackle Brad
Carrico were put on medical hardship status, while offensive tackle
Jordan Prestwood left Notre Dame for “personal reasons,” further
thinning the options at tackle.
At tight end, All-American Tyler Eifert is the established starter,
but Kelly plans to use multiple-tight end looks regularly this season,
and the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Welch was a big part of those designs.
Still, Kelly has experience in sophomore Ben Koyack (6-5, 253), huge
upside in converted outside linebacker Troy Niklas (6-7. 260) and a
safety net with senior Jake Golic (6-4, 245), so a position shuffle
isn't necessary at this time.
That is not the case at drop linebacker, where Kelly has already moved
freshman Romeo Okwara (6-4, 239) from the other outside linebacker
position (Cat) and freshman C.J. Prosise (6-2, 208) from a deep
reservoir of safeties.
“As you know, Prince (Shembo) can play there too,” Kelly said. “But we
feel comfortable with him at the Cat.”
Spond (6-2, 248) was competing with sophomore Ben Councell (6-5, 240)
for the starting spot at the drop linebacker position. And the latter
has been one of the standouts of fall camp. Okwara and Prosise were
both excelling at their original positions when the switches were
“Romeo is long, does a great job in coverage and C.J. is a very
athletic kid, very smart kid,” Kelly said of Councell's new backups.
Kelly warned Irish fans not to hold their breath waiting for the
announcement of a starting quarterback. Andrew Hendrix and Everett
Golson are embroiled in a battle to be No. 1.
Progress, though, is being made.
“Andrew and Everett have begun to display the skills necessary (to run
an offense),” Kelly said. “Not just physical skills, but the mental
skills to be the starter.
“Everett's (biggest improvement) would be pocket presence. His poise
in the pocket has been excellent. (Hendrix's) knowledge of how to
protect himself (has been his biggest stride forward). He's a guy that
really understands protections and where the ball needs to go; and the
What about freshman Gunner Kiel?
“If I did not have those other two kids, I would not be afraid to play
Gunner Kiel,” Kelly said. “He's got all the intangibles you're looking
Kelly still has no timetable for announcing a starter.
“We're still in the minor leagues, relative to installation,” Kelly said.
One week down
Irish players got to enjoy a little R&R after Saturday's practice.
The inaugural BK Cup golf tournament, featuring 18 foursomes (with
tight end Tyler Eifert likely the favorite) was being played near
Diamond Lake, in southwestern Michigan. Afterward, it was going to be
time for some fun on the lake with personal watercrafts and fishing.
Freshman wide receiver Justin Ferguson earned some laughs from
teammates on Twitter. Austin Collinsworth and Nicky Baratti documented
through tweets that Ferguson lost his fishing pole into the water on a
failed casting attempt.
“Going fishing for our break from camp this guy just tried to cast and
threw his whole pole in the water... #really?” Collinsworth tweeted.
Minutes later, Ferguson owned up to the embarrassment.
“Soo fishing isnt my thing..” Ferguson tweeted.
Sunday is scheduled for a day of meetings and work in the weight room.
Next week, twice-daily practices are slated for Monday, Wednesday and
Controversy is already swirling around Notre Dame's season-opener
against Navy in Ireland.
And, for once, it has nothing to do with cut (not to be confused with
chop) blocks or a two-point conversion Lou Holtz might have tried
while leading 47-21 late in the fourth quarter the last time these
teams met in Dublin.
The Irish American Football Association is planning on taking the U.S.
Naval Academy to Ireland's High Court, claiming that Navy, the home
team for this game, is refusing to comply with sanctioning conditions
for the game.
According to reports from Ireland, the conditions included providing a
flag football development program for Ireland's primary school
children, as well as other developmental agreements with a pricetag of
about 75,000 pounds.
Without having those conditions met, the IAFA wants the game to be
canceled. It doesn't consider that more than 33,000 people are
expected to come to Ireland from the U.S., making the sold-out game
worth more than $100 million to the country's economy.
The Naval Academy has issued a statement:
“The Emerald Isle Classic between Navy and Notre Dame will take place
as scheduled on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 2 p.m. (Dublin time) at Aviva
Stadium. It has been determined by the International Federation of
American Football (IFAF) that the Irish American Football Association
(IAFA) has no jurisdiction over this particular game and therefore no
sanction is required.”