Irish Notes: Stanley the Sixth Man

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly addressed a variety of topics at his weekly Thursday press conference including his blossoming rookie lineman, the Michigan rivalry, and a team captain replete with everything but the designation.

OH CAPTAIN, OUR CAPTAIN
Five players will officially represent Notre Dame as team captains in 2015, forever etched as leaders in Irish lore. Turns out, there was supposed to be a sixth.

A brief trailer for Showtime’s debut series, “A Season with Notre Dame Football” illustrated that reality though the initial episode left the poignant moment on its cutting room floor.

Head coach Brian Kelly states (near the 50-second mark at this link: Showtime trailer) that Stanley “will not be able to accept his captainship.” Asked about the reason regarding the development at his weekly Thursday press conference, Kelly chose the high road while praising his senior leader.

“That’s something between myself and our team,” Kelly said. “I think it’s unfortunate it got out. But here’s what I will say: I can tell you that I have no problem with Ronnie representing our football team. His integrity, his character is not in question here. And certainly I wouldn’t say that if it were something bigger than was such that I’d have to back away from that. And I think you guys can read into that.

“He’s still a captain in our minds in terms of how he handles himself on a day-to-day basis. I think it was big of Ronnie the way he handled himself.”

For those challenged to read between Kelly’s lines, Stanley appears unable to accept captaincy due to a University rule or decision rather than that of his head coach.

How utterly familiar…

(ONE) SOPHOMORE SURGE?
Though a small collection of graduate students and senior leaders/starters have made an indelible mark on the current squad, it’s undeniable that Notre Dame’s junior class, aka, IrishMob13, reigns supreme in terms of talent, impact, and panache.

The current crop of sophomores – in many cases, redshirt-freshmen – make up the bulk of the invaluable backup ranks.

Two such defenders, defensive linemen Grant Blankenship and Jay Hayes – both thrust into action as true freshman last fall (Hayes at the 11th hour, err, game), did not appear in Notre Dame’s season-opening blowout win over Texas last week.

Then again, the Longhorns executed just 52 offensive snaps. The front-line Irish defenders barely had time to break a sweat.

“They’re certainly guys you’ll see at some time during the year,” said Kelly of Blankenship and Hayes. “(Jonathan) Bonner played and got some reps in the game. Pete (Mokwuah) played and he’s done a nice job and given us some solid play inside,” he added of two other sophomores.

“It’s a long season and I expect both of those guys to eventually contribute for us. We’re not down on them; it’s just that we have some good depth there.”

Fifteen sophomores participated in Saturday’s victory including eight 2014 redshirts that made their collegiate debut. The latter list was headed by starting left guard Quenton Nelson, a player whose unique strength was never in question, though his mobility might have been.

“We were really impressed with his ability to move this summer when we had our OTAs in June. (Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Paul) Longo in his reports noted he was out there running with Mike McGlinchey. That gave him a great edge at that guard position with him and (Steve) Elmer being able to pull and move.

“We weren’t expecting that. It was – I don’t want to say surprised, but it was added to our evaluation for what he could do for us. We knew he was big and strong and could play in a box, but his ability to get out in space and move has definitely added a bonus to his profile.”

SEPTEMBER’S GREATEST RIVALRY
Ahh, Notre Dame at Virginia. Remember that time when Shawn Moore…

Of course you don’t. Something’s missing from the upcoming weekend’s football slate and the month of September as a whole, and Irish fans aged 45 years and under (if not all of you) know well to what I’m referring:

Michigan vs. Notre Dame – College Football’s Greatest September Rivalry.

Kelly addressed the potential renewal of the classic, uniquely competitive series today following practice as prompted by comments the head coach made while being interviewed on The Rich Eisen Show regarding the resumption of the rivalry.

“What I was trying to say,” offered Kelly of his television spot, “is that’s a game we definitely want to get back on the schedule. The rivalries in college football being such, it’s just a game – it’s on our radar, let’s put it that way. We’re looking at it. There’s a lot of juggling that would have to go on.

“I think they’re locked into the mid 2020,” Kelly said of Michigan’s apparently full slate. “We would have to be creative with different games and such. It’s a game that everybody wants to try to get back in front of them. How quickly we can get it going starts with this kind of comment, and then it gets the ball moving. How quickly we can get it going? At least this gets the momentum going forward.”

Asked if his use of the word, “creativity” was in reference to the program’s annual neutral site Shamrock Series, Kelly said, “I think you have to look at all the options out there. Again, I’m not in charge of scheduling nor do I have the schedule in front of me to give you dates. I thought it was a good time on Rich Eisen’s show to get it going.”

Notre Dame and Michigan renewed their rivalry in 1978 following a 35-year hiatus. The teams played 31 times between 1978 and 2014 with both winning 15 and tying once, 17-17 in 1992.

On a related note, Notre Dame hosts Nevada in Week 2, 2016.


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