Sunday Drive Thru

Personnel notes from head coach Brian Kelly's weekly Sunday press conference include items of note on Everett Golson, Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, Stephon Tuitt, Mike Golic, and Troy Niklas.

Brian Kelly wrapped up Notre Dame's sixth game week today with a 2:00 press conference. Among topics discussed were his starting quarterback's injury status, the evolution of the running back position, two offensive players singled out by fans for struggling vs. Stanford, and one of the contest's top stars, Stephon Tuitt.

All Golson, All the Time

Up and down; hot and cold; sometimes a star on the road but routinely replaced at home. Such is life for redshirt-freshman quarterback Everett Golson through six college contests. The first-year contributor's name dominated today's media conference. A sampling:

On Golson's injury status: "He had a concussion. He's going through the steps and protocol that we have. He was still a bit symptomatic today so he'll go through his cognitive testing (Monday). We expect that if all things move in this direction that he should be cleared by Tuesday."

Regarding Golson's week prior to Tuesday's practice: "There's nothing (Sunday), he checked in with the doctors, he's done for the day. They don't have classes this week so he'll have no assignments other than at 3:00, we'll have a team meeting (Monday).

Kelly added that if Golson is unable to play, "Tommy (Rees) and Andrew Hendrix would be our quarterback situation. Talking to Dr. Moriarity, one of the lead (authorities) on concussions, he felt pretty confident he'd be cleared by Tuesday."

Hendrix, according to Kelly, was prepared to play yesterday as well.

"We keep Andrew ready. He could have played this weekend if we needed him in certain situations. Both could play (Rees and Hendrix), I wouldn't rule it out, but as I said earlier, we're probably putting too much (emphasis) on this. We're really confident that Everett is going to be cleared.

On Golson's fumbled snap: "THere were three people involved in that. The center, the quarterback and the running back: The snap was off and high, the back was not in his proper alignment, and the quarterback, if ever he feels a handoff is in jeopardy, he's supposed to tuck it…There were three people who were not at their best in that play."

Kelly's level of concern regarding Golson's six turnovers to date: "Very concerned. It's something we cannot continue to have. He has to take better care of the football. He has to do it in practice, and he has to be smarter. If you look at the first turnover, we're talking about mishandling a direct snap, something we do (in practice) every day. Totally unacceptable.

"The (second turnover), holding onto the ball on a sack/fumble (touchdown) vs. a three-man rush. Maybe we could have put him in a better situation there. And the third (following a 20-yard gain), he just has to step out of bounds and avoid contact there.

"All of them are coachable, all of them are correctable. We'll continue to work on it with him so we can eliminate these mistakes."

Golson has thrown three interceptions (Navy, and two vs Michigan) while losing fumbles vs. Purdue and three yesterday vs. Stanford. He's fumbled on three other occasions (Purdue, Miami, Stanford) but the Irish retained possession on each.

Three-headed Monster

Notre Dame's job share at running back saw contributions from each of is three major contributors Saturday as both Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick carried the ball on 12 occasions while understudy George Atkinson -- the team's leading rusher entering the contest -- made the most of his three rushes, gaining 21 yards.

Kelly was asked Sunday about Wood's performance through four games to date.

"We value all of those backs and what they could do to help in the running game. As you know, Theo had a very, very good game catching the ball for us. He made two great catches that helped us win the football game. It's not only running the ball, its being able to catch the ball coming out of the backfield as well and that's been the change this year from last year in terms of the complete running back. Cierre is getting better at that each and every week. I think all three of those guys (including Atkinson) continue to work on being the complete back."

The trio combined for 132 yards on 27 carries Saturday, with Riddick adding another 38 yards on three receptions. The senior is tied with Tyler Eifert as the most targeted pass catcher among the Irish through six weeks.

In the Trenches

Three key Irish starters offered disparate performances Saturday vs. the Cardinal: sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt, his classmate, tight end Troy Niklas, and 5th-year senior guard Mike Golic, Jr., who from a layman's perspective, played far better vs. Michigan and Miami than last Saturday vs. Stanford's stout front.

Kelly on Tuitt: "If you focus on Stephon particularly, the bigger the stage, the great players step up and he played as hard as we've seen him play all year. Physically banging in there, putting pressure, never taking a play off (even) on the field goal situation. I think that game is a growth game for him on how you play this game on every snap. "

In addition to seven tackles and two quarterback hurries, Tuitt blocked Stanford's initial field goal attempt, a 25-yarder at the 9:46 mark of the second quarter.

Said Tuitt following Saturday's win, "To be a sophomore and in that situation is one of the most incredible situations of my life. The atmosphere was so exiting. Its something I'll always remember through my lifetime, even when I'm old and talking about my days of being young."

Kelly on Niklas in pass protection: "Anytime Troy was asked to (pass) block the ball was asked to come out a little more effectively (quickly). I think we lost sight of the fact that on a couple of occasions we could have helped with our tackle so it's not exactly the way we had it drawn up, that we would leave him singular against one of their best pass rushers, but it ended up working that way for them on two occasions. One was the sack/fumble which was a huge play. If you go back and look at it we wouldn't have changed what we had in mind but paid more attention in three-man rush that we get some more help for him."

Kelly on Golic, who was technically whistled for three false starts: "I don't know that Mike Golic had a lot to do with those false starts. There's a lot of other things going on out there that I'm not going to get into right now. Mike has made progress. Mike played against a very, very good defense, and they won some and Mike won some. The thing with Mike is he's such a dedicated player. He comes to practice everyday, he's purposeful. He's not going to be first-team All-American at that position, but here at Notre Dame, he doesn't need to be. He needs to be Mike Golic. We're proud of the steps he's made to help our offense."

Though he appeared to struggle Saturday, Golic's ability to pull from right guard over the left side has been instrumental in Notre Dame's inside running game over the last three weeks.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories