"18 periods, two of those were special teams, additional special teams work," Kelly noted of the day's events with a nod toward to specialty struggles that have thus far plagued his squad. "We're getting our work done, but we're not out there very long."
Taking part in the 18 sessions was South Bend product, Daniel Smith. The sophomore has been limited by a hamstring injury (spring) and an undisclosed leg injury (August/September).
"He's making great progress. He was out there today; limited, he's not full (not all 18 sessions), but he got individual work done, he's doing (non-contact) things like that," Kelly said. "So he's making good progress. I would say after the bye week, he'll be full-go."
After three weeks on the shelf, Smith's classmate, Danny Spond appears ready to roll vs. the Falcons. "He's good, he's cleared,' Kelly said of Spond who injured his hamstring in Week Two chasing Michigan's Denard Robinson. "He'll be on all our 'run' teams and he'll be in a back-up position at the drop (linebacker)."
Both Smith and Spond are expected to join Notre Dame's coverage units for the season's second half; both are candidates as return game (blockers) as well.
Injured, Out, and OtherwiseTwo freshmen offensive linemen, Nick Martin at left tackle, and Conor Hanratty at right guard, continue to appear on the team's weekly two-deep depth chart. Barring injuries to four veteran offensive linemen (a starter and each of the three backups who have seen field time: Andrew Nuss, Christian Lombard, and Mike Golic), neither Martin nor Hanratty will see the field – a season of eligibility thus preserved.
But both must remain ready for such emergent action because the team's only remaining non-freshman OL – sophomore Tate Nichols – has been lost for the season due to a shoulder injury.
"Shoulder surgery; he's out for the year," Kelly said of the 6'8" 320-pound tackle. "We didn't want to wait any longer on that shoulder. We probably could have continued to get by with a harness, but we want him full-go for spring ball because he'll be vying for a starting position, so we decided to do the surgery."
Nichols missed most of August with a dislocated knee cap. He was withheld from action as a true freshman last fall along with fellow OT prospect Lombard (above).
In line with Nichols for season ending shoulder surgery is freshman linebacker Anthony Rabasa.
"He's practicing right now," Kelly said of Rabasa, "but we want to get these guys 100 percent for spring ball. They both had subluxing shoulders that were coming in and out.
"We were able to shoulder harness them (and0 they were able to practice effectively for us. But we don't want them to be held back in the spring because they're going to obviously be good football players for us. October 1st was kind of a deadline for us.
"Rabasa will have it done here in the next few days."
Nichols' surgery was reportedly Friday (September 30).
Kelly added that sophomore running back Camerson Roberson, the 2010 season's offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, is on the mend, but as expected, is nowhere near the field. Roberson tore two knee tendons on the Loftus Center turf in late March.
"He's making progress. Terrible knee injury (but) still working at it."
Ever-so-close...but at a costThrough five games, Notre Dame has fielded five wide receivers. The accepted fourth, junior Robby Toma, recorded his first catch at Pittsburgh in Week Four, his 16-yard gain kicking off the team's go-ahead, game-winning march.
Senior John Goodman caught his first pass vs. Purdue last week, converting a 3rd and 5 into a first down in the second quarter. The team's sixth receiver, and one yet to make his collegiate debut, is freshman DaVaris Daniels.
If Daniels doesn't play Saturday – the season's mid-point – would Kelly consider preserving a season of eligibility for him as well?
"We're getting close to that time. I want to play him," Kelly said. "I want to get him in there. Sometimes, you get caught up in doing some other things. But I want to get him in the game, so that thought is still out there until further notice."
Kelly's reference ("I want to play to him") seemed to suggest he had somehow been overruled. That wasn't the case.
"No, there isn't (a higher authority), but there are conversations that take place and those conversations require me to sign off on him, and I wasn't able to sign off on him," he explained.
That wasn't the case for another potential red-shirt candidate in 2011, sophomore Kona Schwenke.
"It was unfortunate that he had to play," Kelly admitted. "Ethan (Johnson) went down in the first series (and) we were short-handed without (Stephon) Tuitt being there and he had to play."
Tuitt was suspended for the contest by Kelly for missing a class.
"That was an unfortunate situation, but we're there to win games first and foremost and he'll continue to be in that backup role."
Schwenke debuted last fall after the Navy game (Game 9 vs. Tulsa), but did see action briefly vs. Army's option attack in Game 11, suggesting he has had practice and game exposure to the principles of this week's defensive plan.
As for Tuitt's status, he's fully reinstated and according to Kelly, has responded to the disciplinary action well.
"Excellent, really pleased with him. I just like the way handled himself," Kelly said of Tuitt following the incident. "He apologized to the team for letting them down; took full responsibility for his actions. We talked to his mom, and they all understand as a family why he's here, and that's to get a degree. That's why he made that decision."
Traveling ManFormer Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, CA) linebacker Joe Schmidt joined Notre Dame's 2011 recruiting class last winter as a "preferred walk-on," that is, Schmidt had a spot on the roster available to him but the staff was unable (or unwilling) to offer an athletic scholarship. (Simply – he didn't have to tryout with the other August walk-ons.)
The 6'2" 225-pound Schmidt quietly joined another roster this season – Notre Dame's 70-man travel group.
"He's a good player. Tough, physical, got a great sense for the ball," Kelly said of Schmidt. "He's just in a tough position (inside linebacker has several scholarship athletes), but he's going to play for us. That guy is going to be on the field. He's a football player. I like that kid."