Thursday Morning Notebook

Freshmen on the rise, the two Grays, pass distribution, familiarity, and a healing offensive front highlighted last night's quick session with Brian Kelly.

News and notes following Wednesday's practice:

Fine up Front

The Irish exited Saturday's win at BC with renewed confidence, hope heading into the season's second half and three banged up starters along the offensive line.

The latter appears to be a non-issue heading into today's final practice.

Taylor Dever (hamstring injury suffered Saturday): "He moved around much better to day…we'll get him in contact tomorrow." Kelly said following Wednesday's practice under unseasonably warm but comfortable conditions in South Bend. Dever's presence is required vs. the edge rush ability of Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard.

Braxston Cave: Played his best game in more than three weeks through three quarters Saturday before exiting the contest with an ankle injury. Kelly noted that Cave took every snap in Wednesday's practice.

Chris Stewart: "We're spelling him, he has just a knee bruise, he doesn't have any structural damage," Kelly said of the 5th-year senior's immediate status.

Andrew Nuss (Dever), Mike Golic (Cave), and Chris Watt (Stewart) will be at the ready if needed Saturday. Each received playing time last week and both Nuss and Watt challenged for starting roles late into fall camp.

One final injury note was inadvertently revealed when Kelly was asked about "Gray."

"Gray, all year we're just going to have to be careful with him. He has a steel plate in his shoe to prevent that soreness from growing," Kelly said of senior cornerback Gary Gray. "We have him on a bone stimulator; we're doing a lot of stuff with him."

The gathering was a bit surprised to hear that Jonas Gray – who injured his knee vs. Stanford – needed a steel plate in his shoe to prevent soreness.

Jonas Gray remains out with a "strained knee."

Finally, 5th-year center Dan Wenger traveled to the University of Michigan Wednesday to see a specialist regarding the multiple concussions he endured in the pre-season. Kelly noted that an announcement was forthcoming, though not before the two had a chance to speak in person.

Quick game of around the horn

Theo Riddick (suddenly) has 30 catches; Michael Floyd has plodded toward 28; Kyle Rudolph slowed to a crawl over the last two weeks en route to 23 with Armando Allen and T.J. Jones combining for 24 through five contests (John Goodman has added 8 in the last two)…is this the type of distribution Kelly envisioned for his first Irish team?

"It generally works that way," said Kelly of his spread. "We haven't been as good offensively as we need to be. I think as we continue to develop at the quarterback position and all phases, the best players will stand out."

That doesn't mean dispersal is intentional.

"We won't keep a ceiling on all the players just because of the offense that we run. The great players will break out. It's hard until everyone is on the same page for that to occur."

In Cincinnati, Kelly's top Bearcats squad saw the following reception distribution at the top of the chart:

  • 2009: 87, 61, 51, 27 (TE), 20 (RB), 18 (RB)
  • 2008: 84, 81, 30, 26 (RB), 18 (TE)
  • 2007: 68, 62, 36, 31 (TE); four others between 13 and 17 receptions including two running backs
  • 2006 (Central Michigan): 73, 55, 52 (RB), 36, 36…10. Fans that believe a coach should play to his particular team's strength, take note: the Chippewas were three seasons into Kelly's spread attack, yet utilized a running back as the third weapon in the passing game.

Familiar foes

A power rushing attack with the ability to hit one over the top (should his quarterback cooperate); a pass-rush with a four-man front; toughness on the back end…we know, and more important, Brian Kelly knows what Dave Wannstedt has in his arsenal…and vice versa.

"You have to have some wrinkles; they know what you're doing," Kelly said of the familiarity between the Pittsburgh and current Irish coaching staff. "Both of us know each other so well. I think you go into ‘conference' and everyone knows what you're going to get. This isn't like *some of the games earlier in the year when sometimes we didn't really have good film to know (the opponent).

"We know each other well enough, so that's where you might want to tweak some things you've done in the past."

*Kelly noted following the Stanford game (and prior to, though less pointedly) that, because of the Cardinal's blowout wins over lesser foes, he had trouble gauging what Jim Harbaugh's crew would bring defensively (the now oft-lamented an analyzed "Drop 8" was the wrinkle from the victorious visitors).

All hands remain on deck

Seven Irish freshman have appeared regularly, either from scrimmage or on the specialty units, over the first five weeks. Could that number grow as we head into Part II of 2010?

"I don't think we're at that point where we're saying, ‘You're not playing because we're five games into it,'" Kelly offered. "As we approach probably the bye week (following a matchup with Tulsa in Game Nine), that's close to where we would draw the line in the sand."

As he stated in the pre-season, a rash of injuries at a certain position could necessitate the late-entry of a freshman if Kelly felt it would obviously impact a win or a loss.

"If we're talking about a ‘luxury' situation relative to a player, I think the Bye Week would probably be (the final frontier for first-year playing time)."

Asked who those luxury items might be - players that could, but likely will not contribute, Kelly noted the following:

Wide receiver Daniel Smith, offensive tackle Christian Lombard, tight end Alex Welch and that defensive end Kona Schwenke had been "moved to the varsity," in practice as of late. Top Stories