Sunday, September 18, 2011
Punt return situated remains unsettled
By Matt Fortuna
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame was good enough Saturday to notch its first win of the season, but it was far from perfect.
One of those imperfections once again was in protecting the ball, as John Goodman fumbled a punt return deep in his own territory late in the fourth quarter. The gaffe by Goodman, in his second week as punt returner after Theo Riddick struggled in Week 1, might lead head coach Brian Kelly to re-evaluate the punt return position.
"Obviously we're disappointed that we put the ball on the ground again in punt returns," Kelly said during his weekly Sunday afternoon teleconference. "We'll have to talk about that later today when we have our meetings on special teams personnel. We feel like John's got great hands, he obviously turned the ball over late. We'll have to evaluate it. It's not certainly where we want to be, but it's not like we have a number of guys that we can go to, either. We felt like Theo and Goody were our two best. We may have to look at other players at this point, I really haven't decided that."
Kelly said Robby Toma is in the mix as one of those other players. Toma, part of the Fighting Irish's five-man receiving corp at the beginning of the season, has not made a catch through three games this season as Riddick's back-up in the slot position.
At the beginning of the season, Kelly said Riddick's breaks would come on offense, potentially opening the door for the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Toma to see more action because of Riddick's punt return duties.
Of course, Riddick's life as a punt returner lasted only a week, which might be only a week shorter than Goodman's.
"When we evaluated our punt-returners he was as sure-handed as anybody that we've had; he was last year, too," Kelly said of Goodman. "So hopefully it's just one of those things where he had a turnover and a tough time in the game and that's it. But like I said earlier, we'll continue to evaluate him because he was the best guy we had at the time."
Notes: Lo Wood had an MRI today after aggravating his quad against Michigan State, but Kelly didn't think it was anything serious. ... Daniel Smith has been fighting a leg injury that forced him to not dress against MSU. ... Prince Shembo (family emergency) is expected to be back on campus today and in classes Monday. ... Reserve tight end Alex Welch (foot infection) is day-to-day. ... Danny Spond (hamstring) is still doubtful to play Saturday at Pitt, though he could be dressed for emergency use.