The Kelly Era of Notre Dame Begins: Spring Game Notes, Plus New Uniforms?

IsmailAnalyst IApril 27, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IN - DECEMBER 11: Notre Dame atheletic director Jack Swarbrick (R) greets Brian Kelly as he is introduced as the new football head coach at Notre Dame University on December 11, 2009 in South Bend, Indiana.  Kelly most recently led the University of Cincinnati to two consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances including a perfect 12-0 record this past season. (Photo by Frank Polich/Getty Images)
Frank Polich/Getty Images

It was nice to see the Irish back on the field for the first time since the UConn game. The weather wasn’t great, but the new Blue-Gold format made it about as enjoyable as an intrasquad scrimmage can be.

Brian Kelly

Kelly came out dressed in a navy blue rain jacket, visor and khakis with black shoes. No disrespect to Charlie Weis, but Kelly just looks like the prototypical college coach who is very active and well-dressed.

I’ve noticed that Kelly has quite a liking for visors, and I can’t say I’m too excited about that. Even though the visor he wore was a nice, it doesn’t sit right with me. Certain coaches like Spurrier and Stoops can pull it off, but I just don’t like it.

Can you imagine Lou Holtz with a visor? I hope that Kelly dresses in some nice gear, because I miss the days when Holtz would prowl the sidelines in a beautiful blue sweater and baseball cap.

New Uniforms?

A few of the Irish came out during the spring game dressed in the new Adidas Power-Web pants. It’s not something I really like (what’s the point?), but I will say that it does give the pants a bit of a darker hue and more in line with the old gold color of decades past.

There hasn’t been any official announcement yet, but it is highly likely that Notre Dame will be wearing new uniforms next season. This comes from the uniform aesthetic website Uniwatchblog.com and James Laky who was on campus last weekend:

“This past weekend they had a raffle for the new jerseys they will be wearing this season. Nothing major changed, but the main difference is they have ND on the sleeves again instead of TV numbers. And the ND is different from the past—it has a white background and the font looks a little different. They also have an ND on the back now, near the collar.”

Personally, if this is to be believed, then I am super excited to see the interlocking “ND” come back to the sleeves. But what is the deal with a white background? Does that mean we’ll be seeing a gold logo?

It will be interesting to see what they look like, but I’m happy the TV numbers are supposedly gone, although the logo on the back has me a little worried. But we definitely need more details than this. What is on the front collar? Is there any word on green uniforms?

Actioncam

The live feed of the game on und.com featured a new camera called Actioncam, which is basically the overhead camera you see in most NFL and big college games.

Let’s hope using the camera continues next season, because any way to improve the NBC broadcast is a no-brainer.

Now, if they would only choose new announcers.

Running Backs

I’m not sure just how well junior Jonas Gray and sophomore Cierre Wood have been practicing during the spring, but both of their stocks shot through the roof after the Blue-Gold game.

Both Gray and Wood scored on gorgeous long touchdowns during the game and also looked extremely dangerous in the run and passing game.

There was a lot of hype for Wood when he came to Notre Dame, but we haven’t been sure how good this kid is since he didn’t play as a freshman. Now, he looks like the type of home-run-hitting running back that Notre Dame has sorely lacked over the years.

Wood has great speed, and he hits the holes quickly and breaks into top speed in no time. He definitely seems like the type of player who could carry the ball 80 or 90 times this season, rack up 600 yards, and score half-a-dozen touchdowns.

I never gave up on Gray last year either, and I was surprised at how little playing time he received. His touchdown run would have been on plays of the week had it been in a real game, and Gray has an incredible balance of power and speed. He will contribute to the team and add to the depth at tailback.

I thought it was interesting that both young guys broke long runs but Armando Allen was unable to. Allen certainly looked good, but he continues to struggle getting to the next level. I could definitely see Kelly rotating the running backs fairly often next year, because I can’t see him keeping Wood and Gray off the field that much.

I don’t envision Robert Hughes getting many carries next season, although it will be interesting to see how much Kelly utilizes him in short yardage situations. I think it is painfully obvious that Hughes just doesn’t have the speed and is not a good fit for the spread system. He had a couple nice runs in the spring game, but I think Kelly has to stick to his big guns at half back.

Quarterback

I thought Dayne Crist looked very solid in the game, and Nate Montana impressed me a little bit. I have no doubts that Crist is going to be a big leader and the engine behind the offense in the fall. Montana doesn’t have a great arm and I was skeptical about him being a serviceable backup, but after the game I think he could run the offense with some success. Never count out a Montana I guess.

