Max Redfield is gone (though still enrolled at the University as of Wednesday), and Devin Butler remains indefinitely suspended after being charged with two felonies in the wake of the weekend’s multiple player arrests.
As for the remaining quartet of young players (three sophomores and a true freshman), Brian Kelly has not ruled out their participation against Texas on September 4, though the decision isn’t necessarily his.
“There could be further actions through the University,” Kelly said. “That will have to take its course. I think the University is looking at all of these cases and will be expediting the process. Those matters are out of my hands. I’ve dealt with it internally, they’ve been handled within the program and the rest will be about what the University does.
“Those four players that were suspended are currently practicing.”
Asked if the foursome, Te’von Coney, Kevin Stepherson, Ashton White, and Dexter Williams could play in Austin if the University deems no further action necessary, Kelly responded, “ They’ll be available to play. Yes. They’ll be available to play.”
Kelly added he believed a decision by the University’s xxx would likely be “expedited given the current circumstances.”
Regarding player suspension and disciplinary actions, Kelly admits it’s not his first rodeo.
“Unfortunately, it’s a question I’m equipped to answer,” You have to be prepared as a college coach, unfortunately, to deal with some poor decisions. They crop up. I think you have to be as fair but you also have to be quick in making decisions. When they don’t square with your mission or philosophy in the program or University, you can’t be afraid to make decisions. You can’t be swayed by external factors.”
How have Kelly and his four newly appointed captains Torii Hunter, Mike McGlinchey, James Onwualu, and Isaac Rochell dealt with the embarrassing events of last weekend?
“What we talk about stays amongst the team. We’ve addressed anything that happens with our football team, we have a number of conversations, daily, about what’s expected,” said Kelly. “They know exactly what’s expected of them on a day-to-day basis and that’s a conversation between me and the team.
“(Foremost), it’s more than just you. And so we talk about selfish decisions. We talk about representing more than just yourself. You represent a University, a program, an entire fan base. It’s just not about you.”
Kelly added that his encountered three emotions when first told of the arrests.
“Like any other father, my first one was disappointment. Then I think that disappointment kind of moved on to embarrassment for the University, and then I was mad as hell,” he said. “I think those were the three stages I went through.”
NEXT FRESHMAN (OR GRAD STUDENT) IN?
The dismissal of Redfield reopens competition at free safety, both for the opener and as the season progresses. Options range from the roster’s youngest players to its oldest.
“We’ll have a true freshman, on the road, playing against a talented team,” said Kelly in reference to January enrollee Devin Studstill. “Devin is a kid that has a lot of talent. He’s a very confident player. But we’ll all be looking at it like you will be. He’s a pretty talented player. He’s confident. He had a pretty good spring game. He’s got some experience now after the spring.
“But I think we’ll have to play a few guys, I don’t think he’s going to go out there and play every snap.”
Asked if fellow freshman Jalen Elliott was his definitive next man in, Kelly offered, “I think there are other options too. I think we have a sixth-year player back there (Avery Sebastian) who has a lot of experience that would fit in nicely as well.”
Sebastian missed 12 of 13 contests last season after breaking his foot against Texas in the season opener. He graduated from California-Berkley in the spring of 2015 and thereafter transferred to South Bend. Sebastian missed his junior season of action for the Bears after tearing his Achilles (2013). He played 31 games for the Bears, earning six starts at strong safety.
Kelly added that he sees no need to move players from other positions to shore up the safety spot.
“We feel pretty good in terms of the depth. (Sophomore) Nicco Fertitta has done a pretty good job; he’s a very solid, consistent player. Jalen you mentioned. Devin. We feel like we have enough back there that we’ll be solid.”
Kelly has not yet named a starting quarterback for next Saturday’s opener in Austin but the final media access session prior to game week was not without personnel developments.
-- Colin McGovern will start at right guard. The senior held off redshirt freshman Tristen Hoge who also challenged junior Sam Mustipher at center.
-- With Dexter Williams’ status unknown, the kick return derby could be limited to last year’s winner C.J. Sanders and breakout freshman runner Josh Adams.
“He’s logged a lot of miles coming off an injury,” said Kelly of Sanders. “We’re rotating Sanders, Dexter, and Josh. Those three guys are getting a three-man rotation back there. They’re taking 1/3 of the reps.”
Adams missed much of training camp with a hamstring strain.
“Friday was the first time we saw him running out,” said Kelly of the freshman record-breaker. “Today he looked really good. He got banged around a lot. This was the first day he looked like Josh Adams. So it was good to see.”
-- Also in the mix for playing time is backup slot receiver and backup punt returner, Chris Finke, Notre Dame’s newest scholarship player.
“He’s been really solid. I just thought that what I wanted to see was consistency that made it’s way through camp before we made a decision,” said Kelly of Finke’s ascent from walk-on status. “We could move other guys into (slot) because Corey Holmes has had a really good camp. I could move Corey (the backup X) into his Z, and that bumps Finke out, but Finke held him off.
“Finke just really just won you over with his consistent play and his special teams play. He’s a pretty dynamic returner as well. I think with that dual role that he possesses; he earned a scholarship.”
-- On the mend and perhaps available for the season opener is junior Rush End, Jay Hayes. Hayes appeared to emerge as the starter ahead of classmate Andrew Trumbetti and his freshman namesake, Daelin but has been sidelined of late with a walking boot on his ankle.
“He’s much better. He was out there, practicing today,” said Kelly. “It’s good to see him out there, moving him around. We feel like if we can get him back to 100 percent by this weekend that he should be full-go for Texas.”