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Irish to tackle the unknown, depth chart updates

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said there will be plenty of unknowns when the No. 14 Irish open the season against Temple at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Owls have a new coach, Matt Rhule, a starting quartreback, Conner Reilly, who is taking his first college game day snaps, and offensive and defensive systems that are a mystery right now.

"We do know this, Matt tutored under (current Miami and former Temple coach) Al Golden. We know the success that Al has had, and I have a great deal of respect for Al and his program and the discipline and organization that this Temple football team is going to have in this game," Kelly said during his Tuesday afternoon news conference. "As well as working for (New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, you know this football team is going to be ready.

"We don't know exactly what we're going to see. We think we do. I think this is one of those openers where we are going to have to kind of make some adjustments along the way."

There were some adjustments made to the depth chart with a good number of freshmen in line for playing time in the opener.

Former Bishop Luers standout Jaylon Smith is listed as one of the starting outside linebackers. Smith is in the starting spot that was left open after senior Danny Smith had to stop playing because of severe migraines.

Junior Ben Councell is listed as Smith's backup.

"He plays so well in space, very smart player, plays instinctively," Kelly said of Smith. "I think the one thing that Jaylon has done as well as a lot of freshmen that I've been around, he doesn't make the same mistake twice. He's a guy that comes back the next day, and he can eradicate the same mistake twice, and that's a hallmark of a guy that's going to play a lot of football for us."

Kelly also expects two offensive linemen to play a lot in the first game and throughout the season.

Sophomore Ronnie Stanley, who returned to practice Monday after missing Thursday's practice because of concussion, is listed as the starting right tackle. That pushed senior Christian Lombard, who started at right tackle last season, to right guard.

Freshman Steve Elmer is listed as the No. 2 right tackle.

"That's a very fluid situation," Kelly said of right tackle. "We have great confidence that Steve Elmer could go in there and start for us if we needed him to, as well, and it's not out of the question that he could be playing there at some time on Saturday, as well. I think you should keep an eye on both of those guys playing some right tackle for us."

Another spot that will have a heavy rotation is the safety position next to returning starter Matthias Farley.

Senior Austin Collinsworth is listed as the starter with sophomore Elijah Shumate backing him up. Shumate had run with the first-team defense for the majority of practices open to the media during fall camp.

"I think it's a 1A, 1B situation," Kelly said of Collinsworth and Shumate. "Depending on where we are in the game, down and distance, a lot of those factors will be involved. I think you've got to look at both of those guys playing an equal amount of football."

Other freshmen on the depth chart that could play against Temple are receivers Corey Robinson and James Onwualu, running back Greg Bryant, left tackle Hunter Bivin, defensive lineman Isaac Rochell and cornerback Cole Luke. Kelly also said that freshman defensive back Max Redfield, who is not on the depth chart, will play Saturday, but he won't play in the safety rotation.

"It's a very unique group that they have never once said, 'We're the group,'."Kelly said of the freshmen. "They have blended in so well to an established identity with the football team. It takes a humble group of guys. That's why it's a pretty good dynamic."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.

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