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Pope: Irish set to close eventful, productive camp

Matthias Farley Levine Toliolo

Matthias Farley, Levine Toliolo

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Updated: May 21, 2013 6:29AM



South Bend — It’s been an interesting spring camp for Notre Dame.

There have been plenty of position battles. Some players have stepped up as leaders while others have stepped out of the program.

The camp concludes Saturday with the 84th Blue-Gold game at Notre Dame Stadium.

“The spring game is to showcase a lot of guys that have the opportunity to step up,” safety Matthias Farley said Friday.

“For myself, it’s just exciting to go out there and compete and have some people in the crowd. And to showcase all the hard work we’ve done as a unit and as a team throughout the spring and put that on display for everybody to see.”

Even before camp officially began, there was news. It stared Gunner Kiel’s decision to leave the program. The quarterback officially landed at Cincinnati on Friday.

As camp comes to a close, there’s the news of the first wave of games in the future against ACC schools. Road trips for Notre Dame will include going to Florida State in 2014, Clemson in 2015 and North Carolina State in 2016.

In between those stories was plenty of poor weather, which forced most of the camp inside. But it didn’t slow down Notre Dame’s production.

“I think we’ve had some pretty consistent leadership on the offensive line,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “That group is led by Zack Martin. But o-linemen lead in a pack. There’s a consistency in their work ethic, the way they show up. They’re a no-nonsense group. So if you ask who’s your best leader, as a group, it’s that offensive line, and the way they come to practice every day wears off on everybody else. They get in there, they get their work done, they expect to do well, and that kind of trickles down to some of the other guys.

“I really like the way (quarterback) Everett (Golson) has upped his leadership. Defensively, I don’t know that there’s been one guy, but by action, (linebacker) Prince Shembo has been great. I would tell you that when you talk about guys, Matthias Farley has been a guy that has upped his leadership.”

The quarterbacks made strides under the unique circumstances.

“If you just look at the quarterbacks, from Tommy (Rees) to Andrew (Hendrix) to Everett, they are all light years ahead of where they were a year ago in every facet,” offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. “From technically better, to mentally better to physically better, to their own confidence level. At this time last year, it was a still a free-for-all. They had no confidence and we had no confidence. We didn’t know exactly where we were going. When you don’t have a guy yet at the quarterback position, everything is kind of up in the air.”

Even punter/kicker Kyle Brindza found a way to remain sharp while he was stuck indoors.

“The spring has been difficult on me, but in a way it’s not difficult because I’ve been working on my fundamentals so much,” Brindza said. “…. Not going outside helped me and gave me a better background for punting.”

Brindza was the team’s kicker last year. He’s added the role of punter this spring. And he wasn’t the only one adjusting to a role.

Even the coaching staff has had a slight shift, with Martin taking over the play-calling duties from Kelly.

As for players, C.J. Prosise moved from safety to wide receiver, and he made some nice catches during an open practice last week. Elijah Shumate shifted from nickelback to safety. And he’s impressed.

Safety has been one of the most discussed positions this spring. So has linebacker. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco praised the performance of linebacker Ben Councell.

“Me personally, if coach Kelly asked, (he is the) player of the spring,” Diaco said. “I would throw his name out there. Not that he’s the best player of the defense, but in terms of improvement from what he was to what he is, I’d say (he is) most improved through spring defensively.”

The continued development of the linebackers, the safeties, the offensive line and the running backs are just a few things to watch for Saturday.

But whether they are in a tight competition or their spot is set in stone, Brindza summed up the feelings for all the players.

“I’m just excited to be out on that field again,” he said.



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