CFB: Fighting Irish start practice fast under new coach
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The first play in the first practice of the Brian Kelly era had not yet been completed when the new Notre Dame coach and his assistants began yelling for players to hurry up and line up for the next one.
"On me! On me! Finish on me!" Kelly yelled as he stood in the end zone, urging the players to gather around him as they finished their first set of plays and the assistants ran back toward the next set of players to get them going.
The Irish worked at a frenetic pace Friday as spring practice got under way. Kelly, hired after building Cincinnati into a powerhouse behind a lightning-strike offense, clearly wants to pick up the pace at Notre Dame.
Under Charlie Weis, practices began with a drawn-out stretching period. Kelly began practice with an eight-minute special teams segment. Then they began stretching, but at an up-tempo pace. Even the direction of the warmup runs were different, going east-west instead of north-south.
Then they began running plays. When they final group finished those drills, Kelly declared: "Way too slow! We are nine plays behind! Pick it up tomorrow!"
Afterward, wide receiver Michael Floyd called the pace "overwhelming," then corrected himself.
"Just something different to me personally," he said.
Quarterback Dayne Crist said the tempo was challenging.
"Learning on the run is a big deal here," he said. "Guys will learn to get used to it over time. The speed is the biggest difference."
Kelly led Cincinnati to a 12-0 regular-season finish before taking the job at Notre Dame, which fired Weis after the Irish went 6-6 in the regular season for a second straight year. Notre Dame last won a national title in 1988.
The fast pace shouldn't be a surprise: Cincinnati was dead last in the nation in time of possession in 2009 at 25:46 per game. The Bearcats were fourth in the nation in scoring at 38.6 points a game. The Irish were 32nd at 30.1 points a game and 12th in time of possession at 31:55.
Kelly told reporters that one of the first things the Irish had to learn to do was to play faster.
"To really understand what needs to be done, they have to understand pace. They have to understand how we practice first before we can get into schemes and how we're going to do things," he said.
Kelly said another priority for him is putting the fight back into the Fighting Irish.
"I want to compete our butt off for four quarters. I want our guys to go to practice every day and compete, compete, compete," he said. "If I can build that work ethic and that mentality, I'll probably feel pretty good."
But he also warned that there are things he won't put up with in practice, such as trash talking and fighting. When a reporter asked what the punishment was for fighting, Kelly joked: "Twenty minutes with you guys. That's my Urban Meyer line. Thanks, Urban."
The comment referred to Meyer confronting a reporter Wednesday about something he wrote.
Kelly set the tone before Friday's first spring practice by saying two stars from last year's team need to improve. He said linebacker Manti Te'o, who was fourth on the team in tackles as a freshman, needs to get a lot better.
"He's got to get much better as a football player. He wasn't very good. He understands that," Kelly said.
Kelly also said Floyd, who was second in receiving last season, has work to do as well.
"The volume that we're going to throw at him is something that's going to be new," Kelly said.