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    Brian Kelly Season-Opening Press Conference Transcript

    FIGHTING IRISH Brian Kelly (file photo)
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Brian Kelly (file photo)
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Aug. 2, 2013

    Season Preview

    MICHAEL BERTSCH: Thanks, everybody, for being here. Coach Kelly will get started with an opening statement and we'll take questions. With that, coach, it's all you.

    COACH Brian Kelly: Michael Bertsch will be handling the media relations for football this year. Give him a big welcome. That's it, Mike. That's all you get from these guys. Downhill from here on out (laughter).

    We're like everybody else in college football: extremely excited about starting the season. For us here at Notre Dame, we've worked hard to put ourselves in a position to be back in the national spotlight. We have no intention of giving that up. Our focus since our last game has been to get back to the top of the mountain.

    You don't get there easily. It takes a lot of work. There's a lot of excitement around here. There's a lot of work to be done. We're moving our team off campus for a few days. I like the fact we can get into an environment where we can spend a lot of time with our players and really get an opportunity to teach and build some strong relationships with our players.

    Again, an exciting time for us, one where we've been anticipating this opportunity since the last game that we played last year. But our focus is right now on our first practice. So coaches are getting ready for practice, preparation, scripts, all those things. Our players are finishing up at home. They'll be here this weekend. We'll kickoff the 2013 season.

    Again, a lot of excitement. Everybody here is busy getting ready to move the football team off campus and get ready for an exciting football season. Questions.

    Q. How important is getting off campus for the beginning of practice, putting the past behind, getting ready for 2013?

    COACH KELLY: It's a collection of new personalities. You can't live in the past. We want to talk about this year. What we need to do is get prepared.

     

     

    The second part of that is no distractions, it's all football. Don't have to worry about getting to math class. We don't need to worry about guys off campus. We're all together. It's 100% being around each other and our football team. Both of those things in a combination I think come together with us going off site.

    Q. Is it going to be one of those no TV, no cell phones places?

    COACH KELLY: They do have wi fi. My anticipation is that will crash within the first 20 minutes (laughter). No TVs, unless they want to watch snow on the TVs. There's no cable out there. Again, it's an opportunity for us to focus on football and each other.

    Q. You went to Higher Ground in Cincinnati. Is that similar?

    COACH KELLY: A lot of similarities. We're still in the process of building infrastructure there. Dan Brazo here has been very influential in helping put together the field situation there. We feel great about that.

    There's been some help, but there's still some work. We feel like it's got all the things necessary for it to be a very successful camp.

    Q. Why did you feel it was important to name Tommy Rees as a starter in the off season instead of letting that play out in the pre season?

    COACH KELLY: Because he was the most experienced and gave us the best opportunity to win against Temple coming out. I didn't name him the starter for all 13 games. I named him the starter for Temple. My expectation is he will take the job and continue to lead our football team.

    He was the most experienced. He's won. He obviously knows our offense very well. He's a senior. Well respected. He has all the things. It was really a quite easy decision from that standpoint.

    Q. Brian, what is that balance like in terms of almost like whitewashing what you achieved last year and starting anew, versus carrying some parts of that over, be it confidence or swagger?

    COACH KELLY: There's a combination. Certainly we've developed an environment, people call it culture, workplace mentality. There's a lot of ways to spin it.

    But our kids believe in what we do and how we do it. There's a way of doing things here. So that never goes away. That has permeated this football program, the way we do things on a day to day basis, the expectations of how we play defense, offense and special teams, how we prepare. That will never go away.

    But the players that were here last year that are no longer here are not part of this team any more. The plays that were made last year have no influence on this year. So that's the balance.

    The preparation has to be as diligent and keen as it was last year. You're maintaining the environment, you're maintaining what has been built in the program, with the recognition that we have more work to do, we're still building this thing. A lot of those pieces are still coming together.

    That combination is staying in the present with our players. I want our players to stay in the present, focus on what they need to do to be a better football player in 2013.

    Q. Tommy, where does he have to be better than he was in 2011?

    COACH KELLY: We talked ad nauseam about turnovers, taking care of the football. I think he's got to continue to make good decisions, as any quarterback needs to do that. I don't think we're just taking this about Tommy Rees. I think any quarterback has got to do a great job of taking care of the football. We did that last year. My expectation is we would continue to do that. He's stronger. He has a great understanding of our offense. Again, as long as I think he continues to continue where he picked up where he left off last year making good decisions, we'll be in good shape.

    Q. I know Everett is not here. Do you have a specific plan for him? Both you and he hope, expect to be back in January?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah, we expect him back in January. There will be a plan in place. It's still in flux right now. But we're in communication with Everett. Coach Martin has talked to him. I've talked to him a few times now. There will be a plan that fits his needs, what's best for him in terms of the environment that he's in.

    Q. Back to Shiloh. How was Shiloh Park decided upon? Is there, in your mind, if it works well, a long term situation for the next few years going forward?

    COACH KELLY: Well, we've been looking for a couple years. It was one of the camps we visited a couple years ago. We didn't feel like the fields were in a position where I could take the team there and practice them without concern for safety.

    So this has been something that's been in the works. We looked at a number of different sites. I don't think we're committed to a long term situation yet. There's still some more things that need to be vetted. But it's certainly a good start for us.

    Like I said, we're excited. They've done everything we've asked them to do to accommodate us. We're excited they've been able to work so closely with us. Quite frankly, it's going to be fun to get off campus and start football down in Marion, Indiana.

    Q. Coming off of last season, the loss to Alabama, you interviewing with the Eagles, what happened to Manti, then Everett, is there anything you have to do now or ongoing to get people past all that negativity that happened in that period?

    COACH KELLY: It was in the rearview mirror the next day. I mean, we don't even think about it, don't even talk about it. It's history. As I mentioned, our guys were focused the very next day on winter workouts, early morning conditioning, building into our spring and into our summer. It's not even something that's discussed.

    Q. Is there any confidence building needed to do after the loss to Alabama to convince this team you can get back there and put up a better challenge?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah. Everything we've worked on since that next day, and I mean the next day, is about getting back to the national championship game and winning it.

    There's not a man that sat in this seat, when we met as an entire team, that is not committed to that end. That's why they're here. That's why there's such great excitement and anticipation. From our standpoint as coaches, we can feel that.

    So it's pretty clear that our players are committed to one goal, and that is to get back to a national championship, just as every other BCS school on Media Day is expecting the same thing.

    Q. What do you think Tommy learned last year that will help him as a starter?

    COACH KELLY: You know, again, we're talking about young guys that are not complete. There's always room for improvement. I'm learning every day. Tommy is learning. I think when you sit back and you watch the game with such great knowledge, and the combination of having played the game, when you get a chance to see it unfold, I think it's just another part of that developmental process.

    He took every mental rep, even though he didn't get them in the games, he was engaged in practices, he got tons of reps, got a chance to really see the games unfold.

    That year, although it wasn't one of a number of snaps, he was in critical times, influenced games, and helped us have an undefeated season. He learned a lot last year.

    Q. How will your offense look different with Tommy running it?

    COACH KELLY: They're a little bit different. But the offense will still have the same components. We're going to need to do some things better obviously. We're going to have to throw the ball more effectively. We think Tommy is somebody that can bring that. He has a great knowledge of our offense. We're excited about that end.

    Probably won't be running as much option with Tommy, but we'll do things that suit him. Again, we really like the way he physically has developed. He's stronger. He's running well. I think you're going to see the very best in Tommy Rees.

    Q. Last summer all the speculation on the outside was about the quarterback position, who would win it. This summer more so the runningback position. Other than George Atkinson getting the first crack at things, how do you anticipate that position unfolding?

    COACH KELLY: That's a great question. I think I would agree with your assessment that we know about George. I was talking to Coach Martin. We were doing a video clip of some of our big plays last year. When we put it on, we saw George quite a bit. We know we have a big play guy in George. He has things he needs to continue to work on, ball security, low pads, all the things everybody in this room knows about. But Cam McDaniel showed us he can be a very good back for us as well.

    We've got two guys that have done it and we've seen. The rest becomes, Let's go see in practice and see how they compete. That's where it's going to be. It's going to be fun.

    We know we have really talented young men with great résumés, but we're going to have to see how they play when it comes to college football.

    Q. You can't play six of them. How many can you play?

    COACH KELLY: Again, another very good question. I don't have the answer for that. I do have that answer. The guys that are capable of helping us win, we will find a way to get them on the field and get them touches.

    If you look at it from strictly a realistic disappoint, no, you wouldn't be able to get six guys, but they can help us in other areas. That's the charge we have: get the guys that can help us win games on the field.

    Q. Can you talk about the importance of having a staff return intact and carry over from the previous year?

    COACH KELLY: We've had great continuity, obviously. Obviously starts with our coordinators in Chuck and Bob. Having them back sets the leadership and the voice, that consistency of approach of what the expectations are. So that never changes when you have your coordinators back. That's obviously very important for our players. When they hear that same voice, you just pick up where you left off.

    Then having the entire position coaching staff back as well just continues to build depth in consistency and approach. You don't lose time through communication. You lose time when you have poor communication. We've got great communication. We've got great continuity. It lets you get into the season with a great deal of confidence.

    Q. How different is this for you Central Michigan you fixed the program, then moved on. At Cincinnati, you fixed the program and moved on. Now this is really the first time since Grand Valley that you're maintaining. How different is the maintaining stage or working with a program that you've already fixed in terms of going into this year?

    COACH KELLY: It is a fair question. I think that there's some work that still needs to be done internally as it relates to the football team and the players. We still have some depth issues. We still have some work to do in recruiting. I think we're addressing those. We're really close there. So that's business as usual, if you will.

    I think the other things now have to do with the longevity of the program. That has to do with great communication throughout the entire campus and community, making sure that we're doing all the things necessary to provide our student athletes everything they need to be successful.

    What that means obviously is retention, graduation, making sure that they have all the things necessary to be the best players. We're making small things that are really big. We've added some food service opportunities here. May not seem like much, but they're really big when it comes to the long season and keeping our players' weight up and things of that nature.

    Little things like that that aren't necessarily seen as big things, everybody wants to talk about the stadium as the big ticket, there are many things that are bigger that are going on on a day to day basis that are more important to me than the stadium because they're helping us continue to build the program.

    Q. What's going through your mind when one of your top receivers is jumping in a tank with a bunch of sharks?

    COACH KELLY: I was excited to see that. You figure if he is going to jump into a tank of sharks, he's going to go over the middle without any fear. I was pretty excited it was T.J. Jones in there.

    Q. You mentioned some little things, training table, the regularity of that maybe expanding. What are some of the other small things you feel like Notre Dame needs to do to make seasons like last season a regularity as opposed to an anomaly?

    COACH KELLY: You know, I really think that any successful business or organization, there's a partnership that forms with all those that are involved, and that everybody becomes accountable on a day to day basis.

    If you have a great business, accounting is working hand in hand with marketing. In an academic institution, we know our place in athletics, but it's important that everybody is communicating and working together. Those are the things we're working on just like any other good business with and successful organization would.

    I think that communication, building relationships, building trust. If we ask for something, it's needed. So those are the relationships that are building that allow your business to continue to grow, that synergy grows the program.

    Q. Negotiation of your contract has gotten a lot of attention. Is this all part of it, to see what trust is there? Things you need for the program, if you can get those or not, is that part of the negotiation process?

    COACH KELLY: No. This has never been one that I've used a contract to leverage the university to do something. If I had to do that, I would not be here. Our university knows exactly what it takes. We have no issues relative to contract. I have no issues. So that's not a story from my standpoint.

    Contractually we have a contract and an agreement. We have people that are paid money to look at these contracts. They look at them very closely. They don't operate as quickly as I would like to. But there are no issues contractually. There is no leverage play here. I'm really excited about our leadership, my opportunities to speak after the season on a couple occasions with Father Jenkins, have given me the energy and excitement that we can continue to build and grow this football program for years to come.

    Q. Can I read that as you've agreed to something in principle but the details haven't been worked out?

    COACH KELLY: Absolutely. That is exactly what happened back in December. We had an agreement. There's just legal language. Nothing that has put me in a position, or the university, that we don't have an agreement moving forward for a number of years.

    Q. You feel like it may not be resolved until after the season?

    COACH KELLY: No, I think it's imminent. It's up to Jack. Jack will make that decision. Whether he wants to make an announcement or not, I don't need an announcement. I have a signed contract. I'm getting paid every . I'm fortunate to be the head coach at Notre Dame. I'm not really worried about that stuff.

    Q. Smaller picture than that. In terms of your conversations with Coach Longo over the summer.

    COACH KELLY: I don't have any conversations with Coach Longo over the summer.

    Q. Who do you feel embraced or made the biggest gains in strength and conditioning?

    COACH KELLY: Well, I think every year there's a level of commitment that changes when that senior class graduates. I think across the board you always see that.

    Specifically, I think what Coach Longo and my talks with him the last couple days, what he was most excited about was the single minded purpose of the entire group, the ability to bring the freshman class in with this existing class at the same level. In other words, he could mix them in. They were a highly skilled, highly conditioned group that he could mix them in.

    So the two things were an incredible focus with the entire unit, a freshman class that will really add a dimension we have not seen, that he's never seen in his time as a strength coach.

    I think the final piece is that every player has made significant gains across the board from Zack Martin all the way down to a Chris Brown. They all have made significant gains.

    Q. In spring you were on the kind of search for defensive leadership, weren't sure where that voice was going to come from. Did you get much of an indication from Coach Longo, talking to players here or there, about where that voice was defensively, who was that voice?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think we have a combination there. I don't know that we have one guy. Like Zack Martin stands out on offense. I don't know there's that kind of personality on defense. There's a number of them. I look at Bennett Jackson. I look at Calabrese and Fox are seniors. Even when you talk about Prince Shembo, Danny Spond. On the back end of our defense, KeiVarae Russell is very vocal as a sophomore.

    It takes on a different form. I know there's a number of different players there that will get their opportunity to step out. We'll make a decision when camp completes on captains, but we will name captains this year as we did last year.

    Q. It's probably fair to say that Louis Nix was a little bit under the radar as far as national appreciation last year. He'd probably be the first one to point that out. Everyone is in love with Louis Nix this year. Some people in that position take their foot off the gas. It doesn't appear that he has done that. If that is so, how has he been able to do that?

    COACH KELLY: I think when we gave him the opportunity to play quarterback in the spring game, I think it changed him.

    Here is a young man, again, that knows in his last season of competition, it's his chance to make his mark. It's his opportunity to help lead a football team back to a championship. He knows it can be done.

    So then it becomes on him to be that guy on the field every snap. I know one of his goals, and Coach Longo worked closely with him in getting his volume so he could be on the field. When your best player is on the field every snap, you're a better football team. He committed to that. That's him making that conscious decision that he wanted to be that guy.

    So, again, maturity, right? That senior year does something to you when it's your last year. All those things came together. He wanted that to happen.

    Q. How hard is it to find a zero technique guy like that that is a big dude that can really move when you're out recruiting?

    COACH KELLY: I think you have to really look and project in some instances. You're not going to get that kind of guy every year where he's got that frame, that first step quickness that can dominate at the line of scrimmage. It's a hard position to find.

    But you can project to that. You can find somebody that is maybe 260, 265 that can work into that kind of position if he has some of the other intangibles.

    It's hard to find that guy that's ready made. A lot of times you have to develop them. We developed Louis in a sense, as well. He was big. He had some of those prototypical nose guard characteristic. We expect to do that with the next guy.

    Q. You've been successful with your scout team quarterbacks. What are your plans with Malik? Do you want to have him always working with the regular offense or are you going to bounce him back and forth?

    COACH KELLY: We want to keep him with us. When I say 'us,' we want to keep him with the starters. That's important. He needs to get that firsthand knowledge of the offense and defense, see the college game. It's very important for us to keep him.

    We have to find alternatives within the program. We're on the waiver wire. We're looking carefully. We made the calls to the dorms. But we'll solve that internally. But to answer your question, Malik needs to see it, he needs to be with us.

    Q. Distorted view of Kyle as a punter in the spring. You were inside so much, he didn't get to cut it loose. In the spring game, that kind of showed up. What do you anticipate from him this fall? Do you feel like he can still handle all the jobs?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah, it will come down to the discipline of the punting game. The discipline for him is his drop and his consistency.

    He's a hard worker. He's extremely conscientious. He's a very good competitor. He's got the skill set. This is really going to be something that we'll continue to look at each and every day. But our expectations are that he's got the makeup to do it.

    Now, we brought in a couple other young men that will vie for the punting position. Our expectations are that Kyle can do it. But we're prepared if we run into any problems, you know, to look in another direction. But our expectations are that Kyle is going to be able to do the job for us.

    Q. Personnel stuff. Joey Brooks, the decision for him not to be back this fall.

    COACH KELLY: We just felt like at that position we were in very good hands, bringing in Mike Heuerman as a midyear, got a chance to see him. We did not want to stunt his growth. And Joey did a very good job for us, came in, worked hard, did everything we asked him to do. This was simply about a young kid in Heuerman, obviously giving him more of the reps that Joey would have taken from him.

    Q. We all noticed Jesse Bongiovi on the roster. What was the evolution of that relationship that landed him here?

    COACH KELLY: Well, recruiting Poly Prep is very important for us, recruiting in that area put us in touch with him. He's had a relationship with Notre Dame. It goes back to Coach Weis.

    Jesse has earned his spot on the 105. He's a tough kid. The kids really like him. They respect him. They don't look at him as a rockstar's son. They look at him as a kid that loves Notre Dame and wants to play football and help this team. He's had a good summer. Coach Longo liked his work ethic and the way he competed.

    Q. You talked about Malik being with the quarterbacks. How much work does Tommy get versus Andrew and Malik as you go through the next month?

    COACH KELLY: Well, you know my philosophy has been our number two gets much more work than most twos in the country. It's proven that way because I have a tendency to play more than one quarterback.

    But I would say that Andrew is going to get a lot of reps. Tommy needs a lot of work, too, because he didn't get many last year. You'll see a break there, whether it's 6 4 or 7 3 in terms of numbers between one and two. We will definitely get Malik in the mix as well.

    We have a number of freshmen that we're going to have to get some reps. Our practice is going to have to be such that we give them opportunities, even in it's freshmen going against freshmen, we have to get them in, get a camera and some eyes on them so we can evaluate them.

    Q. You talked about the runningbacks a little bit. Are there other position battles you're eager to see play out in the next month?

    COACH KELLY: There's a ton of them. What's going to happen at linebacker? We got some really good players. We're really deep at linebacker. Inside and outside, Fox, Calabrese, Grace, Moore. You look on the outside with Ishaq, Shembo, Okwara, Spond, Councell. It's going to be exciting.

    At safety we have a number of really good safeties with Collinsworth back, Shumate. Farley has proven himself to be a BCS safety for us. Hardy had a great spring. Bringing Max Redfield. Corner, interesting to see. Lo Wood is back, Jalen Brown, Atkinson. I could go on and on.

    We have six, seven defensive linemen. Tony Springman gets a chance now to step up a little bit. Jarron Jones. What can Isaac Rochell do for us?

    It's going to be fun. We have a lot of veterans coming back, but there's going to be a lot of things that we're going to have to evaluate. We're going to have a lot of players that will get that opportunity.

    Q. How soon do you want to nail down a starting five on the offensive line rather than a mix and match?

    COACH KELLY: I don't know that that is as important as maybe having the quarterback ready and locked in. That group works so well together. Boy, they do everything together. They hang out together. There's a continuity in that group that exists in their DNA as offensive linemen. You know what I mean? They can come in and out of the game.

    There will be some battles, right side, right guard. Nick Martin has had a great spring. Hegarty is healthy. He'll get a chance to charge at that position.

    That's probably one of the units that I'm less concerned about that group playing together because they do it as a way of life. . One of your program goals was to get to that 85 scholarship limit. There's always off season transfers. How at Notre Dame can you combat that?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, look, if you're 83 to 85, you're fine. I mean, you can't be at 75. You can't be at 78. Now you're into an area where great depth and concern of practicing the way you want to.

    We're in striking distance. Program building, that's still one of the boxes that hasn't been checked off yet in terms of the depth in scholarship. We're getting closer. We put Joey Schmidt on scholarship this year. Who knows. Maybe we go through camp and there's a couple other guys that may be deserving of a scholarship opportunity. We're closer. It's not a red flag for me anymore, but we still have some work to do there.

