Aug 23, 2013
Head Coach Brian Kelly
COACH KELLY: Good afternoon. You’ll have plenty of time. We’ll have coaches available to you today, players available to you. I’ll start with a couple of brief comments.
We’re quickly moving into game week preparation for Temple. We’ve had a good 2 1/2 weeks of preparation taking the 2013 football team and really getting them prepared for a long and very difficult schedule.
So the lion’s share of the work has really been preparing the depth of this football team, which we’re going to have to count on this year with the kind of schedule we have.
So a lot of the questions are generally about who’s starting, who’s going to be the starting left tackle, who’s going to be the starting Z, and I would prepared to tell you that we’re going to need a lot of players. A lot of players are going to have to play for us this year. There’s going to be a lot of players that are going to have to play significant roles throughout the year at a lot of different positions.
So we’re going to be talking about a lot of players over the next couple of hours that will play different roles. They may not be on the field for every snap, but they will have significant roles.
So going into this preparation for 2013, it was important that we looked at the totality of the season, not one particular game, but the entire season, and getting a lot of players ready. I think you probably saw that if you looked at our practice and moving people around to give them opportunities to play guard or tackle or stud end or dropback or catback or Z or X receiver. A lot of that has happened.
So that preparation has occurred, and now we have begun the preparation for Temple and have begun to focus on specific schemes and packages and personnel groupings. So that’s really what has occurred over the last few days leading into Temple.
I’m really pleased with the way our guys have focused on this year. There hasn’t been a lot of this is what we did last year and talking about the way we did it last year. It’s been about this year. The focus has been on the personalities of this team and the strengths of building this year’s team, not what we did last year.
I think I’ve talked about this publicly a couple of times. That’s what we went to work on after the Championship loss. We went to work on 2013 and focusing on that and not talking about what happened in the past.
So, again, Media Day today for us is about unveiling the 2013 team to you. I think you’ll see that there’s a lot of players that will play significant roles that had not played for us last year that we’re excited about seeing them play. We have some veterans with a lot of experience that will continue to play big roles for us.
But I think you’ll see a team that has a different personality than last year, and we announce captains today. We have three captains.
The first one on again, he’ll be the 18th captain that returns, a two year captain, the 18th in the program’s history, and that is Zack Martin on the offensive line. He did an incredible job for us last year, leading us all year through, as you know, an incredible year.
He was somebody that we can count on week in and week out. He did that again this year during the off season. He’s a great resource for all of our players and the coaches.
Bennett Jackson on the defensive side of the ball. Although I talk about the defensive side of the ball, he’ll represent the entire football team. We don’t have captains that just represent one side. He interacts extremely well with all players, and to be a captain, you can’t be just seen as somebody that just sits on one side of the ball. These are guys that interact with our entire football team.
He’s a young man that came in as an offensive player and now has established himself as a captain.
And T.J. Jones will be our third captain. Really proud of T.J.’s growth and development, and he’ll be our third captain this year in 2013. So those are your captains for 2013.
So with that, a little preface about this team and the number of names that you’ll be hearing, the depth of our football team, I think, is really going to be one that we’re going to have to count on this year to have the kind of year that we all want.
Open it up to questions.
Q. Coach, can you talk about how, now that Danny Spond is gone, how Councell and Jaylon Smith have reacted to kind of their new place in the defense.
COACH KELLY: You know, we lost Danny, as you know, really early in camp. So they were thrust into that position real early, and they’ve handled it very well.
I would say that, when you look at that position, there’s so much going on to the wide field, formationally, adjustments, pressures. First of all, Ben has a lot of experience there. Jaylon has done remarkably well in such a short period of time, the picking up the defense, and certainly has the athleticism to cover space.
You have two guys, one who’s already 250 plus pounds, in Ben Councell, that can obviously play over a tight end. If you want to play real physical and have a fullback in the game, play that kind of game, Ben suits that very well, although he can play in space.
If you want to go three wide, if you want to play an open set, Jaylon has incredible athleticism to be able to play in space. So we really think we’ve got two players there and the depth at that position that we’re very, very lucky, in losing a player like Danny Spond, to have those two guys. They’ve done very, very well.
Q. Amir Carlisle has some pop in the running back slot [No microphone].
COACH KELLY: You know, we’re just really blessed to have such great talent at the running back position. I don’t know that I’ve ever had as much depth at the running back position in all my years of coaching. All of them can contribute to our success.
Amir has done some things that we weren’t certain that he could do, and that is, run the ball up inside. At first glance, you’d think, well, maybe he’s a guy that plays outside more, but he’s run the ball inside, has shown his ability to do that, has shown great durability. As you know, he had a couple of injuries early on in his career but made every practice and performed very well.
So he’s got the ability to catch the football. He’s got breakaway speed, and he’s shown the versatility to play inside and out.
So great depth at that position.
Q. You mentioned the personality of this year’s team being different. What is this year’s? Do you have a sense of what this group will be at this point?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think you look at people, right, make up that personality. And it is a group of personalities that has, one, has been very workmanlike. They come to work every day with a consistency.
