Feb. 28, 2014
An Interview With:
COACH KELLY: The annual spring practice press conference, and it is when I got into my car this morning early this morning, it was minus eight degrees. So spring practice means we're going to start indoors next week most likely.
So it's probably going to be that way. We are on a tighter window relative to our schedule this year with the school calendar, Easter falling a lot later, we start spring practice as early as I can remember it on March 3 next Monday, taking advantage of the NCAA rule which you don't have to count consecutive days when you have a spring break.
So whole practice next week twice, we'll have spring break and then we'll be able to get the remaining 13 practices in, and it's spread out a little bit better than trying to get all 15 in after spring break with obviously trying to finish up before Easter. That's the reason why we try to stretch out spring ball a little bit longer because of the way the schedule fits this year. So for those that were wondering why we started a little bit earlier this year.
Consequently, it's changed a little bit the way we went to work in the weight room, in our conditioning elements, we were on a more accelerated pace to get our guys ready for practice and so this week has been a lot of our eight hours, we've taken some time in there to really spend some time with our players, as well.
So we've taken a little bit off of the weight training this week and been able to spend some time on conditioning elements that will get our players ready for spring practice next week. We don't want to use our two practices next week to get our guys ready and in football shape per se.
So we really want next week to be two very good practices for us, so I guess, again, a lot of the things I'm saying right now, is to say that this spring practice is a little bit different in the management than other years, and quite frankly, it's different than any one I have experienced in my 25 years as a head coach.
So it's exciting in that sense because there's a new twist to it for everybody. As well as we've got some new coaches. And some new assignments, Coach VanGorder on the defensive side of the ball, his coordinating efforts will continue to bring both three down and four down as part of what we do defensively, but certainly his personality will come out and his personality is different than what Coach Diaco brought.
I wanted when I hired Bob to come here, we needed to build consistency and stability with our defense, and he's certainly answered the charge that I had given him. We needed fundamentally sound defense and we got that from Coach.
We have a great base, and we have now developed what we consider a demeanor on our defense and on expectation, and now we're going to take it to the next level defensively and Brian is going to be able to take our defense to that next level, and I think that that's what you'll see in what Coach VanGorder will bring to our defense.
Third down packages, we'll be able to use personnel uniquely different in certain areas, but at the end of the day, this is still about keeping the points down and taking the football away and eliminating the big plays. He'll coach the inside linebackers, but what Brian likes to do is have the ability to move around defensively so Coach Bob Elliott will have the outside linebackers, but will also have an expertise in all of those linebackers.
So it will give Brian the opportunity to move around a little bit during practice and really have his hands in everything that's going on; and in particular, in the back end of our defense, because our corners, our safeties, all of them will be very much involved in what we do defensively, not that they are not involved in every defense, but they will be very active in what we do defensively.
So that will allow Brian to have a lot of flexibility during the practice.
Kerry Cooks will have the entire back end. And I think, you know, we feel very good about adding that addition to his responsibilities back there. Kerry is a very accomplished coach. He had a co coordinator's role for us and now his focus will be, in particular, on the back end of the defense.
And as you know, we've got a graduate assistant back there, and McCarthy is a guy that not only played here at Notre Dame and got a chance to play in the NFL, but when we interviewed him and I interviewed him, he's a guy that can stand on his own two feet in front of a room, and he can coach. And even though he's labeled as a graduate assistant, we feel like he's a guy that can really go back there and coach, you know, at a high level.
We really think that we're strong with the addition of McCarthy on our staff, as well, and gives us a lot of flexibility with Coach Elliot down with the linebackers and now Coach VanGorder being able to float a little bit and of course Coach Elston will handle the front.
So that's how we see the defense and how we're structured, and Coach Hiestand will be the graduate assistant working primarily with the front. On the offensive side, you know, Coach LaFleur is our new coach on the offensive side of the ball working with the quarterbacks, and we've been able to have a number of meetings and really excited about his ability to come in seamlessly and communicate with the quarterbacks and with Coach Denbrock as our offensive coordinator, and it's been a really good two, three weeks of meetings. He's immediately, I thought, added a lot to our meetings in terms of what we're doing offensively, and again, knows our system very well.
