Kelly: Crist, Rees neck-and-neck for Irish QB job

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“There is a whole lot of competition. Each and every day you got to come in and they have to come in with the right mindset to get better,” Riddick said. “And they have. It has definitely improved our team.”

Kelly added that between six and 10 freshmen could play this season for Notre Dame, mostly on special teams.

He noted the special teams contributions last year of then-freshmen Daniel Smith, Bennett Jackson and Austin Collinsworth, and first-year players can make an impact on kick returns and coverage.

“If they can help us win, we are going to play them,” Kelly said.

The speedy Riddick, who returned two kickoffs last season and 37 as a freshman in 2009, would like to help out.

“I definitely want to be on special teams,” he said. “I feel like I can make a huge dent.”

Kelly said reserve offensive lineman Tate Nichols has a dislocated kneecap and won’t be ready for the Sept. 3 opener against South Florida. Senior defensive end Ethan Johnson was ill and missed practice Saturday. Johnson had complained of headaches and underwent a series of tests and is fine, Kelly said.

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