Irish Notes: Two for Texas

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly discusses his quarterback plan, the opening week depth chart, a new game week honor, and two certainties for Sunday night in Austin.

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Released today, Notre Dame’s initial two-deep depth chart included a handful of upwardly mobile youngsters as well as one not-so-young new starter.

Sixth-year senior (graduate student) and 2015 California Bears transfer Avery Sebastian won the free safety job vacated by dismissed classmate Max Redfield. Sebastian started six games, played in 31, and missed a healthy chunk of the 2013 season (torn Achilles) plus parts of others due to injuries before graduating in the spring of 2015.

“Certainly you want to put veterans on the field if you can,” said Irish head coach Brian Kelly. “I think if Devin (Studstill) was clearly ahead of Sebastian, we'd have Devin on the field over Sebastian. But Sebastian's had a good camp. He's been really rock solid.

“But there is merit to that question, in that you want to try to keep as many veterans in that starting role as possible and let those younger guys work their way into the lineup. But more than anything else, the (August hamstring) injury caused (Studstill) to be a little bit behind. But he's made up a lot of ground in a very short period.”

Studstill was joined in reserve roles on the two-deep by fellow freshmen Jalen Elliott (SS), Jamir Jones (Sam LB), Daelin Hayes (Rush End), Kevin Stepherson (X receiver), Tommy Kraemer (RT) and Julian Love (RCB), along with redshirt-freshmen Miles Boykin (W receiver), Trevor Ruhland (LG), Tristen Hoge (RG), Elijah Taylor (DT), and Asmar Bilal (Will LB). Redshirt-freshman Shaun Crawford maintained his stranglehold on the starting left cornerback role opposite senior Cole Luke.

Noted above, Hoge will backup Colin McGovern, a senior poised to make his first start in Austin.

“Really good on his feet, a good pass blocker, great balance, stays on his feet,” said Kelly of McGovern’s strengths. “He's been really solid for us. I think Tristen is physical and he's getting better each week as a pass protector.

“At that center position (for which Hoge was recruited) it's a little bit different in terms of pass-pro than it's at the guard position,” he added. “So that's evolving for him. I do see him playing. I don't know if it's a rotational situation right now. But I do see him getting into the game.”


Every season opener is accompanied by at least a modicum of angst among those donning headsets. For Kelly, it’s in ample supply, especially considering the relative youth of his group. But there are two purported strengths on which the head coach feels he can hang his hat.

“No matter what happens, we're running the football and no matter what happens from a defensive standpoint, we're going to be in a pretty good structure defensively,” said Kelly when asked where he feels most “strong and confident.”

“We've got it. I think we've got it figured out pretty good in terms of what we need to do (defensively). Now it's just go execute. (We) feel pretty good about our plan defensively and how to handle Texas and what they want to do with their tempo. And we're going to run the football. Those two things are absolute certainties.”

As for the possibility that his 2016 crew will take the Longhorns lightly in light of last year’s 38-3 South Bend slaughter?

“There's not much looking back and going, ‘Hey, we rolled these guys last year.’ This is a totally different team. They're just focused on their itinerary trying to get on the plane.”


Not sure if you’ve heard but Notre Dame is planning on playing two quarterbacks Sunday night! (As are the Longhorns, for that matter.)

Kelly has yet to decide who between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will take the first snap. Nor does he know (or care to divulge, perhaps) what tactics he’ll employ regarding his triggermen thereafter.

“The comfort level of the quarterback and his rhythm is something that is always an issue with them, and I can't help them with that,” he admitted. “What we're mostly focusing on is what Texas wants to do and then how we counter with our two quarterbacks and how we think effectively they can run our offense.

“What we're trying to counter is the game within the game, and that is how Texas is trying to defend what we're doing offensively. So that's really the biggest issue that I have moving forward. We're going to run the quarterbacks how we see the defense is playing us.”

As for going with a hot hand should one materialize?

“I think that plays a little bit into it,” Kelly admitted. “Flow is important, rhythm is important. But if we get into a particular field zone that I think another quarterback can be more effective based upon what Texas is doing, I may have to supersede the hot quarterback, if you will, for the right person at the right time.”

WHO’S NO. 1?

Sunday’s unique prime time kickoff affords the Irish an extra day of preparation, one Kelly plans to take full advantage of while also mixing in moments of respite – and a little screen time – for his group.

“We’ll do all of our work here and we won’t get in until late Friday,” said Kelly. “The only bonus for us is they have no class that day (Saturday). So they'll be on the road, able to sleep in a little bit, able to catch up on rest. Then we'll go through our normal Friday (routine) for the entire day (Saturday). We'll get in our practice, we'll get in all the things that we do on a full Friday, which will be really good for them.

“They'll have some downtime. They'll have about two or three hours to watch some college football games,” he added. “But then we'll get them back up on Sunday and we'll move them around again on game day.

“I think the guys enjoy getting a little extra rest, extra treatments. And so I think it comes at a good time for our team.”

Asked if he’d catch any moments of what is a loaded opening weekend of big-on-big matchups, Kelly offered, “I don't even know who is playing, honestly. No, I know USC's playing Alabama,” he corrected. “But that's about it, because I saw that the other day on TV. But I really don't even know who else is playing.”

-- Injured Irish: Though padded practices remain prior to kickoff, it appears most relevant hands are on deck for Kelly’s seventh-edition Irish. Out for the near future and since the outset of training camp are junior cornerback Nick Watkins (arm), junior running back Justin Brent (LisFranc) and redshirt-freshman defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway (foot).

Set to return for the opener is junior Rush End Jay Hayes, though perhaps not to the starting spot he claimed late last spring.

“(A high ankle sprain) put him back a little bit, but he'll play,” said Kelly. “He'll contribute. But being out five or six days in a very competitive situation gave Andrew (Trumbetti) just enough opportunity to take more reps and put himself in a really good position.”

-- Game Jersey: A pre-game honor new to the program commences later this week when Kelly, his staff and the team captains award the No. 1 game jersey to a player deemed worthy of such distinction.

“We'll be awarding the No. 1 jersey out prior to the game, based upon a number of factors within our program that have to do with character both on and off the field, and how they practice,” Kelly said. “And our captains will be involved as well as our coaches in singling out an individual who will wear that jersey on game day.”

Kelly said the process will continue through season’s end.

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