Last year we had some bold personalities. You had a Manti Te’o that had a very bold personality. And sometimes we took on his personality as a team.
This one represents more of a group. So every single day this is a group that comes to work every single day with a consistency. So I think that’s what I see more than anything else is that I know what I’m going to get from them every single day because it’s it’s a deeper group in the sense that there’s not just one personality. It’s across the board.
We just talked about three captains, and I didn’t mention a number of other seniors you know, Louis Nix and Carlo Calabrese and Danny Fox, Chris Watt, just to name a few, Tommy Rees. There’s a lot of seniors that are really good leaders as well, and all those personalities move in the same direction as well.
So a lot of seniors, a lot of leaders, but they all move together as one.
Q. Stephon Tuitt, does he follow under the discussible injuries category or not?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we didn’t see anything major there. He just twisted his knee, nothing major. Brian Ratigan saw him after practice. We’re not concerned at all.
Q. As you get closer to the season now and especially with the Temple game plan in, is this Tommy Rees’ team at quarterback, or do you have situations where we will see Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire?
COACH KELLY: We always prepare for all those things. As I said, Tommy Rees is going to be our starter against Temple, but we prepare for all situations.
The difference is, as it related to Hendrix, is that he was a niche quarterback for us. He’s no longer a niche quarterback. I mean, he can run our offense. Last year, the year before, we had to run special packages for him.
We’re going to take advantage of some of the things he can do. He can run. He’s a physical runner. So we may have some more quarterback runs, but it’s not going to turn into an option game with him in there. He can run our offense. So we don’t have to turn the playbook inside out to put Andrew Hendrix into the game.
Malik, we would. I mean, we would have to alter significantly what we’re doing. He’s just not ready to do everything that we want. We’re really excited about him as a player and as a quarterback. He’s just not at that level yet. He’s getting there.
It’s like anything else. We want him to continue to grow, but he’s not at the level of those two guys yet. The difference being Andrew Hendrix is not a niche quarterback anymore. He can do much, much more, and we’re very confident, if he has to go in the game, that he can run our offense.
Q. Two quick ones. Do you have an update on Tony Springmann? And then as far as kick return, punt return, have you made decisions there?
COACH KELLY: Yes. Tony Springmann is out for the season. He’ll have surgery. He had a dislocation that also had severe ligament damage that will require surgery, one that we hadn’t seen before. We think he’ll have a full recovery but really disappointed for Tony in that he’d made some great strides.
You know, it alters our depth a little bit. We’re going to have to push Isaac Rochell most likely into action this year. We were hoping we could be a little more patient with Isaac, but we’re going to have to really accelerate that learning curve for Isaac this year.
The other questions were punt returner and kick returner. Kick returner, we’ll stay with George Atkinson. I think, you know, those scenarios are, for us again, I think we all saw where’s that ball being kicked? If we have opportunities to return them, we want to get the best personnel on the field to give him opportunities to return them. So George will be our kick returner.
Our punt returner will be T.J. Jones. I think he’s done an outstanding job. He wants to do it. He’s got the passion and the desire to do it, and I think that’s a good thing for us.
Q. Brian, how down or disappointed were you with Tommy at this time a year ago, and how would you characterize his three years coming in right now?
COACH KELLY: I don’t know that I would I would not put myself in the down or disappointed as much as I’ve been in college football and around 18 to 21 year olds all my career. I’d probably say that, in his instance, it was part of a young man growing up.
And I always I’m always looking for the response, you know, how do you respond to making a mistake? I’m always looking, are you going to be accountable when you make a mistake? And I think, when he stepped on that field against Purdue and got booed and responded to that, you know, I was going to be in his corner all the way.
So I think that’s how I would characterize that. So how do I see his I don’t think the story’s written. I think you write the story after he completes his journey here at Notre Dame, and you know what, it could be a really interesting story.
I think he’s had a great camp. I think he’s really developed his skill, which I think is very important as part of this story because, look, we could talk about the off field stuff, and that’s really neat, but that doesn’t help our football team win games. He had to develop his skill in the off season, and I’ve seen tangible evidence of it every day in practice in the way he is throwing the football, getting us in the right place. Now I want to see it on Saturday.
So I think, at the end of this season, I think we could have a really good story about Tommy Rees.
Q. What did last year show you about [No microphone]?
COACH KELLY: Well, it showed me a lot about his competitive drive and his want and desire to go out and want to compete for not only his teammates but for himself and Notre Dame. That’s why he’s got great respect in the locker room. So you want to push those guys out front. He’s got great respect from all of his teammates.
Q. Brian, very broadly, where has Zack Martin upped his game since the BCS Championship?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think we measure greatness in so many different ways, but I think one of those areas is to up the game of others around you. I think his ability to bring the play of the line around him to a higher level.
The stories that I’ve heard this summer, absolutely incredible, where, as a unit, the starting offensive line would stay together, driven by Zach, to wait for the freshmen to get out of class this summer, to get because the workouts do not coincide. The veterans get their workout in, and then the freshmen come from class and get their workouts in at a different time, sometimes lagging by an hour, hour and a half.
