Nov. 19, 2013
An Interview With:
COACH Brian Kelly
COACH KELLY: As you know, Senior Day here at Notre Dame, we honor those that are certainly in their last season of competition, as well as those guys that are in their fourth year here at Notre Dame. So that includes guys that certainly could be back next year, as well, but we make sure that we include everybody, so that's why that number swells a bit for those that were wondering about all those seniors.
BYU this weekend, I think everybody knows that last year's game came down right to the end but more importantly, they are having a terrific season.
I think it starts with Hill and what they have been doing offensively. They have been extremely dynamic on offense, led by Hill, a duel threat, who can run the football, but certainly, has thrown it so well. Cody Hoffman has been around it seems for a while but has been a big play wide receiver for them.
You know, again, I think it starts with Hill, and you know, the new offensive system that they have in place is really different from what we saw last year.
Defensively, Coach Mendenhall has always been his teams have always been very good defensively, and this defensive unit is no different. I think you start with Van Noy, who is somebody that you have to game plan. He's very versatile. He can drop into coverage. He can come off the edge, tackles for a loss. Very versatile player; we'll have to know where he is at all times.
Sorensen makes a ton of tackles. He's their safety. They put him in a position where, you know, he in a large degree becomes that extra hat or that free hat; very good at the point of attack, very good tackler.
You know, they have defensively always had multiple looks. They start out of a three down look, but they can be a number of different coverage variables, probably as unique of coverage schemes that you will see.
But at the end of the day, you know, they forced 18 turnovers in their win, so they are a team that gets turnovers and they are a team that certainly done a great job. But getting teams three and out; by comparison, you can see how many plays they run offensively. They are an up tempo offense. They are going to want to go fast, and I think they have run over 800 plays already this year.
So offensively, running fast. Defensively, getting you off the field. It's going to be a great challenge, and certainly one that we're looking forward to, especially being an opportunity for us to play at home the last time this year.
So I know our guys are focused. They are going to have to have a single minded focus on BYU and really doing their job. Defensively, assignment football is going to be key. They put you in a lot of run/pass conflicts where we are going to have to do a great job. And obviously containing Hill, and then from our standpoint, offensively, finding a way to get some big plays.
They have been a team that minimizes the opportunity for big plays, and that's going to be very important for us offensively.
Q. This is going to be Tommy's last home game. How close do you think he's come to maximizing what he could do, when he got here as a freshman to this point?
COACH KELLY: That's a good question. I don't know that I've spent much time thinking in those terms. I think Tommy has clearly we know physically that he's somebody that you can't run zone/read packages and put him in a situation where he's going to get yardage for you running the football.
So I think what you have to do is get the most out of what he can do in terms of getting you in the right play and throwing the football. And I think what we've tried to do is run our offense to fit what his skill set is.
So I think you couple that with the success and the wins that he's had; I think you would probably come close to saying that, you know, we both have probably reached that point where we have gotten a lot out of them. Whether we have maximized it, I think there's probably always room for wanting more and hopefully the next two weeks, we'll be able to answer that question better.
Q. Kind of an odd dynamic with Chris Badger transferring to BYU and playing here. Why did he never quite get into the mix when he came back from his mission?
COACH KELLY: Well, he was recruited under a different system, quite frankly. Chris is a great kid, a good athlete.
He was recruited in a different defensive system. They were looking for more of a middle of the field safety that could run the alley from the middle of the field. As you know, we are a two deep safety team that we like to play off the hash a lot more.
So I think that there was probably a better fit from that standpoint, because that's how they play, BYU. They are not a huge cover two team. Sorensen is a guy that's going to be a free hat running the alley. I see that as a very similar skill set as to what Chris's is. We had a conversation about that.
I think from a football standpoint, at the time he was recruited, the systems he was looking at, BYU and Notre Dame had some similar features. I think obviously the fit for him from an academic standpoint, Notre Dame in terms of going into premed was huge for him, as well. Those things changed as it relates to football; I don't think they changed academically.
Q. Similar question I was going to ask, but Chris's situation, anything in the defense you can do differently with the unique situation of playing a guy that was with them in camp, in terms of knowing the calls and whatnot?
COACH KELLY: There's not going to be a ton of things. The signaling system is fairly complicated. You would have to dissect those, then you'd have to get them and get them back out to the offense.
