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Irish Insights

  • Irish get more watch list honors
    Three more Notre Dame players were named to watch lists.
  • Brindza on Lou Groza watch list
    Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza was named to the preseason watch list for the 2014 Lou Groza Award. The Lou Groza Award is given annually to the nation's best placekicker.
  • Two more Irish land on watch lists
    Notre Dame center Nick Martin was placed on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's best player at that position.

Kelly still mum on backup QBs, gets one safety back

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly still isn't giving anything away when it comes to his backup quarterbacks.

After a week of practice in which the Irish installed a package that was more suited for freshman Tommy Rees and junior Nate Montana, Kelly wouldn't say which quarterback would go in first if Dayne Crist needed to be taken out of Saturday's game against Michigan State.

"We are still going to stay with the 'or,' Tom or Nate," Kelly said. "The circumstances of the game will dictate who I put in. … It is really going to depend on the game or the flow of the game.

"One thing I like about Tom is he can throw the football down the field. He has been in the spread a lot more. I feel a little bit more comfortable with him spreading it out. Nate is a little more of a control passing game. It really depends on what kind of game it is.

"If we are up and we are trying to manage, maybe we bring in Nate because he brings a little bit more of a running threat at the quarterback position."

Kelly was more forthcoming with information about the depleted safety position. Last week, the Irish were down to just Harrison Smith and Zeke Motta at safety because Jamoris Slaughter was out with an ankle injury and Dan McCarthy was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

But against Michigan State, McCarthy should be available, Kelly said. Slaughter, on the other hand, will only be available in an emergency situation, according to Kelly.

Here are more of Kelly's thoughts after Thursday's practice:

On the week of practice: "I think more than anything else our guys are anxious to get to get out and play the game better. I would say this week at practice our guys were really focused on really working on the things they need to do to get this football team better each and every week."

On what he expects from Michigan State's offense: "Opening it up for them is they like to push the ball vertically down the field off their play action. They are going to take shots down the field. This is a team that is going to run the football first, but they have a strong arm quarterback. And he looks to throw. He is not a guy who is going to look to run, he is going to look to throw the football. They got some chain mover spot throws, but they are really looking to push the ball over your head. "

On if Michigan State held anything back in wins over Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic: "I don't think they faced a lot of third-down situations; everything was really manageable for them in the games. For us, there are a number of things we wouldn't show if we weren't put in those down-and-distance situations. I think primarily, you go into the game, I don't know if I ever said we are not going to show this, but if the situation arises, you are going to go with what you are good at. None of those situations arose for Michigan State in the first two weeks. "

On the state of Notre Dame's defense: "I think if we make a stop against Michigan all that would be talked about is 33 or 32 minutes of shutting out Denard Robinson. Half full, half empty is the way people will look at our defense. I really believe this comes back to tackling and controlling the line of scrimmage. Against Michigan State it is a whole different game than against Michigan. We will know where we are defensively against the run, because we are going to get challenged. In the 3-4 defense, they are going to run right at us. We are going to find out a whole lot about ourselves after this weekend relative to the running game."

On when team captains will be named, in the first two games captains were announced at the pep rally: "We will do it (Friday) at our team meeting."

On the personality of the team: "I already know the kind of personality that we have. We want to win. These guys have been since December committed to doing everything I have asked them to do. We have to play better. We just have to play the game better. They are going to play hard. They are going to give us everything that they have. We have to put them in a good position to succeed, and they have to make plays when they are counted on.

"If we play more consistent against Michigan State, we will win."

On how he wants his team to handle winning and losing: "I don't subscribe to the fact that your team is up one week and down the next. We try to maintain. For me, how would our football team react if they were 0-6 or 6-0, I would want them to react the same way. I wouldn't want them at 6-0 thinking they conquered the world, or at 0-6, they couldn't beat anybody. I try to go into each day the same way, whether we win or we lose, we are going to come to work and be purposeful in what we do and excited about the opportunity to get better. That's how I've coached for 20 years."

On first-year starters who have stood out: "I think there is a couple of players. Defensively, I would say (linebacker) Carlo Calabrese, he has played pretty consistently two years in a row. Offensively, I would say (left) Zack Martin, at the left tackle position he has done a nice job. There are a couple of other guys, you can throw TJ (Jones) in there. You could make the case for (right tackle) Taylor Dever. I think our tackles for first-time starters have done a really nice job."