Notebook: Notre Dame football healthy as fall camp looms

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Brian Kelly had to talk his way out of a jam.

When asked at a charity event in South Bend on Tuesday whether he was looking forward to Notre Dame’s fall practices, which begin on Aug. 6, the seventh-year Irish head coach responded, “It’s kind of that time where, as coaches, we’ve had enough vacation and we’ve had enough time away.”

Wrong answer.

Kelly was promptly interrupted by his wife, Paqui, who was standing inconveniently by his side.

“What?” she said jokingly. “What? Aren’t you going to miss me?”

Kelly smiled and verbally backpedaled.

“Yeah, I am,” he said with a grin.

Like it or not (in Paqui’s case), fall camp is on its way. And when the Irish arrive in Culver, Ind., for a five-day stay next month, all of Notre Dame’s current players are expected to be there.

“Our grades came in. We’re all good,” Kelly reported. “We feel good about everybody coming back, and now it’s just a matter of getting guys in the right position and going and playing.”

But what about those hopeful Irish contributors returning from injuries, such as wide receiver and returner C.J. Sanders, who was relegated to a scooter because of a hip flexor injury last spring?

“Everybody has made really good progress. Nobody has taken a step back,” Kelly said. “C.J.’s probably made a little bit better progress than we thought, so I don’t think we have any outstanding issues as it relates to the academics or the injury part of our football team.”

At least, not currently. All the Irish coaches can do at this point is cross their fingers and hope for the best.

“Classes ended last week, so this is their one week off,” Kelly explained. “I told our trainer before they left, ‘Just reiterate: let’s not water ski and pull a hamstring or do something crazy.’ I’d be fine if they laid on the couch for a week and then we’ll get ‘em re-engaged when we get back.”

Come Aug. 6, couches will be out of the question.

“I think we’re all at that point where we want to get our hands back on our players and get to work with them,” he said. “They’ve been without any kind of coaching in a sense for the last five, six weeks. We’d like to get back to work. It’s getting to that point.”

Boudreaux’s status

Kelly mentioned academics and injuries, but that doesn’t account for illnesses.

Freshman offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux, who spent several days in the hospital with viral meningitis last month, should also be in action when Notre Dame opens fall camp.

“He had viral meningitis, which obviously scared us,” Kelly said. “But he has a clean bill of health. He’s back to working out. I think it’s one of those situations where, at first, you hear that kind of medical situation and you get concerned. But it was controlled, and he’s back. He was working out the last couple weeks and felt pretty good.”

A 6-foot-3, 300-pound freshman from Orlando, Fla., Boudreaux’s next battle will come in the trenches, likely at one of the guard positions on Notre Dame’s offensive line.

Will leaders emerge?

No Sheldon Day. No Joe Schmidt. No Nick Martin. No Jaylon Smith. No Matthias Farley. No Chris Brown.

No leaders?

Not so much.

Though Notre Dame will be tasked with replacing all five of its captains (not to mention 13 starters) this fall, Kelly stressed that the cupboard is hardly bare.

“I think what we’ve worked really hard on is building our identity and who we are and the leadership within each unit and each group,” Kelly said of his young team. “We don’t necessarily have one or two guys that’s a returning captain like a Sheldon Day or a Nick Martin. We have a number of guys.

“So what we’ve done is put a lot of emphasis on the position groups. I’ll be looking forward to looking at the position groups and the leadership within those groups.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame freshman C.J. Sanders remains a central figure in the Irish return game. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)