NCF Nation: Nate Montana

Forget for a moment the brilliant synchronicity of a guy named Montana playing quarterback at Montana.

Regardless of where he went, Nate Montana made the right decision to leave Notre Dame. School officials at Montana confirmed Monday night that he had transferred and been admitted to the FCS program.

It's questionable whether the quarterback would have ever made the roster had his name been Nate Wyoming. But as the son of Joe Montana, he was going to be given a shot. And the Irish were glad to have him last season after he transferred back in from junior college, because Montana was the most experienced quarterback on the roster after Dayne Crist.

Montana played in three games in 2010, going 9-for-18 for 116 yards with an interception. When Crist got hurt against Michigan and Tommy Rees looked nervous and shaky, Montana was the one who had to finish the half.

But once Rees improved and wound up starting and finishing the final four games victoriously, Montana clearly became the odd man out. The Irish brought in highly regarded freshman Everett Golson in this recruiting class and have Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa from last year's signing class, plus the return of Rees and Crist. Brian Kelly said that there was no way to get six quarterbacks reps in practice and that the group would be thinned. It didn't take a genius to see that Montana needed to find a new home.

So Nate Montana ends his Notre Dame career without the glory his father produced in South Bend. But he did provide value in 2010.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly met with the media on Friday to look back on 2010 and give some early thoughts on 2011. If Kelly seemed rather chipper in his comments, it was easy to understand why.

The Irish, after all, won their final four games in impressive fashion and bring the majority of that 8-5 team back, including superstar receiver Michael Floyd. So as happy as Kelly was with the 2010 finish, he's even more excited about the 2011 possibilities.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Matt Cashore/US PresswireNotre Dame coach Brian Kelly said that his second year on the job will be "more about the players."
"Eight wins was not enough in the first year, but we accomplished a lot of the real foundation principles of a championship program," Kelly said

Kelly said the three best things about 2010 were that the team played its best at the end of the season, the defense became a force and that the program "put the fight back in the Fighting Irish." He called all of that "the first coat of paint" for his plan to revive Notre Dame into a powerhouse.

"Year 2 will be more about the players," he said. "It will be about fitting what we do in all three phases into the players that we have."

And the Irish will have a lot of good players to work with. Of course, the biggest question this offseason will be at quarterback, where Tommy Rees won every start in that four-game winning streak, while Dayne Crist is recovering from another ACL injury. Kelly said he thought Crist would be able to go through spring practice like he did last year, when he was protected from contact but took most of the needed reps.

As for Rees, Kelly said he is "more than a warmup band."

"Here's what we learned about Tommy Rees: he's accurate and he's tough," Kelly said. "Those are two great qualities to have. If you had to map them out and put them on the board, I'd take those two."

But Kelly added that Crist and Andrew Hendrix have those qualities, too. There's also Nate Montana, Luke Massa, incoming recruit Everett Golson in the mix. Kelly said he can't work with six quarterbacks and would limit the reps to the top four.

"There will be some paring down," he said. "There will be some guys who understand that if they're not in that top four, they will not be able to get reps at the position."

Kelly said he has a good idea of how to use the quarterbacks and their differing styles, but he didn't want to share that publicly until he has talked to the quarterbacks individually.

The coach also announced that kicker David Ruffer has been awarded a scholarship for next year as a fifth-year senior. All of the other seniors who have a year of eligibility left have applied for an extra year, and Kelly will meet with them on Monday to determine who will come back.

Kelly also hinted at some position changes and said that receiver Theo Riddick -- who converted from running back last year -- could be moved to the backfield once again to help with depth there.

Last offseason, players had to adjust to Kelly's new style and system, and the team was hampered by injuries. Kelly said he talked to strength coach Paul Longo on Friday morning and "it was the first time I've seen him smile in a year. We had 15 surgeries this time last year, and this year we have three." The only player expected to miss extended time is defensive lineman Sean Cwynar, who had surgery on both his back and foot and could be out 6-to-8 weeks.

Other than that, Kelly said, the players are already hitting the weight room, knowing what to do and hitting the ground running.

