Thursday Notebook

O'Malley's Thursday update examines Notre Dame's flexible receiving corps, an extra day of defensive preparation, Irish injuries entering Week Eight, and everybody's favorite player: the backup (and untested) quarterback.

"We as coaches worked harder, if that's possible, and spent more hours (preparing) than we did for Nebraska (a 27-21 overtime loss). In no way was I looking at this as something where we were going to win this game automatically by showing up in Orlando." – Ex-Irish head coach Bob Davie following a 45-14 victory over Navy in 2000.

Change of Pace

Davie finished 5-0 vs. Navy and never lost to an Academy team in his five years as the Irish head man.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly apparently took a similar tact this week in his preparations for Navy's dreaded triple-option attack, spending extra practice time on the unique nature of Saturday's opponent.

"Today we went full pads for our defense," Kelly noted of what is generally a day spent drilling attention to detail ("Perfect Practice Thursday"). "We spent more time with the Navy offense because you know there's a lot of cutting going on, so we spent a little bit more time in full gear today for our defense just to give us another day (of exposure) for that kind of offense."

"We spent a third consecutive day working on defending the cut blocks which is obviously the biggest transition that you have (defensively)," he concluded.

Kelly's secondary challenge is navigating the health of his banged up group of pass catchers. Second leading receiver Theo Riddick is out with an ankle injury; third leading receiver and tight end Kyle Rudolph gone for the season. The team's leading receiver and top player is still considered a game day decision.

"Michael moved around today," Kelly said of Floyd who ranks 19th nationally in receiving yards per game and 21st in receptions per contest. "He looked pretty good; he said he felt pretty good. We didn't ask him to do much today; it was a little cooler than we thought, but we had him move around in practice."

While South Bend's falling temperatures hurt Floyd's workload on Thursday, Mother Nature shouldn't have an impact on his Saturday status.

"We have so many modalities to get those guys ready more so than in practice," Kelly noted of Floyd and any other player's game day status. "We're going on the road to get ready to play a game so there'll be treatment and all the things necessary. In practice you're careful, but weather (Saturday) won't decide if he plays."

Neither, it appears, will the depleted resources at Kelly's disposal.

I try to look at it as an individual (rather than consider the status of Riddick and Rudolph in relation to Floyd)," Kelly offered. "If he feels like he can play and play at a high level I want to play him every play he can play for the University of Notre Dame." The head coach suspects the oft-injured junior feels the same way.

"I think he also feels he's left a lot of games out there too, with injuries," Kelly noted of Floyd who missed all or part of 10 career games due to injury. "So you really have two things going on here: I think Mike really wants to play and from my standpoint I look at it individually – if he's healthy to play, get out there and play, we don't want to hold you back."

Crist and his cohorts

If Floyd can't go, the Irish have what Kelly believes is a quality backup in senior Duval Kamara. Kamara played the best game of his Irish career as a freshman in 2007 vs. the Naval Academy: a two-touchdown, five-reception effort that included a career-best 21-yard touchdown catch and run that gave Notre Dame its only lead in regulation during the historic 46-44 30T loss.

Can Kamara, with just one catch this season, step into a starter's role vs. a team that has a recent habit of playing the Irish to the wire?

"I think he's like any other player," Kelly said specifically of Kamara's confidence level. "He needs to get a couple of catches and have a little bit of success. I don't think he can go out there and drop the first two or three and be brimming with confidence."

Kamara will contribute on game day whether or not Floyd is ready to go as the imposing 6'4" senior from Hoboken put in a full week's work at Floyd's "W" position.

"Duval got a ton of work this week which was great for him, and for getting (QB Dayne Crist) on the same page.

"He's a veteran player, he knows his role. He knows Michael Floyd is going to be there if he can be, but having said that, he's a little bit older; I don't think it's as much of a concern as if he was a freshman."

Speaking of freshman, early-season stalwart Tai-ler Jones will slide into the slot receiver position vacated by the injured Riddick. The first-year player apparently has a head for the game as this week's transition has been relatively smooth for all parties.

