Kelly anxious to open first Irish fall camp

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The image on the cover of Notre Dame's media guide tells the story of what kind of team Brian Kelly wants. Instead of depicting any current players or the new head coach, the guide has a portrait of old-school, anonymous players emerging from the stadium tunnel in leather helmets.

Kelly is seeking a return to the glory days of Irish football, which some cynics may say has been gone as long as that leather headgear.

"I think that is the pervasive theme here," Kelly said. "Let's get back to understanding the great tradition, who we are and how we play the game. I won't go as far as no facemasks. But I will tell you that toughness, the Fighting Irish theme, is what I want to continue to advance forward."

Kelly didn't make any grand pronouncements at Friday's kickoff luncheon, held one day before Notre Dame opens fall practice. He seemed more upbeat about the team's prospects than he did at times during the spring when the players were still learning the system. Kelly said the Irish have strengths, vulnerabilities and questions marks, which he listed as the following:

  • Strengths: Depth on the offensive line, "great depth" at running back and defensive playmakers on the perimeter.

  • Vulnerabilities: Experience at quarterback (only Dayne Crist has played in a game, and he's never started) and depth on the defensive line.

  • Question marks: Consistency from the secondary and kicking game.

Kelly said the key battles of fall camp will occur on the offensive line, where he believes he has 10 players capable of contributing; at one of the inside linebacker spots, where Anthony McDonald, Steve Paskorz and David Posluszny are among those fighting for time; and safety.

Dan McCarthy, Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter and Harrison Smith are all in the mix for starting safety spots. Behind them, the team is thin with Spencer Boyd transferring and Chris Badger opting to go on a Mormon mission to Ecuador. Kelly said he'll consider moving some players there from the offense, but he wouldn't disclose who that might be until he has discussed it with them.

Of the freshmen who arrived this summer, Kelly singled out receivers Bennett Jackson and Austin Collinsworth as having impressed the most and having perhaps the best chance to make the travel roster. One freshman who appears to have a long way to go is highly touted defensive lineman Louis Nix.

Nix weighed in at a whopping 350 pounds, or about 35 pounds more than he was listed at on signing day. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said Nix was working with the training staff to shed the weight.

"It's going to be a while," said Diaco, who added that he wants his noseguards to weigh between 290 and 300 pounds.

Kelly said he usually wishes he had more time when fall camp rolls around, but that he can't wait to get back to work with this group. He wants the players to embrace the tradition and take on a tough attitude. And he only mentioned one goal.

"We're here to win championships," he said.