"It's night and day [from last year]," he said.

No wonder he was in such high spirits.

Utah-Notre Dame kickoff notes

November, 13, 2010
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- I'm pretty sure this is not a home game for Utah, but there's an awful lot of visiting red at Notre Dame Stadium. A steady rain is falling, too.

Senior walk-on Brian Costello will serve as the No. 3 Irish quarterback in case something happens to Tommy Rees and Nate Montana. Coach Brian Kelly wants to preserve freshman Andrew Hendrix's redshirt for now.

There's a lot of talent in sweatsuits for Notre Dame: Dayne Crist, Kyle Rudolph, Ian Williams, Armando Allen, Theo Riddick and T.J. Jones, to name a few. Kelly had hoped Jones would be available for this game, but instead the Irish will be without three of their top receivers against the Utes. Robby Toma was running with the first-string offense at slot receiver during warm-ups.

If Notre Dame wins this game, it will likely be with some help from some previously unsung heroes.
Tommy Rees has been thrust into a situation that would be difficult for most players, let alone a true freshman.

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesNotre Dame true freshman Tommy Rees will make his first start for the Irish this Saturday.
Rees will make his first start at quarterback for Notre Dame this Saturday against Utah. The Irish desperately need some wins to salvage this season, and they're turning to a guy with very little college experience. But at least Rees has had plenty of training for this moment.

His father, Bill, is a former assistant coach at UCLA and Northwestern and worked in scouting and personnel for four NFL teams. Tommy spent large chunks of his childhood hanging around football complexes and practices, and he's been breaking down film since he was in junior high.

"I've been around football my whole life," Rees said. "When people were usually talking about their days or movies at the dinner table, our family was talking about football."

Rees also got some extra seasoning by enrolling in January and going through spring practice to pick up head coach Brian Kelly's offense. The Lake Forest, Ill., product may not have had the frame of a big-time quarterback at the time -- he was listed at just 195 pounds at 6-foot-2 -- but he has put on about 20 pounds since arriving on campus.

He still doesn't have the athleticism of fellow freshman Andrew Hendrix. But his ability to digest and comprehend is the main reason why he surpassed Nate Montana for the No. 2 job and is ahead of Hendrix and Luke Massa, who didn't arrive until the summer.

"You can see the strengths that Tommy has in picking up a game plan, where it comes natural to him," Kelly said. "You go into a practice and he understands what you're trying to accomplish. (He's got to be able to accomplish those things, but his recognition is really good for a true freshmen."

Rees didn't look ready when he first pressed into emergency duty in the Michigan game. He threw just two passes, one of which was intercepted, before Kelly pulled him for Montana. Things were much different two weeks ago against Tulsa when starter Dayne Crist went out early with a season-ending knee injury. Rees was far more poised and completed 33 of 54 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns, though he also had three picks, including one on the final offensive play in the Irish's 28-27 loss.

"I had a lot more confidence coming in, and everybody on the offense was very supportive," he said. "I just continued to work hard and prepared myself like I was going to play."

Of course, jumping into a game as a reserve and being the starter are two different things. You have to carry yourself differently and show leadership throughout the week. At a place like Notre Dame, the starting quarterback is always the focus of attention. Rees says the opportunity is "definitely exciting. Everybody is looking at you."

The pressure is on, too, as the Irish hope to put the on-field struggles and the Declan Sullivan tragedy behind them on Senior Day against the No. 14 Utes. If they don't, the starting quarterback will likely take a lot of the blame.

"I'm just anxious to play," Rees said. "I'm not too nervous. At the end of day, it's just football."

And football feels as natural to Rees as any other part of his day.
At least Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist knows how to go through physical rehab.

Unfortunately for Crist and the Irish, Crist is facing another long slog back to health, after he tore his left patellar tendon in Saturday's loss to Tulsa. Crist ruptured his right ACL in the middle of last season.

This time, according to head coach Brian Kelly, Crist could need as much as six months recovery time. If that timetable holds, it means Crist would probably miss most if not all of Notre Dame's spring practice.

