SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We know both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will play against Texas, but has coach Brian Kelly decided on who takes the first snap Sunday night in Austin?
“Nope, haven't figured that out yet,” Kelly said. “I mean, we're both doing the same things that we've been asking them to do, and that may be something that we discuss in the locker room. It's not really an issue for us right now. It's not something that we've contemplated.”
There’s far more prestige than importance in being named Notre Dame’s Week 1 starting quarterback given Kizer and Zaire will rotate in and out of the offense under the lights at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. There isn’t a concrete plan to get each player a certain amount of reps, and deciding who takes a snap or series will “be more by feel,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he doesn’t need to leave Austin with any separation between Kizer and Zaire and ideally would be able to play both based on situations and the flow of the game. There could be that separation, though, but that’s not what the seventh-year Irish coach is hoping to get out of Sunday evening.
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So how both play will be far more important than who takes that first snap.
“If they both play dynamically and feed off each other, my ideal situation would be I'm playing them both because they're both playmakers,” Kelly said. “And if we can find a way that they both can feed off each other, help our offense to be the productive offense that we want it to be, I'd love to see them both play.
“You know, nobody seems to think that this can happen, but we're going to give it a shot.”
Momentum is something Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic talks about frequently.
When the Fire beat Montreal on the road for the team’s first road victory in more than two years Paunovic talked about the need to capitalize on that momentum. After a home draw against the LA Galaxy and more recently a resounding 6-2 road loss to D.C. United, it’s clear that the Fire were unable to keep the momentum going from that streak-busting road win.
“You can just go back and see how the mood changed after we won the game in Montreal, how positive everything was,” Paunovic said. “Then you can see the same thing or the opposite thing when you lose the game against D.C.
“Momentum is very important and at least we have some control of how we can react and how we can respond to the momentum that we are leading now. We have to understand that the next game will give us another boost.”
Khaly Thiam’s red card in the first half at RFK Stadium changed the match just a few minutes after Michael de Leeuw tied it with his second MLS goal. Paunovic said he talked with Thiam about the red card.
“He is aware that he made a mistake and we have to understand that he is a young player still adjusting to our league,” Paunovic said. “My most important thing that I could share with you from our conversation is that he learned. He learned that he has to control his emotions, he has to control his competitiveness and of course he has to know that every action we make on and off the field represents our team so he learned from all this and he also addressed the locker room and we move forward. That’s very important for us to learn from our mistakes, but for sure don’t forget them and don’t repeat them again.”
The loss at D.C. was a killer blow to the Fire’s playoff hopes. D.C. is in the all-important sixth spot in the Eastern Conference and is now nine points ahead of the Fire. Chicago has nine matches to make up that ground, which would be a tough task for any team, let alone one currently with the worst record in the league.
Despite this, Paunovic still brought up the playoffs during Tuesday’s conference call with reporters.
“We have games to play and we are not abandoning and we are not giving away our goals to reach the playoffs,” Paunovic said.
The Fire’s next three matches are all at home against Eastern Conference teams currently in playoff positions. In order to maintain this playoff chase, the Fire likely need to win all three considering a three-game road trip follows.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — While Notre Dame’s four active players who were arrested in Fulton County, Ind. earlier this month still have to go through the university’s Office of Community Standards, all signs are pointing to linebacker Te’von Coney, running back Dexter Williams, cornerback Ashton White and receiver Kevin Stepherson being available against Texas.
Those four players were all formally charged with possession of marijuana in Fulton County on Monday, and Coney and Stepherson appeared in court and entered not guilty pleas on Tuesday. Safety Max Redfield, who was dismissed from the program two days after his arrest, was formally charged with possession of a handgun without a license and possession of marijuana, and pleaded not guilty to both charges.
When asked why Redfield’s punishment was different than the other four Irish players in the car, Kelly confirmed that it was because of the handgun allegedly in his possession.
“That changed the whole situation, and that's what caused the dismissal,” Kelly said. “And as an upperclassman not really living up to the standards that I set. The other four guys, we're talking about possession of marijuana and me dealing with that situation. It was the handgun that was the game changer.”
Senior cornerback Devin Butler, who was charged with resisting arrest and battery to a police officer last week, remains indefinitely suspended, Kelly said.
Coney, Williams, White and Stepherson still will have hearings in front of Notre Dame’s Office of Community Standards, which received reports on each today and will likely begin their review process shortly, Kelly said. It seems unlikely any of them would receive discipline from the university that would affect their status to play in the Texas game and beyond given all four were first-time offenders and only charged with possession of marijuana.
Kelly said he didn’t consider suspending those four players given he never has gone that route for a first-time marijuana possession or use offense. All four will be subject to random drug testing in the future.
“I think all drug testing programs need to be educational first,” Kelly said. “And if you find as though that that is not changing somebody through counseling and education, then I believe there needs to be a punitive component.”
So for now, Notre Dame will commence practice for Texas expecting Coney, Williams, White and Stepherson to play. Coney is listed on Notre Dame’s depth chart as its No. 2 Mike (middle) linebacker, while Stepherson is the No. 2 X (field) receiver behind Torii Hunter Jr. and Williams will split kickoff returns with C.J. Sanders and back up Tarean Folston and Josh Adams at running back. Those three guys are likely to play on Sunday, while White could see time on special teams or in a reserve cornerback role, too.
“The university will work their process, and we'll continue to move forward,” Kelly said. “There's no deadline, per se. But we kind of work as if they're going to play, and if something changes, the university will let us know.”