Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2014

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

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BY ANDREW OWENS I t's a familiar refrain from Notre Dame each August. Now in year five of head coach Brian Kelly's tenure, Notre Dame has yet to find the consistency it de- sires from the special teams units. Even in 2012, when the team contended for its first national championship in 24 years, it finished 80th in the nation or worse in punt returns, kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. The lone consistent and constant bright spot on special teams has been senior Kyle Brindza, who has han- dled field goals for two seasons while punting for one and doing kickoffs for three. "Everything's set higher," Brindza said. "Even if I had a bad game, it's setting [the bar] higher. It doesn't mat- ter what year it is. You always have to set the bar one level higher because if you always keep it the same or lower, you're just complacent. I have my eyes on a higher prize than last year and that's how I've always been." Brindza made it clear his goals are to win the Lou Groza and Ray Guy awards for the nation's top kicker and punter, respectively. If recent history is any indication, don't expect the Irish special teams to contend for many other awards. In 2013, Notre Dame's special teams units ranged from good (kick- off returns ranked 22nd nationally at 23.76 yards per return) to bad (punt returns ranked 81st in yardage and punt return coverage 85th) to bottom of the barrel (122nd on kickoff cover- age while allowing a staggering 25.68 yards per return). Since the beginning of the spring, Kelly has talked extensively about determining the "rank and file" par- ticipants of the various special teams units before worrying about the ath- letes with the ball in their hands. Look no further than Notre Dame's punt return production to see the rank and file's importance. Former Irish wide receiver John Goodman developed the moniker "Fair Catch Goodman" SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW A 'SPECIAL' Situation Irish continue to seek consistency in the third phase of the game

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