Notre Dame held its official preseason media day on Thursday, which included an open practice as well as interview sessions with head coach Brian Kelly, assistant coaches and various players.
Kelly addressed various topics, including the naming of captains, a medical report and a recap of the first three weeks of fall camp. Notre Dame begins its 2013 season next Saturday at home against Temple. The full press conference can be heard here.
“I’m really pleased with the way our guys have focused on this year,” Kelly said. “That’s what we went to work on after the championship loss. We went to work on 2013 and not what happened in the past.”
While the biggest news of the past week was the retirement of linebacker Danny Spond due to migraine headaches, other less severe injuries have also taken their toll on the Irish, including one that is season-ending.
“[Defensive lineman] Tony Springmann is out for the season,” Kelly revealed. “He’ll have surgery. He had a dislocation that also had severe ligament damage. We think he’ll have a full recovery.”
The loss is a significant blow for the Fighting Irish at a position where depth is a concern after Eddie Vanderdoes did not enroll and Chase Hounshell re-injured his shoulder. Springmann’s absence likely means an additional freshman will be unable to redshirt.
“We’re going to have to push [true freshman] Isaac Rochell into action this year,” Kelly said.
Projected starting right tackle Ronnie Stanley was held out of Thursday’s practice after suffering a concussion but is expected to be fine by next Saturday.
“Ronnie was out with a concussion,” Kelly said. “He is on track to be back on Monday if all things continue to move in the right direction. He’s gone through his testing. We expect him to be back Monday."
Kelly also praised true freshman Steve Elmer, who has worked at various offensive line positions during camp and should see significant playing time this season.
“We like both [Stanley and Elmer] and they’re both really good. There are some younger players now that are physically able to compete at a high BCS level. That’s surprising.”
Kelly did not provide an update on sophomore running back Will Mahone, who missed the past week of practice with a leg injury. His availability against Temple remains uncertain.
For the first time since Kelly’s initial season in South Bend, there is no quarterback competition. Senior Tommy Rees, who sports a 14-4 career record, will start against the Owls. However, other starting positions have less certainty. Kelly provided updates on the battles for various starting roles, including Spond’s replacement at "Dog" linebacker.
When you look at [Dog], there’s so much going on. Ben [Councell] has a lot of experience there. Jaylon [Smith] has done remarkably well in such a short period of time. If you want to play real physical, Ben suits that really well. If you want to play an open set, Jaylon has incredible athleticism to be able to play in space.
Councell, a junior, played sparingly last season after starting the first two games of the season while Spond was dealing with complications from migraines.
Smith, meanwhile, was the star signee of the 2013 class. While immediate playing time was never in doubt, Spond’s retirement has forced Smith into a co-starting role as a true freshman at minimum.
The kicking and punting situations are both a bit muddled. Kelly stressed that both the kicker and punter positions will be week-to-week decisions, but that junior Kyle Brindza has won kickoff duties.
Nick Tausch and Kyle Brindza are going to play against Temple. Nick’s numbers have been great. I didn’t bring Nick back (for a fifth year) not to give him the chance to win the job. Kyle’s been a bit distracted because we’ve asked him to put all his time and energy in punting. We’re going to give Nick the opportunity to kick. Kyle’s going to kick off.
Tausch did not attempt a kick on American soil last season. He was the placekicker for the 2012 opener against Navy in Ireland, but Brindza handled all kicking duties for the remainder of the Irish's run to the BCS Championship Game.
Notre Dame will again have full-season captains as opposed to individual game captains. Kelly revealed that the three captains for the season are senior wide receiver TJ Jones, fifth-year senior left tackle Zack Martin and senior cornerback Bennett Jackson. Martin is just the 18th player in Notre Dame history to be a two-time captain.
With classes at Notre Dame beginning next Tuesday, fall camp formally concludes this week, with the NCAA-mandated 20-hours-per-week limit of football activities taking effect once school begins.