Getting physical trumps quarterback derby
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Although who will be named starting quarterback remains the biggest question surrounding Notre Dame football, the first five practices of training camp have focused on running the ball and stopping the run. The result has been more Stone Age than cutting edge, but that's how coach Brian Kelly wants it.
If a team starts creating its identity during the first week of practice, Irish opponents will want to wear tight-fitting mouthpieces.
"We've called it building a toughness for our football team this week," Kelly said. "We know we can play fast. We know we can spread it out and do those things. We want to really have our guys focus this week on our toughness as a football team."
The Irish participated in a full-contact practice for the first time Wednesday and Kelly said he liked what he saw from a running game that wore down opponents late last season. He also liked what a defense that excelled against the run during that same span accomplished against his experienced offensive line.
The result was a dream day for interior linemen.
"If we could practice like this every day that would be all I can ask for," guard Trevor Robinson said.
The early season focus has made it more difficult to evaluate the quarterback derby, where senior Dane Crist and sophomore Tommy Rees are competing with sophomore Andrew Hendrix and freshman Everett Golson.
"We're so focused on the run game right now, a lot of it is about playing smarter and not faster at this point, so obviously the veterans are going to have a leg up during this segment," Kelly said.
"Everett and Andrew would obviously show better if we were just playing faster. Right now, Dane and Tommy have shown the ability to play smarter --- getting in the right run checks, making sure we've got the right plays called. That has really been our focus and those guys have really pushed themselves up a little bit because of the way we're playing right now."
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