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Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly confirmed what many assumed: The four players under academic investigation by the school will not play in the season opener against Rice on Saturday.
  • Demands increase for Irish defense
    Brian VanGorder walks down a hallway of the Guglielmino Athletic Complex, unaware anyone else is nearby.“Let’s get to work,” he says to the walls. “We’ve got a game to play.
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Notre Dame makes 3rd down 1st priority

– Notre Dame started sorting through its defensive options in the team’s substitution package on third downs when the Irish’s football team returned to spring practice Wednesday.

And there were plenty of players getting time to show what they can do in the portion of practice open to the media as the team got back to work for the first time since March 5.

“I’ve never really gone third down this early, because it is usually a migraine headache day for the quarterbacks and the offense,” coach Brian Kelly said. “But because we are going to be using a lot of sub packages, we wanted to be able to start to evaluate some of those players.”

One of the moves that stood out was linebacker and former Bishop Luers star Jaylon Smith working inside in the Irish’s nickel package that had four down linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.

Smith had 67 tackles as a freshman working primarily at outside linebacker. Kelly said the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder will be used in numerous spots as a sophomore.

“We are overloading him with a number of different looks,” Kelly said. “We don’t want offenses to know where he is. We are going to play him in a number of different positions. He can be inside, outside. We are moving him all over the place.”

Two former safeties are also finding their roles in Notre Dame’s nickel package.

Matthias Farley, who moved to cornerback, and John Turner, who moved to linebacker, shared time as the nickel back Wednesday.

“I think we talked about finding a position for (Farley),” Kelly said. “He’s a pretty good athlete. He’s got some size, and he’s got some experience playing at the highest level.

Joe Schmidt and Kendall Moore worked at the linebacker spot next to Smith in the first-team package with ends Romeo Okwara and Ishaq Williams and tackles Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day on the line. KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke were at cornerback, and Austin Collinsworth and Max Redfield were the safeties on the first unit.

And Kelly is making sure players can play multiple positions in case the Irish can’t substitute against fast-paced offenses.

“That will give us flexibility if they can play more than one position,” Kelly said. tkrausz@jg.net

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