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Aristotle has been quoted as saying, “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.” Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly may take issue with that comment.
The veteran coach has spent five days watching a group of players just months out of high school demonstrate on a daily basis that they very well may have an impact on this year's Fighting Irish football team.
Following Wednesday's practice, the first for the Notre Dame players in full pads, Kelly praised the group of freshman wide receivers for their effort in training camp.
“We threw a lot at them,” Kelly said. “We've got what we feel are three talented young men in Justin Ferguson, Davonte Neal and Chris Brown, so we are getting them repetitions. They're in there.”
With the graduation of All-American wide receiver Michael Floyd, Notre Dame doesn't lack quantity at the receiver position: As many as seven or eight players may see considerable action this year. However, the quality at that position is still sorting itself out according to the coach.
“From a positive standpoint, I think that they all see an opportunity for them to get more touches,” Kelly said. “We tried really hard to get the ball to (Floyd) in so many different areas. On the other side, they are going to have to raise their level of game, because Michael has set a high standard at the wide receiver position.”
Each of the three aforementioned receivers shows a trait that Kelly says is more prevalent among first-year players: a desire to get on the field not just immediately, but abundantly.
“I think that the skill guys are a lot further along because they don't require the strength that maybe some of the linemen need,” Kelly said. “What (strength coach Paul Longo) impressed upon me was that when the freshman class came here, there was a burning desire from that group to want to contribute right away. All of them. Every single one of them. His characterization of this class was 'They are ready to play.'”
Kelly didn't waste any time getting those young receivers work. In the first practice session recently some of the receivers took repetitions among the first and second units, and the coach won't hesitate to get them some work against Navy on Sept. 1.
“I think that they all have a chance to contribute as true freshmen,” Kelly said. “It's kind of early to say for sure, but we're not afraid to put them out there and they certainly are not afraid to play.”
One facet of Floyd's game, as well as that of his predecessor former Irish All-American receiver Golden Tate, was confidence. No matter which Notre Dame quarterback was throwing the ball to Floyd, every Irish fan believed Floyd could come down with the pass. But their confidence paled compared to Floyd's. These three freshmen are already exhibiting that trait according to Kelly.
“When you really look at the young guys who compete,” Kelly said, “those are the guys that really have confidence in their ability to go out there. All three of them are really confident in themselves. So we're going to keep putting them out there with our first group and keep putting them in the rotation and let them get some action.”