Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly guaranteed Saturday the team will get past mounting distractions.
The Irish are preparing to be without DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore when they open their season on Aug. 30 against Rice.
Kelly said the team responded well to its first practice since the university announced Friday that it was investigating those four players for potential academic misconduct.
“I expect our group to be affected by it, but I expect them to be stronger too,” Kelly said. “These kids have a resiliency. They want to play football for Notre Dame. They have a tendency to pull together.”
Russell, the team’s top cornerback, and Daniels, arguably its best receiver, left big voids at Saturday’s practice, attended by reporters and faculty members.
William Fuller took Daniels’ place on the outside, while fellow sophomore Cole Luke took first-team reps at corner.
“You don't replace corners like KeiVarae Russell because he is one of the best corners we have had at this university in a long time,” Kelly said. “We’ll find a way.”
Whatever the final status of those four players turns out to be, and whenever it becomes known, Kelly is already putting it out of mind.
“I have a job to do and another hundred players I have to be concerned with,” he said. “My focus and attention is on continuing to develop our players on a day-to-day basis. We’ll rally.”
Time for details
Kelly said the Irish are past the installation process of their overall schemes and spent most of Saturday’s practice working on special teams and situational play calls.
Among those held out of practice were linebacker Doug Randolph, tight end Tyler Luatua, receiver Justin Brent and defensive lineman Jacob Matuska.