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As Purdue nears, Irish boiling with excitement

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- From inside the fence Wednesday evening at the LaBar Practice Complex, Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter fired the first flaming arrow toward West Lafayette.

"I think when it comes to Saturday, somebody's going to get exposed," the junior said about Purdue quarterback Robert Marve, a Miami (Fla.) transfer set to start under center for the first time since 2008.

It was the Fighting Irish defense that was often exposed last season, giving up nearly 400 yards per game -- 227.5 through the air. Vast improvement has been atop ND fans' wish list. Always confident, the 6-foot, 195-pound Slaughter is guaranteeing satisfaction, starting at 2:41 CT at Notre Dame Stadium.

"I know our defense, we're going to ball this year," Slaughter said. "I know we're going to do good."

Coach Brian Kelly understands that he'll have to temper his team's enthusiasm over the next couple days.

"Our guys are obviously at that point where they want to play on Saturday," he said. "I'm just not going to let them play yet. They're going to have to do things and pay attention to detail and do all those things. We're obviously excited about the opportunity but we still got some work to do. ... I'm pleased with our guys. They're anxious to play but we just got to pull the reins back a little bit and make sure they pay attention to detail."

The level of excitement on campus, for which Kelly's primarily responsible, is beyond his control now.

"Definitely," right tackle Taylor Dever said about the feverish atmosphere in his classes, where the 297-pounder admits he anxiously taps his foot thinking about the Boilermakers. "It's very hard to concentrate and focus this first week of school. The students here, they love Notre Dame football and they love us. That's what I love about this place is that they're always going to be behind us. All the teachers are so into it and talking about it in class and all the students are excited."

Like the rest of the college football sphere, Irish fans are eager to see Kelly's pin-you-to-your-seat spread offense in action. Wednesday he focused on synchronizing all the moving parts and limiting penalties.

"More for us is we've got a lot of young players out there getting lined up quickly," Kelly said. "We certainly don't want to have a great play called back because we didn't have enough guys on the line of scrimmage. Those don't sit too well with me. So just, more today was attention to detail and making sure we were on top of them. I'm not going to let any of them slide in practice and hope that it doesn't happen in a game. We're going to take care of all the things we need to take care of and that is attention to detail in practice."

Loose ends

It's been a rough month for senior tight end Mike Ragone. After recovering from heat illness that shelved him for a good chunk of camp, which in part played a role in losing his reserve spot behind Kyle Rudolph to sophomore Tyler Eifert, Ragone was again absent from practice Wednesday.

"Unfortunately he has an inner ear infection -- pretty severe," Kelly explained. "He had severe headaches. He's in the infirmary right now. The report was vertigo, inner ear infection; we were really concerned because he's been doing so well, especially on the hot days of practice. He had that heat illness and he's bounced back and he's doing really well. Now he's been hit with this. We don't know what his status is going to be ... he can't catch a break right now."

Rudolph's been on light duty throughout camp, recovering from a pulled hamstring. Kelly said the limited action has had some adverse effects on the 2009 Mackey Award finalist.

"Physically he's 100 percent," Kelly said. "I think mentally he's still got some work to do. Obviously being involved in an offense ... he didn't do much in the spring, either. He's still got some work to do from the mental [side]. He's been well-conditioned by coach [Paul] Longo. We do not bring a player back and run him with our team unless there's been a conditioning element. What it's allowed us to do is find that we've got some other really good tight ends too that might take away some of his playing time. We'll see."