Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2014 Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 51 of 126

BY STAFF S top us if you've heard this one before, but … head coach Brian Kelly has focused more intently on Irish special teams this spring. "We've done special teams every day since [spring practice began]," Kelly said. "It's the first time I've done it." With tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Kelly added: "I don't know if you watched us, but we haven't been very good at special teams, in my opinion." The placekicking actually has been strong under Kelly — first with Lou Groza finalist David Ruffer and now third-year starter Kyle Brindza, who is one of seven players in the nation last year who punted, kicked and kicked off. Kickoff returns have been mediocre the past two years, the kick coverage was the second worst in the country last season and punt returns have consis- tently ranked near the bottom, although the graduated TJ Jones' 15 returns last year accounted for 106 yards — which was more than the 46- and 48-yard to- tals the team accrued the past two years combined. A brutal winter kept Notre Dame in- doors most of "spring" practice, limit- ing how much work the return games were able to do in the outdoor elements. During the annual Coaches Clinic at Notre Dame March 21, extensive time was spent with Detroit Lions special teams coordinator John Bonamego. While much attention always is de- voted to selecti g the return men, it is irrelevant if the blocking or schemes are amiss, which has been the case. "Where some of our shortcomings have been is the allocation of person- nel in specific roles," Kelly said. "We're spending time in breaking out specific players in specific roles right away. We're working on those fundamentals so they can carry those fundamentals into the summer. … When we get here in August it's not the first time they're working on specific fundamentals." Sophomore running back Greg Bry- ant has indicated that he expects to re- turn punts when Rice arrives at Notre Dame Stadium Aug. 30. He also added that he might return kickoffs when se- nior slot receiver Amir Carlisle "is a little tired or something." "Punt returner is raw talent and SPECIAL ATTENTION Overall kicking game needs long-awaited breakout campaign

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