BYU football: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's shift from risky approach is working
Outside linebacker Danny Spond, who battled migraines through most of the preseason and early in the schedule, has come on to be a factor. The junior was all over the field, racking up seven tackles, in an amazing game against Michigan. His impact was a bit more subtle, but he still had six stops against Stanford.
The other poster boy for player development is Louis Nix. Not much of a factor in the interior before, the nose guard now is a physical presence inside, as well as one of the unique personalities on the defense.
Development is not as clear-cut, nose-on-your-face obvious on offense.
Quarterback Tommy Rees has probably made the most strides, but his body of work is still lacking.
He has rescued the Irish three times this season without a terrible mistake.. His brief and very effective performances are examples of growth, maturity, and functioning within the confines of his physical limitations.
In other words, nobody will truly know how far Rees has come until he plays a whole game.
TJ Jones isn't going to fill Michael Floyd's shoes any time soon, but the improvement the junior has made won't make Floyd's absence hurt so much. His 19 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns have been good enough to give the Irish an option at receiver.
Finding the right position for Theo Riddick hasn't been easy. Running back? Receiver? Running back/receiver? Hmmmm, maybe they're on to something there.
Use Riddick as a hard-charging running back who can morph into a slot receiver at a moment's notice might actually work. It has so far. Riddick's versatility has allowed him to rush for more than 300 yards and gain 170 receiving yards this season. His 16-yard catch from Rees in overtime against Stanford was one of the game's key plays.
Development, though, doesn't end with the players. There has been a measure of coaching development, as well.
Hate to keep kicking a dead — and by now, long since glue-factoried — horse, but the loss to Tulsa is a nightmare that won't go away. Remember? Kelly chose to go for a touchdown to win the game instead of kicking a field goal that would have won the game.
"Get used to it," was the warning he issued after the game.
Two seasons and 10 losses have mellowed the man and the coach. If it were Kelly, circa 2010, running the show against Stanford, he probably would have gone for the win on fourth-and-2 from the Stanford 5 with 23 seconds left in regulation.
Instead, the much wiser and developed Kelly had Kyle Brindza convert the chip shot and roll the dice in overtime.
Now that's something worth getting used to.
And worthy of some sort of award — fictitious, or not.
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