March 22, 2011
Brian Kelly: Excited to be here today obviously as we begin spring practice. It's a lot different in year two for us. Last year at this time, we had names taped on the helmets, were not really sure about a lot of the positions. We clearly had an understanding that we needed to hit the ground running last year, because we had to get our systems installed.
Year two now, obviously those things are in place, and it's really going to be about skill development for our players, our charge to the assistant coaches has been really for us, as we hit the field, developing the skills of our players. And then the consistency of that unit, getting the right 11 players on the field on each side of the ball including special teams.
So as you can see, it's a lot more focus on our football team because we know a lot more about them. Having said that, we have a number of things that I want to announce. We'll start with some changes relative to coaching assignments. Kerry Cooks will take over the cornerback position and focus strictly on the corners and Chuck Martin will focus on the safeties. It will be a collaborative effort between both those coaches. We think that breaking down the secondary, to have both of those coaches back there is a great advantage for us, because when we look at our staff on the defensive side of the ball to, have Kerry and Chuck working on the back end of our defense, we are pretty excited about that; I know I am and I know our players are because they are going to get that individual attention at their positions.
When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, I have named a run game coordinator, Ed Warinner will take over the responsibilities of coordinating the run game on a day to day basis. I wanted to be able to free Charley (Molnar) up, my offensive coordinator, free him up a little bit so he can help a lot more in day to day organizational work offensively. So that's going to help us in the recruiting, evaluation, all of those things, and as you know he (Ed) was a coordinator at Kansas and did a great job. Again, streamlines things.
One of the unique things of being head coach at Notre Dame for me is that I still have my hand in the day to day quarterback play as well as play calling, and sometimes my demands put me in a position where I'm walking into Charley's office, eight minutes before practice saying, hey, I want to do, this I want to do that, so he gets the opportunity now to pass that run game, so it's a great organizational tool for us as we move forward.
We have a couple of position changes and I think most of them are probably Bennett Jackson moves from wide receiver to the cornerback position. We like Bennett's speed and playing with athleticism on the defensive side of the ball gives us an opportunity to have length and speed at the corner back position.
(Austin) Collinsworth will move from wide receiver to safety, one of the things we love about him is his play in special teams last year made it pretty clear that he's going to find the football and he's going to tackle and he's got outstanding ball skills and great toughness and versatility. I think he gives us another, what I consider, a player that could help us next year in the backfield.
And then one of our mid year enrollees, Brad Carrico moves to the offensive line. Brad showed up in a very short period of time in our conditioning but he has very quick feet and moves well and a guy that we're going to be able to get out on the offensive line and again gives us some size and athleticism on the offensive line. So pretty excited about those moves.
As you know, our fifth years have been approved. So all of those that had been talked about relative to coming back have been approved and are ready to go.
As had been talked about relative to the health of our players, there's a couple of guys I want to talk about: Sean Cwynar as you know had surgery on his foot and he will not participate in spring practice. Although he is making great progress. He also had surgery on his back and that's gone very well and he's moving his upper body extremities, doing very well and no ill effects from the surgery and he's very confident about that. We are working through the foot fracture at this point, so you will not see him in any spring ball practice.
Manti Te'o had a scope on his knee. Cleaned up a little bit of cartilage in there, and we are probably we will probably be able to practice with him, and do some things, but I think it's pretty safe to say right now, Manti can do, but it's important that he continues to follow at that position. His leadership skills are needed, and so again, he's going to be involved, but I think you're not going to see him taking a whole lot of reps during the spring.
Dayne Crist will be limited but I think it's going to be similar to what we saw last spring, as you know, he was coming off the ACL, with virtually everything, and I think it's safe to say that you are going to see that same kind of routine; he'll be involved in a lot of our drill work. Everything but basically live, and we are hoping that that also means I can tell that you we are going to go with the same plan that we used last year with him. He feels comfortable with it, and I know that it's going to be something that allows him to continue develop for us.
Those are really the key players. Everybody else will be able to be involved in spring practice. Some may be admitted in certain roles, but we are going to have them and they are going to get a chance to really develop this spring; as I said, very, very important that those guys get some work.
