Quick Hits: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's Texas press conference

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Welcome to game week.

Before Notre Dame can take the field against Texas on Saturday night, though, the game first needs to be discussed and analyzed, again and again and again.

In that regard, Brian Kelly did his part on Tuesday, as the sixth-year Notre Dame head coach met the media for his first game week press conference of the season.

Here are the key points from Kelly's address.

  • The Malik Zaire that shows up against Texas on Saturday won't be the same guy that made his first collegiate start against LSU in last season's Music City Bowl, Kelly said. Back in December, the coaching staff wasn't sure what Zaire was capable of as a passer. "If he does exactly what I tell him to do," Kelly joked, "we should be in really good shape."
  • Kelly offered little clarification as to who will call the offensive plays on Saturday, between Kelly, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and associate head coach Mike Denbrock. "We'll collaborate," Kelly said.
  • A true freshman will be the starting punt returner in his first college football game on Saturday night. That will be shifty 5-foot-8 wide receiver, and Kelly said they chose him over junior Will Fuller because of Sanders' knack for breaking tackles.
  • Notre Dame will feature a crowded participation report at tight end this season, as Kelly confirmed that all five on his roster -- Durham Smythe, Nic Weishar, Alize Jones, Chase Hounshell and Tyler Luatua -- will play this season. Their performance will determine who earns the most reps.
  • In the absence of starting nose tackle Jarron Jones, who went down with a season-ending MCL tear during fall camp, Kelly said that sophomore nose tackle Daniel Cage has "really come on" heading into the season. Cage, freshman Jerry Tillery and senior Sheldon Day will form a three-man rotation in the middle.
  • Though Cage is slated to start ahead of Tillery at nose tackle, Kelly noted that Tillery -- the 6-7, 300-pound freshman -- will play both nose tackle and defensive tackle this season.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly walks in during Notre Dame Football Practice on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN