Aug. 11, 2015
CULVER, Ind. - With the first fully-padded practice of 2015, Notre Dame's time at Culver Academies came to a thundering crescendo on Tuesday morning. Pads crashed hard as the Irish went through a physical mid-morning workout before boarding the buses to head back north to the familiar Guglielmino Athletics Complex which serves as the team's on-campus home.
Before leaving, head coach Brian Kelly gave this general update to Fighting Irish Media's Jack Nolan.
On getting a fast start to camp:
"It's unfortunate that we've had some rocky starts the past few years, whether it's been injuries or ineligibilities. It's pretty clean. Guys are physically fit so we came out of our summer fit and in good shape. We did get five good days here of teaching and running and installation. I thought our pace was really good. It was five good days. But, it was more than just football. It was leadership building. It was giving guys a chance to get up in front of their group and lead. All of those things are what you're looking for and we got it."
On the militaristic emphasis of preseason camp, including a visit by Marcus Luttrell of Lone Survivor fame:
"It's still a team sport. We have a collection of individuals that need to come together. They need to hold each other accountable. We're going to have some adversity. As you know, we had some adversity last year and we didn't handle it very well. We responded later in the year after we learned about it. We're going to have to overcome some adversity again this year. It's a team that overcomes adversity and not one individual. We want to make sure that we're prepared for that and I think the teams that win championships (show it). Ohio State showed they could overcome adversity last year, losing a game and losing effectively their leader on offense. I think that's what we're looking for. We're working with development and I think we're going to get that."
On replacing Kyle Brindza and a young special teams unit:
"We've seen some things here over the last few days with the influence of our special teams and our preparation of a freshman punter and kicker that are going to have to play in a game. I think you'll see a lot of special teams as a part of what we do. I think the special teams element is important in terms of starting fast as well. We don't have the opportunity to say `well, that's special teams -- it's early in the year, you'd expect it to be sloppy.' We can't expect anything to be sloppy to get off to a great start."
On players who stepped up at Culver:
"Nic Weishar, a tight end out of Marist High School. He's got an opportunity and I was really impressed with him. I think he showed something. Equanimeous St. Brown has elite speed. He looked really good. Nick Coleman on defense had great make-up speed and the ability to close on the football. Shaun Crawford had great savvy. He understands the game and can get on the field because he can play a couple of different positions. Those kids stand out right away."
On the play of the quarterbacks behind starter Malik Zaire:
"I think DeShawn Kizer continues to blossom. He's got great size, great understanding and leadership skills. Some of the things are just learning and more confidence in what he's doing. I love his demeanor. I love his leadership ability and throwing the football. (He just needs) more consistency. Brandon Wimbush has got a rocket for an arm. He really cleaned up his footwork over the last three days. I think that's probably the thing we leave here at camp is that it's rally good that he can deliver the ball on time."
On the importance of a pass rush:
"If you look at last year, three out of the top five pass rushers were linebackers. It's hard to find that one elite pass rusher. You can't find it in the NFL. They're hard to find. So, you have to create it from your secondary, your nickel back your linebackers, your defensive ends. We had more sacks than LSU last year and Florida State. We need more. We have to create it from our entire defense and we'll continue to work at that."
On the team's leadership:
"Getting Joe Schmidt back is huge for us. He's a great leader and a great communicator. KeiVarae Russell obviously is not only a great leader but a great football player. He's one of the best corners in the country with his ability to break on the football and make plays. Jarrett Grace adds another dimension of senior leadership. Sheldon Day continues to add that dimension as well. When you look out there, there's a lot of talent out there but, on defense in particular, we have some great leadership."
On the offensive focus of the past week:
"Obviously, from our standpoint, a lot of this is about installing particular plays. We had to spend more time on pass protection and protecting our quarterback. We're being a little more efficient in the passing game. We spend a lot of time in the run game. We'll spend situational offense now the next week. It's all been about installing and staying focused on some specific things. Now we get into the situations where you have to pick up the blitz and it's third down and those things. That's the next step for us and we'll see how we go over the next week."
On the tough stretch of camp awaiting back on campus:
"We go two (practices) and one and two again so five practices over the next three days. It's very important for us to stay healthy, to really make good progress situationally - on offense and defense and special teams - and begin to look at the things that we're good at. We know we've got a lot of good things going for us but (now) we start after these next five practices to hone in on some of real strengths."
In addition to the regular daily presence of the Fighting Irish Media video, social media and publicity team, national media members found their way to Culver on Tuesday as ESPN's SportsCenter bus came to town. Rece Davis, Danny Kanell, Joey Galloway and Jeannine Edwards. The quartet rode some of Culver's famous horses, interviewed Kelly, Chris Brown, Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith, toured the stunning lakeside campus and also taped the entire episode of College Football Live from the Irish practice.
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-- written and compiled by Leigh Torbin, athletic communications assistant director, and Michael Bertsch, director of football media relations