SOUTH BEND — At the end of what seemed to be an introduction that droned on forever, one single audience member stood to greet first-year Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly as he hustled to the podium. Before it could grow into a full-fledged standing ovation Tuesday at the Century Center, Kelly quashed it by launching into his speech with such speed and enthusiasm, he overran a key point. "I can't wait to get on to the practice field, Thursday," he gushed. Um, spring practice at Notre Dame actually starts Friday. In any event, Thursday will certainly not be a day off for Kelly, who immerses himself in the community whenever he's not on the clock. That includes pushing his own shopping cart at Martin's Supermarket and standing in long lines there, by his account. It also entails the schmoozing he did Tuesday with the sell-out crowd of roughly 500 at the KeyBank Gridiron Legends Luncheon Series kickoff event . Behind closed doors, though, Kelly is showing more fang than smile. On the first day of Notre Dame's spring break (March 5), for instance, the Irish football players were out on the practice field at 5 a.m., in the snow, going through the first installment of "Camp Kelly." Twelve days later, they were at it again — albeit in better weather — grinding out the grueling physical and mental challenges that have nothing to do with football and everything to do with winning. "Camp Kelly is about addressing some of the clear deficiencies that we had," Kelly told a gathering of media Tuesday following his Century Center appearance. "Their attention to detail is not where it needs to be. Their discipline is not where it needs to be. They need to care about themselves and their (teammates) a lot more. I'm tired of hearing about the next NFL player coming out of Notre Dame, quite frankly." And also tired, apparently, of tiptoeing around what he sees as the shortfalls of the Charlie Weis regime. "They need to understand who were are — we're the Fightin' Irish," Kelly said of his players. "So we're creating an atmosphere that's a little bit different than what they're used to. ... "You go back to your roots — who we are as a university, why you're here at Notre Dame. You've got to work for it. Hasn't worked out so well the last three years. We're 15-21. We are who were are. You want a championship football team? You've got to pay attention to detail, and our guys are starting to understand that." Here is some attention to details of the upcoming spring practice sessions, that conclude with the annual Blue-Gold Game, April 24 at Notre Dame Stadium. Positions switches: So far, there are four. The previously announced tweaks are senior-to-be Harrison Smith moving from outside linebacker back to safety and rising sophomore running back Theo Riddick sliding to slot receiver. "It's important to get our playmakers on the field," Kelly said. "We also have to open up space for (running back) Cierre Wood. We believe (Riddick) has the ability to catch the football at the line of scrimmage and make big plays for us, and it gets Cierre Wood into the football game. It has a double-pronged effect." The other moves are junior offensive tackle Lane Clelland moving to defensive end and fullback senior Steve Paskorz moving back to inside linebacker. "I think we all saw we needed to stop the run last year," Kelly said of the nation's 89th-ranked rushing defense (out of 120 in Division I-A). "We needed to get bigger, and we couldn't do it through recruiting, so we needed to do it through players on our roster." Player status: The heir-obvious to Jimmy Clausen as starting quarterback, junior Dayne Crist, continues to recover from November knee surgery well ahead of schedule. "We would be pretty close to playing him (in a real game if it were the fall)," Kelly said. "Obviously, we're going to be smart. We'll put a big funnel around him, make sure nobody gets near him. But he's got to get out there and take snaps. He's got to learn the offense and he's got to earn the starting job. He's done a great job of putting himself in position to do all that."
- Rumors have swirled about junior running back Jonas Gray's status with the team, but Kelly said Tuesday, "He's part of our program. He's in spring practice."
- Sophomore tight end Tyler Eifert is making a strong recovery from disc surgery, while senior backup kicker Brandon Walker continues to labor with a chronic back condition. Montana state of mind: Quarterback Tommy Rees is one of four early-enrolled freshmen taking part in spring practice. But even with limited numbers at QB this spring, he isn't on a trajectory to emerge as the top backup behind Crist at this point. "They're drinking out of a fire hose right now," Kelly said of Rees and classmates wide receiver Tai-ler Jones and cornerbacks Lo Wood and Spencer Boyd. Walk-on Nate Montana, who spent last fall at Pasadena City College, is apparently beyond the fire hose stage. "We've got to rely on Montana to really compete with Crist," Kelly said of the junior and son of former Irish legend Joe Montana. "He's got some experience. He's bounced around a little bit. I think he understands where he needs to be, but he's caught our eye a little bit." As far as his own mind-set for spring practice, Kelly isn't worried about constructing a depth chart, just creating competition at positions. And he's no longer caught up in the dream of coaching at ND, but the reality of it. "I can jump out of my skin right now," Kelly said of his first spring practice at ND. "But emotions for me, I try to leave that aside. I'm enthusiastic about the opportunity to be the head coach at Notre Dame and be on that field, but I also know I've got a job to do — and that's win football games right away. "And to do that right away, you better pay attention. You can't be, 'Wooohooo, I'm the head coach at Notre Dame. This is cool!' You've got to be focused on what you're doing at the time."