It's not fair, but at this point you have to wonder if Crist is going to keep his starting job. He has now suffered through two season-ending injuries and struggled with his consistency this season. True freshman Tommy Rees is now the starter and can make a push to hold that job into the spring.

Meanwhile, Kelly will be getting true freshman Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa ready to go so one of them can be the third quarterback, though he'd still like to redshirt both and keep Nate Montana as the No. 2. It's possible Massa or Hendrix could compete for the starting job in the spring. A healthy Crist is probably still the Irish's best option, but it's going to be a while again before he's healthy.

The bad news keeps on coming for Notre Dame, too. Top-rated recruit Aaron Lynch has told media outlets that he has decommitted from the Irish. ESPN had rated Lynch the No. 7 defensive end nationally, and Kelly's rebuilding efforts have been centered on increasing the talent in the trenches. Two other major line prospects have also withdrawn their commitments to the Irish in recent weeks.

Irish adjusting plans for backup QBs

September, 14, 2010
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As of Tuesday afternoon, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he didn't know which quarterback would get the first call if something happened to Dayne Crist again this Saturday at Michigan State. But Kelly hopes that whoever he turned to would be better prepared than last week against Michigan.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Matt Cashore/US PresswireNotre Dame coach Brian Kelly is hoping his back up quarterbacks are more prepared this week than they were last week against Michigan.
Kelly blamed himself for not having Tommy Rees and Nate Montana properly ready and put in the right situations last week when Crist had to leave the game in the first half with blurred vision. Rees threw an interception on his first pass attempt on a flea flicker, while Montana's first two throws were batted down at the line of scrimmage. Combined, they went just 8-of-19 for 104 yards and two interceptions and the team did not score before Crist re-entered the game in the second half.

Kelly said he would evaluate both quarterbacks this week to determine who is the No. 2 guy. Rees came in first on Saturday but played only two series before being pulled for Montana.

"We're going to settle on a package that suits both of them," Kelly said. "I think we have to have something that really allows both of those guys to feel comfortable out there and still run our offense in a productive manner. I'm certain we'll be in a much better place this weekend if we have to go to them when they go in the game."

Yet there's no getting around the fact that Notre Dame is in trouble if that happens. Though he enrolled in January, Rees is still a true freshman who looked wide-eyed on Saturday. Montana was a walk-on who probably wouldn't be on the team if his name was Nate Smith. He completed less than 40 percent of his passes in junior college a year ago.

True freshmen Luke Massa and Andrew Hendrix likely have more pure talent than either Rees or Montana, but both arrived this summer and still face a steep learning curve. Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar said in August he'd like to have one of those two move up into the top three of the depth chart by the end of fall practice, but it hasn't happened yet.

So the main goal remains protecting Crist, whom Kelly said had some swelling in his face on Sunday but is otherwise fine. Unfortunately, Notre Dame can't put protective bubble wrap around Crist without hurting its offensive goals.

"You want to keep Dayne Crist in the game at the end of the day," Kelly said. "But I think that our offense is such that I don't think you're ever going to be conservative in what you do. I think we have to be careful not to play scared."

Crist ran some zone-read plays in the first half, and the play in which he got hurt was a quarterback sneak for a touchdown. The more he runs, the bigger chance he gets hurt.

"But we have to keep it in because of the spread offense," Kelly said. "We have to run option because of the spread offense. If we were going to protect him, we would have to change the way we run our offense. We would have to put another back in the backfield or another tight end on the field so we could protect him at all times."

Kelly is not going to change the entire offense just to make sure Crist stays healthy. So instead he's changing the plan of attack in case Rees or Montana have to play.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame fans everywhere hope Kelly doesn't have to go to his backup plan again anytime soon.

What we learned about Notre Dame: Week 2

September, 12, 2010
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What we learned from Notre Dame's 28-24 loss to Michigan in South Bend on Saturday:

1. Crist or bust: Everyone suspected as much, but confirmation came on Saturday. Notre Dame can't win, at least not early on this season against good competition, with Dayne Crist out of the lineup. Tommy Rees and Nate Montana just don't look capable of playing quarterback at this level yet. Brian Kelly is a master at getting quarterbacks up to speed, but the difference Crist makes was painfully obvious against Michigan. His blurred-vision problem was scary, and if that recurs or something else happens, the Irish will be hurting.

