Grace to give it a go

Notre Dame's summer preparations for the 2014 football season began today with the team's first mandatory workout.

Mandatory in this case meant DaVaris Daniels was back, so too was Everett Golson, the latter of whom spent recent weeks cramming a few final tutoring sessions in with renowned quarterbacks coach, George Whitfield, Jr.

"He felt like he needed more football work," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly of his senior's second trip to San Diego and quarterback camp. "Throwing, repetition. He just wanted more work."

Work is what awaits Golson's classmate and fellow prodigal son, DaVaris Daniels, away from college football since Notre Dame's 29-16 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers.

"He's enrolled, he's in our CSC class, our service class this week," said Kelly of Daniels. "He's obviously physically done a lot of work in the time away. He's in very good shape, now it's just a matter of getting his legs back, and I think that'll happen in very short order."

Kelly can see Daniels and the rest of the team's returnees work their way back into form firsthand due to a newly-instituted NCAA rule that allows for coaching staff and player contact during June's eight-hour practice week allotments.

"Our defense was in (the Loftus Center) working some conditioning drills," Kelly said of June's first mandatory session. "We used up some film time today with the offense. We had the opportunity to do some installation with the offense today. We're calling them OTA's, it was our first OTA today. nice to get the guys back and do a little bit of football."

Asked what he was trying to accomplish this summer, Kelly offered, "We are installing our offense and defense again. This will be like spring ball installation. We are going to install our core offensive plays and our defensive structure. We will get our guys running and doing football-related drill work with tackle bags and blocking sleds.

"We get in front of them," he emphasized. "This is something that we were never able to do in June before. It is very important to constantly tell our guys what they need to do."

Hours of practice allotment haven't changed, only method and staff access.

"We are really working with our strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo who right now is the guy who has to make all this work," said Kelly. "At the moment, we are encroaching on his (NCAA allotted) time and he has to make up for it in July. He still has to have our team ready for August from a strength and conditioning standpoint, and we are stealing a little bit of his eight hours for some football-related activities."

All hands on deck

The return of Daniels and his reassimilation with Golson. The inclusion of incoming freshmen. Both pale in comparison to a clean bill of health for Kelly's 83 scholarship troops.

"We had our first staff meeting today, it's generally, ‘Who can go and who can't go?' and we only had (senior inside linebacker) Jarrett Grace who was unable to do the conditioning element drills today," said Kelly. "We were a little bit limited with (junior offensive tackle) Ronnie Stanley, he had a (knee) procedure to clean up a couple of things. (Senior wide receiver) Will Mahone did some running today. (Senior center) Nick Martin was fully cleared, did all of the conditioning and 350s, looked great. It was a good medical report day for me."

Kelly added that two senior defenders lost last season due to knee surgery, Tony Springmann (August) and Ben Councell (November) were both full go as well. Of Stanley, Kelly added, "He had some loose impediments to clean up. Nothing major, no structural damage, more of a cleaning up of the joint. He'll be full-go next week."

Grace to go hard

Out since October 5 after suffering a gruesome broken leg against Arizona State, Grace and Kelly have come together to form a plan of attack for the senior linebacker. After two surgeries, one in October, one near the end of spring ball, the team's most experienced inside 'backer has but one lofty goal:

Get on the field against Rice.

"He was on the bike today. We're going to be very, very aggressive with him over the next two to three weeks," Kelly offered. "We're going full-go for him to be ready for Rice (August 30). He wants to do it that way.

"It's the best I've seen him mentally. He was in a tough spot a little bit before the (second) surgery. It was good to see him in good spirits today. We're going to be very aggressive with him. Let him go. I think if we went slow with him it would put him in jeopardy for being ready for maybe about the first three or four weeks and that's not what he wants. We're going to go at it and hope for the best.

Projected as a 2015 starter since pre-season 2013, Grace earned that nod by mid-September last year. His apparent ascent was waylaid by injury. His return to the fray won't necessarily mean an immediate return to a starting role.

"Right now, we want him healthy to compete against Rice," said Kelly when asked if Grace could come all the way back to the top of the depth chart by the season's outset. "And then whatever happens from there. We were at a point where we didn't know if he could play. (Now) we're seeing some positive things. Let's get him back against Rice, and then if we hear better news -- I think by the end of June, we'll know whether we can answer the questions: Let's get him back on the field? Or let's get him back to compete for a starting position?" Top Stories