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Notre Dame Football

Kelly talks Notre Dame OL options, Botelho's status, crowd size & more

September 13, 2021
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Some drastic, entirely overhauled offensive line isn't in Brian Kelly's plans this week.

But Notre Dame's 12th-year coach on Monday said that the Fighting Irish (2-0) could possibly get back Michael Carmody from a sprained ankle sooner than expected and also might get more interior offensive linemen involved in future games.

Notre Dame hosts Purdue (2-0) Saturday inside Notre Dame Stadium (2:30 p.m., NBC).

“We're going to hold off on making that decision,” Kelly said as it pertained to Carmody, who left Saturday's win against Toledo after just 32 snaps. “It's not a, 'Hey, he's definitely out.' He has an ankle sprain, and he's going to play against one of the best pass rushers (Purdue's George Karlaftis). So, we're not going to put him out there if he's hobbling.

“But, he felt pretty good (Sunday). The report was better than we first thought. We're going to see if we can get him ready. If we can get him ready, we're going to play him. If he's not able to go out there and handle one of the better players, look, regardless of the case, that tackle is getting help from a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end, the protections moving that way. But if he's in a position he can play, we'll play him.”

Similarly, Kelly vowed that the Irish coaching staff would look to get more interior offensive linemen involved after the trio of center Jarrett Patterson, left guard Zeke Correll and right guard Cain Madden played all 81 snaps against the Rockets. So, too, did right tackle Josh Lugg.

“I think it's players. We're going to play … there's like one guy doesn't have, I don't like this guy over the other guy,” Kelly said, explaining his approach. “I like the best guys. So we're going to play the best players. We're down to our third (left) tackle. We probably should rotate a little bit more inside because we're playing too many plays, and those guys, the load on them, is a lot. They're young players. Maybe you'll see a little bit more of a rotation inside. We're playing our best five. Now our best eight; we're down to our third (left) tackle.”

That third tackle Kelly referenced is redshirt-freshman Tosh Baker, who filled in for Carmody and played the final 49 snaps in the comeback-win against Toledo. Carmody, of course, had been interjected the week before when he filled in for Blake Fisher, who suffered a meniscus injury that required surgery and projected to sideline Fisher for eight weeks.

For the heart of Notre Dame's offensive line, that could mean lifting the lid on the career of highly regarded freshman guard Rocco Spindler, as well as trying to implement veteran reserves Andrew Kristofic and John Dirksen in order to alleviate the workload on the starting quintet.

“Could we play? Could we get a rotation inside at the guard? There's a possibility for that this weekend,” Kelly said.

BOTELHO PROBABLE, OTHERS STILL OUT

Kelly said that Jordan Botelho would be available this week against the Boilermakers, and then amended that statement to say that the Fighting Irish should know definitely by Tuesday. He expects the talented sophomore edge/linebacker to make his first appearance of the 2021 season this week.

C'Bo Flemister remains unavailable, as does freshman linebacker Prince Kollie.

KELLY ISN'T COUNTING HEADS

Kelly shrugged off a question about the Irish's somewhat-tepid opening-game attendance, which was officially listed at 62,009 – some 15,600 below capacity.

“Yeah, so, I mean how much do I really have to worry about getting fans in?,” Kelly asked. “Would I like 76,000 or whatever capacity is? Yes, but we're living in a time where there's electronic tickets, there's COVID, did people see it as a marquee matchup? I don't know.

“I have so many problems that I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, I've got to hope that our marketing people and everybody else takes care of that. You know I don't want to be in here when we play other teams and there's more (visiting) fans in the stands than our fans. That's when I'll really be concerned. But you know, you bring up a valid point. I just don't have time to really concern myself with it. Look, we've won 35 of our last 40 games. If that's not good enough … I don't know what else to do.”

It's worth noting over the weekend that while Arkansas set a stadium-record crowd for its upset-win against visiting Texas in a long-standing rivalry game, defending national champion Alabama had some 7,000 empty seats, downtrodden Tennessee had 20,000 empty seats and Wisconsin saw its attendance dip 6,000 at home a week after its loss to Penn State.

 
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