Post-Practice Notebook

Among the topics discussed after Notre Dame's first bowl practice: the practice plan, how coaching changes impact December recruiting, and a two-game emergency scenario that's taking on a sense of permanence.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly met with reporters following the squad's first bowl practice today. The assimilation back to football mode will last through Saturday prior to a week of finals in which the team will have a light workload away from its classes.

"We had two practices today," Kelly offered. "Our first practice, it was effectively all of the younger guys, a lot of the guys that didn't get much playing time and had them out for about 45 minutes. Had a nice scrimmage at the end (and) got an opportunity to get a lot of those guys that we want to take a look at that are going to play for us next year involved in some contact.

"We finished with them and then brought in our veterans for about a half hour and worked on timing; prior to that they were in the weight room. They got in a good weight training session and then we worked on some 7-on-7 and tempo, just to keep the timing."

College football players are married to a routine during August camp and the three-month season. Bowl preparations are disjointed by nature, and staying sharp is the ultimate goal prior to the actual game week of practices each team employs.

"There are two things that you're always trying to balance during this time, and that is staying in football shape and then the timing," Kelly offered. "When I say staying in football shape, a lot of things fall under that, conditioning, tackling, all of those things. We tried to accomplish that today...We'll come back Friday and Saturday and then we get into some exams so we'll lighten their schedule again."

Riddick's Return

Kelly has three months, then a spring session and entire summer to decide if Theo Riddick's one-game stay at running back becomes permanent. It's definitely a possibility, one Riddick has appeared to embrace.

"I think it's a possibility," Kelly said of his RB-turned-slot receiver potentially finishing his career at running back next fall. " I don't want to go back to why we did it (first moved, then kept him in the slot) because I believe it was the right decision based on (running back) Jonas Gray and our program. We wanted to get our playmakers on the field. But now that Jonas is out of the mix and through injury and then graduation obviously, now there's some room at the top for a guy like Theo Riddick to be at the running back position.

"I don't know that I'd put my hand down and say, ‘No, we're never going to move him again.' But he looks comfortable at running back right now.

"He's been energized," Kelly continued of Riddick's outlook on the return to the backfield. "He just wanted to play. He's a football player. Theo, the thing that he said to me is, ‘Coach, can I spend some more time with you going over film for running back assignments?' I'd love to be able to say I want to spend a lot of time with you, but I'm out recruiting too. We've got to balance that. He's eager. He's excited. He's energized about being where he is."

The two-game (Stanford and the Champs Sports Bowl) move was made possible by the emergence of Riddick's classmate Robby Toma in the slot and the versatility of both T.J. Jones and John Goodman at the position.

"Clearly, somebody has to be established in that position," Kelly said of Toma. "If we felt like we didn't have somebody there, we'd be concerned. But T.J. Jones, as you know, can play the position for us as well. We felt with T.J. swinging and (John Goodman) going out to X (Jones' position), again, for a one-game season, that we're in fine shape there."

The perceived No. 3 running back George Atkinson did not appear from scrimmage vs. Stanford. As the program's best kick returner since 2002, its logical to wonder how his future is impacted by a possible permanent switch for Riddick.

"I think you need more than two backs. I don't think that would impact him at all," said Kelly of his freshman running back prospect.

Coaching Carousel

Recent reports that Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar will become the head coach at soon-to-be-FBS school Massachusetts were not confirmed by Kelly this evening. But tea leaves suggest the Irish could be in the market for a new member of what Kelly refers to as a "Leadership Position" on his staff.

"I've seen the reports. Nothing is official on our end," said Kelly of Molnar to UMass. "Charley has not notified me of anything. Once he does; we'll certainly make it public. But that's on coach Molnar."

Though Kelly has stated that his coaches should not look to make what he perceives as a "lateral move" unless they're sure to accept the job, a head coaching position – at any level – is not included in that directive. Also included in these dalliances is the reality that prospective student athletes who've verbally committed to a school may see their chief point of contact move elsewhere.

It's a reality to which Kelly has become accustomed.

"Every year it comes to this time, the silly season of college football when there's so much movement," Kelly said of the weeks following teams' regular season finales. "We remind our recruits as to why they chose Notre Dame. You don't choose it for Brian Kelly, you don't choose it just for one particular coach. You choose Notre Dame for all our distinctions. You kind of remind them of that if there's a situation where a coach is leaving.

"We're used to this," he continued. "I'm used to it as a head coach, 21 years into it now. I like my coaches a lot and it doesn't surprise me that other programs would like my guys too."


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