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Notre Dame Football

Kelly, Notre Dame use Sunday scrimmage as FSU jump-start

October 5, 2020

Brian Kelly readily will tell you he's encountered plenty of challenges in his 30-year coaching run in college football.

Injuries. Suspensions. Travel problems. Not to mention Kelly's Cincinnati Bearcats teams played games on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Nothing, however, is like what fifth-ranked Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0 ACC) is doing this week: returning to conference play after two weeks off following two games.

All because of a COVID-19 outbreak in its final stages of running through the team to the tune of 30 positive tests last month. After shutting down the program Sept. 21 and returning to practice last Thursday, Notre Dame is approaching the third game of its young season trying to get a working roster pieced back together.

Notre Dame, per figures released Monday afternoon, still has 11 players in isolation or quarantine, including two additional positive tests from Monday’s batch.

It's why the Fighting Irish are a day removed from what is likely an unprecedented in-season scrimmage, six days before kickoff against pseudo-rival Florida State (1-2, 0-2 ACC), which is rebuilding in its first year under coach Mike Norvell. NBC has the broadcast, 7:30 p.m.

“I just think in terms of being able to prepare, and look I'm no expert in preparing a team for a game after two weeks off after playing two games, it's the first time that I've done it,” Kelly said Monday in a Zoom with reporters. “I think I have enough sense to know that you have to duplicate the speed of the game. You've got to tackle, you've got to be able to do some of those things leading up in your preparation.

“I think that was a big day for us (Sunday). We were able to get in a lot of individual work, technique, get some of the rust off from that perspective, special teams, situational work and then finish up with situationally moving the chains.”

Aside from “good on good,” Kelly wanted his Fighting Irish to as closely as possible replicate the unique speed of gameday. It will be three weeks plus a few hours since Notre Dame's last game action when it hosts the Seminoles; the Irish also substituted liberally in that 52-0 win Sept. 19 against South Florida.

“From a scrimmage standpoint, we wanted to get the speed that you can't duplicate in just a scout-team preparation,” Kelly said. “Certainly being off for a couple weeks, you've got to try and bring that speed. And our defense is a good group to go against. They bring a lot of speed to the equation relative to preparation.

“So it was important for us on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, to be able to go against each other.”

Notre Dame on Monday released its projected two-deep lineup in advance of this week's game, and it included both the return of injured Kyle Hamilton (ankle) to a starting safety spot and Brendon Clark to the backup quarterback position. Both players missed the win against South Florida.

“In terms of who's available, we feel like, we'll continue to test during the week so the roster is a fluid situation,” Kelly said. “But we're in a very good place relative to our two-deep. We're going to be just fine for Florida State.”

The Irish, as is every member of the ACC, test three-times-per-week in-season for COVID-19, including a final Friday afternoon batch of testing that determines final availability of players before games.

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