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August 3, 2012
When Notre Dame signed KeiVarae Russell earlier this year, Brian Kelly talked up the former four-star prospect on signing day as a triple threat. The Irish head coach liked the U.S. Army All-American at running back, wide receiver and kick returner.
Turns out Russell's first college practice won't be at any of those spots, with the freshman moved to cornerback to help Notre Dame round out its depth chart. The Irish can now start training camp with six scholarship corners in Bennett Jackson, Lo Wood, Josh Atkinson, Cam McDaniel, Jalen Brown and Russell.
Half the group enrolled at Notre Dame on offense.
"Bennett, Josh Atkinson, and Cam McDaniel, we saw a lot of them in the spring game, so those three young men have a good grasp of our system," Kelly said. "(They) understand what we want them to do, so we feel really good there.
"Lo Wood played a lot for us, last year had an interception in a game. We feel really comfortable with him. So you have four corners that have a lot of experience in our (defense)."
None of Notre Dame's six cornerbacks have started a game, a stark contract to the experience at safety where Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta have each started 16 games throughout their careers. That turns up the pressure on cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks to fast-forward the development of his group.
Kelly likes the material on hand, even if it's green.
"Now they haven't played a ton, but that's what college football is about. People graduate and it's the next guy's chance," Kelly said. "We feel really comfortable with (Jackson, Wood, McDaniel and Atkinson).
"Jalen Brown has to continue to improve and emerge for us, and we've moved Russell over to the defensive side of the ball to be our sixth scholarship corner. So we've got players over there on scholarship that we expect to contribute and make it a very competitive situation."
Notre Dame's training camp roster shed some light on the program's hardest workers over the off-season in terms of strength gains. Not surprisingly, of the dozen players to put on listed weight since spring practice, eight are sophomores with the bulk from power positions.
The biggest gainers were Jordan Prestwood (up 11 pounds to 295), Tony Springmann (up 10 pounds to 300) and Chase Hounshell (up 10 pounds to 275). Other significant weight room improvements came from Stephon Tuitt (up eight pounds to 303), John Goodman (up eight pounds to 215) and Troy Niklas (up eight pounds to 260).
Overall, the Irish list a dozen scholarship players over 300 pounds, a group that includes the entire starting offensive and defensive lines, assuming Mike Golic Jr. wins the right guard spot over Nick Martin.
The biggest freshman is offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley at 6-foot-6, 304 pounds with Jarron Jones close behind at 6-foot-5, 299 pounds.
The Irish had a couple jersey switches from spring ball in DaVaris Daniels and George Atkinson III. Daniels changed from No. 16 to No. 10 with Atkinson officially moving from No. 34 to No. 4, a jersey he wore during much of spring ball. Chris Badger wore No. 24 for Notre Dame the first time around but will wear No. 16 now.
Freshman number assignments were: No. 2 Chris Brown, No. 6 KeiVarae Russell, No. 15 Justin Ferguson, No. 19 Davonte Neal, No. 22 Elijah Shumate, No. 29 Nicky Baratti, No. 31 John Turner, No. 32 Will Mahone, No. 34 CJ Prosise, No. 45 Romeo Okwara, No. 61 Scott Daly, No. 75 Mark Harrell, No. 78 Ronnie Stanley and No. 94 Jarron Jones.
Other than Austin Collinsworth, who's out until at least mid-season following shoulder surgery, Brian Kelly expects all hands on deck when training camp opens on Saturday. The only exception could be receiver Luke Massa, who suffered an ACL tear during spring practice. Kelly said Massa would be limited but active.
Notre Dame closed spring practice nursing a handful of injuries, including Braxston Cave, Chase Hounshell, Tony Springmann, Troy Niklas, John Goodman and Bennett Jackson. They all appear fully cleared for action.
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