2. Killer instinct still lacking: How many years in a row does it seem like Notre Dame has been losing big games because it couldn't make one last defensive stop? Granted, it seems nearly impossible for anyone at this point to stop Denard Robinson, who led the game-winning touchdown drive and ran into the end zone for the last of his 502 yards. But the Irish had shut out Robinson and the Wolverines in the second half until that final drive, and they just couldn't close the deal. They showed resiliency in roaring back from a 21-7 halftime deficit, yet not enough toughness at the end. When Kelly talks about building an identity for this team, that's a large part of what he means.

3. Notre Dame needs Denard Robinson to graduate: If Robinson continues to play like this, it's going to be a major headache for Notre Dame to try and defend the sophomore sensation for the next year or two. Robinson accounted for all but 30 of his team's yardage. It sounds simple, but the biggest lesson from Saturday was that Notre Dame just couldn't stop one guy.

Worst case materializes for Notre Dame

September, 11, 2010
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Notre Dame's worst-case development for this early season was to have quarterback Dayne Crist get hurt.

That's where the Irish found themselves in the first half against Michigan. Crist left after scoring on a quarterback keeper with an apparent eye injury. He was spotted warming up on the sidelines late in the first half but did not return.

That left the job in the hands of backups with no experience. Tommy Rees and Nate Montana couldn't get the job done as both threw interceptions.

The Wolverines have taken advantage. Denard Robinson broke off an 87-yard run near the end of the half to put Michigan up 21-7. That was the second longest run ever against the history-rich Irish.

Robinson is making a strong Heisman case. Notre Dame is dealing with its worst-case scenario.
Brian Kelly sensed his players were feeling uptight as they entered Notre Dame Stadium on Friday night for a practice session. So Kelly had a message for them.

"I told them to stop thinking about being Notre Dame football players and just play the game," Kelly said. "Just go play."

It's advice the first-year head coach also follows. Kelly said he couldn't come to work every day thinking that he's the Notre Dame football coach or he'd get overwhelmed. So he just focuses on the process and the preparation, and that's what he wants his players to do.

Several freshmen or first-year players will be hitting the field for the first time on Saturday against Purdue, and they'll all be nervous just like their coach. For a little while.

"I'll be excited running out and being on the field for the first time," Kelly said. "But that will go away, just like it goes away for a player when you get that first hit. It goes away when you make that first play call. Especially if they boo you. That gets your attention right away."

Of course, Kelly hopes the home crowd doesn't have to voice too much displeasure. Opening his tenure with a win is obviously the best-case scenario for all involved.

"There's no question that if you win everybody is feeling pretty good about things," Kelly said. "But I'm about concerned about if we have a loss or a hiccup during the season that those guys are going to go, 'This guy doesn't know what he's doing.'"

Kelly's credibility, he says, comes from the trust and relationship he's built with the players. Their confidence should come from the way they've prepared, which Kelly says is as well as anyone in the country. Just don't expect any "Win one for the Gipper" pre-game orations.

"I'm not going to be giving any big rah-rah speeches," Kelly said. "I just don't do that. Most of my work comes during the week."

Some other quick notes from Kelly's first game-week Irish news conference:
  • Tommy Rees is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, but only because Kelly said he couldn't list a 2a and a 2b. Rees and Montana are still locked in a competition which could last throughout the season. Montana, by the way, has been put on scholarship.
  • Starting quarterback Dayne Crist won't feel his first hit since last year's knee injury until Saturday. "We did not have the luxury to bang him around," Kelly said.
  • Linebacker Steve Paskorz is out at least three weeks with a leg injury, while David Posluszny is doubtful for Saturday with a hamstring issue. In better linebacker injury news, Anthony McDonald is recovering from a leg injury and may play Saturday.
  • Braxston Cave won the center job thanks in large part to an injury that limited Dan Wenger this fall camp. But Kelly said Wenger and Chris Watt will play a lot on the offensive line even if they do not start.
What lies in store for Notre Dame in 2010? Here are three fearless predictions:

1. The Irish will win at least eight games: There are four games on the schedule where Notre Dame figures to be a heavy favorite: Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa and Army (and Navy fans might dispute their team's inclusion on that list). Seven others are virtual toss-ups, while the Irish would be underdogs at USC if the game was held today.