You know, it's not where you start but where you finish defensively. And with an up tempo offense, I guess the short answer would be, we've taken measures and we're not concerned about it.
Q. And to go back to Tommy for a moment. With the amount of football he's played here every year you've been here, is it hard to imagine a Notre Dame roster next year when you look down the depth chart and you don't see him there as one, two, or three at quarterback?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, obviously he's the only quarterback that I've known in my four years here in terms of consistency of being here. Certainly young man that we are going to miss I love his competitiveness and his drive you know, look, we want to win football games. You're hired and fired for winning football games here; I get that. But he really loves Notre Dame and understands Notre Dame and understands the distinctions of Notre Dame.
Yeah, I'd rather have all the guys live it and love it, you know, on a day to day basis. But you know, when you live football like he does, it definitely hes has an effect on the other people around you.
So the example would be just his commitment to the program and being here all the time. You know, you'd never think of Tommy Rees being two seconds late for a meeting or not at a workout or, you know, he's always the first one in and the last one to leave. That's living it.
Q. Very broadly with TJ, I talked to him last week, and he said one of the biggest improvements he felt he's made just personally is that it's no longer just about TJ; it's kind of about the whole team. Have you kind of seen that same improvement in him, maybe not necessarily on the field, so to speak, but off the field in his personality?
COACH KELLY: I think that, you know, T.J.'s growth and development has kind of mirrored itself both on and off the field.
Here is a young man that came in with a lot of national accolades and hype, and, you know, had to kind of go through maybe a rough spot or two. And he fought through that and developed within the program an understanding of team versus individual.
And now, it's kind of come full circle where, as you know, I didn't talk much about TJ the last couple years, but all I do is talk about TJ, because now he understands team first.
And that's generally what happens in the program, where I see players that understand team and show themselves as team players, I start talking about the individual and them. I think he's come full circle not full circle, but he's made that progression over his time here.
Q. He's a guy who Mel Kuiper the other day, had a call and said he viewed him as kind of a late round pick, maybe an undrafted free agent
COACH KELLY: Mel Kuiper doesn't really I don't know where his information comes from as it relates to TJ Jones. But from everyone that I've talked to he will not be undrafted.
Q. Regardless of where he goes, his chances of being drafted in the NFL, given his size, but just the way he's able to use his body and run routes and stuff, do you see him having a real good shot at making it in the NFL?
COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. Without question. Without question.
Q. What does that speak to his attitude and how he has put in the work to get to that point where he doesn't have the Michael Floyd size but he's able to have that shot.
COACH KELLY: Again, I look at his skill set, and I think he measures up with -- other than not being long, at 6 3, he's got a great route running ability, gets in and out of his breaks, he's got versatility, can catch it and run after the catch, short handed, he's got good speed. He's going to test well. I think he's proven himself; that he can play at the highest level.
Q. After going four years with this senior class, is there a particular guy -- it could be anyone, but just a guy that you have a special affinity for, could be any number of reasons, play, personality, just anything? Any one guy that you might really miss when you think about it?
COACH KELLY: Gosh, I mean, when you talk about an entire senior class I mean, this is a unique class in that, you know and we've talked about this. This was kind of that class that we tried to hold on to when we got here.
You know, this development of relationships with this group was one where they were a group of guys that we didn't have a strong bond with but we had to build one over time, and I think we have. I think we have a different relationship in a sense, a unique relationship with these guys in that they have to trust us, and that in itself as a group is a great dynamic.
I don't know that there's -- there's so many different personalities in this group. I'd be hard pressed to pick one.
Q. Want to go back to something you said a few weeks ago, and I just want to clarify. Somebody had asked you about Everett, and you had talked about having him back for Bowl practice. Will he be eligible to practice
COACH KELLY: Yes.
Q. Bowls and is that regardless of when the first semester ends?
COACH KELLY: Yes. Correct.
Q. And that also pre supposes: Has he been allowed back into school?
COACH KELLY: I don't think that I can make that decision, nor can I comment on that. I think that application process has been submitted, is what I know of, and that decisions relative to admissions happen sometime in the middle of December.
Q. Okay. Thank you.
COACH KELLY: Though, if they wanted to give me the admissions responsibility, I would certainly consider it. (Smiling).
