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Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Brian Kelly talks depth chart, own width

By Brian Bennett

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly looks fit and ready for the season.

Kelly worked with a personal trainer this offseason to shed some pounds, and though he didn't give the exact amount of weight loss, he said he went down a couple of pant sizes.

Is his first Irish team in similarly good shape? Kelly addressed that on Tuesday, along with some interesting depth chart issues.

Just about every starter on the team has been decided outside of the kicking competition. Carlo Calabrese has won one of the inside linebacker spots by virtual default, since his main competitor -- Anthony McDonald -- will likely miss the opener against Purdue because of a knee injury. Every other nicked-up player, including tight end Kyle Rudolph (hamstring) should be ready to play against Purdue, Kelly said.

"With Carlo, it's consistency," Kelly said. "He'll have a good day and then a bad day. That's inexperience, and it's getting comfortable with what the role is at that part position."

At one of the outside linebacker spots, known as the "Dog" position, Kerry Neal continues to lead senior Brian Smith, somewhat surprisingly. Kelly said Smith has played better in recent days, but that Neal "is a pretty good football player, too."

In a real twist, Kelly said Chris Watt is pushing senior Chris Stewart at guard. Stewart was seen as one of the no-brainer starters all offseason. (And I'd still be very surprised if he isn't No. 1 on Sept. 4).

Talented sophomore Cierre Wood has climbed to No. 2 at running back behind Armando Allen. Duval Kamara and TJ Jones are fighting it out for the starting spot at 'X' receiver. And true freshmen quarterbacks Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa appear destined for the scout team, with Nate Montana and Tommy Rees backing up Dayne Crist, Kelly said.

Kelly plans to start easing up on the players in the next couple of days. He said some players have asked him when they'll get their legs back, which he always sees as a sure sign that they're ready to start playing some games.

Kelly looks ready. For better or worse, the Irish need to be in 11 days.