Kelly, Notre Dame trying to look beyond four suspensions
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media August 19, 2014 9:41PM
Updated: September 22, 2014 12:08PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame unveiled its new threads during media day Tuesday. Officials displayed mannequins wearing the team’s home and road jerseys, as well as this year’s Shamrock Series uniform.
It was a case of the show going on.
Players have had a few days to absorb the sudden absences of teammates DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore. The four have been held out of practice — and could miss games — while the university looks into suspected academic dishonesty of several students. With the investigation ongoing, most of the players available Tuesday tried to avoid the topic.
‘‘I can’t really comment at all,’’ linebacker Joe Schmidt said. ‘‘I don’t even know if I can say ‘the last week.’ ’’
They’re about the only ones not talking about the academic scandal that shook the college football world Friday. The Irish could lose three starters in Daniels, Russell and Williams. Any time without Russell or Daniels would be a major blow. But coach Brian Kelly said Notre Dame hasn’t had to re-evaluate its goals for the season.
‘‘Expectations haven’t changed. They can’t change,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘We go into every season [without] a conference championship to play for, so we only have one goal in mind, and that is to get in the playoffs, and that’s our only focus, to be one of those four teams to get in the playoffs. That’s the only way you can think.’’
Kelly has talked to the four players, but there isn’t any more clarity into the situation. Quarterback Everett Golson, who missed all of last season because of a suspension tied to academics, also has communicated with the players. He declined to talk about those discussions.
Daniels is a potential big-play target for Golson at wide receiver. Corey Robinson is one of the players in line to fill the void. The sophomore had nine catches for 157 yards and one touchdown in 2013.
‘‘The receiving corps, we’re kind of young, but we’re really deep,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘We have a lot of talent. I wouldn’t necessarily say there is pressure [to replace Daniels] because everyone knows that they are very talented, and they all know what to do out there.’’
With Daniels out, Chris Brown (15 catches) becomes the top returning receiver.
‘‘We’re just a little young,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘We have some leadership in Chris Brown, and I think we are coming together as a receiving corps pretty well. I think we’re going to make some big plays this year.’’
Kelly credits the players for not letting the circumstances linger at practice.
‘‘Sometimes I think the coaches get more worked up about it than the players. Players have such resolve,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘They’re young guys. They get over it. They move on. Coaches get way too worked up about it sometimes.
‘‘. . . The players were affected by the loss of their players as it relates to teammates but not necessarily as it relates to playing time. Coaches are worried about the playing-time element, like, ‘All right, how am I going to fill in for these snaps?’ So it’s an interesting dichotomy how it works.
‘‘I see it, obviously, [as] the loss of four kids that I care about. Our players moved on quickly from it, and we just immediately treat it as next man in. Get the next guy ready, and that’s how we’ve always operated here.’’