Q. You talked last week about taking the week off for practice, basically, because you're so beat up. What's the condition of the team at this point now?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think the week off proved to be effective for us. I thought we had a great day yesterday. You know, we scrimmaged the guys a little bit. We got some work together, 11 on 11, which we normally don't have, especially in a game week. We didn't tackle and bring the lines down, but some good action, one on ones yesterday.
I thought the legs were fresh. I thought if there was any rust off the guys, we got them out there moving. Those guys that are banged up, got in there and competed. We are like everybody else in college football at this point in the year. We have got guys that are just fighting through it right now.
Q. Anyone that you know is definitely out for this game?
COACH KELLY: No. No. There's nobody at this point that's definitely out. I think everybody is at this point where they are going to their focus is to get out there and give it the best shot to play against BYU.
Q. These last three teams, Pittsburgh -- the common denominator for all of them is they thought they either could have or should have beat Notre Dame, and it's kind of a motivating factor for all three of them. Do you think motivation, that could be a good motivating factor for teams from your standpoint, and is there anything Notre Dame can do to kind of come back with a motivation of their own?
COACH KELLY: You know, I think those things are -- and they have always been, for me, secondary. I think they have always been handled intrinsically by the players that you have; doesn't mean I'm not good for a motivating talk or two.
But I think that the players that you have, the leaders that you have, and the way you play the game, certainly dictate that much more than past history and motivation. Doesn't mean I don't discount it, but I don't see it as primary.
I think the primary is the drive, the pride, the intrinsic motivation to want to win nine games, has got to be primary. Not, hey, let's be ready because BYU thinks they should have beat us last year.
Q. Talking to Louis last week, he said that when you he didn't think you quite knew what to make of him when you first got here. And talk a little bit, please, about the fact that he committed between coaches. I'm not sure that happens very often.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think, first of all, it says a lot about Louis in terms of what he wanted.
And I think I mentioned this before. Louis certainly understood what Notre Dame could do for him. Don't let Louis fool you: He can come off as funny and aloof, but he's very smart. He knows what he wants. He wanted a degree from Notre Dame, and he understood what that was going to get him and set him up for the rest of his life.
Also, he knew the platform that he was going to play on here at Notre Dame and the exposure. Look, everybody's dream and golly when you come to Notre Dame is get a degree, play for a championship and go to the NFL. He's checked all those boxes (chuckling).
As it relates to not knowing what to make of him, I don't know that anybody really has locked in and figured out Big Lou, and that's okay, because he does what we ask him to do. He's going to have his degree from Notre Dame and he's worked really hard for us.
Q. Besides the change in pace of BYU's offense, what other variations are you seeing since last year?
COACH KELLY: Okay. Well, the quarterback, first of all, his ability to extend plays. His accuracy, I thought more than anything else, his ability to throw the football, has really changed their offensive structure. They struggled throwing the ball last year. Throwing it very, very well. And then his big playability; he's fast. He's not he's a guy that can take a run and turn it into a big play.
So I really the end of the day, I think it really just centers around him. He's a sophomore. He's much more comfortable in this offense, this read/option spread offense.
And what they do, which is I think, you know, probably one of the advantages that they have, not only tempo, is that they can run their offense out of multiple offensive formations.
So they force a lot of different adjustments for you and they have done a really good job of it.
Q. Virginia held them to 16, Utah 3, Wisconsin 17. Keys to slowing them down, does it just come down to putting them in second and ten, third and nine; when you put them in long yardage situations, they are more inclined to slow the pace?
COACH KELLY: Well, that certainly would help, obviously, if you could give me those kinds of situations.
Boy, I would discount the Virginia game. I think they were still -- first year offensive coordinator. They were sorting themselves out offensively figuring him out. I think Utah and Wisconsin are both very, very good defensively football teams.
Both of them have proven to be very good defensive football teams. If you look at Utah's win against Stanford, and certainly the ability for Wisconsin to play with anybody; these are very defenses, more so.
We are going to have to play -- we are capable. We are going to have to play really good defense. If we can play really good defense and that means assignments are going to be huge. We can't have the quarterback unattended to. We haven't have the dive unattended to. We are going to get some run/pass conflicts that we are going to have to be on body with. They really force you to be on task every play.
