TOM COYNE, AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly likes that his young team already has faced a big challenge playing at Texas in the opener two weeks ago as it prepares to host No. 12 Michigan State on Saturday.
“I think Texas is as big of a moment that most of these young kids had, 102,000 on the road. So I’m of the opinion that they’ve already played that game. They’ve already been in that experience,” he said.
The 18th-ranked Irish (1-1) lost to the Longhorns 50-47 in double overtime while Michigan State (1-0) hasn’t played since beating FCS Furman 28-13 on Sept. 2. Fans of both teams are eager to see how good each is.
The traditional rivals haven’t played since a 17-13 victory Irish in 2013 — the lone loss cost the Spartans a spot in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
The Irish were expected to be young and inexperienced in the secondary this season, but two weeks into the season are digging into their depth chart. Safety Max Redfield was dismissed from the team after being arrested, cornerback Devin Butler — who was suspended after being arrested in a separate incident — is still recovering from a broken foot, cornerback Nick Watkins has been slow to recover from a broken left arm sustained this spring and cornerback Shaun Crawford was lost for the season when he sustained a torn Achilles tendon against Nevada.
That means sophomore cornerback Nick Coleman will start against the Spartans. Freshman Julian Love will be the nickel back and freshman Donte Vaughn is now Coleman’s backup.
“There will be times we will have to be in less man coverage because of that, and that’s just the reality of it. You can’t play as much variety of nickel when you have a true freshman at nickel that’s just learning the position,” he said.
Kelly said he’s not thinking about moving an offensive player over to defense to help like he did in 2012.
The Irish also are young at receiver as well with sophomores Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders starting and sophomore Miles Boykin, and freshman Kevin Stepherson on the two-deep roster.
Kelly said he’s generally pleased with the play of the receivers overall, though he said they have been inconsistent. Kelly said he has advice for his young receivers facing a traditionally physical Michigan State defense.
“If they want to press us, we just need to run — run our routes. Do what we do and we’ll make enough plays,” he said.
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