"Allen Pinkett, a commentator on the IMG Notre Dame Radio Network who made unacceptable comments this week about student athletes, will not be part of this weekend's broadcast in Dublin. Don Criqui and Jeff Jeffers will handle the broadcast duties. Notre Dame taking on Navy at the Emerald Isle Classic in Dublin is an historic game showcasing the very best of American college sports. The event deserves to be free of distraction. Further decisions on this matter will be made in the coming days."
August 2012 Archives
So, no, he hadn't heard about Pinkett's comments on the radio Wednesday, in which he said Notre Dame needed a few more "criminals" in order to be successful, pointing to Ohio State as an example
Te'os first reaction after Thursday's brief practice at the training pitch at Aviva Stadium when asked about to respond to Pinkett: "Who?"
"More criminals? He said that?" Te'o added. "No, we just need more ballplayers and more guys that love to play the game. That's all."
Pinkett, a former All-American at Notre Dame and the Irish radio analyst, issued an apology earlier, saying he would accept any discipline that was handed down. He still traveled with the team to Dublin for Saturday's opener against Navy.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he hadn't yet spoken to Pinkett about it.
"I want guys that play the game hard and play the game the right way," Kelly said. "And off the field, I want gentlemen."
Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore hadn't heard, either, but said Pinkett was off base.
"I don't think we need to be criminals or nothing like that," Lewis-Moore said. "I think we need to be stand-up Notre Dame people. And I'm not saying Ohio State has criminals or nothing like that. I don't think being a 'bad boy' makes you a good team or not. I think we're a good team, and I think we have really good people on our team."
"In reviewing my remarks from a radio interview Wednesday, it's clear that I chose my words poorly and that an apology is in order for these inappropriate comments. My words do not reflect the strong pride and passion I have for the Notre Dame football program.
"I am deeply sorry and did not intend to take away the focus from the upcoming season opener. I especially would like to offer my sincere apology to the current members of Notre Dame's football team, including Coach Kelly, the entire Notre Dame community, the IMG College Audio Network and the Ohio State football program. As a proud Notre Dame graduate, I wish nothing but the best for our football team and the University.
"I understand that there may be consequences to my actions and accept whatever discipline is imposed."
The Notre Dame IMG Network added this: "The Notre Dame IMG Network is extremely disappointed in the comments made by Allen Pinkett in his radio interview. We completely disagree with those comments. As his employer, we will be determining disciplinary action to be taken."
From talking to cabbies and locals, it seems everyone is stunned that nearly 40,000 Americans are coming over for the game. Now, given their economic woes, they're wondering if they should have held the game in Croke Stadium (capacity 82,000) instead of Aviva Stadium (capacity 50,000), to see if they could have wrung a few more millions of dollars from American college football fans. Oh, well. "We'll take what we can get," one jocular cabbie (they're all jocular cabbies, from what I can tell) told me.
Oh, and pity the poor Navy fans coming over. At the airport gate, the gate attendants asked over the PA how many Notre Dame fans were in the house. They didn't bother with Navy (one guy decked out head-to-toe in USNA gear bellowed, "GO NAVY!" to a smattering of applause and laughs). Same thing on the plane. The flight attendant asked how many ND fans were on the plane. Then she even asked how many were coming over for the high school games (oddly enough, there was a gaggle of Dallas Jesuit Prep folks on the flight out of O'Hare; that's the team that's playing Loyola Academy on Friday at the spectacularly named Donnybrook Stadium). Then she asked the question about anyone traveling for anything other than football. She never asked about Navy.
Poor Navy. It's their home game, you know.
"I'm a lot more at ease knowing all the thing have been covered," Kelly said.
It's still a very hectic schedule for the next few days. The team practices this afternoon, then tomorrow morning at 6:15 a.m. (South Bend time) for about an hour. Players will then go to class, then weight train around 2:30 and head to the airport.
"It's going to be a long day for our players, and that's purposeful," Kelly said. "We want to get them up early and keep them moving throughout the entire day so they sleep on the flight over to Ireland."