So he'll have the quarterbacks. Coach Denbrock will coordinate and have the receivers, and Coach Alford will focus primarily with the running backs and won't have to worry as much about slots and running backs. He'll be focused mostly with just the running back position.
Coach Booker will be with the tight ends. Coach Hiestand, obviously, with the offensive line. And you know, we've hired a couple of -- obviously you know, a graduate assistant in Mahaffey on the offensive side of the ball who was a tight end coach who gives us a lot of versatility and expertise, and I love the fact that he can be both in the passing game and the running game. So really, really a good staff and really like the last two three weeks in terms of our working.
So a little bit unique in terms of the spring model, getting our new coaches going has been really fun from my standpoint. And then the big thing, putting this football team together. That's what this is about.
2014, once we got off the road, was putting this football team together, and here is where we are. As I look at it, we are a talented football team, but inexperienced in a number of areas. And it's our job to get those inexperienced players ready to play, and this is the time to do it.
So those inexperienced players are getting coached. They will have an opportunity in the spring to get some opportunities to compete, and get this football team experienced to the point where they can go out there and compete with a very, very challenging schedule in 2014.
I think the last piece for me, and then we'll open it up to questions, is that when you're putting together your football team, everybody wants to talk about leaders. We've got to talk about how to get our guys, first of all, to lead within their units first. They have got to be able to lead within their position group. And then after they lead within their position group, they have got to be able to lead on their side of the ball and when they can lead on their side of the ball, then they can lead the football team.
And so the steps that we have been taking over the last few months have been to put them in positions to lead within those subgroups, and then we'll have a better understanding of who our leaders are.
So that's kind of the lab work or the you know, the microcosm of what's going on building the team right now, and then we'll take that out on to the field. So I'm excited about having practices so I can see that happening.
So I'll be seeing it and talking about it as we kind of go through spring ball and we'll know a little bit more about our football team and who those leaders are going to be. With that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q. With Everett, specifically, when you're talking about leadership, what did you hear about him from the workouts and what do you want to see from him in spring practice to see that he can take that next level as a leader?
You know, I think if you look at, you know, the watch words for leadership; I think the first thing is compete, and I've already answered that question. He's a great competitor. I think the second thing is consistency. Well, he hasn't shown that yet, right?
So we're working on that consistency end of things. The third thing that I look for is great communication, and we're doing a really good job of communicating on a day to day basis. And the fourth thing is being coachable. I think those four things are what I look for from every one of our players, and I like where we are in that process with Everett right now.
Q. And what are your thoughts on the proposed ten second rule? That seems to be pretty controversial.
But when I was in the head coach's meeting at the AFCA conference in Indianapolis, it was pretty clear that when rules were talked about, they were talked about with an emphasis this year about player safety. And then this rule was brought up as a point of emphasis for player safety and there was nothing attached to it with player safety so. It was just a ten second rule and it's about player safety.
So I would not be in favor of it if you can't show me that there's no data that goes to the heart of player safety. And so that's kind of where I stand on it. So I did not vote for it, because it did not have any data attached to for me to be able to say, I'm in favor of it because of that.
Q. Less notable than the rest of the way through --
Q. Less notable would be --
Q. Well then two more. Matthias Farley listed as the corner.
Q. That's a quick pace offense.
And we think that he can be a very good player, especially a tackler from an outside in position. He's been playing inside out right; he's been running the alley inside out. We think he can be a very good force player from an outside in position and he's really a good athlete. He can run and he's got very good ball skills.
So we are going to give him an opportunity out there to compete and take a look at him. We are going to play more than two corners. We are going to play as many as four. So we are going to take a look at it this spring.
Q. From the other side of the scrimmage, James Onwualu?
But he's got great contact skills. He's a ferocious competitor and I wanted to take a look at him because he is such a physical player and he's got an incredible volume to him in terms of his ability to play every play.
So this was a time to take a look at him at safety.
Q. You talked about needing more experience. Where are you most concerned about the experience/lack of experience?
So the quarterback position, just start right there. That's a position that needs seasoning.
Defensive line. You know, we are going to be young there. And then inside linebacker, we are going to be young there.
I think we've got some talented players, but we're going to have some inexperienced players at that position in particular. I think I would probably highlight those three.
