NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The answer is "No". As in no, the Notre Dame football team will not be wearing green when they host Oklahoma for the first time in 14 years this Saturday afternoon.
"We will not be wearing green jersey," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said on Tuesday. "But the Leprechaun Legion and the Kelly Cares Foundation will be giving out upwards of 40-thousand pom poms."
The pom pom giveaway is part of the "WEAR GREEN Game" initiative for Saturday's game.
Kelly also answered no when asked again whether or not he believes his offense is tipping plays based on its formations and personnel packages. It is a question that has been asked at least three times in the last week.
"I think everybody knows what we're trying to do on 3rd and one," said Kelly. "If you know what we're doing on 1st and 10 or 2nd and four then you know a lot more than we do, but I think if it's the fourth quarter and you don't know that we're running the ball out of two tight ends then you're not paying attention. We're pretty predictable in those kinds of situations."
"There (are) always going to be predictable situations within the game where it's a run versus a pass," Kelly continued. "And I also think there are going to be times in the game where you're going to be predictable if you're going to manage the football game, but I don't believe we're at a point where people say 'well, we know what we're going to get on this play'."
Kelly also answered another "no" as to whether or not he thought the unsportsmanlike penalty flag should have been thrown by an official in the second half of Saturday's win over Michigan State.
"He felt like we were racing onto the field and that we were creating a larger altercation," Kelly recalled. "I was trying to explain that we were simply - that was our offense in a transition coming out to the field. He didn't see it that was an felt like we were - it was kind of like coming off the bench in a fight, which wasn't the case."
Can They Run
Kelly conceded the worst kept secret in America on Tuesday when he noted his team's need to be able to run the ball better. The only time the Irish have topped the century mark on the ground this season was their 188-yard performance in the 28-6 season-opening win over Temple. They have averaged just under 90 yards over their last three games since then.
"The last three weeks have been a real challenge for us, as you know, in the running game," said Kelly. "We certainly have to run the ball better. We know that and I think everybody here in this room and America knows that. We think that the circumstances are such that we're going to continue to work at it in practice and we know we have to be better at it."
Kelly mentioned a four-man running back rotation during his Sunday teleconference after using a quartet of backs against the Spartans. Greg Bryant was the odd man out, but Kelly says that is not the plan going forward.
"We just got to four (backs)," Kelly said when asked to clarify whether Bryant is in his immediate plan. "I would like to get to five. Greg certainly has a skill set that we just haven't gotten into the game yet."
"It's about scripting five and trying to get five into the game more than anything else," Kelly continued. "We have him scripted in certain plays, it's just really the flow of the game, the circumstances and trying to get him in."
George Atkinson continues to be listed at the top of Notre Dame's running backs depth chart. Kelly says the junior has to continue to develop his "ball skills", but listed something else as more important to Atkinson's overall development.
"He's gotta run through tackles," Kelly said.
Sheldon Day missed Saturday's game after injuring his ankle in the victory over Purdue. He went through pregame warm-ups prior to the Michigan State game, but was a game time scratch.
"I expect him to practice today," said Kelly. "I think he's going to be gradual as the week progresses that we're going to see more and more from him. The reports were pretty good yesterday. He went through all of our conditioning yesterday and we hope to see him a little bit more today."
With Day out last week, reserve outside linebacker Romeo Okwara saw action on the defensive line against the Spartans.
Kelly on the continued development of receiver DaVaris Daniels
Daniels has three receptions for just six yards in his match-up against Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Denard. He had a career day just a week prior against Purdue when he had eight grabs for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think we all know that our guys are not finished products," Kelly began. "The challenges that they get by playing the schedule that we do allows them to grow as players. I think any time that you look at our players and you want to see them grow from the experiences that they have."
"DaVaris is a very smart kid and he watches film," Kelly continued. "He's very competitive and I think that what we'll be looking for and he will be as well, is to learn from his experiences."
Kelly on inside linebacker Jarrett Grace
Kelly recruited the Cincinnati native when he was still the Cincinnati head coach prior to his arrival at Notre Dame.
"(He) was a character kind from the day that I got a chance to know him," said Kelly. "Just a great character kid (and) leader. So, I knew not only was he going to be a great player, but he was going to be a leader. He's lived-up to that."
Kelly indicated that Grace's own leadership within the team was stunted while he sat behind Manti Te'o for two years, he was one of the team's great philanthropists with his community service work and fellowship.
"If you were to ask Manti today he would probably say 'that's my guy'," Kelly continued. "I'm not surprised that (Grace is) having success."
Grace currently leads the Irish with 28 tackles. Dan Fox is next with 27, followed by Carlo Calabrese's 26. Kelly commended Fox for being a "team guy" when he moved from Will linebacker to play more Mike while Grace got more experience to start the season. Fox's versatility allows him to now play either position, while Grace will continue to see the bulk of the playing time at Mike.
Safety and Nickel
This week's two-deep depth chart has Elijah Shumate as a starter at one safety spot with Austin Collinsworth and Matthias Farley as essentially 1-A and 1-B at the other safety. That's a change, because it used to be Farley at one safety and Collinsworth and Shumate 1-A and 1-B at the other.
"You've got a three-person rotation that's working out pretty good for us," Kelly said of the trio. "In situations we're moving the personnel in and out."
Shumate was also the nickel back on Saturday. It's a spot he had last year and one that freshman Cole Luke had for the first three games.
"We were getting a lot of action in that nickel position - a lot of drive routes," Kelly explained of the switch. "So, we felt like we wanted somebody a little bit more physical in there (to) disrupt the timing of those drive routes. Cole does a nice job in man-to-man coverage, so we moved him on the outside and moved Shumate inside. It's a fluid situation."
Kelly noted that the sophomore has been "solid" in his first season at right tackle, especially considering the "aggressive" defenses Michigan and Michigan State deployed and the myriad of movement Purdue used.
"I think what I was most proud of him on Saturday is he took a pretty big hit on the interception that was called a penalty, which caused a big of a hip pointer," said Kelly. "(It) really needed to be attended to, but he sat out one play and came right back in and was part of our last touchdown drive on the right side where Cam went in on the outside zone play untouched. (He) showed some real toughness getting in there."
Being Blake Bell
Kelly said senior walk-on quarterback Will Cronin (5'11, 180) and freshman cornerback Rashad Kinlaw (5'11, 182) will be the scout team quarterbacks who will try to imitate Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell (6'6, 252) this week.
"Those guys usually work that position for us," said Kelly.