Brindza adds to his special teams duties

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Kyle Brindza's eyes lit up a bit when he was asked if managing his workload was akin to a pitch count in baseball.

"I'm glad you bring that up," Brindza said. "We're kind of definitely just like pitchers: You kind of have to have a set amount. I go out there with a set amount of field goals on the day. ... I'm not going to go over it. If I go under it, that's fine, because I was able to do it well enough to be able to go under it. But if I go over it, that's kind of something I need to hold myself back from."

For the second straight year, Brindza took over as place-kicker in Notre Dame's second game. He connected on all three field goal attempts last Saturday in his home state of Michigan, hitting from 24, 44 and 40 yards out. The difference this year is that, in addition to his kickoff duties, Brindza is also the Irish's primary punter, and bears the responsibilities in all three special teams areas after Ben Turk graduated.

Nick Tausch was invited back for a fifth season of eligibility to compete with Brindza and help lighten the place-kicking load, but Tausch missed on his first attempt in the opener, allowing Brindza the chance to take over.

Brindza also missed, though coach Brian Kelly pegged much of the blame on new holder Luke Massa. Brindza was back in his familiar spot last weekend, a year after being thrust into the same role following Tausch's mid-week groin injury following the 2012 opener.

Brindza responded in Week 2 of last season by kicking a game-winning 27-yard field goal with seven seconds left to beat Purdue. He ended up hitting a school single-season record 23 field goals, including a 22-yarder in the rain to send the Stanford game into overtime. He hit five in the regular-season finale at USC, including one from 52 yards.

Alex Wulfeck, a fifth-year walk-on transfer from Wake Forest, can spell Brindza at punter if necessary this season. But the 6-foot-1, 236-pound junior has learned to better manage his workload, relying on stretching, repetition and muscle memory to become what he calls "10 times more flexible" since he arrived at Notre Dame.

"It's kind of like your studies -- when it's football time, you focus on football; when it's your study time, you focus on studying," Brindza said of dividing the duties. "It's kind of just, all right, when I'm punting, focus on punting. When kicking's there, the kicking can come. So I guess it took off a little, but now that I'm able to be kind of in a role of being able to focus on both it's kind of evened its way out."