Also note that Jim Russ has taken on a new position. He will oversee our entire rehab for the athletic department. And we have hired a new football head athletic trainer, and that is Rob Hunt. Rob started last week. He comes to us from Oklahoma State where he had been for the last five years. Prior to that, (Missouri). We think we have got the best in the country. He's already involved with our morning conditioning, getting a real handle on our players on a day to day basis. So excited to announce that, and from our standpoint, we'll test him right away. He's out there working with some of these guys immediately.
Change of practice schedule. We will be going in the morning, and we will begin practice on the field at 8:00 a.m. we will conclude at 10:15 and have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday format. It's a format that I'm comfortable with.
It allows our players to get in, get their work done and really be focused the entire day on their academics, come back here for dinner and then certainly it keeps us well below (the 20-hour limit) and allows our players to have a lot of energy as we get, as you know, later in the academic year. So that will be a routine that you'll see moving forward and one that our players already have embraced.
We have our clinic this week and that begins on Thursday. Chip Kelly from the University of Oregon will come in. Urban Meyer will come in, and Joe Philbin, offensive coordinator from the Green Bay Packers, will also be a guest, and high school coaches that have made championships, Saint Edwards in Ohio, Rick Finotti; and then a young man you might know, Mickey Wilson, Myrtle Beach High School, as well.
So we are excited about our clinic and we are going to have upwards of 900 to a thousand coaches here. We are really excited about that coming together, a very exciting time.
As I said, the goal is, again, now that we have gone through the changes in assignment and essentially our players, it really is about skill development and unit consistency. That's the focus our coaches will have everything single day that we are out there. Again, going into year two, knowing who you've got and putting them in positions.
With that, I'll open it up to questions that you have regarding spring practice.
Q. Clearly there's a long way to go in various universities, Michael Floyd is not on the roster, do you have to prepare like you're not going to have him for 2011?
COACH KELLY: I think every time there's an injury or somebody that's not with us, our focus is strictly on the guys that are here. We are preparing our guys through the skill development and unit consistency around the guys that are here. But that really has not changed much relative to how I go to work every day, whether it's a suspension or not. We are going to go to work and develop our players and we can only develop the players that are here.
Q. I don't know if it's too early to speculate but how much does that change even what you do right now, not having a guy like that?
COACH KELLY: I don't want to speculate. I want to really put the 11 best players on the field that give us the best chance to beat South Florida. So we immediately have to be able to look at that whether we step out on the practice field. You don't get much time in the spring. If you're waiting around, dreaming and hoping, you're going to miss great opportunities to develop your players. We need to see all of our players on the offensive side of the ball. We'll get to work on that immediately.
Q. For a guy that is one of the captains, how disappointing is that for to you come across that?
COACH KELLY: There's a range of emotions that you have. I think it's a lot like a parent would have from anger to disappointment to making sure that something like that in his life never happens again. I think you go through the gamut of all those things. We want to be able to support Mike, but also understand that this was a serious, serious offense, and so I think all of those emotions play in it when you first hear about something like that.
Q. Does Dayne (Crist) being able to do what he's able to do give you more optimism and where you might go with that?
COACH KELLY: Again, if we assume that we can use the same model that we used last year with Dayne, I'm expecting a competitive evaluation so we can leave this spring saying, you know what I think we have got a better idea of who that starter may be coming into the South Florida game.
So my expectations are that it's going to be a very competitive situation at quarterback and Dayne can include his name in that competitive battle.
Q. Just following up on the quarterback situation, can you talk about the young quarterbacks, (Everett) Golson and (Andrew) Hendrix and how they fit into the spring picture?
COACH KELLY: Well, I can tell you this. First of all, we are going to tackle those two kids. So they will have two jerseys, and one of them will be red and the other one will be a blue jersey because they need to be involved, because they both have the ability to run the football.
So for us to truly talk about a competitive battle and everybody having a chance, I think we have to modify our practices as such to see that end of them so. What you'll see with those guys a little bit more is more of the spread and the read involving the quarterback in that entire offensive scheme of things, where you won't see that obviously with Dayne, and in a very limited fashion because we know that that's not one of Tom's (Rees) strengths.