Wisconsin did a great job. Utah did a great job. We are going to have to; if we can do that, we can keep the points down, as well.
Q. And how do you combat that size that they have at receiver?
COACH KELLY: Well, I don't think you ever really combat it as much as you have to mix things up as we certainly have tried to. You are going to get caught in some man to man situations and you're going to have to do a good job of being on body.
But, you know, you can't just be man to man all the time. You're going to have to play some different coverage variations, and we are going to have to mix it up. We can't play one coverage. Nobody has been able to do that. If they do, late in the game, they were able to put some points together against Wisconsin late when they just sat back. You have to mix things up.
Q. In your years here, two of the years your defenses have forced a lot of turnovers, and 2011 and this year, it's been a lower number. Is it something that you can i know it's not No. 1 on Coach Diaco's list of tenets of defense, but is it something that can be coached? Is it just the players are making more plays in those two seasons?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly you have to take -- you can't just take the defense. You have to look at the offense, how the game is being played.
Certainly the more gambling or the more pressures, the better chance for potential takeaways. You also have to have guys that you feel like will excel in that kind of system. And then finally, I think, you know in, terms of what we do, we haven't been as opportunistic.
And so I think all of those three things together will put you where we are today. Again, I think we'll always go back and evaluate where we are.
Last year, we got more turnovers but we had some guys that could do that. And we're talking about Te'o in particular. We haven't been as opportunistic, no question.
Q. And when you mention something you do, is that -- I know it's not he has discussed it in the past, Coach Diaco last year, can't be high on the list, as it would be as being sound divisionally. Is that game specific? Is it a situation where you go into a game and think, we need turnovers in this contest and how does that stress your basic defense as a whole?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I know the question that you're trying to ask. I think every game, you're trying to find a way to get a turnover here or there. I think you could take a number of teams. You take New England, for example: They are trying to hold on, you know, and get the ball back to Brady.
Last year, this year, we're trying to keep the points down. I think when you have some players that you believe can, you know, force those turnovers, you try to put them in a position.
But we have lost a lot of experienced players, and we have got some guys that are first year players in some certain locations that don't really lend themselves to putting ourselves out there the way we would like.
Q. Do you prepare any differently, going back to BYU, for a team that runs almost 90 plays a game?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly we are practicing tempo. And they run 90 plays if your offense is three and out, three and out, three and out. So we are practicing on both ends from that standpoint.
We have done a pretty good job of holding on to the football, and we'll need to do that. We'll need to have some controlled drives and have an eye towards keeping their offense off the field.
And certainly, you know, being effective defensively. 90 plays is still about tempo, but it's still about efficiency. When they are averaging 90, they have been extremely efficient offensively. When they dip below that number, defenses have had something to do with it, and then the offenses have controlled the football.
Q. I know you don't look at Bowl projections, but is there anything as far as location or opponent that makes an ideal Bowl setting for you guys?
COACH KELLY: Absolutely. For me, it would be any of the Caribbean islands, Hawaii would fall into that category, as well. And if they did anything in Bermuda, Bahamas, that'd be fine, too. Do they have any games in those locations? Next year they do? Well, then maybe we have to re adjust that. But that would be a starting point for me. Or Massachusetts, where I was born. I don't think they have anything, not this year or next hopefully.
Q. You addressed a little bit your 2010 recruiting class; when you were putting that class together, I think it was just you and Tony for a big part of it.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, there was three of us.
Q. Can you just talk about that process, what you were trying to do. You had some guys that were committed to Charlie and they got shaky, you flipped some guys; what that process was like.
COACH KELLY: For me it was, again, not knowing everything that I know about Notre Dame now, I think it would have been a lot easier if I had the experience that I do now. I would walk in there and go, are you kidding me, why am I wasting listen, you're coming to Notre Dame, right, here it what you were going to get.
For me, I think it was more about selling myself at that time: Here is who I am, here is my background, here is what I have accomplished, this is why we're going to be successful in Notre Dame.
I think you would go in that a whole lot differently now. You would go in, and if I was to talk about Notre Dame now, it would be, hey, listen, here is what you're going to get at Notre Dame.