    Q. It's unique in you might have been able to see him as a freshman. Is it a preferred walk on route?

    COACH KELLY: I hope so. We have a reputation that if you make a commitment to Notre Dame, and it's a huge commitment financially obviously, if you make that commitment, we're up front and honest with you. If you do that, you'll have an opportunity here to earn a scholarship.

    Nothing is guaranteed, it will have to be earned. But I hope to have that reputation. Think we're slowly getting it with Chris Salvi the year before, Joey Schmidt this year. Hopefully we can get a kid that comes in every year and works his way into a scholarship.

    Q. What is your take on the new targeting rule that is going to be enforced this fall? Are you at all concerned about losing a starting safety late in the game or is it better?

    COACH KELLY: The rule has been in effect. We're all talking about a new rule. It's not a new rule. Targeting has been in effect.

    I think what has concerned many is the interpretation of targeting more than anything else. We're not going to change anything in the way we coach. We're going to continue to coach safe tackling techniques, playing penalty free, making sure we're a disciplined football team.

    When you put it into the hands of somebody else to make that decision, that's where it becomes a bit of an issue. We're going to have to work through it. We're hopeful that with the inclusion of instant replay that that can solve a lot of problems.

    Last year in talking to a number of people, there were less than 20 incidents last year that were targeting, that 'targeting' was the call.

    From our standpoint, we'll continue to coach the same way, talk about safe tackling techniques, make sure our kids understand they're not going to lead with the helmet, let it go from there.

    Q. You talked about the depth at safety and cornerback. Now there's no leeway for the official to call it if there is helmet to helmet?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah, I will tell you we're not really thinking in those terms. Those scenarios are not at the forefront of conversations within our defensive staff meeting rooms.

    But we would have to treat it like an injury and have the next man ready. I think having depth certainly helps you in those situations, as it would if there was an injury.

    Again, I don't believe those are conversations that are taking place in Coach Diaco's staff room. He's talking about safe tackling techniques, being smart.

    Q. Tommy, last time he started, he had two big targets in Floyd and Eifert to throw to. Do you need to see a wide receiver on tight end emerge to be a 70, 100 catch target or can Tommy get by with a wider distribution?

    COACH KELLY: I would prefer wider distribution. Tommy is capable of going across from sideline to sideline and distributing the football to where it needs to go.

    But when you have a Michael Floyd and a Tyler Eifert, get them the ball, it's that simple. We don't have those two guys. But we do have a T.J. Jones, who I think is one of the best route runners in the June. Wouldn't surprise me if he's a first round draft pick, he's that good. Sometimes he doesn't get enough of the accolades. I think he's a great receiver.

    I think you're going to see Daniels emerge, Chris Brown. I think our tight ends can all catch the football. Our runningbacks have proven to be very good.

    He has a number of weapons. He doesn't have an Eifert or a Floyd, but I think we're more balanced at that position than any time since we've been here at Notre Dame. to work through it. We're hopeful that with the inclusion of instant replay that that can solve a lot of problems.

    Last year in talking to a number of people, there were less than 20 incidents last year that were targeting, that 'targeting' was the call.

    From our standpoint, we'll continue to coach the same way, talk about safe tackling techniques, make sure our kids understand they're not going to lead with the helmet, let it go from there.

    Q. You talked about the depth at safety and cornerback. Now there's no leeway for the official to call it if there is helmet to helmet?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah, I will tell you we're not really thinking in those terms. Those scenarios are not at the forefront of conversations within our defensive staff meeting rooms.

    But we would have to treat it like an injury and have the next man ready. I think having depth certainly helps you in those situations, as it would if there was an injury.

    Again, I don't believe those are conversations that are taking place in Coach Diaco's staff room. He's talking about safe tackling techniques, being smart.

    Q. Tommy, last time he started, he had two big targets in Floyd and Eifert to throw to. Do you need to see a wide receiver on tight end emerge to be a 70, 100 catch target or can Tommy get by with a wider distribution?

    COACH KELLY: I would prefer wider distribution. Tommy is capable of going across from sideline to sideline and distributing the football to where it needs to go.

    But when you have a Michael Floyd and a Tyler Eifert, get them the ball, it's that simple. We don't have those two guys. But we do have a T.J. Jones, who I think is one of the best route runners in the June. Wouldn't surprise me if he's a first round draft pick, he's that good. Sometimes he doesn't get enough of the accolades. I think he's a great receiver.

