One of the best parts of spring football is the speculation.
The depth chart guessing game. Combing the roster for weight shifts and position changes. Reading Brian Kelly’s weekly reports of who’s out and who’s back and who’s impressing the coaches.
Just don’t expect Kelly to get caught up in the excitement. As he said during a Saturday, March 23, press conference:
“I know you all want me to talk about each individual, but this is really for me about finding the identity of this team as a group. My focus and my attention has been crafting and making sure that we’re coming together in the manner that I want and after the third practice it’s pretty apparent that this is going to be a very locked-in, focused, disciplined group of guys. They pay attention to detail. They follow up very well. We don’t have a lot of sloppy, ball on the ground, guys falling around. Where we are after the third day is less about who’s the second running back, who’s the third guard, this is really about setting a tone as to the way we’re going to play the game. It’s starting to come together. I like what I see from the entire group and our focus.”
Kelly;s made it clear that the identity of the 2012 squad will not be the identity of the 2013 squad. While he plans on using the foundation that he built with players like Manti Te’o, Tyler Eifert, Michael Floyd and Kapron Lewis-Moore over the past three years, he wants the 2013 team to embrace an identity of its own:
“We’re definitely building on the habits. We’re definitely building on all the things that it takes to be successful. What we’re talking about is a different collection of players and where we are this year relative to who those playmakers are going to be, both sides of the ball. That’s the identity that we’re talking about. We’re not losing all the things that we’ve built over the last three years, that’s in place. That’s the foundation. This is more about the 2013 team more so than it is about the program. That’s the difference between the two.”
Speaking of new identities, Kelly doesn’t expect Troy Niklas to be the next Tyler Eifert. Where the All-American tight end flourished as Notre Dame’s No. 1 receiving target last year, Kelly expects Niklas to be more of an in-line player.
If Eifert was Aaron Hernandez, Niklas will be Rob Gronkowski.
“He can move, he’s athletic, he’s long,” Kelly said of Niklas. “But we won’t utilize him in the manner that we used Tyler Eifert. But we think that he’s got a unique skill set that he’s going to be, we think, one of the best front line tight end blockers and then obviously with his size and speed.”