Brian Kelly says the decision to suspend running back Cierre Wood and defensive lineman Justin Utupo for two games was strictly his and not influenced by Res Life.
Kelly did not want to get into the specifics as to how or when he came to the conclusion that there had been a violation of team rules and that he needed to make a decision.
Kelly says he isn’t sure if he ever really came up with ‘contingency plans’ for the running back position, where Wood was the projected starter. Wood did not practice on the first day of camp due to what Kelly called at the time an “issue with paperwork.” Wood was also not made available to the media for all of camp.
Kelly announced the suspension of Wood and Utupo on Sunday and spoke to the media about it for the first time at his pre-Navy press conference on Tuesday.
“Anytime I suspend someone from football team, it’s perceived as disciple,” Kelly explained. “I look at it as how are we going to get this young man to live to the standards I have for our program. We want this to be educational. We want them to come back as better young men.”
Kelly says every suspension is different but that his goal is for guys to come back as “better citizens.” He cited Michael Floyd as a player who made poor decisions, was suspended and then eturned by making “life changes.”
Theo Riddick will start at running back for the Irish with George Atkinson III also seeing time there. Cam McDaniel is the 3rd option for now. Kelly said USC transfer Amir Carlisle—who is recovering from injury—is not yet ready and will be unavailable for Saturday’s game.
The Irish will practice Tuesday afternoon and then again at 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday. Players will then head to class and the team will depart for Dublin Wednesday night.
Kelly originally planned to have practices in the morning the last two weeks to adjust players to the 9 a.m. South Bend start time for Saturday’s game against Navy. But he changed that plan because he wanted to make sure his guys weren’t cutting back on too much sleep.
Kelly says he doesn’t think it matters when they play because it’s the opener.
“Certainly our players are starting to get that sense—it’s been a long time since that last game,” Kelly said referring to the Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State last December. “It’s time to get back on the winning track.”
The Irish will start a rookie quarterback against the Mids. Everett Golson will see his first college action and Notre Dame is hoping he can “minimize mistakes.” The Irish were plagued by turnovers last season and Kelly says Golson did a great job of protecting the football in fall camp.
With that said, Golson is still a rookie.
“Let’s make it clear, he will make mistakes,” Kelly admitted. “He is going to make some mistakes, we know that. We have to overcome them.
“If he's not out of character on Saturday, he will do a very good job taking care of the football."
Golson will be throwing to a number of different targets. Kelly called pre-season All American tight end and newly named captain Tyler Eifert as Notre Dame’s only “stand alone receiver.”
Kelly rattled off 6-7 names and said there are maybe more of different receivers who will play. Kelly said they will all have specific roles.
In addition to Eifert, Kelly announced on Monday night that offensive lineman Zach Martin, linebacker Manti Te’o and defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore have been named captains for the 2012 season.
Kelly says Lewis-Moore was brought to tears when talking about being a captain. He says Kapron has been an absolute leader and has taken control in the defensive meeting room since January.