Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly says suspensions were his call
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org August 28, 2012 5:22PM
FILE - In this April 21, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly leads his team on to the field for the Blue Gold spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. The Irish are preparing for their season opener in Ireland against Navy. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond, File)
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:23AM
Brian Kelly wanted to discuss his four captains, just named on Monday. The Notre Dame coach raved about how linebacker Manti Te’o, tight end Tyler Eifert, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and lineman Zack Martin perfectly represent the lofty standards he has for his players, on and off the field.
But Kelly once again wound up spending much of his time Tuesday talking about those players who have not lived up to those standards. After suspending quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese one game each for their arrests in May following an off-campus party, Kelly on Monday banned starting tailback Cierre Wood and reserve defensive end Justin Utupo for the first two games of the season for violating unspecified team rules.
Kelly did his best to put a positive spin on the punishments.
“Anytime I suspend somebody from the football team, it’s perceived as discipline, and I understand that,” he said. “But these are educational opportunities for me. I look at it as, how are we going to get these young men to live up to the standards I have for this football team?”
Kelly said the suspensions were solely his decision, and that the university’s Residential Life office was not involved. He also said each situation is handled on its own merits. Rees and Calabrese got just one game for a high-profile arrest, and receiver Michael Floyd was banished for the spring and summer — but didn’t miss any games — for a DUI arrest in 2011, his third alcohol-related offense. Floyd was reinstated for training camp and went on to become the Irish’s all-time leading receiver, making 100 catches last year.
“I have to weigh all the factors involved,” Kelly said. “There are different circumstances in each one. The ultimate goal is we want them all to turn out like Michael Floyd’s situation, where they make life decisions to change the way they are. We want better citizens. We want more accountable citizens. We want people representing our program in the right way. And so, there isn’t a matrix, where I just go down and say, OK, well that equals two.”
As for Saturday’s opener against Navy in Ireland, Kelly said new starting tailback Theo Riddick had his full confidence. Riddick was a running back as a freshman and a receiver the last two seasons, so he’s an ideal fit for Kelly’s offense, which demands a versatile running back who can get involved in the passing game. Kelly also said backup George Atkinson III has “continued to evolve” in that position. Third-string sophomore Cam McDaniel played in a similar offense in high school. USC transfer Amir Carlisle (ankle) won’t be available Saturday, but could be ready by Week 2 against Purdue.
“Theo, the guy was bred for this position, a hybrid, whatever you want to call it,” Kelly said.
Kelly downplayed any perceived discipline problems on his team, and said there was no sense of concern setting in among the other players.
“As a head coach with 18- to 22-year-olds, you hope that everybody makes good decisions all the time,” Kelly said. “I hope my son makes good decisions all the time, my daughter (too). We get disappointed, but we also know they’re young, and they want to learn from their mistakes.”