    I think you're going to see Daniels emerge, Chris Brown. I think our tight ends can all catch the football. Our runningbacks have proven to be very good.

    He has a number of weapons. He doesn't have an Eifert or a Floyd, but I think we're more balanced at that position than any time since we've been here at Notre Dame. would you be more apt to move to that position? Can Elmer move to guard?

    COACH KELLY: That's a possibility. We'll get into camp and see how that position solidifies itself. They're certainly capable of playing guard and tackle. We'll evaluate that as we go.

    We know that Christian Lombard can handle himself at the right tackle position. If he goes down, I think we've got great answers. If we want to get the best players on the field, we can include those guys in the mix if we think that they are capable of doing that. Great flexibility would be my answer, but we can do a number of things on that right side.

    Q. Two years ago 29 turnovers. Last year cut it into half, only 15. Big difference. The defense, again, is projected to be the strength of the team. Maybe that leads you to play a certain way on offense. You operated very well with that offensive scheme last year. Do you try to maybe take more chances if that's the right way to look at it and maybe risk more turnovers? Do you limit the turnovers, let the defense do its job, does that work for you again?

    COACH KELLY: We expect to score more points offensively. When you get down to it, you want to take care of the football, as we mentioned. That's absolutely crucial. We need to score more points. Internally putting more points on the board is crucial. We think we'll be able to do that with a veteran quarterback with Tommy Rees, continue dominating defensive play. Improve our special teams. Those are things we'll be looking at short term as we get ready for Temple. Obviously we need to score more points.

    Q. Stephon Tuitt, what do you see as his strengths or weaknesses? How do you keep him grounded?

    COACH KELLY: I didn't hear the name.

    Q. Stephon Tuitt.

    COACH KELLY: I think we take the same approach with all of our players. It's not my job to get guys ready for the NFL. It's my job to develop them here at Notre Dame, to win football games, get their degree.

    We really don't spend a lot of time talking about their draft status. We talk to them more about how they can be a better football player and teammate here at Notre Dame. All that other stuff is conjecture and opinions. But we really don't spend much time on it.

    Our focus with Stephon Tuitt this summer was conditioning, making sure he can be on the field for as many plays, and for him to continue to make progress academically towards his degree. We didn't have a conversation about anything as it relates to the National Football League.

    Q. What do you like best in his game? Can you see him being the leader of the unit this year?

    COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think everybody on that defensive unit can take a leadership role some in different forms. If Stephon Tuitt is out there doing his job, doing what he's asked to do on a day to day basis, he de facto becomes a leader for us. That's how we go into developing our players on a day to day basis. It doesn't mean they have to have a C on their jersey to be a leader. Our expectations are, absolutely, yes, we expect him to be a leader for us on defense.

    Q. You ask your players to improve, make changes over the off season and become better players for the next season. What do you do as a coach to improve? What improvement as a coach should we see from you on the sideline this season? Secondly, were you a Bon Jovi fan before you started recruiting Jesse?

    COACH KELLY: Well, the improvements I make have to do with how I direct the staff, how we direct the program, how we communicate, always looking to be better at doing what we do, being innovative, always looking for better ways to do it. Getting out and seeing other programs, bringing coaches in. That's part of being a great teacher, that you're always trying to learn.

    What I do on the sidelines is too late. I better be doing it during the week and in the off season. I think all of our coaches are committed to being better teachers and educators. I think we all take that very seriously. You're right, you ask your players to improve; you want your coaches to grow, as well. My unit and my group does that as well as any group around.

    I'm a huge fan of Bon Jovi. Didn't have to have his son to make that apparent. He had a reputation here. I think Charlie Weis, being from New Jersey, brought him into the Notre Dame family long before I came. He's a great guy. He's a grounded guy. You think a rockstar, he's an unapproachable guy.

    We got a lot of famous people. He could probably get in the stadium and put a hat and glasses on and make it through the game. A guy that can't is David Robinson. He comes in the stadium, he's a guy that everybody knows who he is.

    We have a lot of those guys in our program that are high profile, but they handle themselves, and have in the past, with great class.

    MICHAEL BERTSCH: Thank you, everybody.

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