A Weighty Matter

Of weight gains, the (contract) waiting game, and 18- to 21-year-olds sans electronics. Today's column offers a bit of everything as head coach Brian Kelly prepares to take his team south as the Irish begin August camp.

Hardly reminiscent of the famed Junction Boys proving ground of football training camp's storied past, Notre Dame's players are nevertheless about to experience the modern equivalent of "roughing it" as they travel two hours south to Marion, Ind., for a four-day session at Shiloh Park.

The move off campus, according to Kelly, is two-fold: Moving on from 2012 and using the present to prepare for 2013's future.

"It's a collection of new personalities.  You can't live in the past," said Kelly of last year's run to the BCS Championship doorstep. "We want to talk about this year.  What we need to do is get prepared.

"The second part of that is no distractions, it's all football. Don't have to worry about getting to math class.  We don't need to worry about guys off campus.  We're all together.  It's 100% being around each other and our football team.

"Both of those things in a combination I think come together with us going off-site."

Like all college teams prior to practice No. 5, Notre Dame won't don pads in this mandatory acclimation period. WIthout the means of holding an old school proving ground associated with the dog days of brutal football training camps past, Kelly will instead forge camaraderie with a healthy dose of together-time for his troops.

No cell phones. No televisions. Internet access representative of days pre-dating most of his student-athletes. (And just a guess: a healthy dose of running, included):

"They do have wi-fi.  My anticipation is that will crash within the first 20 minutes," he joked. "No TVs, unless they want to watch snow on the TVs.  There's no cable out there. Again, it's an opportunity for us to focus on football and each other.  That's what we'll get at Shiloh Park."

Chances are they'll get a chance to let off some steam at practice No. 5 -- helmets and shoulder pads will begin cracking at the LaBar Practice Complex next Friday.

Weighing Heavily

Still four weeks from the season's first football game, Notre Dame fans need something to dissect, and yesterday's partially released new heights and weights served as August's first fan-fueled lightning rod.

Foremost in Irish fans' minds is the team's best player, Louis Nix. Though his previously listed weights were likely just a hodgepodge of three numbers thrown together, the senior nose guard is listed at a robust 357 pounds. (I'm told he "looks great" and is in the best shape of his life. Which begs the question: how much did he used to weigh?).

Also notable was the identical late listed for 322-pound junior Stephon Tuitt. 22 pounds heavier in the spring than his playing weight last fall, Tuitt was recovering from off-season hernia surgery at the time of his listing. I'm told he's not yet weighed in for 2013 and the 322-pound mark is merely unchanged from March.

Others of note include:

  • Freshman defensive end Isaac Rochell is up from 265 on national signing day to 280, the latter offering a chance to compete and secure the edge as a backup defensive end this fall. (Line coach Mike Elston's unit needs one more reliable player to round out a health 6-man rotation.)

  • The competing junior center tandem of Nick Martin (295 from 286) and Matt Hegarty (300 from 291) made necessary gains as well.

  • Junior tight ends Troy Niklas (now 6'6 1-2" and 270 pounds) and Ben Koyack (6'5" 261) are both up 10 pounds from last fall. Neither can move like their mentor Tyler Eifert, but both could learn to block like him.

  • Competing defensive ends Justin Utupo (6'0" 290, up from 280 in the spring and 258 last season) and redshirt-freshman Jarron Jones (still 6'5" but up to 305 from 299) will be two to watch early as they attempt to hold off not only Rochell, but 5th-year senior Tyler Stockton, who at 5'11" 284 pounds, looked especially quick last spring.

  • Locked in key reserve roles are defensive end/tackle Tony Springmann (up to 296 from 285) and Kona Schwenke (now 303, up six pounds from the spring and a whopping 75 since he signed his letter of intent in February 2010).

  • Freshmen of note include RB Tarean Folston (plus 17 since signing day, now 207), and fellow Floridian four-star RB Greg Bryant, now nearly two inches shorter at 5'9 3-4" and 204 pounds. Both have frames that will allow them to hold up in pass protection and the pounding of a new level of football. Offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey has filled out his 6'7 1-2" frame to 290 pounds as he begins his collegiate career.

  • Five-star freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith came in at 6'2 3-4" 230 pounds, up 10 pounds from February. He's 18 pounds lighter than starting field-side 'backer Danny Spond and 24 fewer than junior backup Ben Councell, now 254 after starting 2012 at 240. The guess here: Smith is a tad quicker than both…

  • Expected starters DaVaris Daniels (up from 190 last August to 203 this year as a junior WR), and George Atkinson III (a full 220 pounds at 6'2" -- he played around 210 last season) have also added another coat of armor. Senior QB Tommy Rees is listed at 6'1 1-2" and 215 pounds, the latter seems implausible, but we'll see him in person tomorrow before the squad heads to camp.

  • Potential starting field safety Elijah Shumate is 15 pounds heavier than his 198 last August. Shumate was a nickel cornerback as a true freshman -- weight was necessary for his new position.

  • The spring session's Venus Flytrap, aka Corey Robinson, gained 15 pounds since his enrollment. He's 6'4 1-2" and 205 pounds -- that might be enough to allow him to compete for a game day role with already rock-solid fellow semester enrollee James Onwualu, who at 6'1" 215, will at worst aid the Irish speciality units as a rookie.

  • Potentially problematic weight gains belong to freshman guard Colin McGovern (up from 280 to 317 while recovering from a torn PCL in his knee last November) and fellow guard John Montelus, who was limited in his weight lifting routine in the off-season due to a shoulder injury. He's now 345 pounds, up from 305 on signing day. I have a feeling Montelus is headed for the Longo-nian circle of hell over the next 12 months…

The Waiting Game

12 wins buys a college head coach quite a bit of equity. It also apparently buys him unnatural patience. Brian Kelly noted yesterday he has a signed contract extension -- one inked last December between win No. 12 and a No. 1 national ranking and the team-wide plummet that occurred weeks later in Miami.

Though not yet official, Kelly called the contract extension announcement, "imminent."

"I think it's imminent. It's up to (director of athletics) Jack (Swarbrick) . Jack will make that decision.  Whether he wants to make an announcement or not, I don't need an announcement," Kelly added. " I have a signed contract.  I'm getting paid every day.  I'm fortunate to be the head coach at Notre Dame.  I'm not really worried about that stuff.

"Contractually we have a contract and an agreement.  We have people that are paid money to look at these contracts.  They look at them very closely.  They don't operate as quickly as I would like to.  But there are no issues contractually.  There is no leverage play here.

"I'm really excited about our leadership, my opportunities to speak after the season on a couple occasions with Father Jenkins, have given me the energy and excitement that we can continue to build and grow this football program for years to come."

"Leverage plays" are apparently in the eyes of the beholder. Suffice it to say it behooves Swarbrick and the University to dot the I's and cross the T's on the pesky "language" of his contract before Kelly leads the Irish to another undefeated September -- one that would likely result in an addendum to the existing, nine-month pending document.

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