"T.J. has settled in nicely in that slot position," Kelly said. "As you know, T.J. got a lot of work in there in the spring. He's pretty smooth in there, too; he's a pretty smooth and savvy kid. We talked about it today, Dayne and I, and he feels really good at the Z position."

Also back in the fold this week is senior right tackle Taylor Dever, though his starting status is still under debate.

"Both of those guys are going to play," Kelly said of Dever and his competition classmate Matt Romine. "They split reps but you'll see both of them at (right tackle)."

Romine started both of the last two games at left tackle but redshirt-freshman Zack Martin will move back to that role, one for which he's proven to be ideally suited. Martin started at right tackle in Dever's stead vs. Pittsburgh and Western Michigan.

No Safety in this number

One other injury note involved free safety Jamoris Slaughter. The junior has been hobbled since the season-opener with a high ankle sprain.

"Slaughter's better," Kelly offered. "He was carrying some soreness in his heel and he had a pretty substantial bone bruise. We were able to do some work on it yesterday. We aspirated it and we were really for the first time able to figure out why this thing has lingered so long. It's not just the high ankle (sprain); he had a pretty substantial bone bruise."

Don't expect to see Slaughter in a starting role Saturday.

"He's not there yet, but I think for the first time since the Purdue game that we feel he could be going in the right direction," Kelly added.

If Slaughter can't go, the Irish will have three scholarship safeties in Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta and Dan McCarthy – the latter saw his first extended action (one series) last Saturday vs. Western Michigan. While McCarthy looked rusty, he does appear well-suited to defend the triple-option attack.

Walk-on safety Chris Salvi will likely make the trip in a backup role.

Everyone's All American

Is there a more popular player on a .500-level football team than the backup quarterback?

At Notre Dame, the names Steve Beuerlein, Terry Andrysiak, Tony Rice, Jake Kelchner, Paul Failla, Thomas Krug, Jarious Jackson, Matt Lovecchio, Carlyle Holiday, Brady Quinn and yes, Evan Sharpley, all received support over the last 25 seasons when their predecessor endured a starter's struggles. (You could throw in freshman Ron Powlus, who beat out senior Kevin McDougal before the former was lost for the 1993 season to a pre-season collarbone injury. By the way, nice call on that choice, Lou, but I digress…)

Naturally, the media found an "in" this week with freshman Andrew Hendrix running the scout team offense this week. Has Kelly had trouble evaluating future QB competitor because of his scout team duties?

"Oh no, we have a pretty good idea (of Hendrix skills)," Kelly offered excitedly. "He's impressive; the ball comes out of his hand like probably *one other guy I've ever coached. It comes out that quick and that fast.

"He has escape-ability, maneuverability. He's got all the pieces. Now it's just going to be about getting into the offense and seeing how he picks things up from that standpoint, but the tools are pretty impressive."

(*Note: My guess is Central Michigan record-setter and current Cincinnati Bengals rookie Dan Lefevour, but I'll inquire next week.)

Though I'm in no position to question Kelly's initial Hendrix observations, nor am I (I've seen him throw about 11 passes…and yes, they had plenty of zip vs. open air), its important to note similar comments were made about an untested Dayne Crist last December.

"I think we both saw somebody that has enormous talent, and that talent being developed in the system we have, and that we will lay down fits him to a T," Kelly said of Crist last winter. "This was about knowing it was a fit…we both kind of knew this was going to work out pretty good."

Why, exactly?

"Escape-ability; movement; he moves a whole lot better and is a big kid now. I wanted to make sure I saw that escape-ability and maneuverability because in the spread offense it's not about what you run, what your 40-time is…you have to be able to extend plays.

The number one priority for me with the quarterback position is being able to extend plays. And (Crist) can extend plays."

Kelly added of Hendrix: "When the defensive coaches rave about somebody – and they don't do that very often – you know you've got somebody who has a chance to be really good."

So does the current starter, just seven games into a three-year career. Warts and all.


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