Exactly one week before the Blue-Gold game, Brian Kelly gave the members of the media and the nearly 800 coaches that attended the annual coaching clinic an advanced look, offering a completely open two-hour window for viewing.
A few notes after reading various reports:
* Looking for an early enrollee that’ll see the field first? Look no further than Tai-ler Jones, now known as T.J. Jones, who worked with the first team offense, lining up mostly in the slot between Michael Floyd and Duval Kamara. Kelly has been impressed with what Jones has brought to the offense.
“You know, T.J.'s got some real good ability,” Kelly said. “But his work volume, he’s still got the tassel on the car window from graduation, he’s just a young kid. He’s got a chance to be a player for us and contribute this year but boy, his work volume really tapers off. That’s why we’ve got to get two or three guys ready at that position.”
Working in after him was Theo Riddick, a guy that many assumed would be moving from spot running back duty to full-time receiver play, but Riddick is still slightly hindered from offseason surgery.
* From everything I’ve read, Manti Te’o was an absolute beast out there today, laying the lumber on offensive players left and right. This spring, Te’o has taken the steps the coaching staff needed him to take, and I expect him to be an elite defender next season. From the sounds of it, Kelly has the same expectations.
“I think he’s in his own mind and his coaches and myself, living up maybe to some of the expectations that everyone had coming in as one of the top premiere high school players in the country,” Kelly said. “He can be a great player. He’s got a chance and he’s showing some signs of that. His recognition. His leadership. It’s exciting to watch him grow. He’s really growing quickly in a very short period of time.
Te’o also landed the biggest hit of the day (which you can see here at the fifteen-second mark), de-cleating Armando Allen on a sweep play around the right end. As Te’o becomes more comfortable and experienced, expect him to truly flourish in the new defensive system.
* It sounds like the offense is still a work-in-progress, but expect both Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd to excel from the start. Rudolph was limited in the scrimmage today, but was a weapon in the red zone, catching a few touchdown passes from Dayne Crist and also showing what a physical presence he is down there as well. Meanwhile, Mr. Floyd scored on an end around, caught a few short passes, and connected with Crist on a nice route down the seam as well.
* The offensive line had a new combination of starters today, with Taylor Dever getting reps at left tackle, Trevor Robinson sliding to left guard, Braxston Cave at center, Chris Stewart at right guard, and Zack Martin at right tackle.
* After practice, Kelly caught a flight to his brother’s wedding, where he’s serving as the best man.
“I’m going in flip-flops and Notre Dame green. If he doesn’t like it, strike three for him,” he joked about his brother’s second wedding.
* Both wide receivers coach Tony Alford and lineman Alex Bullard missed practice today, heading home to spend time with their ailing fathers.
“Coach Alford would be here if he could,” Kelly said. “I thought he needed to be back with his family. Our prayers and wishes are out to him. And then Alex Bullard, his dad is fighting a similar battle and we gave him the opportunity to go home this morning. That’s why our team was out on the field a little bit later, making sure we were passing our respects on to the families.”