NOTRE DAME – The Fighting Irish Team is suited up and ready, in their blue and gold gear on Tuesday, but the first football game is still weeks away. Instead players are talking at their 2011 Media Day about the excitement for the upcoming season. Head Coach Brian Kelly said the team isn’t ready to take the field for real just yet.
“We’re in the midst of preparing our football team for 2011,” said Kelly.
Kelly said this year’s team is more focused than any other team he’s coach, but preparation for the season isn’t over.
“We’re still cooking if you will,” said Kelly. “Still in that process of developing who we are in 2011. I’ve always felt that each year it’s a different personality because new people emerge.”
Kelly said he’s happy with the way things are coming together. “I really like our football team and the way it’s coming together, but we still have some work to do before we kick it off against South Florida,” said Kelly.
On the team’s to-do list is selecting a starting quarterback. Four players are vying for the job including Senior Dayne Crist, Sophomore Tommy Rees, Sophomore Andrew Hendrix, and Freshman Everett Golson. Coach Kelly said the right man for the job has to do it all and “master the offense”.
“It’s more than just arm strength. It’s more than just leadership capabilities. There are so many other factors involved within the structure of our offense,” said Kelly.
Kelly said on Tuesday, Crist and Rees seem to have pulled away from the younger pack in the fight for the job.
“Crist and Rees have separated themselves. They can take the whole offense and run with it…So you’ve got two quarterbacks that I have great trust and confidence in that they can play championship football for us,” said Kelly.
But you don’t have to worry about this being a bitter battled until the end between Crist and Rees. Crist said he just can’t spend time focusing on it.
“You really can’t concern yourself with that kind of stuff. You just have to take it one day at a time. And just prepare to be the starter every single day and control the things that you can control,” said Crist.
Rees said he just feels lucky to have his name in the mix. “It’s exciting, being here, being able to compete for the job that a lot of people want,” said Rees.
If anything, he’s competing against some he looks up to. “Dayne and I were roommates all year. So we got pretty close and he’s been such a good role model and when he went down he helped me so much that we’ve really become really close,” said Rees.
No matter what, Kelly said it still won’t be any easy decision. “It’s going to be the slightest of margins when we make this decision. I can tell you right now I’m confident that both of those guys if named starter will lead our team in the manner that we need to be lead,” said Kelly.
Kelly said this group of players aren’t easily distracted and are ready to win. “If you look at the progression, six wins [a season], 8 wins [a season], they want more. And you can see that in their focus,” said Kelly.
Right now the focus is on one game and one game only at Notre Dame Stadium. “It’s really got to be one game at a time and that’s really the team’s focus, but the guys are incredibly excited for South Florida,” said Crist.
Notre Dame kicks-off at home against South Florida on September 3rd at 3:30 p.m.