So, yes, both of those guys have to be involved, and they have to be at times really tackled for us to get a true evaluation.
Q. When you finish spring, is your hope that you have a clear pecking order (at quarterback), or is it really not linear, or do you have options.
COACH KELLY: In an ideal world we would like to leave where we know one, two, three because it allows us to set things a little easier on the practice field. I think we all probably would come to this conclusion; that it's going to be fun to watch and I'm going to have to reserve judgment on that until we get a better feel.
I think later in the spring campaign, we may be able to say, hey, this thing is starting to shape up one, two, three, four, five, or this is taking us through camp. I really am not certain on that yet.
Q. What is your personnel groupings, what does your personnel race look like at the inside linebacker and also drop linebacker, what are you thinking there?
COACH KELLY: I like Kendall Moore, obviously and Justin Utupo, both of those guys will get a great chance. Poz (David Posluszny) is somebody that's now healthy and (Anthony) McDonald. So we feel like we have some good numbers that we can run at you; Carlo (Calabrese), really to name five linebackers there gives us a great rotation.
On the outside we are going to look at a couple of options: Danny Spond, Prince Shembo, those guys are going to get a serious look, obviously Foxy (Dan Fox) is a guy that now has got to step up. He's healthy, his shoulder is solid, there is no lingering effects. We had a little bit of the lingering effect it is with the shoulder so those guys are all going to get a solid look at getting on the field and be very competitive on the linebacker end of things.
Q. I know you have not had a chance to see him on the field but what are your early impressions of Aaron Lynch and (Ishaq) Williams?
COACH KELLY: Well, if you just walked into the weight room you go, boy, that's what they look like.
Talking about Aaron Lynch, physically, he's as developed as some of our juniors and seniors. Physically he looks great. But as we all know, you have to play the game more than just physically, it's the mental end of things that he's going to have to pick, the discipline, how to practice the right way. There's a big learning curve.
But I will tell you this: Having him here now, really helps our chances of him being a key contributor for us in the fall. Same thing with Ishaq. Physically a gifted young man, again, I think the transition is a whole lot easier for him to be a guy that, again, whether it's situational or not, really improves our depth and our competitiveness on the defensive side of the ball.
Q. Don't want to overstate this, but at the end of last year, you felt like your coordinators or they felt like maybe they were doing too much with the media and you wanted to modify that. Have you found a happy medium with where that's going with those two guys?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, and I don't know that that was as much on them as it was on me and my ability to communicate with them on a day to day basis being pulled in so many different directions. I think I'm a lot more comfortable with my schedule.
So we always want to be on the same page, and I don't want to ever set up our coordinators to say one thing and then I'm out here in front of you saying another. A lot of that was on me and my ability to get with the coordinators and make sure we are all on the same page.
Q. With Michael's status in limbo now, what are you looking at receiver wise as far as who is the next man in there and also, the move of Luke Massa to the receiver position, what you saw and evaluated from him, where you thought that he could be effective there.
COACH KELLY: I think you'll see Goody (John Goodman) playing a lot of the W receiver position for us, and Danny Smith, both of those guys, will get a lot of work. Luke will also get some work at the W position. I feel pretty good. Obviously from Goody's standpoint, a guy that's got a lot of football in him, can make plays and we know what he can do. Danny is kind of that unknown, big, physical, strong kid and he needs a lot of work this spring and Luke we are breaking in. We are obviously going to give him an opportunity to pick up those reps, the W receiver where Mike was, but we have to look at the field position, too. His love for the game and commitment, he has shown a totally different side of him in our work outs up to this point.
I'm excited and quite frankly, Deion (Walker) is a guy that I want to see and he's going to get some reps and get some work and we are going to have a clear evaluation as to where he is in this program after the spring.
Q. You hinted that Theo Riddick might get some looks at the running back position with moving Austin (Collinsworth) and Bennett (Jackson) over to defense, and then Mike; is he (Theo) just entrenched at receiver?