The team lands early Thursday morning, will eat breakfast at the hotel and practice in the early afternoon. Kelly said there'll be an early bedtime on Thursday so that Friday can be a mostly normal day, with a walkthrough. So getting that sleep schedule right tomorrow can make all the difference.
"Tomorrow's an important day in terms of getting acclimated to the change," Kelly said.
Kelly initially planned for nearly two weeks of early morning practices, but eventually cut it down to one day.
"As I thought about it more and got a feel for our team, (and) where they are preparation wise, physically -- college students have a tendency to cut back on sleep more than anything else," he said. "I didn't want to be the person to add to that and have it hurt us possibly later in the year."
Of course, getting up early is nothing new for Notre Dame's opponent, Navy.
"They won't be late to the game, I know that," Kelly said. "Certainly, I might have been more concerned if it was Week 4 or 5. But it's the opener. My gosh, if you can't get excited for the opener, I don't know what we're doing playing football."
QB -- Everett Golson
RB -- Theo Riddick
WR -- TJ Jones
WR -- Robby Toma
WR -- John Goodman
TE -- Tyler Eifert
LT -- Zack Martin
LG -- Chris Watt
C -- Braxston Cave
RG -- Mike Golic Jr.
RT -- Christian Lombard
DE -- Kapron Lewis-Moore
NG -- Louis Nix III
DE -- Stephon Tuitt
OLB -- Ben Councell
ILB -- Manti Te'o
ILB -- Dan Fox
OLB -- Prince Shembo
CB -- Bennett Jackson
S -- Jamoris Slaughter
S -- Zeke Motta
CB -- KeiVarae Russell (the only freshman starter on offense or defense)
PK -- Nick Tausch
Kickoffs -- Kyle Brindza
P -- Ben Turk
Holder -- Ben Turk
PR -- Davonte Neal (freshman)
KR -- George Atkinson III
"Our players are aware of the standards I set for our program, and that failure to meet my expectations will result in consequences," Kelly said in a release. "Justin and Cierre violated our team rules, so I've suspended them for the first two games of the season."
The pair will miss Saturday's opener against Navy in Ireland and the home opener on Sept. 8 against Purdue. They'll stay home with Tommy Rees, last year's starting quarterback, and linebacker Carlo Calabrese, both of whom are suspended for the Navy game after their arrests in May following an off-campus party.
Wood rushed for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns last season, starting nine games while splitting carries with Jonas Gray. In his absence, the official Irish depth chart lists Theo Riddick as the starter, with George Atkinson backing him up. Riddick only carried 14 times last year for 63 yards, as he spent most of the season at receiver, where he caught 78 balls over the past two seasons. Atkinson only had nine carries as a freshman last year, but the dynamic runner returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. USC transfer Amir Carlisle is recovering from a broken ankle, and likely won't be ready in time for the Navy game. With redshirt freshman Everett Golson making his first collegiate appearance at quarterback, there won't be much experience in the Irish backfield.
Utupo played in 12 games last season, mostly on special teams.
Also noteworthy on the depth chart, Louis Nix III will start at nose guard ahead of Kona Schwenke, junior Prince Shembo and sophomore Ben Councell will start at outside linebacker, and Nick Tausch is listed as the starting kicker.
"If the secondary doesn't do good, the team is not going to win the game, basically," Jackson said. "We know that. Coach preaches that all the time. Basically, we know people are doubting us. (But) we don't really pay too much attention to it. We can't pay attention to it. Obviously we can't do anything about it until our time comes. We've worked really, extremely hard throughout the summer, throughout camp. I feel we've done the best we can do up to this point."
But Jackson, the only Irish corner to have locked up a starting job, doesn't share those doubts.
"I wouldn't say that there's doubt," he said. "I have no doubt; there's no doubts when I go out there. I'm confident in myself that I'll be able to get the job done. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but as a cornerback, you've got to be cocky, you've got to be confident in yourself. In my mind, I feel I can get the job done."