Q. And talk about the defense, how do you expect the defense to look different this year?
But just like Coach Martin kills plays a little different Lincoln than Coach Kelly calls plays, Coach VanGorder is going to call plays a little different than Coach Diaco calls plays. I think you'll see a little different flavor there, knowing that at the ended the day, from an offensive standpoint, score points; defensively, keep the points down and don't give up big plays.
So there will be a different personality and getting to that end, I think you'll see Coach VanGorder a's personality come out a little differently than Coach Diaco's. But again, it's going to be a three down, four down, hybrid of both of those defenses working together.
Q. Last week down in Indy, Prince Shembo talked about what happened and said you advised he not talk about it. Would you explain why you thought it was best he not address that issue?
So we made a decision based upon the information that we had that we felt it was in Prince's best interests that this was not a matter that needed to be discussed, but that was certainly something that he could have decided to discuss. We didn't threaten him we couldn't play or we were going to put him on the bench or throw him out of school. It was still his decision.
But in talking to his parents and talking to Prince, we felt because of the information that we had in front of us, that it was a matter that be left alone at the time.
Q. Who do you anticipate being the candidates to replace Zack Martin at left tackle?
We're rock or three at the point, so we are 1.2 to 3.6 ball out. So the left has never been a huge deal for me. It's more been a comfort of stance. And so we're probably going to go with who is more comfortable in the position.
You know, if you're talking about the next level at the NFL level, I would say that and I couldn't poll all GMs, but there's probably more of a feeling that left tackle because of more direct snap in the NFL but they are even moving a little bit away from that as well.
So long story short, most experienced, most athletic, you would say, oh, it's Stanley immediately. But for most comfort and who has been on the left side, you know, you probably say, you go with the guys that have already been over there, Elmer. So we'll probably go through the spring and look at both of those before we make the final decision.
Q. When you recruited Elmer, did you look at the left tackle spot for him?
Q. And the fact that you have a left handed quarterback throws the left and right tackle thing off?
Q. How do you see Ishaq Williams' role evolving with the new coordinator and ideas, does he play with a hand on the ground more? How do you see his role?
But he's going to be a guy that has his hand in the ground but we want to be able to obviously mix things up and have him drop so you don't know where we're coming from. But just where we are right now, he's a senior, and he's a different guy than he's ever been since I've been here.
Now, I'm not saying that that's going to translate into 12 sacks and he's going to be an All American, but he's a different guy than at any time since I've been here.
And listen, it's February, okay, and things can change, but we have a thing called tire war where we really test the guys out competitively, and I've never seen him compete that way. And he's one athletic, big dude, and we've been waiting and waiting and waiting like you all have been waiting, and I'm pretty excited right now.
We'll see. It's early. I'm going to be very cautious but I'm cautiously optimistic.
Q. You would be disappointed if I didn't --
Q. I need to know your injury status, as well.
Q. Can you give us a review of who is definitely out of contact? And I know Baratti was kind of on the fence?
Hounshell is in. Randolph's in. Martin will not contact. But he's going to do everything against air. He's made incredible progress, incredible healer. He's just one of those natural deals where his body has healed incredibly well. As well as Councell. He'll be doing some things in the spring against air but will be non contact, so won't be involved in a contact situation.
Butler will be out. He had the latest of the shoulder surgeries, so he's the furthest behind relative medically than anybody that we have. And Jarrett Grace is making slow progress, and it's all about the healing of that fracture that he had. Ligaments, tendons, all that's good. It's the leg, so he would be out of spring ball relative to contact.
So Butler, Grace, Martin, Councell, those guys would definitely be out.
Q. When obviously you got a chance to work with Everett, when he came back to you, who was he? I mean, was he a better player than he was when you left off last? Was he the same guy? I mean, what did you see about him walking in the door?
In our dialogues relative to football, he has definitely a higher IQ as it relates to what we are talking about from a football standpoint. I can talk to him about things that I didn't believe I could talk to him about relative to protections, hot routes, just the nuances of the passing game. Clearly he has evolved there. His size, his strength; he did 30 pull ups the other day. He's way ahead of the group in terms of his physicalness but I haven't seen him throw the football yet.
Q. You mentioned Ishaq and maybe being excited about where he's headed. Have you kind of identified where the pass rush is going to come from, maybe beyond him, because you lost a lot of guys that were pretty good pass rushers.
