Jan. 29, 2013
COACH KELLY: I wanted to take the opportunity to kind of just put together the final thoughts on the 2012 season. Certainly extremely proud of our entire football team for the accomplishments. Undefeated regular season. Coming into this season, the schedule looked daunting at the least, and our guys and our staff tackled it week in and week out. Great leadership from our senior class, and it showed itself.
Having said that, certainly, very disappointed in the outcome of the National Championship Game. On that day, Alabama was the winner by 28 points, and it's our job to begin work as to how we close that gap. That gap on that day was certainly one that we got a chance to experience.
Here's the great thing for me. In three short years, when I stood before our team my first year, we did not have one player on our roster that had beaten a top 25 team. Three years later, we're playing in the national Championship game with 15 plus starters coming back.
So really excited about the progress that our program has made in a very short period of time. We know what it looks like now relative to the National Championship game, and our workouts now will be in the off season focused on getting back to that game.
So, as I told our team, I met with them on (Sunday), we have some work to do. There is no question. But we know where we want to go. We know that we're capable of getting back to the National Championship Game, and we started that journey two weeks ago.
With that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q. Coach, I wondered if you could take us through the process that you went through with the Philadelphia Eagles, and then kind of tell us what you tell recruits and their parents when they ask about your future aspirations?
Q. Can you talk about what when you knew about the Manti Te'o situation when you knew it, and when it went public?
Q. How was he in the lead up to the title game, just demeanor wise, stress wise, did he seem different to you?
Q. One of your guys went through a few surgeries, is there anything that looks like (Indiscernible)?
Q. Yeah, a few different guys looked like they had things cleaned up?
No, we feel really good about the things that we have to clean up. We don't see any long term issues with any of our returning players.
Q. is there an update on the status of the potential fifth-year players?
Q. Following up with the personnel question after both of your first two years, you found a way to move a guy from one side of the scrimmage to the other. Is there anything in the works for that in 2013?
We have some guys that didn't play this year that certainly we'll evaluate and find out where their best fit is on offense and defense, but nothing specific at this time.
I will tell you, relative to our roster, most of the thoughts have been about completing and getting up to 85 scholarships more so than moving any of those pieces around right now.
Q. (Asking about Jamoris Slaughter)?
It's one of those things that everybody wants to know. I know I want to know. The media wants to know. Certainly Jamoris wants to know. But we just don't have an answer at this point.
Q. Is he in school and training with the team right now?
Q. Lastly, just to put a fine point on the Eagles stuff. Could you give us an idea of the time line of when they called your agents or when you knew you were going to sit down with them and your thought process during the week as you were mulling the decision whether you wanted to continue with the interests or make a decision to come back?
Subsequently, my agent was involved in talking and setting up a meeting with the Eagles on Tuesday when I was in Nashville accepting the American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year Award.
If there was anything that I would have done differently, it would have been to close that timeline relative to my interview and coming out with a statement.
I was on vacation with my wife, we were away, we weren't watching TV, but I should have been more sensitive to the fact that there was a time period going on and released a statement much sooner.
Q. Just lastly, from the time you knew the Eagles were interested in you, you're still preparing for the national title game. How did you prevent that from being a distraction to you personally?
Q. Real quick, to kind of follow up on the Eagles thing, you use the word intriguing. What was maybe the most intriguing thing about the whole thing? Just coaching in the NFL and that kind of thing?
Quite frankly, I wanted to answer those so I wouldn't have to go through this again. Because we're going to win again next year, and there are probably going to be teams that have an interest in coaching in the NFL, and I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach in college.
So the intrigue was more that I wanted that information so it's easy for me to make a decision on being here in the college game.
I love Notre Dame. I love the college game, but I think the intrigue was more just finding out about it so it's now easy for me to say no.
Q. Just one final quick one. (Austin) Collinsworth, do you expect him full go this spring?
Q. When you first heard about Manti (Te'o), can you tell us what your first thought was and how worried you were about this becoming public before the game?
That was my first thought. Let's find out what the heck is going on here. Because you get a phone call in the middle of the night, and the first thing is this young lady is not, in fact, dead. You don't know what to think. So try to get dialogue and make sure that we begin to find out what happened here. That was my first thought.
As we went on in the process, our athletic director, Jack Swarbrick was, as you know, a center in it. And he was putting together all the pieces over a period of time. I don't know that any of us were motivated by we don't want this to be a news story. We wanted to find out what the facts were.
Q. Did you have an opinion whether it should be publicly released before the game or not?
Q. Do you think it affected Manti's play at all?
Q. Can you talk about how the contract extension talks are going?
Q. To follow up on a few other personnel matters there. Anybody else such as Lo Wood, Tate Nichols, Matt Hegarty, their status and others who might not be able to play?
Tate Nichols, on the other hand, is not as confident that he'll be able to return to action. So we're in conversation about that being a medical situation with Tate.
Q. What would you say right now would be your front runner for the center position and even at the Mike linebacker?
I think at the center position we have to look at a couple of different options. Certainly (Matt) Hegarty has had some experience there. We're going to look at Nick Martin, not Zack Martin, at that position. And I think Mark Harrell did a very nice job for us in the bowl season or excuse me, the Championship game preparation. So those three guys, I think will get the first look at it in terms of the center position.
Q. Wanted to double back on the Eagles. Did any players assess any concern to you during or after the process (Indiscernible)?
The Eagles, it was flattering that they asked to talk to me. I think from their perspective, they just wanted to know that I'm going to be their coach and be their coach for some time. So I addressed that.
I addressed Manti and some of the things that we're talking about right now. I always try to make sure that our players get that communication from me.
Q. Specifically, that (Sunday), was that two weeks ago?
Q. I wondered if you had a chance to talk to Manti, and also kind of where you are with him? What you feel about him? What you think his legacy will be at Notre Dame?
He was just special to coach, and he did all the great things that I think great players have to do on a day to day basis. And we're going to continue to hold him in that type of esteem.
BRIAN HARDIN: Thank you, Coach.
COACH KELLY: If I can just say one more thing. Brian Hardin is leaving us for another position. He's pursuing the administrative end of things. I think he's crazy, too. But working with Brian, and I know his work with you, I've got to tell you he's the best in the business and we're certainly going to miss him, and he's going to be hard to replace.
So I just wanted to say that publicly, Brian, thank you for everything that you've done for Notre Dame.
BRIAN HARDIN: Thank you, I appreciate that. Thank you so much. We'll see you when you get back here.
Reporters thank you so much for everything over the last seven seasons. We'll try to get a transcript posted as soon as we can.