Sophomore Matthias Farley, a safety who's making a push for serious playing time, works side by side with the corners every day, and wants fans to know everything's going to be OK.
"We've got great players who could fill in at any point," he said. "I honestly feel we'll be absolutely safe and set."
As for who'll start opposite Jackson at corner, it's still up for grabs between Jalen Brown, KeiVarae Russell or Josh Atkinson.
"At the end of the day, there's going to be one guy starting," Jackson said. "We've got about a week to figure out who that's going to be."
And here are some other notes:
--- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly originally had scheduled early morning practices this week and next week to get his players ready for what will be a 9 a.m. eastern time kickoff in Dublin against Navy on Sept. 1.
But after two weeks of practices, Kelly changed his mind and scheduled afternoon practices throughout this week, which is the first week of classes at Notre Dame.
"I didn't want to get to a point where our guys were fatigued," Kelly said. "Getting up at 5:30 in the morning, I was concerned. We had a really good schedule, the guys felt good, their legs felt good. I didn't want to mess with that. Even though the master plan looked really good when we put it together. As we go through two weeks of practice, you get a sense of where your team is, I didn't think it was necessary for us to go (early) this week. (It's still) on the schedule for next week. I think that's more prudent, to be getting the kids up earlier, getting ready for that 9 a.m. start on their clock here."
--- USC transfer tailback Amir Carlisle is close to returning from his ankle injury, but he's not there yet.
"We're on a timetable that probably puts us into next week before we start to run him out again," Kelly said. "His spirits are good. He's confident in the plan that we have."
--- While senior Ben Turk will again be the Irish's punter, the kicking game is still up in the air. Senior Nick Tausch and sophomore Kyle Brindza are battling it out. There's a decent chance that Tausch will handle field goals and extra points, while Brindza will handle kickoffs. Kelly said there would be "two more auditions."
He also felt comfortable with Brindza next year, when Turk and Tausch will both be gone.
"Brindza gives you a lot of flexibility, because he can punt, kick off, and do your field goal (and) extra point work. If you're looking toward next year, there's a guy that could compete for all three of those positions."
--- Kelly said that while freshman receiver Davonte Neal is no longer an option to move to cornerback -- not after the Irish already moved Kaivarae Russell from running back to corner -- he raved about his ability as a receiver.
"From an offensive standpoint, he's an electric runner with the ball," Kelly said. "He's exciting with the ball in his hands. He's learning, every day's a new experience for him. But he comes with a great attitude and he loves the game."
--- Junior offensive tackle Tate Nichols (knee) likely will miss the Navy game, but could be back for Purdue, Kelly said.
--- As for the Ireland trip, Kelly's not a big fan of the travel and disruption the game is creating.
"I love everything about Ireland; I'm not a
big fan of playing football games in Ireland, I'd rather play them right
here," he said.
That leaves converted receiver Bennett Jackson, sophomores Jalen Brown, Josh Atkinson and Cam McDaniel, and freshman Elijah Shumate, a converted safety, and freshman KeiVarae Russell, a converted running back, as Notre Dame's entire depth chart.
Wood, a 5-10, 195-pound junior, played 10 games last year, and had a 57-yard pick-six against Maryland. He and Jackson are the only corners on the roster with any college experience beyond special teams play.
Even when Wood was healthy, cornerback was easily the most troubling position for Notre Dame. The Irish lost Gary Gray and Robert Blanton -- who started all 13 games last season -- to graduation and didn't bring in a single recruit at the position (two high-profile recruits, Tee Shepard and Ronald Darby, each originally committed, but didn't stick).
--- Brian Kelly is inching closer to making a decision on who will start at quarterback against Navy.
"I think we're getting closer to that," Kelly said. "It's not going to be a 50-50 proposition. We're moving closer towards that as we move into actually working against Navy. I think probably Monday, we sit down and talk about how the reps are going to be distributed. But there's still so much learning, so it wouldn't be as cut and dry as say, 'Here's my No. 1.' The door will still be open for growth during that week, but we'll start to separate the reps a little bit."