So why the confidence in a team that has gone 16-21 the past three years? Simply put, it's the Brian Kelly factor. Kelly has a knack for quick turnarounds, and few would doubt this team has enough talent to go 8-4. (Seven home games and two neutral-site contests don't hurt, either.) The Irish were in every game last year while finishing 6-6. Kelly's way of doing things will be good for at least two more wins.

2. The Notre Dame defense will rank in the top 60 nationally: The Irish were 86th in total defense last year, a main reason why they couldn't save Charlie Weis' job. New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's 3-4 scheme better suits the players, and he won't gamble on blitzes the way Jon Tenuta did. Instead, Diaco will follow the model he used last year at Cincinnati by preventing big plays and making offenses work underneath -- while they try to catch up to Kelly's quick-strike offense.

The defense won't wow anyone but will hold its own enough to allow the Irish to win games.

3. Dayne Crist will miss at least one start: The worst fear for Irish fans is that quarterback Crist will get hurt. Well, Kelly's history and the nature of college football in general suggests that it's extremely difficult to keep a quarterback healthy an entire season -- and Crist is already operating on a surgically-repaired knee.

Odds are that Notre Dame will have to win at least one game with Tommy Rees, Nate Montana or someone else under center.
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.
Tuesday was media day in South Bend, and here's a quick recap of what head coach Brian Kelly had to say in his 40-minute news conference:

  • [+] EnlargeKelly
    AP Photo/Joe Raymond"All the players have done exactly what we've asked them to do," said Brian Kelly in a 40-minute press conference on Tuesday.
    Kelly said his spread offense has a place for the Wildcat formation. The three guys he's looking at to run the Wildcat are tailback Armando Allen, receiver Theo Riddick and somewhat surprisingly, tight end Kyle Rudolph.

  • Kelly said there has been little resistance from the players since he came in to replace Charlie Weis. "All the players have done exactly what we've asked them to do," he said. "They knew there had to be a sense of urgency. They were sick and tired of being sick and tired too. It's just different leadership styles."

  • Riddick and Cierre Wood will be the kick returners, and Kelly called them "dynamic." Allen leads John Goodman for punt return duties.

  • Plenty of young players could see the field right now. Kelly identified nine true freshmen which his staff is preparing to play this year. They are, on offense, Rees, receiver T.J. Jones, linemen Tate Nichols, Christian Lombard tight end Alex Welch and receiver Austin Collinsworth, who will play a lot on special teams. On defense, freshmen Lo Wood (cornerback) and Prince Shembo (linebacker) and Danny Spond (safety/special teams) have impressed. Kelly said this is the most true freshmen he's readied to play in his career.

  • Injured linemen Dan Wenger and Matt Romine (concussion symptoms) have returned to practice, but Kelly said Nichols and Lombard asserted themselves in their absence. Mike Ragone (heat illness) and Rudolph (hamstring) are back to doing individual work.

  • The battle for the inside linebacker job continues to rage on between Anthony McDonald and Carlo Calabrese. Both bring separate strengths."Mac needs to be more physical, and Calabrese needs to be more finesse," Kelly said.

  • In maybe the most interesting exchange, Kelly said he thought star receiver Michael Floyd was "overhyped" when he first watched film upon taking the Irish job. His opinion has changed 180 degrees."In 20 years, I have not had a player who has worked as hard as Michael Floyd has worked," Kelly said. "He has outworked everybody on the offensive side of the ball to the point where he has singlehandedly set the bar for where everybody else needs to bring their play. He's been dominant."

  • Finally, Kelly said his goal is for his team to "be better in November than they are in September." That certainly hasn't been the case in recent years.

