SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Notre Dame-Michigan matchup this fall will look forward and backward all at once: The teams will play the first night game in Michigan Stadium history, but they will do so wearing uniforms recalling bygone decades.
Irish coach Brian Kelly spilled the beans Friday that the programs will wear throwback uniforms for their Sept. 10 matchup.
Kelly wouldn't get specific about the design of the Notre Dame outfits beyond saying they hearken back to the Joe Kuharich Era -- perhaps an odd choice, given that Kuharich was 17-23 in four years as Irish coach from 1959-62.
"I'm just trying to help you guys piece together what it's going to look like, without me saying and then getting yelled at by our adidas people that we blew the surprise for them," Kelly said.
"But yeah, we're going to have throwback uniforms. As they will. I can tell you what theirs look like: They have a block 'M' on them, and a number, and a number on their helmet. How's that? The adidas people at Michigan are going to be (ticked) at me."
Here were more of Kelly's thoughts -- aside from the update on Michael Floyd's imminent discipline decision -- on a multitude of topics, almost midway through spring practice...
On receiver Daniel Smith's hamstring injury: "Grade 1 hamstring, MRI, and then he gets a medication. He is in the fourth day of that. He's got to go through that full cycle before we engage him in practice situations. He also had a procedure which we call PRP, which is again a way for us to accelerate the healing. We're doing some aggressive things with him right now, and during that period of time, we're not going to practice time until we get all of that. The MRI looked good, superficial tearing, this is nothing deep into the belly of the muscle. We just want to make sure we get him 100 percent. Our goal is to have him playing in the spring game."
On the new "tech fit" pants Notre Dame is trying out in practice: "That is the new tech fit pant we're trying from adidas. They look hideous, but our kids seem to like them. They're very comfortable. That is the new style that adidas is presenting to us. I think the New York Giants wore them last year as their game pant. So now they're moving them into the college line. So obviously we're trying them out to see if it's something we want to pursue."
On the benefits of the pants: "It's a lighter pant. No panels, no stitching, you don't have a belt, you don't have all that extra weight. They're trying to be faster. Obviously, again, the entire line of clothing and apparel and shoes is, let these athletes be faster. I really don't care. If they like them and as long as they're gold, I'm good with that."
On the receiver/tight end group: "We're running a lot of '12' personnel, which is two tight ends. I think we're really deep there. All of them have made really good progress. We think we have a young man coming in in Ben Koyack that is going to be able to compete for us as well. So that has helped us handle that load of not having all the receivers at the ready. But as this thing shapes out, we've got plans to make sure we're four-deep at running back and, for me, I need seven receivers – two-deep and a swing. We believe, moving some pieces around, and we've got some kids coming in that can play on both sides of the ball, or could play a number of different positions, we think we've got the right pieces coming into fall."
On who picked up the leadership role in Floyd's absence: "We've got a number of them, actually, who have picked up the leadership role for us. I think every one of our offensive linemen brings that every single day. As a unit, as a group, we're getting that group energy with our offensive line. They're in better shape, their work volume is better. Cierre Wood has been outstanding. And I would look toward Theo Riddick and Tyler Eifert as guys that have set a great example."
On Anthony McDonald's injury absence: "Kendall Moore is the beneficiary of that, and Justin Utupo. They're getting a lot of work as young kids. They're getting a great deal of work there and a lot of reps. I'd say (Dan) Fox is probably the guy who has really made great progress and has put himself in position to be in that rotation. And Carlo (Calabrese) is now moving between Will and Mike, kind of playing both those positions and cross-training. It's just opened it up. (David Posluzny) has had a pretty good spring as well – he's stronger, more physical and able to step in there and give us some quality reps."
On the tailbacks: "Cierre has been electric in everything that he's done. Retention has been big for him. He's retained everything that we worked on since last year. There was a lot of pounding relative to the learning process relative to Cierre. He is getting all that. Jonas Gray is getting there. We ran power today, the off-tackle power play, and he bounced it all the way back to the 'D' gap. That's not what I want from him, and he knows that. We said, listen, you're going to jam that thing on the frontside tackle and I'll give you the 'A' gap, but no more. We're still in the process of that 227-pound back playing like a 227-pound back. He's getting there."
On possible "separation" in the quarterback battle: "Separation would not be a word that I would use. Coach (Charley Molnar) works with them in more specific areas, relative to plays. I look at it bigger picture. I would say the guys with the best knowledge base are the guys that have the wins. And then the other two guys are making progress and getting there. You're going to have a specific package for Dayne (Crist) and Tommy (Rees), they're going to run our offense this way. The two younger guys, we're going to open it up a little bit. I'm looking for one more playmaker on the field. Let's see if one of those guys can be a playmaker."
On tackle Zack Martin's progress: "There were times where physically he got worn down. So this has been more about physical development, strength, his core, and then leadership. When you're a first-time starter, you're not saying much. But great communication between him and the new left guard, whomever it is. Right away, that left guard, whether it's (Andrew) Nuss or (Chris) Watt or (Mike) Golic, they're all communicating, and it starts with Martin."
On young backup cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood: "We're happy with their progress. Bennett probably has surprised us a little bit, to be quite honest with you. He's got a natural fit for his backpedal. He stays in it, he seems to have a sense for it, plays the ball really well. And Lo Wood has made good progress. I feel really good. I know Bob (Diaco) goes and Kerry (Cooks) and Chuck (Martin) feel real good about the progress those guys have made."
On defensive standouts so far: "Danny Spond probably would be singularly the one guy that has been very impressive at the Drop (linebacker) position. Plays with heavy hands, very good in the pass game. I'd say those two guys on the defensive side of the ball have stood out to me."
On center Braxston Cave: "At times, we couldn’t operate at the pace we wanted to, and it wasn't just our quarterback. Our center was not operating at the same pace. His operation has been really good, and that's subtle. You don't see it, because physically he looks great. But subtly, one of the things that's improved our offense is his ability to recognize and operate our offense."
On linebacker Darius Fleming: "He has been very impressive. He's not thinking out there. He kind of disappeared for two or three games last year and a lot of it was he wasn't confident in his ability to do the things. In particular, we've challenged him in the spring to really do some things he hasn't done. And he's picked up everything for us. Pass coverage, doing things that he really struggled with last year mentally. Physically, as we all know, he's extremely gifted. Now he's doing things at that Cat position that we need him to do."
On freshman Ishaq Williams learning the Cat position: "When you have somebody who is gifted physically like that, it's on the coaches to not make it so difficult. We're going to make sure if it's simple enough for Prince Shembo to play as a true freshman, we can make it simple enough for Ishaq Williams to play as a true freshman. Because if we ask him to do all those things, you're right, it's going to be paralysis by analysis. We're going to let that kidn line up and play."
On the competition at Drop linebacker: "It is a great battle between Shembo and Spond right now. Right now, either one of those guys can play winning football for us at a high level. Both of those guys have made us very comfortable with the drop position."
On linebacker Steve Filer: "The thing with Steven is, we have to find a niche for him. He's very good in special teams. We like the way he can rush the passer. I think you'll see him evolve like a Shembo did for us. I think he's going to compete for playing time."