COACH KELLY: He's going to hang in there at that slot receiver position, but we have some packages that we are going to look at in the spring that give us some flexibility to move around, him and Cierre Wood.
So right now, you can pencil him in at those positions, but as you know, we are going to try to get the best five skill on the field and sometimes when you have to do some things offensively to make sure that happens.
Q. Who do you see as maybe getting that first shot at the dog position, is there a chance for Spond or Shembo
COACH KELLY: Obviously I think you hit the names, really. And Danny Fox, too, I think there's probably four guys that could play the dog and they can play the cat position. Again, Steve Filer, Shembo, Fox and Spond, they are guys that we had figured that these guys are the ones that we're going to look, some may end up at cat, some may end up at drop but that's what we'll see going into spring.
Q. And Ishaq would stay at cat?
COACH KELLY: Obviously with his size, it's easier for us to kick down, and that's one of the things we lost sight of, our numbers came out to 52 percent three down and 48 percent four down last year.
Q. Louis Nix is obviously a big time recruit when you got him with Sean Cwynar's injury, could you just kind of talk about his last year in the program and kind of what you need from him this spring?
COACH KELLY: Louis just needs to continue to work on his volume, and what he can handle. He's a big fella now. He's close to 345 pounds, and you know, carry that weight, it's one where, how many quality reps can he give us. Is it 20? Is it 30? Is it 40?
So I think with Louis, we know what we can get, in very short spurts. This spring is about what he can handle for volume, because now you're adding, you know, if you look at the fall, you've got Louis, you've got Sean, you've got Hafis (Williams), you've got (Brandon) Newman, and we have got freshmen coming in. There's a number of guys that can equal that number that say, Sean gave us last year. This is strictly about what his work volume can be and I think we'll get a better sense of that in the spring.
Q. Do you get a sense, the quality of those 20 reps, is it different than maybe what you had last year just based on his physique at 6 3, 340?
COACH KELLY: Yes, he will be somebody that when you turn on the film, you'll recognize Louis Nix. He can two gap. He can hold the point. He's a guy that you're not going to drive off the football. Certainly there are some limitations there. He's not going to be a dynamic pass rusher for us right now. Certainly can get there, and again, how long can he stay on the field. But no, he has a very good chance to be an impactful player for us.
Q. Lou asked you about Theo (Riddick) maybe getting some reps at running back, how much does that have to do with whether the light goes on for Jonas this spring?
COACH KELLY: It's pretty clear that Jonas Gray is a very integral part to our success. He is no longer that guy that tells jokes and goofs around, and you guys get the message there. But the fact of the matter is, football has got to be, outside of academics, a priority for him because he is in an absolute crucial position for us.
We have to play with two tailbacks. You can't get by with one guy. We all know that. So this is extremely important for him to show that we can count on him this spring.
Q. I think last spring Dayne kind of went a little bit anointed, following Jimmy, all that stuff, has he come in with a little bit less pressure but different pressure? He has to kind of prove himself to everybody that maybe he's gone from the poster boy to overlooked in the course of a year.
COACH KELLY: I don't know that I ever look at the situation quite like you do relative to what he was anointed as, because I wasn't here. But I can sense that there's when I talk to him, I feel like for him, it's a lot more of a comfortable situation. He knows the offense. He knows what's expected of him. He knows what he's going to get from me.
So how that is portrayed, I don't know how it got there, but I can tell there's a very good communication base between he and I as to what's expected of him. And maybe that wasn't there, because he didn't know me very well and what to expect.
Q. How important is it for those guys to get that kind of rapport, it be with Theo (Riddick) or TJ (Jones) or Goody (John Goodman), so that going into the fall, they are comfortable having a guy or two that they can go to every play if they have to.
COACH KELLY: Well, unit consistency is very important. But I would throw a guy in there, Tyler Eifert, a guy who our guys felt very comfortable throwing the football to. There's Tyler and Theo and TJ Jones. There's a lot of familiar faces, more so than there were at this time last year. And so now you've got a couple of quarterbacks that know those guys very well.
We'll have to add on to that, there's no question, with Goody and Robby (Toma) getting some more time out there. I'm not as concerned as I was particularly at this time last year about that. Because we already have some of that already built in.
