NOTRE DAME — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was surprisingly upbeat about his team after five days of practice, and blunt about the benefit of bringing the Fighting Irish to a secluded camp 100 miles from campus.
“Some of the best competitive practices that I’ve coached in a long time,” Kelly said Friday. “Now we haven’t played a game, and I’m not saying that equals 13 wins. But I’ve coached a lot of football and it’s been very competitive football. It’s fast football. It’s as fast as I’ve seen at Notre Dame. I hope that translates into winning football.”
Speed has long been a question mark at Notre Dame and the Irish didn’t look nearly as fast as Alabama in losing 42-14 to the Crimson Tide in the national championship game in January. The Irish were reminded about that and other offseason problems — including the hoax on former linebacker Manti Te’o and the loss of starting quarterback Everett Golson because he’s been suspended from school — repeatedly during the offseason.
Kelly said bringing the players to a retreat center in Marion in central Indiana helped the team escape.
“Not talking about Manti Te’o and the Alabama game and all that ... we were able to focus on this year and ourselves,” Kelly said. “That’s a good thing.”
One thing Kelly wasn’t happy about was the way running backs were fumbling, stopping the practice momentarily to yell at them.
Among the young players who looked good during practice Friday were wide receiver Corey Robinson, whose father is former NBA standout David Robinson and running back Greg Bryant.
Linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese, who shared a position last season, were on the field frequently Friday, while Jarrett Grace, who is expected to compete for the position vacated by Te’o, spent most of the day with the second team. But Kelly said he expects all three to play and said another player could be added to the rotation.
Starting linebacker Danny Spond didn’t practice Friday, guard Conor Hanratty wasn’t in pads, cornerback Bennett Jackson saw limited action and receiver Daniel Smith spent much of practice on a stationary bike. Aside from saying Hanratty has a neck strain, all Kelly would say is that none of the injuries are expected to miss the season-opener against Temple on Aug. 31.