Kelly says suspensions were solely his call

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly sized up the situation and said the

call was solely his when he suspended starting running back Cierre

Wood and backup defensive Justin Utupo two games each for violating

team rules.

”We want more accountable citizens. We want people representing

our program in the right way,” Kelly said Tuesday, the day before

the Irish leave for their season opener against Navy in Dublin,

Ireland.

”When we suspend somebody, I look at it in terms of how are we

going to get this young man to live up to the standards that I have

for our program,” he added.

Wood rushed for 1,102 yards last season, while Utupo played

mainly on special teams. The team has not said why either was

suspended. Kelly has also suspended quarterback Tommy Rees and

linebacker Carlos Calabrese for the opener for their roles in a

skirmish with police following a party in May.

So, the Irish face Navy with four players suspended, not a great

way to start the coach’s third season in South Bend – one that

features a challenging schedule.

Kelly said the call on disciplining Wood and Utupo, announced

Sunday, was entirely his to make.

”This is strictly an independent decision that I made relative

to the decisions that those young men made. And they violated the

rules that our players know; and the rules that they know every

single day about being in this program,” he said without being

specific.

Wood and Utupo also will miss the home opener the following week

against Purdue.

”You understand that as a head coach with 18- to 22-year-olds,

that you hope that everybody makes good decisions all the time. I

hope my son makes good decisions; my daughter,” Kelly said. ”But

I think we all get disappointed, but we also know that they are

young and we want them to learn from the mistakes that they made.

And in this instance, we are hoping that Cierre, Justin, I’m very

confident that they will learn from their mistakes.”

Theo Riddick, who came to Notre Dame as a running back before

Kelly made him a slot receiver two years ago, has returned to his

original role and will be the likely starter for Wood with

sophomore George Atkinson III also in the mix. Amir Carlisle, a

transfer from Southern California, is still recovering from a

broken ankle. Cam McDaniel, who had switched to defensive back, has

returned to the offensive side for depth.

Notre Dame will line up against the Midshipmen for a 9 a.m. EDT

kickoff Saturday with an untested quarterback in sophomore Everett

Golson, who won a quarterback derby and beat out Andrew Hendrix to

be the starter.

Kelly said he spent more time with the quarterbacks during fall

camp, improving the communication that is vital, especially from

the sidelines where he calls the plays and has them signaled in by

backups.

Notre Dame threw 17 interceptions last season and Kelly said it

is imperative the Irish clean it up offensively, especially near

the end zone.

Golson is not going to be perfect and his coach knows it.

”He will make mistakes. Let’s make it clear; he will make

mistakes,” Kelly said. ”But it’s those poor decisions that we

have to eradicate.”

Kelly and new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin have been

impressed by the way Golson has minimized turnovers and gaffes

throughout fall camp.

”Our offensive staff feels as though he’s disciplined in his

approach, that he understands the routine of the quarterback

position,” he said. ”If he’s not out of character on Saturday I

will safely say, he will do a very good job of taking care of the

football.”

Notes: OT Zack Martin, TE Tyler Eifert, LB Manti Te’o and DE

Kapron Lewis-Moore were named captains. … The Irish have a long

day ahead Wednesday with a morning practice, classes, some weight

training and meetings and then a flight to Dublin. … Notre Dame

also faced Navy in Dublin in 1996, Lou Holtz’s final season as

coach; the Irish won 54-27.