Notre Dame opens camp Friday at Culver Military Academy for the second straight year. Before that, we will get a chance to speak with coach Brian Kelly and several players Thursday morning and see what is on their minds.
With the sixth year of the Kelly era underway, here are the pressing questions we hope to get some clarity on in the coming days:
What is the status of Ishaq Williams? The redshirt senior defensive end re-enrolled at Notre Dame during the summer, but his status with the Irish for the 2015 season still remains unclear. We may be overanalyzing things a bit here, but Kelly and the football program volunteered the news that Michael Deeb and Mike Heuerman would be taking medical scholarships when the coach announced that Greg Bryant would not play this season. He said nothing on Williams, which may be telling. In any event, we should get some form of answer when speaking to Kelly on Thursday. By my count, the roster moves announced Tuesday, along with the summer transfer of Jhonny Williams, bring the Irish to the 84 scholarship players, one less than the allotted 85.
How have Malik Zaire and the offense responded since Everett Golson left? When everyone last gathered in the spring, Notre Dame still had a two-man quarterback race. That is obviously no longer the case, as Kelly enters fall camp at Notre Dame with a clear No. 1 at quarterback for just the second time in his six-year tenure. (Tommy Rees was named starter in the summer of 2013 after Golson was suspended.) Much of Kelly's remarks will be based off what he hears from strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo, but the second year of the NCAA's rule allowing coaches to meet with players for up to two hours each week for an eight-week period should have provided some important time together for coach and quarterback.
What kind of impact has KeiVarae Russell made? Depending on the Williams situation, Russell may end up being the only of the suspended Irish players from a year ago to make his way back for another season. He has actively chronicled on Instagram his return to Notre Dame, where he figured to be one of the team's leaders and a potential All-American before the academic probe that sidelined him for 2014. The expectations probably won't be much different this time around, and the effect a fiery personality like Russell's can have on the entire defense has probably already been felt behind closed doors.
Any injuries to report? Starters Joe Schmidt (ankle) and Jarron Jones (foot) were limited in the spring but were on-track to be full-go for camp. Jarrett Grace (leg) had returned in the spring after missing a year-and-a-half, so his progress is certainly worth monitoring as well. So, too, is that of Drue Tranquill (ACL), whose promising freshman season ended prematurely. We should also learn what, exactly, forced Deeb and Heuerman to the sidelines for this season.
So, Coach, about that 13th game … I would be surprised if Kelly was not at least asked for his thoughts on ACC coaches' comments last month regarding Notre Dame's independent status. Kelly did take to Twitter last week to address those concerns … sort of.