Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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18 APRIL 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI AND MATT JONES I n one of the earlier starts to Notre Dame spring drills in re- cent memory, the Fighting Irish opened with two practices on March 8 and March 10 — before the school and team went on spring se- mester break from March 11-19. Practice was slated to resume March 22 before concluding with the annual Blue-Gold Game April 22. It's unusual to have practice pe- riod so elongated, but after the 4-8 collapse in 2016, the desire by Brian Kelly and a staff of six new assistant coaches to put that campaign in the rear view mirror as soon as possible was understandable. "The spring for me will be a lot more about the process than production," Kelly said of the 15 practices. "I'm not as interested in what the route looks like, what that technique looks like. I'm more interested in attention to de- tail. I'm more interested in laser focus. I'm more interested in grit. "I'm more interested in those traits that are necessary to win a championship." A total of 91 players, including 21 walk-ons and five freshman early en- rollees, began spring drills. Sixteen more true freshman are scheduled to enroll in June for summer school, along with Michigan graduate trans- fer wide receiver Freddy Canteen. Unofficially that would put Notre Dame at 87 scholarships, with 85 the required NCAA limit once preseason practices commence in August. Overall, Notre Dame returns eight of 11 starters on offense and seven of 11 on defense. The eight on offense are junior SPRING BOARD Erasing the 2016 nightmare season began with practice on March 8 Projected starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush has thrown only five career passes enter- ing his junior year, but head coach Brian Kelly has had success with inexperienced signal-callers in the past. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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