Rees seems like an interesting prospect, but we didn’t get to see him that much in the Blue-Gold game. He has an awkward and short delivery and will probably be a long term project for coach Kelly. The staff has to be excited to see what Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa can prove in a few months.

Tight Ends

I think Kyle Rudolph is ready to take off and have a stellar junior year in the fall. He looked very good for someone coming off shoulder surgery, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s knocking on 1,000 yards receiving by season’s end.

Early in the spring game, Crist looked to Rudolph on many occasions and was able to connect on some fine pitch and catch plays. On the other side, Montana hooked up with backup tight end Mike Ragone on numerous plays, and the tight end caught a touchdown pass as well. Ragone could definitely be a solid option behind Rudolph.

Tight end is definitely going to be an advantage next year especially with Bobby Burger’s blocking ability and the general tendency for Kelly to keep Rudolph split out wide in the passing game.

Wide Receivers

The only receiver absent from the play was John Goodman, who was held without a catch, but most everyone else made some plays. Michael Floyd took a reverse for a big gain on the game’s first play and also caught two balls. Duval Kamara looked solid, but I’m still not sold that he’ll hold down a starting job next season.

Roby Toma only had one short catch, but looked pretty impressive in blocking, especially given his size. It was nice to see Shaquelle Evans and Deion Walker make a couple plays, and I believe both of these guys will make an impact under Kelly.

Theo Riddick caught a nice touchdown pass from Montana, but he is still a work in progress. Kelly will probably run a lot of bubble screens for the sophomore, but we may have to wait a while until he is a legitimate threat down field in the passing game.

Today was a small coming out party for freshman Tai-ler Jones, a guy who I think is something special. Not only is he highly skilled, but he seems incredibly mature and polished for someone who should still be in high school.

Don’t be shocked if Jones is starting in the slot against Purdue and gets some freshman All-American praise at the end of the year. He is that good.

Offensive Line

With the defense playing a bit soft for the Blue-Gold game, it is difficult to rate the line’s play on both sides of the ball. But I thought the line looked fairly decent in protection (which they should given the circumstances) and showed good finesse and mobility, especially the guards that pulled.

I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised with the offensive line’s performance next year. They won’t be perfect, but I think the new coaching staff and the spread system has each player better prepared and focused on the goals they want to achieve.

It should also help the line that Notre Dame should have a fairly well balanced offense, even if Kelly’s system is somewhat pass happy.

Defensive Line

The D-line played decent in the spring game, but there was nothing to get too excited about. One player who stuck out to me was Tyler Stockton, a player some people have kind of forgot about since he came to school a year ago.

Stockton is very big and physical and could be a disruptive force at the nose tackle position. If he lives up to this potential, the defensive line could be much better and allow Kelly to rotate him with Ian Williams to keep them both fresh.

We’ll have to wait until the opener to see what the defensive ends can do and how much pressure they can apply to opposing quarterbacks, because there was no aggressive play from them in the Blue-Gold scrimmage. However, the defensive line as a whole was getting good pressure up the middle which is an encouraging sign.

Linebackers

The players that I think should be the starting four looked pretty impressive in the scrimmage. Anthony McDonald could be a solid run stopper in the middle and someone who should play quality fundamental football. Manti Te’o was once again all over the place and is on his way to becoming an All-American.

Both Darius Fleming and Steve Filer, especially, played well and could be big time play-makers on the outside in the fall. Brian Smith didn’t stand out, and I’m still skeptical about what he’ll be able to offer or if he will hold down a starting spot.

Secondary

With the amount of passing yards piled up by Crist and Montana, I can’t say that the secondary looked even remotely impressive, but that was to be expected.

I still like having Walls, Gray and Blanton as a starting corner unit, but time will tell if they can step up and become members of a tough defense.

I thought the youngsters at safety looked capable, and it’s nice to see them not playing horribly so early in their careers. Harrison Smith had a strong spring game and made numerous strong tackles. Hopefully he becomes an anchor in the secondary and puts last year behind him.

Jamoris Slaughter continues to get better and will be a strong candidate to start in the fall, while Zeke Motta had a terrible and forgettable day on the field. Motta missed numerous tackles, took bad angles and got turned around in coverage several times. Kelly has to get Motta back on track in order to create quality depth at safety.

Special Teams

There was no return game and the punting and kicking was good news/bad news. Ben Turk unloaded some monster punts, which was one of the more promising sights of the day, but the field goal and extra points were shaky and poor.

I’ll stick to the point that there is nobody on the roster that has the consistency and ice in his veins like Nick Tausch, and he will most likely attempt all of the field goals in the fall.

It is now a little over four more months until the Fighting Irish open up the season against Purdue.

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