Kelly: Irish built to endure late-season push

November, 26, 2013
Eight offensive linemen have seen serious action for Notre Dame this season. Eight defensive linemen have seen serious action, too.

Being down so many players in the trenches is hardly an ideal situation when bracing for Stanford, but the Irish have built themselves to be ready for a moment like this, with their backs against the wall and unfamiliar names stepping to the forefront.

[+] EnlargeTarean Folston
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsFreshman running back Tarean Folston has started to pick up his production in recent weeks.
"We've trained ourselves year-round to get to this point, where even though we may be thin in some areas, we play a lot of players," Irish coach Brian Kelly said during his Tuesday press conference. "And we'll move them in and out, like we did on Saturday. You saw our units moving players in and out. So I'm not concerned about wearing out. I'm more concerned about us taking care of the football and doing the things that I talked about before."

Those include keeping the big plays to a minimum as well as getting more production out of the running game, a task that becomes more challenging without center Nick Martin, whom Kelly said suffered an MCL tear in his left knee that will sideline him for six months, including spring ball.

Next-man-in Matt Hegarty will look to build off his three-quarter performance last Saturday, when the Irish rushed for 235 yards, 78 of which came from touted freshman Tarean Folston.

Kelly had high praise for Folston, who has increased his production as of late and has had an easier time fitting in this year than other highly recruited rookies. Safety Max Redfield is among them, as he's had trouble getting on the field despite being the No. 23 overall recruit in the 2013 ESPN 300.

When you think, you stink, Kelly said, and Redfield has been charged with understanding a lot more in the defensive backfield than Folston has in the offensive backfield.

"Let's just take Tarean Folston and Max Redfield, two very gifted young men," Kelly said. "Tarean has had to wait for his chance, he's getting more of it as the season progresses. Max has 10 times as much on his plate at that position as Tarean Folston -- 10 times -- in terms of coverage checks and formation adjustments and communication, all of those things, which are all going into the knowledge base for him.

"He's going to be a dynamite player for us. But there's so much knowledge in our system in the way we play. If we were a close-the-middle-of-the-field, cover-1 team, he probably would have been standing back there in Week 1, if that's what we did. That's not our system. We're a two-deep team and there's a lot going on and he's learned a lot, he's grown a lot and he's at a position now where he's starting to feel pretty comfortable."

Matt Fortuna | email

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