Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly assesses his team ahead of the first day of football practice

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By: Jon Zimney jzimney@953mnc.com

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are set for the first day of football practice on Friday, Aug. 7, in Culver.

Ahead of camp, head coach Brian Kelly hosted his first news conference of the practice season on Thursday. Kelly told reporters that he’s got a lot of individual talent, but his key now is getting them to work well together and to develop leaders among the players.

Kelly admitted the team will have to hold on to the ball a lot better this year than they did during the 2014 season and that they won’t take anything for granted.

“It’s going to be a long road, a difficult road to get to where we want to go.” Kelly said. “It’s better to be ranked than not be ranked. It’s a lot more difficult if you are not ranked. So we are happy to be ranked, but it certainly doesn’t influence anything we do on a day-to-day basis.”

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Cornerback KeiVarae Russell will take part when the Fighting Irish begin practice, but defensive end Ishaq Williams will not.

The two were among five players kept out of practices and games a year ago while the school investigated whether homework and papers they turned in had been completed by others. Kelly said Notre Dame feels confident that the NCAA will rule Russell eligible because he did everything necessary, but that the process with Williams as “ongoing.”

Regardless, the rulings shouldn’t take much longer, Kelly said.

Sophomore defensive lineman Kolin Hill of Schertz, Texas, won’t play Notre Dame football this fall. He plans to transfer to a school closer to home. Hill played in nine games last season and had seven tackles.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Follow news and program director Jon Zimney on Twitter at @jzimney.