SOUTH BEND — FieldTurf in Notre Dame Stadium is apparently no longer a
question of if, but rather when.
Irish head football coach Brian Kelly's preseason primer at noon
Friday precedes the team's first practice of fall training camp by 22
hours and figures to finally put some closure to some of the Notre
Dame football team's long-percolating offseason mysteries.
But Thursday night on WSBT's Weekday SportsBeat, Kelly shed some light
on a few of those issues, not the least of which was the FieldTurf
question. Notre Dame Stadium has featured a natural grass surface
since the facility opened in 1930.
“Field Turf is coming,” Kelly said. “It's something that's eventually
going to be in the stadium. We had a lot of construction in there this
year, which kind of put us back a little bit, but that's coming.”
He later added that it could be as early as the 2013 football season.
The school did install artificial turf this offseason on the sidelines
and in the corners of the back of the end zone.
“We've had so many incidents of guys going out of bounds and stepping
on the concrete and slipping,” Kelly noted.
The Irish practice on FieldTurf, but will play 11 of their 12 games
this season on natural grass.
Kelly would like to hold more practices, though, in the stadium — not
just at the LaBar Practice Complex. But the fragile state of the field
virtually eliminates that. Kelly's thinking is, when you never get in
the stadium for practice, it becomes “almost like the Basilica to the
players” and erodes home-field advantage because of the awe factor.
Speaking of which, in a recent study published at
predictionmachine.com, all 120 teams that played in the FBS last
season were rated on their home-field advantage. The data takes into
account games all the way back to 2000.
Notre Dame ended up 105th out of 120. Navy, ND's opening opponent was
dead last. The two teams meet on neutral ground Sept. 1 in Dublin,
Ireland. Oklahoma, where the Irish play Oct. 27, was rated as being
the toughest place to play.
“I think Jack Swarbrick, our athletic director, his vision has a lot
more things in store for our stadium,” Kelly said of enhancing ND's
home-field advantage. “So it should be exciting.”
No return for Shepard
Privacy laws still restrict Brian Kelly from putting a finer point on
cornerback Tee Shepard's abbreviated stay at Notre Dame, but the Irish
head football coach was clear that there will be no return.
Shepard was one of three ND freshmen football players who enrolled
early, in January, but he dropped off the roster in mid March just
days before the Irish were to start spring practice.
The Fresno, Calif., product, though, has been outspoken on his Twitter
account recently about his desire to rejoin his old team.
“We really, really enjoyed having him,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately, it
was a short stay. There were complications in that stay that we
couldn't keep him at Notre Dame. And so we've moved on. That door has
now closed. We have invested those assets in other positions.
“As much as we enjoyed having him with us, that ship has sailed.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder would likely have been a strong candidate to
start at cornerback this fall had he stayed at ND.
“It's my understanding it was testing issues,” Fresno Washington coach
Jeff Freitas told the South Bend Tribune earlier this summer. “I don't
have the details. It's unfortunate. Tee is a really good kid. This is
hard on him.
“I wish it could have worked out for him at Notre Dame. He'll get through this.”
More KellyOn his approach to potential transfers from Penn State's current
roster and contacting members of the Nittany Lions' current recruiting
“As it relates to players on their current roster, we treated it as if
they were already committed to Penn State,” he said. “They would have
to publicly decommit from Penn State and then they would have to
contact us. That didn't happen, which was fine with us.”
As far as recruits for the current cycle that ends with signing day in
February, the Irish are being more aggressive.
“We've had a number of situations — Gunner Kiel, for example, who was
committed to LSU — (where) we're always going to be in the mix there
if they feel like they still want to listen.
“So there may be a player or two who are committed to Penn State that
feel they want to open up their recruiting. If they want to open up
their recruiting, certainly if we have an interest and a need, we
could want to get involved in that situation.”On whether he has a strong idea of who might end up opening at
quarterback for the Irish Sept. 1 against Navy:
“I do,” he said. “I've got an idea in my mind, but we now have to take
that from what I consider meeting-room talk and what we all see in the
meeting room, and then we've got to go apply that.
“But (getting one ready) is not good enough. We've got to get a couple
of guys ready for Navy and the season.”On where he's concerned about jet lag coming back from Ireland and
getting ready for Purdue:
“I think anytime you're dealing with college students, you're worried
about lack of sleep and that beginning to snowball on them,” Kelly
said. “I worry about fatigue as we move into a very rigorous schedule.
“It's important that they get a good amount of sleep, but the clock
works in our favor on the way back. We'll get back about 1 a.m., which
is like (the) Pittsburgh (game) last year.
“You're able to come back to a decent schedule the next day. So I'm
not as concerned about the immediate. I'm concerned we don't get
enough rest and it maybe bites us a little bit later.”On the downside of coming close to catching Cody Ross' home run
ball at Fenway Park a couple of weeks ago while taking in a Red Sox
“Obviously, once that happened and I got on TV, the gig was up,” he
said. “I lasted another inning. The autograph hounds came out of the
woodwork after that. But I probably could have been smarter and not
stood up and shown myself to ESPN at that time.
“I just got caught up in the moment. You see a ball, you stand up and
you think you're going to catch it.”
Rank and file
The Irish find themselves at No. 24 in the USA Today preseason coaches
poll. The not-so-good news is five of their 2012 opponents are ranked
higher, including three in the top 10.
USC is No. 3 and Oklahoma 4 — and the Irish play both on the road, as
well as No. 13 Michigan State. Eighth-ranked Michigan and No. 18
Stanford come to ND Stadium this season.