So I think the conversations in those homes were more about and same thing probably for Tony, was he knew Notre Dame; he was probably selling me and the leadership, and this is what this guy's done. This is what you can expect at Notre Dame.
Q. One guy that was in that class that you actually flipped, had committed was Luke Massa. He's been through a lot of changes and been through a lot actually beyond the changes. Can you talk about maybe what he's done behind the scenes and why would a guy like that kind of stick around when there wasn't a great prospect of playing?
COACH KELLY: Well, just I think you've touched upon and I think Pete asked the question about the different kids in that class. That's why it's so hard to pick one. This one's extremely has a personal touch to it, and you know, Luke wanted a Notre Dame degree. He understood the distinctions of Notre Dame and what it would give him. Incredible family, and as you know, very close teammate to Matt James.
So through all of that, there's a connection there with Matt through his time here. As you know, this will be the fourth year and Matt would have graduated with this class, as well. I don't think that we can separate that too far from Luke Massa and his journey here at Notre Dame.
But he's been the consummate teammate, whether or not we've asked him to help us at quarterback or wide receiver or tight end, he's a holder this year; he's just been an incredible teammate, and he's so well liked by everybody. But I think he's been on a duel journey here and that journey has been, you know, obviously seeking a degree at Notre Dame and fulfilling a dream that he's had of playing here at Notre Dame and he certainly has and has contributed to our program.
Q. With Rees, it seems like after the first spring he was here, you didn't seem really convinced with him and then he came back over the summer and it seemed like he was a different guy, at least the way that you looked at him. Am I reading that right? And what was his
COACH KELLY: Is this going from year one to year two?
Q. No, his first spring when he came in as an early enrollee. He didn't play a lot in the spring game and it didn't seem like you saw a huge future for him and all of a sudden he came back in the fall and seemed like he had your attention. Do you remember that summer?
COACH KELLY: I think what stood out for me was his adaptation and understanding of the offense, because Tommy would call me less than honest if I said, he wowed me with his physical ability to run the 40 or bench press or any of those things. So I'm confident that I can say that.
But it must have been and I'm sure it was, that he was able to really pick up the offense quickly. It's been my experience that if you can pick things up and you've got a good grasp of the offense, then you've got a great chance for success.
Q. Can you give us an update on Ishaq and Kona?
COACH KELLY: They practiced. I was pleased with Kona. I think Ishaq is going to be a day to day situation. He practiced. I thought he was a little tentative yesterday but I think he's going to get better. I know our training staff was pleased. Everybody was in the training room this morning. We had no setbacks from anybody that practiced. We were all taped up heavily if you were at practice yesterday, but they all participated and they all contributed in some fashion.
Q. And Rochell and Jones?
COACH KELLY: Same thing, they were all contributing to practice. I thought we had a really good day quite frankly. The energy was good. I thought it was lively in our 11 on 11 action and those guys came through it pretty good. Nobody took a step back from my report from Rob Hunt this morning. Nobody took a step back from yesterday's pretty rigorous practice. We were almost two hours out there, which is long and it was a physical practice.
Q. I know you mentioned that you're pretty happy with the way the physical break that you gave the players turned out for you. What about as a coaching staff, do you use the bye week to tweak scheme, tweak personnel? Or is it just too late in the game to really do something like that?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think we are always we are at this point right now that we are focused on how to win the BYU game more so than bigger picture issues. I think we are really, all right, how do we win on Saturday.
So any work that we did in the bye week was really focused on how do we get a W against BYU. That was our focus and then recruiting. Those were the most important elements for our staff. I think the staff has done a great job of balancing those two.
We haven't walked away feeling like we didn't spend enough time preparing for BYU in the off week and I didn't feel like we just said, hey, let's get out of here and let's start recruiting. Hey, let's get on to 2014. I thought it was a good balance by the staff and I thought it was a good week.
Q. It's pretty rare that you would have an opportunity to go 11 on 11 on a Monday, and you kind of wind things down in terms of practice time later in the year. What did you want to get out of yesterday that was maybe unique from a typical
COACH KELLY: We did a lot of one on one, seven on seven, things that we usually have in preseason camp. And I didn't want to do it last Wednesday or Thursday and then have a break again. I wanted to really line it up. And the guys's legs felt good. The comments were very positive about how we felt.
