NOTRE DAME, Ind. - This week was about the little things for Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame football team. Getting away from some little things led to big problems in last week's loss to Michigan, and Kelly wanted to make sure that his team had a different attention to detail at practice this week.
"I think we didn't leave anything up to our players," Kelly said after Thursday's practice. "As coaches, it was incumbent on us that we demanded all of those things. Sometimes when you're winning you kind of let the players keep moving in the right direction - you're still winning, you kind of let things go and you chalk it up to well that's the personality of this team."
"Well, the coaches took over this week and we made sure we did the things that we needed to do," Kelly continued. "And I'm sure the players understand that that's the way practice has to go and they embrace that."
When Kelly first arrived at Notre Dame prior to the 2010 season he and his staff completely overhauled the way the team went about its daily business and how players went about practicing. Things were not as drastic as that this week, but Kelly says he and his staff "inserted our personalities" more than they have recently.
"Smarter" and "more disciplined" have been the mantras Kelly has repeated since immediately after last week's loss. He and his staff stopped plays this week and made players run them over again until they were run to precision. As a result, he expects to see a much different kind of precision against Purdue this Saturday.
"I need all 22 guys to play the game the right way all the time," said Kelly. "There were times where we didn't as a group, so I'll be looking for that and we're demanding that from them. Those are the things that got us here and those are the things that will get us back to winning football games consistently."
This week's practices were about "focus" and tending to "the little things". Kelly says his team is confident and has a belief that it will win this weekend.
Frosh In The Backfield
Neither Greg Bryant nor Tarean Folston played last week against Michigan. The freshmen both saw the field in the season-opener against Temple, but neither is experienced enough to have helped in pass protection against the pressure-heavy Michigan defense. Both could see early time against Purdue though.
"The game really will dictate their playing time," Kelly said. "It was a different kind of game against Michigan, you know it was protections, it was split out as a receiver. It was a little bit of a different game. But they're going to be factors in the game plan. There (are) plays scripted for them this week."
Folston had five carries for 14 yards and one catch for nine yards, while Bryant had two carries for 12 yards against Temple.
"The game itself and the way the game is played would determine how many running backs that you can get in the game," Kelly continued. "I'm not just going to shuffle four or five guys in there if we're in a game where I want to do a specific thing offensively. It really depends on how the game unfolds."
Mahone At Slot
Will Mahone practiced more this week as he continues to come back from the ankle sprain that he suffered during training camp. The sophomore has been a reserve running back so far in his short career, but with a crowded backfield that has changed.
"He's playing more of the receiver/slot position more than the hybrid slot running back position," said Kelly. "He's back in trying to get reps. I told him today, it's competitive. I mean you can't make a mistake in practice. If you don't know what to do on one play you're going to find yourself behind, because there's just so much depth out there."
Kelly says he "likes" all the receivers on the roster, but he just does not know how to play them all right now.
(Non) Injury Update
As Kelly said earlier this week, Malik Zaire was able to practice this week. The freshman quarterback battled mono for a couple weeks and was able to finally resume physical activity this week, although he still has not gone through contact drills.
"We haven't got him officially cleared yet," Kelly said. "He's day-to-day right now. It'll be a game time decision on him."
Kelly says "it's possible" Zaire could play on Saturday against Purdue. There were no new injuries to report this week. A handful of players had to have IV fluids due to temperatures back in the 90s this week. Temps are expected to be in the 60s by kickoff Saturday night in West Lafayette.
Tommy Rees banged his knee during last week's game, but Kelly says it was just a bone bruise.
"He was fine all week," Kelly said of Rees. "He looked good."