But he might not tell anyone outside of the team. With no more open practices, he doesn't really have to.
"I have not thought about it in those terms, in terms of making a public announcement about the quarterback position because I've never had it in my mind that we were going to get there at a certain time," he said. "If it's clear to me that we've got a No. 1 and there's a great separation there, then there's a possibility I could announce it. But I have not thought about it in those terms."
--- Reserve tackle Tate Nichols has a patella subluxation in his knee. Kelly said Nichols had it happen before, and missed two or three weeks. So his status for Navy is uncertain, at best.
--- Linebacker Danny Spond's mystery injury turned out to be a migraine.
"He had a migraine that was so severe that it required hospitalization," Kelly said. "He's seen specialists, the best in the country. He's been through a battery of tests. Now it's just a matter of getting him reacclimated. He's been cleared, now it's just a matter of when can he get back out there and start contact and those things. We really don't have a timetable for that."
--- Safety Jamoris Slaughter sat out practice with a bruised heel. Kelly said it was just precautionary. His absence allowed sophomore Matthias Farley to shine, as he has for much of camp. Farley is threatening to take senior Dan McCarthy's spot as the third safety.
"Farley has done very, very well," Kelly said. I think he's changed the dynamics back there. I know I had spoke that McCarthy had that position locked up. Well, it's a battle now. Farley has really been impressive the last 10 days or so."
--- Nose guard Kona Schwenke has a "cracked" knuckle and practiced with what Kelly called a "lollipop cast" on Thursday. Kelly said the cast will shrink for the Navy game, and that Schwenke is not going to be limited by it.
"Defense, and being successful on defense, is completely different," Martin said. "Defense is about disruption. They're trying to do everything they can to disrupt you from timing to your schemes. I would say defense is like a rock concert. The louder, the crazier, the more jumping, hooting and hollering, the better the defense is. And offense is like an orchestra. You need 11 pieces not only doing their job, but they have to do it at the right time. It's not good enough to run the dig route right, you have to do it at the right depth and the quarterback has to take the right drop. He can't take a five-step drop instead of a three-step drop because the timing's off. He took a good drop and made a good throw, and you ran a good route, but it's still not going to work because our timing's off. On defense, if Louis Nix throws the center out the way and runs up the field, the corner could fall down and there'd be a guy wide open, but you sack the guy. That's just defense."
And if you couldn't tell by that, yes, Martin admitted that anyone who knows him knows he prefers being on the defensive side of the ball.
"That's where my roots are," he said.
"I think this is going to require all the 29 practice opportunities we have," the Irish coach said Saturday. "I would not be holding your breath for an announcement anytime soon."
Kelly said he's still installing the offense -- "we just put the quarterback sneak in today," he said -- so it's too early to get a full evaluation on the race between Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix.
That said, Kelly said he's been encouraged by both the progress his quarterbacks have made so far in training camp.
"I don't have a better idea as to who the starter is, but I can tell you that Andrew and Everett have begun to display the skills necessary -- not just physical skills, but the mental skills necessary -- to be the starter," Kelly said.
For Golson, that means showing better poise in the pocket, and not looking to run at the first sign of pressure. For Hendrix, that means protecting himself out there and checking down to the best option on each play.
"Now, it's honing those and building on what we did this past week," Kelly said.
As for freshman Gunner Kiel, the nation's top QB recruit has been working with the third team and has been getting significantly fewer reps than Golson and Hendrix. Like any freshman, even an early enrollee, there's still a lot of learning to do. But Kelly had high praise for Kiel.
"He continues to do really good things," Kelly said. "He's got to catch up with the knowledge bae of the other two kids, but
physically he has all the skills. If I didn't have those other two kids, I would not be afraid of playing Gunner Kiel. He's got all the
intangibles you're looking for."
