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Kelly on Blue-Gold Game format and expectations, physical WRs and more Notre Dame construction

Rice v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - AUGUST 30: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches as his team takes on the Rice Owls at Notre Dame Stadium on August 30, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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The annual spring Blue-White Game just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Blue-Gold Game, does it?

Whatever the colors may be, Saturday’s final spring practice will feature a scrimmage of Notre Dame’s first-string offense (in blue) versus its first-string defense (in white) and the second-string defense against the second-string offense, per Irish coach Brian Kelly. Rather than an arcane scoring system, it will simply be a game, though quarterbacks and special teams will not be exposed to contact.

“This will be an extremely competitive situation with the ones going against the ones,” Kelly said following Notre Dame’s 13th spring practice Wednesday.

Just like blue-and-white may not sound as catchy as blue-and-gold, Kelly will be looking past the individual performances many fans might focus on beginning with the 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff. (Watch on NBCSN or the NBC Sports App)

“We’re not playing Temple this weekend, so really continuing to stick to the process for our players, talking to them after practice, making sure that they finish strong,” Kelly said of his primary concerns for the weekend. “We started well three months ago. I want to finish strong, and when I say finish strong, it’s really not about production in the game. It’s about the process, so I want to make sure that, for example, there’s an attention to detail with all the position groups. Now that they’re in a competitive situation, that they raise their level of focus.”

Though its time may be limited due to NCAA practice regulations and the crowd only about 30 percent of what it will be when the Irish face Temple on Sept. 2, Kelly expects his team to treat the scrimmage much like a game.

“[I want to make sure] that they’re a gritty team, that they keep fighting, that there’s no quit in this team, no matter what the circumstances are, even though it’s a Blue-Gold Game,” Kelly said.

“It’s more about the process. That’s really important at this moment, more so than what [junior quarterback Brandon] Wimbush’s numbers are or how many carries a guy gets and what his yardage is. I’m not really into the production as much as what’s really important right now, that they continue to stay on course relative to the process.”

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One thing both Kelly and the fans may be intrigued by will be the receiver alignments. Kelly expects the three starting receivers to be juniors Equanimeous St. Brown and Miles Boykin, and sophomore Chase Claypool. The emerging consistency of the latter two provides Kelly and new offensive coordinator Chip Long increased flexibility.

“With Miles playing at a really top level for us in consistency, we can move [St. Brown] to the wide field, and now we feel like we’ve got two big weapons there,” Kelly said. “That moves Chase inside. Now he’s not a prototypical inside receiver, but there are some things where as a blocker, as a guy that can come over the middle, there aren’t many teams that can match the size and physicality of that kid.”

RELATED READING: McKinley, Boykin show depth in Irish WR corps

Even if skeptical of the generosity of listed heights and weights, the physical presence of that trio cannot be dismissed. St. Brown is listed at 6-foot-5, 204 pounds; Boykin at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds; and Claypool at 6-foot-4 ½ and 224 pounds.

Sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson missed Wednesday’s practice due to a “personal matter,” according to Kelly, but is expected to play in Saturday’s scrimmage. Stepherson has also endured a lingering hamstring injury this spring.

Junior safety Nicco Fertitta will play Saturday with a cast on his left wrist. Kelly said Fertitta playing with the cast seemed a safer option than him not playing due to it—in the latter case, Fertitta might pull a “Ronnie Lott” and chop off his hand, a la Lott opting to remove his broken pinkie finger rather than deal with the rehabilitation that would come with surgery.

Kelly said the Notre Dame Board of Trustees has approved some renovations and additions to the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, otherwise known as the primary football facility. The work will begin quickly after the Campus Crossroads construction concludes on Notre Dame Stadium this fall.

The addition will include a new indoor football field, long felt a need for the program with only one limited field available indoors at the Loftus Sports Center, adjacent and connected to the Gug.

Kelly voiced complete support to new NCAA rules tentatively approved last week. An early signing date and an earlier official visit window should aid Notre Dame recruiting, in his opinion.

“I like the fact we can get juniors up here April through June to see our beautiful campus and the great weather that we have here in South Bend,” Kelly said. “April through June are great months to have early visitors and not just rely on home games. Those are great things from our perspective.”

RELATED READING: How will new NCAA legislation actually affect Notre Dame?

“Who knows how that will eventually play out. Will you have all your early commitments signed? Who knows. We’re not necessarily counting on that. Some may choose to do that, but everyone that chooses that allows us another resource to be pointed toward those who are not [signed]. We’re coast-to-cast, we’re going from L.A. to New Jersey. Any one less trip for a coach to go coast-to-coast to focus on a particular kid that’s not committed is a resource well-served.”

The subhead about sums up this point. Kelly confirmed he will attend next week’s NFL Draft “to support” former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.

A reminder, the Blue-Gold Game begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, will air on NBC Sports Network and can be streamed online here.