One week, Notre Dame stinks. The next? They stink a little less.
That’s pretty much the assessment made by head coach Brian Kelly three practices after expressing disappointment in the team’s execution — particularly that of the offense — during spring drills.
Midway through spring practice, Kelly would prefer to reserve judgment on assessing the team’s prospects for the upcoming season. Rather, he wants to see consistency in effort, sound habits and overall motivation. He wasn’t seeing that last week when he expressed his animated concern.
“Last week we weren't very good. I think I made that pretty clear,” he told the Associated Press after practice Saturday. “This week I wanted to evaluate three practices and then make a decision. In all three practices we started better, we finished better and we made progress. We still have a long way to go.”
Kelly believes the team finally understands how he wants them to practice, which is at a much faster pace than under former head coach Charlie Weis.
It may have helped that Fighting Irish coaches laid down the law in a meeting earlier last week.
“We drew a line in the sand,” Kelly noted. “We said, ‘Listen, this is where we're going to be with this. If you don't want to jump on board then it's going to be addition by subtraction.’”
Quarterback Dayne Crist, who was one of the main targets of Kelly's critique, is undoubtedly on board with his head coach. In fact, he admitted that he hadn’t made such a great impression this spring.
“[Coach] was 100 percent right,” Crist admitted after a recent practice. “My fundamentals definitely need work. One hundred percent need to improve my footwork or else I'm not going to get any better. I need to increase my accuracy in all areas. What was said was said, but coach is 100 percent right.”
With Crist being the only experienced signal-caller in camp, the focus under center has been magnified — as if it couldn’t be any bigger with the burden of replacing Jimmy Clausen at a big-name institution like Notre Dame.
Yet despite coaches wondering if the playbook should be scaled back and others questioning the health of his knee, Crist believes it’s only a matter of time before the offense comes together.
“I feel very comfortable with where we're at,” he said. “I just need to continue to rep it and work at it. Experience with an offense definitely comes with the reps you get. The more we're out there, the better we'll get.”
What a difference a week makes in South Bend.
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