Today's first Notre Dame practice of 2012 offered an additional focus thanks to a tweak by its head coach.
"I like the way we've formatted our practices to get a lot more 11-on-11 football," said Kelly. "Allowing for us to do a lot more evaluation relative to the group, and in particular the group on offense. As you know we have a number of guys to sort out and give them a lot of reps.
"(It's different than maybe the last few years. In terms of what we wanted to accomplish (which is) more 11-on-11 football, it's going to give us exponentially more reps and an evaluation tool, especially for Day One."
Kelly said the new development was designed to aid his relatively unseasoned offense.
"We wanted to play more 11-on-11 football for our offense. Our defense, relative to where we are, we have over 2,000 live snaps on the defensive side of the ball on returning players. That's a lot of snaps," he continued. "The 11-on-11 suits the offense a lot more because of our lack of experience at some key positions vs. the defense.
"It helps the needs of experience (on offense) and really helps our defense build depth."
Another operational change involves Kelly and his exposure to his troops. Its one that began in January, and resulted in a group he called his most mature in terms of leadership over his three years at the University.
"I was committed to being a better head coach in the sense that I needed to spend more time with my players. This job has a tendency to distract you a little bit. I took it because I wanted to coach; to be around the guys.
"Back in January we started our 'A-Team' (a selected group of leaders from each class). I would meet (alone) with my players. My emphasis on spending more time with the players and getting to know them better and letting them to get to know me better than just sitting up in an office and (thinking) 'Well there's where the head coach of Notre Dame sits.'
"I've never been that kind of coach and I felt myself sliding toward that in their first couple of years. I don't think its anything on their part, I think it's probably more on my part, being more accessible and being around the guys more."
"When there's not the kind of results that you're looking for, you have to look at yourself first. That's where I looked."
Kelly was heavily involved with every rep of the team's quarterback's during today's brief media viewing period.
"I just need to be involved. I need to be in the trenches, to be around our guys," he said. "To be the effective leader, some are better from the tower, and some are better being hands on. I'm better (hands on).
"I need to be a better head coach. That's what my strengths are, and I'm going to them."
News and NotesAs noted in today's practice report and podcast, senior starter Cierre Wood did not take part in today's practice. He was on hand and in uniform, but not only observing. According to his head coach, it was more oversight than injury.
"We were informed this morning there were a couple of things he needed to do on his medical (clearance form)," said Kelly. "Its an issue of him not taking care of his paperwork. He has no physical issue, just a paperwork issue that has to be taken care of."
Classmate Theo Riddick took first team reps in Wood's stead.
Also absent was redshirt-freshman guard Brad Carrico. The Dublin, Ohio native did not appear in a contest last season and it appears he won't compete at the college level, at least not in South Bend.
"We are in the final stages of getting a medical hardship for him," said Kelly. "He's had surgery on his foot and its not going to allow him to play again. We're waiting on some paperwork there but we're moving in that direction. He's had a pretty complicated foot issue. Its more than just ligament damage. After the injury (surgery), there was more work to be done on the foot. He may only be in the first stage of that process."
The medical hardship allows Carrico to remain in school, on scholarship, but not as a member of the football team. Notre Dame's scholarship count for the 2012 season drops from 82 to 81, opening another spot for the incoming recruiting class.
Carrico's medical hardship was taken into account in the Irisheyes.com countdown of an expected 23 (give or take) player freshman class for 2013, first published in June and updated since. Kelly has pledges from 18 high school seniors for the 2013 recruiting haul as of August 4.
In related news, Penn State pledge Will Fuller was on hand watching Notre Dame's practice Saturday morning. Fuller is a four-star wide receiver prospect per Scout.com.
?? For an in-depth look at today's practice on the offensive side of scrimmage, click here.