Q. That's been a theme for you, you're more comfortable; is there anything after looking back at last year that you'll do differently, now that you know what goes into the day to day life of being a Notre Dame coach?
COACH KELLY: Win more games. I think definitely win more games. Our day to day basis, our plan, the way we go to work and the way we communicate with our players will not change at all.
Obviously we want to be more consistent, get off to a getter start and really just find ways to win football games. Similar to what we did later in the year, and I think you can do that in year two because everybody kind of knows their place a lot better and that routine is actually what we are going to count on to be our strength in year two is get back into that routine that was so good for us late in the year.
Q. Did that carry over into the spring, how well you played, just the demeanor, everything else?
COACH KELLY: Certainly. Confidence obviously is gained with success and they had some success against some pretty good football teams and so that carried itself into the off season, our weight training, conditioning, Coach Longo on many occasions would come in with a smile on his face. I didn't see him smile at all last year. I saw a couple of sometimes because the guys really knew what to do and how to do it and that's a huge advantage going into year two.
Q. You talked about how comfortable you guys are about knowing your team more this year. How much is it going to help the players to know you guys more this year?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly, I think they know the expectations of playing in this program and what's expected of them on a day to day basis.
So whether that's in the classroom or in the community or on the practice field, I think there's one of the things that I do, and try to do every day is communicate that message to them so they know what to expect from us. There's not going to be any surprises, they are not going to look and go, wow, we didn't expect that or that relationship wasn't there, our offensive line, players on the offensive line are pretty excited to have the same offensive line coach for back to back years. That had not been the case. So that continuity of a coaching staff, obviously helps in those relationships.
Q. With Michael, is there anyway for to you have any indication about when a ruling could come from Notre Dame?
COACH KELLY: For me, I'm not really certain on what timetables have been put in place, those are questions that I could not answer, because I really don't know the timetable.
Q. Last spring, really early in fall camp, a lot of skill position guys got the look at punt returner and the return group is one of the few that didn't return drastically over the course of the season. In all of your research, is it more a unit wide issue or are you looking for more return men?
COACH KELLY: I would have thought that we would have better there if we had Armando (Allen) who is a seasoned veteran at that position then we had to break into young kids. Yeah, I think, you know, we have got a couple of guys in mind that we would like to get in there right away. Obviously want to take a look at Theo immediately. Bennett is going to continue to work in that vein but we have some young guys that are going to have a chance to have an impact right away with special teams.
I think you'll look at this freshman class and look at guys that have not had this opportunity last year, we'll give them all a chance because we feel there's no reason why we can't be more explosive in those areas.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Harrison Smith about his role, what seems to be the only captain right now, is it an expanded role?
COACH KELLY: No, I have not, because I have always prefaced the selection of captains with meeting with our seniors and saying, listen, this designate of captain is for communication purposes, so we don't have to have all of you stand up and talk at one time.
So our seniors will certainly pick up the slack there. I don't think we'll ask Harrison to do any more. But we will lean on our seniors to certainly assist and continue to lead like they had the past three or four months.
Q. Will you choose anyone on the offensive side of the ball to fill in for now?
COACH KELLY: I don't know that we'll choose anybody at this point. I think we'll let it sit where it is; that Harrison Smith is our one captain.
Q. The obvious question then, is Michael Floyd still a captain and will he be a captain when he returned?
COACH KELLY: I think any time you're suspended from a team, you vacate that position. I reserve the right that down the road if we ever get to a reinstatement for things move in that direction, we can certainly revisit it. But I think any time you can assume, at least under my watch, that you are in a suspension, you are no longer acting in that capacity.
Q. And I'm not sure how much of this you can answer, obviously you are aware of the one under age drinking citation; were you aware of the 2009 citation?
COACH KELLY: I don't believe I was. I would have to think about it for a moment. But I was not, I don't think. Let's put it this way, from my perspective, those incidents, if they are brought to my attention, we are going to handle them like any other scenarios. We are going to get the facts and I don't know that we have processed through any of those.
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