USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame’s special teams have become a trite punch line surrounding the program.
Heck, even Kelly joked in the spring about trying sports information director Michael Bertsch as a punt returner.
Expect change in 2014.
The Irish coaching staff has spent time self-scouting and searching for answers throughout the offseason, and we started to see alterations during fall camp. For instance, during last Tuesday’s practice that was open to the media, Notre Dame deployed quicker athletes on the kick coverage team than had been seen in recent years.
There was Bryant, nimble linebacker James Onwualu, safety Drue Tranquill, slot receivers Amir Carlisle and C.J. Prosise, safety Elijah Shumate, defensive back Matthias Farley and McDaniel, among others, all taking reps as Kyle Brindza booted his kickoffs deep.
“Some of the research that we did was we wanted speed to the 30‑yard line,” Kelly said after practice. “Again, a lot of the people that we brought in and talked to, we had big thumpers on that crew, that search-and-destroy crew, that cover team, but we didn't have enough speed.”
In other areas, too, expect Notre Dame to be better. Carlisle will return kicks while Bryant and graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs will be the punt returners.
The Irish have given up too much field position in recent years. That will likely be rectified in 2014.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.