Tommy Rees hasn't take a meaningful snap pretty much all camp, as Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly chooses between Everett Golson, Andrew Hendrix and Gunner Kiel for the season-opener against Navy in Ireland -- a game for which Rees is suspended following his arrest in May.
"I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the offense," Rees said on Saturday in his first public comments since the suspension was handed down. "I'll be prepared when my name's called."
Both Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese -- also suspended for Navy following his arrest that same night -- said all the right things.
"It's tough, but I accept the punishment," Rees said. "I'm out there trying to help the other guys."
Said Calabrese: "I learned a lot from it and Coach Kelly made a decision, I respect that. I put myself in a bad situation and he had to do what he had to do. I respect that. It's already done, I've moved on from that. I'm just working harder and harder every day."
Calabrese's job at inside linebacker is relatively secure for when he returns against Purdue. Rees will have an uphill climb when he starts getting reps again during the Purdue week. But he doesn't think he's done as Notre Dame's quarterback.
"Not really," he said. "I think one of the biggest things is having confidence in yourself. If you're insecure and worried about things like that, it could be hard. But I try to carry myself with confidence, I know I can play this game I know I can help us win games."
Rees said leaving school was never an option.
"To be honest, that idea never really crossed my mind," he said. "I love being here, I love being part of this team."
Both players thanked their teammates and coaches for supporting them.
-- Sophomore tackle Jordan Prestwood. listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, is no longer on the team. "Jordan is no longer with us. I'm not able to get into the specifics about that because of privacy laws," Brian Kelly said.
-- Junior tailback Cam Roberson (knee) was not physically able to compete in practice, and will pursue a medical redshirt.
-- Junior outside linebacker Danny Spond, an expected starter, suffered what Kelly said appeared to be a concussion and had to leave Wednesday's practice. Spond dealt with a serious concussion when he played at Columbine High School in Colorado.
-- Tight end Alex Welch was helped off the field after suffering an apparent knee injury toward the end of 11-on-11s at the end of practice. Kelly had no update on him.
-- Freshman safety Elijah Shumate has been moved to cornerback to bolster depth at that position.
-- Cierre Wood got some time on the punt return team. "I know he wanted to give it a shot," Kelly said. "So we're going to put him back there and see what he can do. We're going to look at as many guys as we can right now and then whittle it down in a couple of weeks."
"Guys were really excited to hit," Kiel said. "Whenever the quarterback's live, the defense gets real excited."
And when Kiel finally got in with the third team in the final period of practice, he was sacked -- hard -- by sophomore linebacker Connor Little.
"Probably should have checked to a different line protection," Kiel said with a smirk. "To be honest, it feels good. I haven't been hit for a while. You just get right back up and move on to the next play."
It became clear during the spring game that Kiel was an extreme long shot to win the starting quarterback job this season. He played only in the second half of that game. And that perception hasn't changed in camp, as he's the clear-cut No. 3, behind Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix, and only ahead of Tommy Rees because Rees has been suspended for the season-opener against Navy in Ireland.
But Kiel isn't worrying about the depth chart yet.
"Whatever the coaches want me to do," he said. "If Andrew and Everett are going to get more reps than I am, then that's fine. I'm going to be the best player I can be for the team and do whatever I can to make the team better."
His first priority is grasping the Notre Dame playbook, something he's been working on since enrolling early last spring. He called himself a "squeaky wheel," peppering his coaches and teammates with questions at every meeting.
"You've just got to be smart," Kiel said. "It's going to take a while to learn, but if you take the time and put in the effort to get into it and ask the questions about it, you're going to get it. That's what I'm trying to do."
"An an offense, we've made a lot of improvement (since) the spring, just in the short period of summer we had to work together," Jones said. "The quarterbacks look a lot more sound and comfortable than they did back in the spring."
our defense is going to be able to get more of the depth work. On one side of the ball it helps our offense and the needs of the inexperienced, and on the other side it's really helping our defense build the depth."