SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame is midway through its fall camp, and coach Brian Kelly has liked what he has seen from his team.
“I’ve probably in my own mind answered a lot of some of the early questions that we had about our football team,” Kelly said during Thursday’s media day. “And just the way that we have gone to work, really pleased with our football team, proud of the way they’ve taken each day and have really benefited from the teachings.”
The Irish still have plenty of time before their season opener against Navy on Sept. 1 in Dublin, Ireland. But the players said this year’s camp has a different vibe then Kelly’s first two with the program.
“In my five camps here, this is the best camp we have had yet,” said receiver John Goodman, a Bishop Dwenger graduate. “Everybody is basically healthy, and the team morale is there.
“It is not something you see at the end of camp, obviously guys are thinking that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Then you have a couple of practices left and guys are being sluggish. For our team, that is not the case. Everybody just wants to go out, have fun and get something done in practice, rather than just get by. That is huge for our team.”
Notre Dame’s practice will change at the start of next week, as the Irish focus more on their opponent.
The shift to preparing for Navy on Monday will help clear up the starting quarterback question.
Kelly has narrowed his search for a starter to junior Andrew Hendrix and sophomore Everett Golson. Junior Tommy Rees, last year’s starter, is suspended for the first game, and freshman Gunner Kiel is not ready to start.
Hendrix and Golson have shared practice snaps evenly over the first two weeks of practice. Kelly said the split will no longer be 50-50 as the opener approaches. And even if one takes more snaps than the other next week, there will still be another week for either Hendrix or Golson to prove they should be the starter for the season opener.
“There’s still so much learning, so it wouldn’t be as cut and dry as say, here’s my No. 1,” Kelly said. “The door will still be open for growth during that week, but we’ll start to separate the reps a little bit.”
Hendrix said he and Golson are ready for the practice reps to change, but the change in workload will not alter how either quarterback approaches practice.
“It’s just about taking the reps that you get and doing the absolute best you can do with those reps,” Hendrix said. “Whether it’s 70 (percent) of the reps or 30, you have your work to be done. Coach Kelly will choose what is best for the team.”
As Kelly continues to find the best choice for the team at quarterback, the rest of the Irish are also doing what is best for them on the field.
Running back Theo Riddick echoed Goodman’s sentiment about the practices being some of the best in his four years at Notre Dame.
“I would say that is something new with this team, how we come to practice on a day-to-day basis,” Riddick said. “We don’t waste time. We are not on that roller coaster where we have one good practice then one bad practice. We have a lot more consistency.”