Notre Dame spring practice a chance to prep inexperienced players

James Onwualu and Matthias Farley will play different positions beginning this spring.

Posted on Feb. 28, 2014 at 12:33 p.m.

NOTRE DAME — After a 9-4 campaign in 2013, Notre Dame football enters the spring as a team with heaps of untested, untapped potential.

"As I look at it, we're a talented football team but inexperienced in a number of areas," head coach Brian Kelly at a press conference Friday, Feb. 28. "It's our job to get the inexperienced players ready to play. This is the time to do it."

Notre Dame opens spring practice at 7:30 a.m. Monday, March 3. It's the earliest in the year Kelly has ever scheduled spring practice thanks, in part, to Easter falling on April 20. The Blue-Gold spring scrimmage will take place April 12.

Kelly announced a smattering of position shuffles for the spring, most notably 6-foot-1, 215-pound James Onwualu flipping from wide receiver to safety.

"That was a tough one for me because he's so valuable offensively in a number of ways," Kelly said of Onwualu. "But he's got great contact skills. He's a ferocious competitor, and I wanted to take a look at him because he is such a physical player and he's got an incredible volume to him in terms of his ability to play every play."

Safety Matthias Farley is now listed as a cornerback, while running backs Amir Carlisle and Will Mahone are now slated as wide receivers.

"One thing about Farley, and as we've looked at the depth that we have back there, is that the one thing that we're looking for and (defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder is looking for is outside‑in players and inside‑out players at that position," Kelly said. "And we think that he can be a very good player, especially a tackler from an outside‑in position."

Farley would have entered the spring with the most starting experience at safety, but now Max Redfield, Nicky Baratti and Austin Collinsworth figure to compete for the starting roles.

Farley, meanwhile, will likely be slated behind KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke and incoming Florida transfer Cody Riggs.

As for Carlise, the move makes sense in a running back unit that returns Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel and a receiver corps that lost T.J. Jones to graduation and DaVaris Daniels to spring suspension.

"We've got a good stable of backs there. I'm just trying to get guys reps,” Kelly said. “We don't have as much depth at (receiver), so I want to take a look at (Carlisle) at slot receiver, too. We'll get a chance to get some reps with him." 

Kelly not a fan of 10-second rule
One of college football's proposed rules would require a 10-second delay before the offense can snap the ball. Though the rule is dressed as a means to promote player safety, Kelly can't support something that doesn't have the science to back it up.

"If this is about player safety, I haven't seen any data that really goes to the heart of that," he said. "I would not be in favor of it if there's no data that goes to the heart of player safety."

Coaching shuffles
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will coach inside linebackers, while former safeties coach Bob Elliott will coach the outside linebackers. Kerry Cook, who previously coached cornerbacks, is now in charge of the entire secondary.

Injury updates
Safety Nicky Baratti (shoulder), defensive lineman Chase Hounshell (shoulder) and linebacker Doug Randolph (shoulder) have all been cleared for the spring. Center Nick Martin (MCL), linebacker Ben Councell (ALC), linebacker Jarrett Grace (leg), cornerback Devin Butler (shoulder) and defensive lineman Tony Springmann (ACL, infection) are all out for the spring.


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