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Pope: Irish gearing up for Blue-Gold game

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly yells his team during second half an NCAA college football game against Temple South

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly yells to his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Temple in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Notre Dame defeated Temple 28-6. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: May 10, 2014 6:38AM



SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock has a wish list for Saturday’s Blue-Gold game.

He wants to see quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire make good decisions with the football. He wants running backs Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant to know when to make the best out of a bad situation, if such a case arises. He wants to see the receivers aggressively playing the football in the air when they have the opportunity to make a catch.

“I’m looking for an attacking style of offense and these guys carrying the fight to the defense and going after it and doing their business the right way,” Denbrock said Monday. “That would be a good Saturday in my book.”

There is plenty to look forward to for Saturday’s event at Notre Dame Stadium on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, it’s one more opportunity to view the progress of Golson and Zaire. The Irish haven’t named a starter yet, so will be interesting to see how both perform in the contest. This will also be the first chance to see Golson at Notre Dame Stadium since last year’s spring game, an interesting subplot to the day.

This might be a chance to see which wide receivers have emerged as threats.

Remember, the offense is without one of its top weapons in DaVaris Daniels. The wide receiver, who was second on the team with 49 catches for 745 yards, is serving an academic suspension this spring. He’s expected to be on the field for the Irish this fall.

His return will be a boost to a talented but young group of wide receivers.

His absence has opened up opportunities for the other receivers to take that next step. Will it be Corey Robinson, who has the ability to leap high and snatch the ball away from a defender? Will William Fuller provide the team with more than the ability to be a down-the-field target?

That’s just to name two.

“I don’t think anybody in my mind is far enough along where they have just separated themselves and said ‘this guy is going to be the X and we are done evaluating that position,’” Denbrock said. “We are still digging through and evaluating all those guys.”

Even if all of Denbrock’s wishes come true, it’s wise to remember there is a long way for the Irish to go. This is still a work in progress.

“Our whole offensive team, we’ve got times where we are clicking and things are going really well and think guys are understanding and they are doing what they are coached to do and it looks pretty good,” Denbrock said.

“And there are some bumps in the road with some new players in some new spots. I’ve kind of juggled the wide receivers and let different guys run in different groups and the backs are interchanging. With all those moving pieces and parts to the puzzle, at times it gets a little choppy. We just have to continue to work through it.”

That’s also the case on defense, where new coordinator Brian VanGorder said the group is gaining a comfort to the changes he’s brought to that side of the ball.

He said the defense is ahead of where he thought it would be at this point of the spring.

“It’s multiple for them,” VanGorder said. “They are coming along and doing a better job than I thought they would handling it all.”

The players have had to take a lot in. We’ll get a glance at how much has stuck.

“(The instillation has) slowed down a little bit because we’ve gotten more situational in the work we’ve done. Whether the work was on red zone, two-minute drill. We are specific into some situational football where when we started spring football, it’s basically openers and then we go into third down,” VanGorder said. “… But it’s still a rather large inventory for a group of guys that have never heard such terms and this kind of language before.”

Linebacker Joe Schmidt and cornerback KeiVarae Russell have been among the standouts this spring. The defense as a whole plans to be more aggressive. We’ll get a glimpse of that style Saturday.

In the end, it’s one final chance to get a taste of things to come in the fall.

“Hopefully be able to show a little bit out on Saturday,” Denbrock said, “and give the fans an opportunity to look at a lot of our guys and an opportunity to kind of get a first look at 2014 will look like.”



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