Kelly on suspensions: "Status Quo"

The lack of news was again the news today in South Bend where the future of five suspended Irish football players remains in limbo.

With Rice as Notre Dame's opening foe, suspensions and injuries were immaterial. The Irish weren't going to lose, and they might not have won by more point with any missing member of the squad in tow.

Enter Michigan. DaVaris Daniels would doubtless help. So too would projected starting defensive end Ishaq Williams. KeiVarae Russell's inclusion in Saturday's matchup with the Wolverines would aid the Irish in every defensive snap.

But that notable trio, plus reserves Kendall Moore and Eilar Hardy remained sidelined. None have appeared in a positional meeting since accusations of academic dishonesty were levied against them according to head coach Brian Kelly.

"Status quo," Kelly offered today, adding that if something were to happen in the next 24 hours "absolutely" that status could change.

In other words, team reinstatement would likely mean playing time vs. Michigan.

To be continued…

A Week's Labor

24 hours was the approximate preparatory time Kelly and his defensive staff had to adjust to the loss of team captain and quarterback-of-the-secondary Austin Collinsworth, injured last Thursday in practice and out through at least the next two games with a sprained knee.

Since, they've had a week to prepare Collinsworth's strong safety replacement, junior Elijah Shumate, and free safety holdover Max Redfield to run the proceedings in his stead.

Apparently the teaching method has been less than subtle.

"Without giving away too much information, suffice it to say we have to be more demonstrative and take more control back there," said Kelly. "We (coaches) aren't standing back there (in games) like we are during practice, and I think Coach (Brian) VanGorder, if you were here at our meetings yesterday, made it clear during the meetings how he wants those guys to communicate.  I was in the quarterback meeting room and I could hear our safeties communicating very well during film study.

"We're starting that way, and we just have to be more assertive in the way that we talk to each other."

Save for one remarkably poor decision that resulted in a Notre Dame defensive touchdown, Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner authored a standout performance vs. the Irish in a 41-31 Michigan victory last September. Still, Gardner's presence is not the driving force behind the back line's tutoring sessions this week.

"I think where we are is that this is developmental more than it is one particular team," said Kelly of his pending foe. "These are things that Max and Elijah are going to have to continue to get better at. (Reserve) Nick Baratti is going to have to get better at it. Austin was very good at it, it was part of his DNA. That was his strength of who he was. 

"These guys are going to have to take control as if they have that same kind of ability and they're going to have to do it right now. Michigan is on them and it's going to have to happen immediately."

Redfield made just his second career start last week vs. Rice. Kelly had previously noted the staff hadn't force fed Redfield duties of quarterbacking the secondary because they could rely on Collinsworth to handle the heavy mental lifting.

That's changed.

"The dynamics have changed, and that's why it's more important that we put more on his plate," said Kelly of a player he dubbed a "crazy, crazy, crazy" athlete last spring. "We were hoping that we wouldn't have to do that but the situation has changed and he has to pick up more of the slack."

Kelly offered Sunday that Notre Dame's defense yielded four "explosive" passing plays against the Owls last Saturday -- three were a direct result of communication breakdowns by the secondary.

Out with the old…

At the conclusion of his Tuesday press conference, Kelly was asked if it's "a good thing for college football in general" that the rivalry with Michigan is ending. The query was based on the opportunities the schedule break presents both teams over the next few seasons.

The veteran head coach of a quarter century has apparently learned how to parse his words regarding the Wolverines over the last calendar year:

"I'm not going to go so far as to categorize not playing anymore is a good idea, because that's going to come back to me. So I'm going to stay away from that," Kelly said. "I will say this: Given the complexities of our schedule...not being able to play Michigan, it opens up so many more exciting opportunities for us. The Texas opportunity, Georgia.

"Look, we understand the great tradition and the rivalry of the Michigan game, and if it could have worked, it would have worked, but it does open up some pretty exciting games in the future.

"I think that's the silver lining that's out there."

As the press conference ended, Kelly jokingly added, "How did I do with that?  Pretty good?"

Notre Dame exercised an out-clause in it's contract with Michigan prior to the 2012 contest in South Bend. In the Wolverines' stead on the Irish slate for 2015 and 2016, as well as 2019 and 2020 is the University of Texas. For both 2017 and 2019, the Irish will have a home-and-home series with Georgia.

Michigan has added Oregon State, Florida, and a home-and-home with Arkansas, all occurring between 2016 and 2019. A competitive hole though exists in the Wolverines non-conference schedule for 2015 with Colorado, Hawaii, and Central Florida settled as the only foes outside Big 10 play.


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