I think that's what I was saying earlier is that Coach VanGorder with his experience is going to be able to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback and that's -- you know, that's what his experience in the NFL and his length of experience in college football is going to allow us to find ways to get guys involved to get that pressure.
I really would tell you right now, as I stand here, that's not my biggest concern. We're going to have -- we're going to have enough ways in our sub packages that we're going to be able to find ways to bring pressures that we have not been able to bring him before.
Q. I think the question, the biggest question I get in the off season is about special teams and I'm curious what your thought is, the way you came out of the season, and what's your approach as you move into the spring with them.
And primarily, it was you know, it wasn't scheme as much as it was some coaching points and moving some personnel around, some speed players versus some power players. And you know, I think we've got a better feel for the positioning of the players in the right positions.
So we're going to make some adjustments to some of the looks that we have in our punt return. We think we've answered some questions in our coverage teams, and like I said, you know, it's unacceptable to be where we are. We went out with that sense of being very open to all things as it relates to special teams, because we've got to get better there. And I think we picked up some things that I think can really help us.
Q. The start and the stopping in the spring practice, obviously these guys have spring break. Do you -- is your expectation that they are all going to hang out here and work out during their spring break?
But they know that they better be ready to come back, ready to go. And that message was, we knew what our schedule was about a month ago, so they know what they needed to do. They get away from the university and -- but they have to be sharp when they come back.
You know, that's one of the things that you've got to do when you trust your team; that they understand how important it is for them to get some time away, but be ready to go when they come back, as well.
Q. Last thing from me. I know it's somewhat of an older issue now, but the young man at Northwestern that was trying to get the union going, did you take the temperature of your team about the issues that he wanted to express with regard to the union? Do you feel like it's something that you need to be concerned about or need to talk to your team about at Notre Dame?
Now, my take is, if it turns out that way, we're going to have a significant advantage over every program in the country, because I don't think we're dropping football any time soon here. So we're going to pay compensation, we're going to pay all those things; I think our scholarship stands by itself, and add that to it, I think we're in a pretty good situation.
I don't think the NCAA is going to allow that to happen. I'm sure as heck Michigan is not going to allow that to happen. I think there's so many hurdles here that I didn't think it was the time or the place to bring it up to our team, because I just think it's -- there's so many hurdles there before it gets to them.
But it was a discussion that I had with our athletic director and our staff, just because if it was brought up by a parent or if it was brought up by somebody, that we were all of the same opinion; and that is, as we stand right now, we believe that the value of a degree from Notre Dame stands by itself and that that should be just compensation for the time that a student athlete gives to Notre Dame.
Q. Following up on the special teams question, the coaching, how do you see that?
So we are all involved in it, and you know, I think that that's the way -- that's the best way to do it from my perspective, you know, when you're talking about nine coaches.
Q. You mentioned leadership in your open about putting guys in position just to be leaders of their position before they take on a bigger --
Q. How do you do that? What are some specific things you do to get guys to figure out how to lead?
And I think that's what we're doing right now. You know, we're trying to build that. And if that unit is not doing well, we point it out and we make sure that that unit is penalized as a unit, not as an individual. So if the offensive line is not -- if one player in the offensive line is not doing it the right way, the entire offensive line gets penalized. That starts to get the entire unit to start thinking outside of just themselves.
So those are the ways to try to cultivate that.
Q. Do you pinpoint the players that you want to be leaders or do you sit there and listen and then go back and talk to the guys you think are naturally sort of bubbling up?
So you observe daily and find out who those guys are, and you try to cultivate those individuals. I think with this group in 2014, our best players can be our best leaders, and they may not all be seniors. I think we've got some great seniors. I think all of our seniors are committed, but we may have some great underclassmen that are great leaders, too.
Q. One in particular, Jalen, would jump out from a natural leadership ability, what's I guess, what do you want to see from him this spring in terms of leadership?
And I think the other thing is, you can pile a lot of work on him. You can keep piling it on and just bring it on. He has not been able to bring anybody with him yet, you know, so that's the next thing that we'll be working with Jalen is to bring some guys with him; and the Larry Bird rule that I use all the time is, make others around him better. He's not there yet, but that will be the next stage for him.
