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Irish Insights

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Gutsy Neal

Notre Dame's punt return was virtually nonexistent last season.

The Irish ranked 112th in the country with 3.7 punt return yards per attempt, as they started the season with Theo Riddick on returns then moved to the more sure-handed John Goodman, a Bishop Dwenger grad, and finished with Michael Floyd to try and generate some return yards.

This season, Notre Dame hasn't played musical returners, and while the Irish don't have more return yards, the possibility seems to be there.

Freshman Davonte' Neal is handling punt return duties. He has averaged 2.4 yards on five returns with the longest going 11 yards.

"He's a gutsy kid," Kelly said of Neal. "He caught two in some windy conditions inside the 10‑yard line. One time he probably got a little bit out of his element when he caught it on the 3, but he's not scared now.

"Yeah, we have got some work to do there, but … he loves being in that moment, and I love putting guys out there that want to be there, that relish that opportunity. Yeah, we've got to polish them up a little bit, but I think we've got a guy there that's going to be a good player for us."