Feb. 1, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly speaks at a press conference for national signing day at the Guglielmnio Athletics Complex. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Football: Spring Practice Press Conference

Brian Kelly kicked off Spring Practice with a press conference. Many questions were on his plate including some off the field questions. It would not be a Notre Dame football press conference without concerns of transfers or hoaxes. However, there were some football questions sprinkled in as well.

No doubt the first question asked was about the impending transfer of Gunner Kiel. Although reports had surfaced that he would be leaving and that he had cleaned out his locker, he had not actually left school. Brian Kelly put this matter to bed when he stated that Kiel was “no longer with the program.”

Kelly began Spring Football by discussing the weight gains and strength gains that the program had made since the National Title game.

Offensive Linemen Mark Harrell and Conor Hanratty gained 19 and 10 pounds respectively. Along the Defensive Line, Chase Hounshell gained 20 pounds to get him up to 275 pounds. Outside Linebacker Ben Councell added 18 pounds. Inside Linebacker Jarrett Grace increased his reps of 225 lbs on the bench to 22.

Brian Kelly’s biggest message during Tuesday’s press conference was that Notre Dame needed to set the roster with the players that it had on campus. He added that the players coming in the fall would “fill in the ranks.”

One player who is looking to nail down a starting position is Junior George Atkinson III who gained 11 pounds. He now weighs in at 219. Furthermore, he increased his reps of 225 from 5 to 19. Of course, these are just numbers. But for a player who has been more of a shifty runner in the past, this may be the turning point. Atkinson’s numbers demonstrate that he is on his way to become a complete Running Back.

The Center position should be one of the hotly contested battles this spring. Brian Kelly stated on Tuesday that the candidates are Matt Hegarty, Mark Harrell and Nick Martin. The Center position will be the priority along the Offensive Line. Once the Center position is established, the Irish can then determine where everyone else will play. Zack Martin and Chris Watt are locks for Left Tackle and Guard. Lombard will definitely play but it could either be at the Right Guard or Tackle position. Other linemen who could find their way into the mix are Ronnie Stanley, Steve Elmer and Conor Hanratty.

One position that is believed to not be under competition in the Spring is the Quarterback spot. For the most part, that is true. However, Kelly wants the Quarterbacks to “compete to be the starter.” That means Tommy Rees should be trying to push past Everett Golson.

Golson could find two new targets this season at the Tight End and Wide Receiver position. Former Notre Dame Basketball player Joey Brooks has joined the Notre Dame Football team and is working as a Tight End. So far, Brooks has been able to complete everything thrown at him. Notre Dame Sophomore Safety C.J. Prosise will cross-train at the Wide Receiver position this spring. He caught the eye of Irish coaches during bowl preparation because of his excellent ball skills.

Joey Brooks is not the only new fresh faces around campus. Kelly singled out Onuwalu, Heuerman and Elmer as early enrollees that he was really impressed with. Onuwalu is physically ready to play with the veterans now. Heuerman has made a great gains in the weight room and he is now up to 230 pounds. Likewise, Elmer is up to a massive 317.

Notre Dame will begin Spring Practice tomorrow at 8 a.m. Austin Collinsworth has been cleared for practice. Players who underwent surgery (Baratti, Jackson and Fox) will be limited despite the fact that they have gotten stronger in the weight room.

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