Notre Dame spring wrap

May, 4, 2010
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Notre Dame

2009 overall record: 6-6

Returning starters: Offense: 6. Defense: 8. Punter/kicker: 2

Top returners: WR Michael Floyd, RB Armando Allen, TE Kyle Rudolph, OL Chris Stewart, OL Trevor Robinson, LB Brian Smith, LB Manti Te'o, DE Ethan Johnson, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, S Harrison Smith, LB Darius Fleming

Key losses: QB Jimmy Clausen, WR Golden Tate, C Eric Olsen, OT Sam Young, OT Paul Duncan, S Kyle McCarthy

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Armando Allen* (697 yards)

Passing: Jimmy Clausen (3,722 yards)

Receiving: Golden Tate (1,496 yards)

Tackles: Kyle McCarthy (101)

Sacks: Ethan Johnson* (4)

Interceptions: McCarthy (5)

Spring answers

1. Picking up the pace: When spring practice began, first-year Irish coach Brian Kelly lambasted his team's inability to work at the break-neck speed his system requires. It was a culture shock for players groomed in the more NFL-style practices of Charlie Weis. By late spring, though, both Kelly and his team seemed comfortable in the new tempo, which should help both sides of the ball be in shape this fall.

2. There is a backup quarterback on campus: Dayne Crist entered the spring after ACL surgery, and there was precious little depth behind him at quarterback. Nate Montana stepped forward in the spring game, though, completing 18-of-30 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns. You shouldn't read too much into a spring game performance -- Montana himself said it was his best practice of the year -- and Joe Montana's son could easily get usurped by one of three freshmen this fall. But at least the cupboard isn't completely bare behind Crist.

3. Defensive fits: The Notre Dame defense will remain a concern until it actually stops people on a consistent basis. Still, Kelly sounded pleased with where the defense was at the end of spring. Guys like Ian Williams, Ethan Johnson, Darius Fleming and Manti Te'o just look like they fit in their spots in a 3-4 defense more than they did in last year's 4-3. That and added experience could make the Irish a little stronger on that side of the ball in 2010.

Fall questions

1. The offensive line: Kelly mixed and matched players on the O-line this spring, trying Trevor Robinson at tackle at one point. There's no depth chart, so it's hard to say what mix the Irish are looking at right now. But tackle and center appear to be question marks, which is no surprise following the graduations of Sam Young, Paul Duncan and Eric Olsen.

2. For Crist's sake: The public didn't get a chance to see Crist in many competitive situations this spring, and let's remember that he was limited in his mobility because of that ACL surgery six months earlier. Still, he threw two interceptions in the spring game without a defensive pass rush to worry about, and Kelly is notoriously hard on his quarterbacks. The Irish offense should be loaded in 2010, but Crist will have to continue to develop and improve this summer.

3. Inside linebacker depth: Te'o has a chance to emerge as a superstar at middle linebacker, but the true sophomore might be the most experienced player at his position right now. Carlo Calabrese, Anthony McDonald, David Posluszny and Steve Paskorz -- who moved over from fullback -- have to establish themselves in the middle to make the 3-4 defense really work.

Notre Dame links

August, 14, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Irish links are smiling.

  • Backup quarterback Evan Sharpley, who came back to Notre Dame for a fifth year despite a budding baseball career, is now a tutor for his teammates, Brian Hamilton writes in the Chicago Tribune.
  • Tight end Mike Ragone's confidence is returning as he comes back from a second ACL injury, Al Lesar says in the South Bend Tribune.
  • Charlie Weis tops colleague Mark Schlabach's list of coaches on the hot seat for 2009.
  • The Irish secondary is full of talent and experience, Tony Krausz writes in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.
  • Former Notre Dame quarterback Nate Montana is vying for the starting job at Pasadena City College.
  • Guard Trevor Robinson showed toughness in playing through an injury last year and is in line for a starting job this season, the Associated Press reports.
  • The Fort Wayne News Sentinel's Tom Davis looks at Notre Dame's slew of super sophomores.

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