Q. A couple personnel guys, your early impressions, what you've heard about Trumbetti and Brent and you mentioned Luke Massa was going to come back for a fifth year, I don't see him on the roster. Is he back or did you decide to move on?
Trumbetti had a great day yesterday and really showed himself. He's got a really good first step. Just going to be strength and size with him. Brent is a physical, you know, he just looks like an upper class man. He has a problem with right and left right now. He thinks right is left and left is right.
We had a drill yesterday and he went left and he was supposed to go right and he ran into Chris Brown. I think he took Chris Brown's head off. We had to put his head back on yesterday. He's such a powerful kid.
So once we get left and right figured out with him, we're going to be good with him. He looks great and he's doing great things for us, but I like both those kids a lot.
And then Luke is not coming back for his fifth year. We had gone back and forth, and you know, he really thought about it and he's got a great opportunity for an internship that's going to lead into a job offer, and he's -- I said, look, you can't turn that down. So as much as he would have done anything we've asked him to do, he's got a great opportunity to start his career, so he's going to do that.
Q. Inside linebacker is a position in particular, you lost Fox and Calabrese, and Grace's availability this spring probably will be minimal. Are you looking for any other bodies to help there, or is it pretty much, Moore Schmidt, Michael Deeb?
So I think this spring will be, like I said, the inexperience at that position will allow me to answer the question as to, you know, what that depth looks like as we move through the spring. That will probably be the one question that I'll get asked and probably have to answer the most in the spring.
Q. Is Randolph moving permanently to will?
Q. I noticed John Turner was listed inside linebacker, is that at drop or --
Q. Amir Carlisle is listed as both running back and receiver, where the other running backs are just listed there. Trying to find some answers at the slot position with him?
Q. Will Mahone stay in that slot as well?
Q. Didn't have a chance to comment on Cody Riggs, the situation where he'll be entering school. Are you looking maybe more in the future of bringing in those potential fifth year athletes to add and will he be looked at specifically at the corner position?
There was a scholarship, there was a need, there was a connection, he was the right fit, you know what I mean. All those things would have to come up the right way for us.
I don't know that it -- I wouldn't read too much into it. I don't think it means, oh, Coach Kelly is going to take a fifth year guy every year. We may not take another guy for ten years.
I just think that in this particular instance, it was the right fit for us, and when I looked at the merits of it, it was the right thing to do for our football team at this current situation. You know, we're looking at him at corner but obviously he can play safety for us, too. He can play nickel.
You know, it's hard to find those guys that can play inside. That nickel position is one of the most difficult ones to find. I mean, guys in the NFL are, you know, I was talking to Coach Belichick, took him, I don't know, six, seven years, I think six years to find a shut down corner. It's hard to find those guys.
And to find a guy that can play inside and outside and can play safety, those are very valuable players and so Cody is an extremely valuable asset, even though it's a one year asset for us.
Q. Is there anyone else you can see having that inside outside role, maybe Matthias?
Q. And just with the players that were injured, guys like Springmann and Hounshell, Martin, were they able to still partake in winter conditioning?
Q. And lifting, all the other aspects?
If you have surgery on your shoulder, you know, we have got you in there moving your lower body once the pain medication wears off.
So we're aggressive in terms of, you know, you have an injury to a body part, obviously we're going to go through the normal protocol there. But they are moving through the rehab very aggressively.
Q. (No mic).
We don't think that there's going to be a problem. We took a bone scan, everything looks like it's moving in the right direction. It's just one of those slow moving processes. But we believe that there's not going to be any roadblocks for him to be ready for the fall.
Q. Different spring with just two scholarship quarterbacks. How important is the spring for Malik specifically, and is it going to be 50/50?
He's no longer, you know, hey Malik go take a couple of reps here. He's got to practice with a vision of him being the starter against Rice, and that's the way he's going to be evaluated every single day. You're the starter against Rice.
Q. Matt Hegarty, a guy who played center at the end of last season, how do you look at him as a guy who could fill in for Martin but could be used down the road?
Q. Have you been in touch with DaVaris Daniels?
Q. Is he on track to come back this summer, this fall?
Q. You mentioned Massa not coming back; does that open up 84 now, scholarship wise?
Q. Lombard, is he cleared for the spring?