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Notre Dame Football

Brian Kelly Pleased with Opportunity to Play Youngsters

September 21, 2020

Notre Dame needed to blow out South Florida for many reasons, but the opportunity to play younger players was close to the top of the list. 

The Fighting Irish had just one spring practice and no real training camp in August as the University started classes two weeks earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Any extra snaps prepare the youth for potential roles due to COVID-19 and also allows for as much development as possible since the Irish were dealt a shortened schedule. 

Cornerback Cam Hart played around three times the amount of snaps as starter Nick McCloud, which was by design. Hart was also productive by breaking up two passes and being around the ball for most of the afternoon. 

"We wanted Cam to get as many reps - he needs a lot of work out there," Kelly said on Monday. "This was a great opportunity for him to get that kind of work. He's coming off a shoulder surgery last year and didn't have spring ball. This was a great opportunity for him to get those reps.

"Nick, he'd been getting a lot of work, so it was great opportunity to dial him back a little bit." 

Linebacker Jack Kiser also got work, which wasn't by design as the Indiana native was thrown into the starting lineup with Marist Liufau and Shayne Simon unavailable. 

But it didn't stop there as several players on the 3rd and 4th team got work. 

"We have some other guys like that too," Kelly said of Kiser and others. "When they get called on, you look at Alex Ehrensbeger when he gets in there. He was playing nose guard all week on scout team. He gets in there at defensive end and runs a great stun, technically sound. We've got some guys that have been very impressive and really locked in. Happy for Jack and there will be other guys get their opportunity and they'll shine."

Freshman Jordan Botelho got to see the field on special teams and got several snaps at vyper, which could pay off down the road.

Kelly was also cautious as he wants Botelho to lock in off the field as he was sent home for part of the summer. 

"He's coming along quite well," explained Kelly. "He's actually a pretty quick study. He knows the game very well and as you can see, he plays with a bit of a reckless abandonment. He's got to clean up some of the other things, obviously. He's got to continue to show some real discipline, day in and day out, when it comes to how he handles himself on the field. We could have gotten a 15-yard penalty there at the end, and he knows that. 

"Coach Elston has had a conversation with him. But we love his physicality. We love what he brings to the table at that position and he's in a rotation with a lot of talented players. I don't think the summer really hurt him that much. It was a good learning experience for him, but I don't think that really put him behind."

While junior running back C'Bo Flemister isn't new to the rotation, Kelly was proud of how the Georgia native has matured over the summer. 

"C'Bo started coming on in camp," Kell said. "It had been a progression. C'Bo's always been a competitive person. There are different times when the light comes on. I think, for C'Bo, he clearly understood he was going to get his chance when we saw more of those traits come to light.

"And I know you guys kind of like to not hear all this all the time, but the reality of it is he started to do the things I needed him to do on a day to day basis. His attention to detail was better. His focus was better. His attitude was where I needed it to be. And that put him in the mix, and he figured that out and said, 'OK, I guess this is how I'm going to play.' And he's been great, awesome. I'm so proud of him, because he finally said, 'OK, I'm just not going to play if I don't do these things.' That's why he's playing and I'm so happy for him."

Flemister made the most of his opportunity as he led the Irish in rushing with 127 yards and a touchdown. 

"I just think he's a hard runner, he's difficult to tackle, he plays with very, very low pads," said Kelly. "I would say that, and I haven't done this yet, but I would say that his yards after first contact are as good as anybody that we have. 

"Kyren's (Williams) pretty good too, obviously. He's a guy that you've got to wrap up. He's got that high knee kick and low pads. He's very difficult to tackle. I know our guys do not like to tackle him. He's very difficult to wrap up. I think he's difficult to tackle. He's got really good vision. Again, with all those backs, they bring something a little bit different."

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