Slim scoring won’t cut it with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media August 22, 2013 8:39PM
Updated: September 24, 2013 6:37AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly threw down the gauntlet Thursday at Notre Dame’s media day.
‘‘Certainly, we’re going to have to play very good defense — we know that for sure,’’ the Notre Dame coach said during a news conference in the Notre Dame Stadium press box. ‘‘But we have to score more points.”
The Irish finished 78th nationally last season in scoring, averaging 25.8 points per game.
‘‘We did not score enough points,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘We were not effective enough in the red zone. Those two things are pretty clear. And we did not throw the ball effectively enough on first- and second-down situations.
‘‘A bigger piece falls on the offense this year than it does the defense.’’
The players are well aware of the challenge.
‘‘The offense understands scoring points is important,’’ quarterback Tommy Rees said. ‘‘We’ve really executed well throughout camp. We really understand what we’re trying to do offensively. Now it’s time to fine-tune some of those things and really develop individually.”
Notre Dame went 48-for-60 (80 percent) in red-zone opportunities last year but only scored touchdowns in 29 of those 60 trips to the red zone (48 percent).
‘‘We have to play more physical [in the red zone],’’ wide receiver TJ Jones said. ‘‘We have to know the defense is going to hold you. They are going to grab your jersey. Calls aren’t going to be made. You have to go back to playing . . . not backyard football, but get down to the nitty-gritty and making plays that need to be made.’’
Red-zone efficiency remains a work in progress at practice.
‘‘There are days we’ve done a better job down there. There have been days where we would have kicked some field goals,’’ offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. ‘‘The first thing, we have to make sure we get field goals, because [kicker Kyle] Brindza did an awesome job kicking for us. Although we would have liked to have scored more touchdowns, we scored enough points to win every game, and the game we didn’t win [the national championship game], we were 2-for-2 in the red zone — that was one of the few bright spots. It’s a point of emphasis for everyone at every position.’’
Defensive lineman Tony Springmann will miss the season with a knee injury that requires surgery.
◆ TJ Jones, Zack Martin and Bennett Jackson were named the Irish captains.
◆ Defensive end Stephon Tuitt twisted a knee at practice and hobbled off on his own power. ‘‘We didn’t see anything major there,’’ coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘We’re not concerned at all.’’
◆ George Atkinson III will handle kick returns and Jones will return punts to start the season.
◆ Notre Dame will use punter/kicker Kyle Brindza, kicker Nick Tausch and punter Alex Wulfeck against Temple. Brindza will get the first shot at punting.
◆ Suspended quarterback Everett Golson is working out in Chicago, Kelly said, and will train with quarterback guru George Whitfield this fall in San Diego.