Notebook: Doerer hits the wall; Yoon to kick off for Notre Dame in opener
SOUTH BEND — The freshman wall isn’t just something Brian Kelly talks about.
It’s one of the things for which the eighth-year Notre Dame head football coach has a plan, heading into Saturday’s season opener against Temple (3:30 p.m. EDT; NBC-TV) — and beyond.
On Tuesday, 10 true freshmen were listed in the playing rotations in the first official depth chart of the season. Two days later, one of them has fallen off it — a temporary casualty of the proverbial freshman wall.
Kicker Jonathan Doerer will not kick off Saturday after all, Kelly said Thursday after his team’s practice in Campus Crossroads project-jazzed Notre Dame Stadium. Instead junior Justin Yoon, the No. 1 man on field goals and PATs, will pull double duty against the Owls.
“He’s a little tired,” Kelly said of Doerer, a 6-foot-3, 193-pound freshman from Charlotte, N.C. “He will eventually take that duty over. So we’re going to hold off the grand opening of Jonathan ’til maybe a week or two.”
Defensive linemen Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa are perhaps the biggest surprises in the two-deeps among the other freshmen on defense, while wide receivers Michael Young and Jafar Armstrong fit that bill on offense.
Tight ends Cole Kmet and Brock Wright, offensive tackle Robert Hainsey and safety Isaiah Robertson are the other freshmen listed who are likely to see action, as is unlisted Jordan Genmark Heath, a third-team safety at the moment who figures in prominently on special teams.
Backup offensive guard Josh Lugg is the one freshman listed in the two-deeps who’s unlikely to see action on Saturday.
“I think they’ll all hit the wall at some time,” Kelly said of the freshmen. “We can’t rely on a freshman to have such a substantial role and not be prepared that there’s going to be a time that we have to help them out.
“It’s foolish to think that their volume is going to be able to sustain a heavy, heavy workload. We’re prepared for that.”
Appeal for Gilman
Less than a week after Notre Dame learned that Navy safety transfer Alohi Gilman was denied a waiver for eligibility in 2017 by the NCAA, the Irish athletic department has filed an appeal on the sophomore’s behalf.
If the appeal is not successful, Gilman would still have three seasons of eligibility with the Irish, but he wouldn’t be able to play in a game until 2018. Gilman was Navy’s second-leading tackler in 2016 as a true freshman, and would be a potential starter if the NCAA grants him eligibility in 2017.
“We feel like it warranted an appeal, and we have filed the appropriate paperwork,” said Kelly, who doesn’t have a precise timetable from the NCAA for final resolution on the matter.
Final words for Wimbush
On Saturday, junior Brandon Wimbush will attempt to become the sixth starting quarterback of six in the Kelly Era to win his starting debut.
The others who helped build that five-game winning streak are Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees, Everett Golson, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer. The last quarterback to lose his first start in a Notre Dame uniform was Evan Sharpley, 10 seasons ago, in a 38-0 rout by USC.
Overall, ND quarterbacks are 22-10 in starting debuts, dating back to Rick Slager leading the Irish to a 17-3 win over Boston College on Sept. 15, 1975.
Wimbush, who redshirted last season, has five pass attempts and seven rushes on his college résumé, all amassed in mop-up duty over two games in 2015.
“You’re not going to be perfect,” Kelly said of what likely will be the essence of his pregame words to Wimbush. “You’re going to make some mistakes, but move on from them.
“Understand that perfection is not what we’re after. We’re out for excellence. With that comes some mistakes. And with me, play fast, play aggressive, trust your coaching and trust your teaching, and you’ll be fine.”
Follow the leader
A subtle reminder of why middle linebacker Nyles Morgan was named one of Notre Dame’s seven captains for this season is how he led during the spring and summer.
Kelly divided the team up into 13-man SWAT teams in the offseason, with “SWAT” standing for Spring/Summer Workout Accountability Teams.
Morgan’s team ended up winning the recently concluded competition, edging out fellow senior linebacker and captain Greer Martini and his group. The categories that made up the team’s total score were strength, speed, agility, discipline, academics and mat drills/conditioning.
The Irish have begun a new cycle with the start of the season on Saturday.
One of the perks for strong SWAT team performances were green shamrock decals awarded and placed on the players’ practice helmets (a new tradition that won’t be carried over into games, per Kelly).
Kelly said backup defensive tackle Elijah Taylor (Lisfranc foot surgery in March) is the only player on the active roster who is expected to miss Saturday’s game because of injury.
It’s as healthy as a Kelly-coached team has been going into a season in his 27 seasons as a college head coach, by his estimation.
“Really is,” he said. “I hate to even talk about it. The preparation is as good as I’ve had as a head coach in all facets. That’s why I’m excited and really looking forward to watching this group play.”