We had a lot of guys that could not have practiced last Wednesday, and I really needed to know whether these guys could play to be quite honest with you. So all of those combined was the rationale for going on Monday in that fashion.
Q. You've been asked about a bunch of seniors. Kendall Moore was in that group of that bridge class, committed to the previous staff, has not played a lot, has had kind of new opportunities over the last six, seven games. Curious if you see a different kid in practice now, because he's able to get on the field on Saturday and has a different level of, I guess, engagement in game plans and play calling.
COACH KELLY: Yes. Yeah. And I mean that in a positive way.
You know, Kendall, he's I think we all know and you guys who have spent time, he's very likable. I'd like him to be more focused and his focus has been really good. I've been able to work with him on some special teams. I like his focus, and I think your question is fair in that I think that door being open to more playing time has lended itself to that. And I hope that continues, because I think we all see a pretty talented young man there but there's more tan talent. There's all the other things that come with it. So I think in a positive way, I've seen some growth there in terms of his focus and attention to detail that he's going to need and continue to have going into next year.
Q. I was going to ask about next year. Has he shown you something over the last couple months that changes your perspective on what he can mean to the program next year?
COACH KELLY: Yes, yes, he has. He's left in my mind these last few weeks, this last month, a favorable impression in terms of where he's going and where he's trending. I want him to continue to do that. He's getting close to finishing off his academic piece, and so all of those things are trending in the right way for me.
Q. Curious from a special teams perspective, they are very good at kickoff return, and kickoff return coverage has not been a strength of yours. What did they do well, and does the bye week give you time to revisit that more than just a regular game week would?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, they are very good at their scheme. Their scheme is very solid. They do a very good job of setting up some of their counters back to the field. I think, you know, when you talk about kickoff return teams, you either have an extremely electric player back there, or you do a really good job of disguising what you do from week to week. I think they do a very good job of disguising what they do week to week.
And then your keys for your kickoff team you know, we call it search and destroy. We are really good at the destroy part. We need to get better at the search part, and we'll have to be really good at searching, because they do a very good job with their return team.
So we've spent a lot of time this week on making sure that we pick up our keys and search, and then get to the ball carry. But they do a very good job with their scheme.
Q. Does the bye week give you more time in the day to work on something like that?
COACH KELLY: It does. It gives you a little more time to key into your guys some specific things to look for; hey, No. 52 really tips this off when they are winding this back to the field. Or, if they do this, expect this.
Q. Continuing on the senior theme, what are you going to remember about Fox and Carlo?
COACH KELLY: Well, they are inseparable in a sense that these two kids have shared a position at the Will linebacker position and now obviously teaming up together at the Mike and will position, so from a football standpoint, I'll remember them as two guys that played a lot of football alongside. They were very, very close friends.
So when they come back, it will be one of those things, hey, where is Calabrese, or where's Fox. I think I'll always see them as being together, the two of them. Different personalities, you know. One kid is from Cleveland, the other kid is from New Jersey. They just have different different likes and dislikes.
So two kids that have partnered up together and have had to share a position, are roommates on the road, are really two different kids. And so that's what you get when you're coaching, you get those kind of situations where in football, you know, they have to be inseparable and they are great friends, but they are really different personalities. I don't think Calabrese ever had a long haircut in his life. We just finally got the hair off Fox.
Q. BYU people and inside the program and fan base will always regret a pass to Cody Hoffman that was missed, maybe a late touchdown that swings the game; do you recall that play, that situation?
COACH KELLY: I saw the play. Watched it this week. Certainly, obviously a big play during the game. But I think there were some other plays in the game, missed opportunities, really on both ends. But certainly do remember that particular play that you're referencing.
Q. And the other thing is BYU had its senior day, I don't know if this is overblown or not, but they seem to be a little distracted. They trot the seniors out real quick before the game. What is a senior day like have you discovered at Notre Dame, and is that an emotional impact that will have to be recovered from, so to speak, Saturday?
COACH KELLY: I think it's always a concern. The emotional impact is always measured, because you certainly don't want your players playing emotionally. You want an enthusiasm.
So we'll be talking about that balance between the emotions of the last game and the enthusiasm of playing in your last game and making sure that we balance it, because we've got quite a few seniors like BYU.