Zach would keep the veteran linemen around for upwards of an hour, hour and a half, so they could work out together. Those that doesn’t happen. That just does not happen. But because of him, he’s been able to up the play of all of our younger players exponentially. So he’s made others around him better. I mean, that’s the first thing I can see immediately.
And he’s physically stronger at the point of attack. I mean, there’s I mean, he can handle anybody on our defensive line physically, and I think those two things stand out.
Q. Real briefly, do you have a five
COACH KELLY: Are you saying that I’m long winded? Is that what you’re implying?
Q. This is a more brief question.
COACH KELLY: Okay, thank you.
Q. Do you have a five set on the offensive line? Is Stanley penciled in at right tackle or nothing yet?
COACH KELLY: No. We’re still working through that. Ronnie was out with a concussion. He is on track to be back on Monday, if all things continue to move in the right direction. He’s gone through his testing, and we expect him, if things continue to go the right way, to be back Monday.
Steve Elmer has done a great job. I think everybody knows about his ability to go in there and compete. But it’s not something that we’re ready to commit to right now.
Both of those guys are going to play. Elmer and Stanley are going to play. As I cautioned everybody earlier, we like them both, and they’re both really good. So I think we should all be very excited that both of those guys can come in and help us win.
Q. Some people look on paper, Tommy Rees, 14 4 as a starter, senior, returning as a starter. They would think he would be a surefire captain. Why is he not a captain?
COACH KELLY: There’s so many things that I look at when it comes to captains, and it doesn’t have to do with just being the quarterback and having a 14-4 record. That’s a valid criteria, but I look at so many different things.
I mean, there’s for me, balance on offense and defense. Sometimes I don’t like to have too many offensive guys over defensive guys. It really to me, there’s just so many different things. I make gut instinct calls on guys. Tommy’s got a lot on his plate, being the quarterback at Notre Dame too.
And I’m not saying one is but I take all of those things into consideration, but there’s not really just a box of checklists that I go through. I look at everything and then try to make the best decision for the team and the best fits that I see across the board.
I think you can make the case for a number of guys to be captains, but I look at everything, and it’s both on the field, off the field, all those things are important to me.
Q. Nine days away from the opener. Is this team ready to go, as in they’re sick of practicing and they just want to get out there already? Or where are they mentally?
COACH KELLY: They do exactly what I ask them to do. Look, down deep, we are physically coming back from the two weeks of, you know, preparation. So from a physical standpoint, our legs are coming back. We’re moving faster. You know, if you came out and saw us Saturday compared to today, you’d see us moving a lot quicker on the field than we were on Saturday.
We’re mentally at that point where we want to go play someone else mentally, but we understand the importance of good work as well. So I’m agreeing with your question that our guys mentally want to play somebody else, but they still know the importance of the work that we’re getting day in and day out.
Q. Coach, will you be disappointed if I don’t ask an injury question?
COACH KELLY: You got trumped. You got trumped.
Q. I did. Kind of got scooped there.
COACH KELLY: You did. That’s all right, though.
Q. I’m going to ask first about kicking and punting. How did that competition end up?
COACH KELLY: That’s a very good question. We’re going to use all of them. I think Nick Tausch, Kyle Brindza, Wulfeck, all three are going to play against Temple. At what time and what place, I’m not sure yet how that’s all going to play out.
We’ve asked Kyle Brindza to be our punter. Okay. And we’ve asked him to spend a lot of time and effort in doing that. So he’s going to get the first shot at punting. I really think he can be an All American punter. He may not be there yet, and we’re going to have some growing pains there.
But we have a guy in Wulfeck that can get us out of some jams. He’s really consistent. He’s going to get us great hang time, and he’s going to put us in some good positions. He’s not going to flip the field position, but he’s going to keep us in good position. So he’s going to help us as well.
Nick’s had a great camp. He has. I mean, if statistically, numbers wise, he’s kicked the ball, and we’ve charted every kick. His numbers have been great. I didn’t bring Nick back not to give him a chance to win the job. It just wouldn’t be fair. We’d just tell him, listen, go find another place.
Having said that, Kyle’s been a bit distracted because we’ve asked him to put all this time and energy in punting. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to go into the first game, I’m going to give Nick an opportunity to kick. Kyle’s going to kickoff, okay, because he’s won that clearly. He’s going to punt, and we’re going to use the Temple game to get all three of them some action, and then we’ll make a decision in game two as to where we are.
Q. You mentioned some of the things about Tommy Rees with his attitude, what’s different with that, and off the field and all that. Maybe the assessment of him is unfair. I think a lot of people thought that there were physical limitations that contribute to him maybe not having big numbers in 2011. Do you feel comfortable with what he’s able to do physically from a deep throw standpoint, from a footwork standpoint?
COACH KELLY: I do. I do. He can do the things that we want him to do in terms of pushing the ball down the field vertically. He doesn’t have the arm strength that Everett Golson does, but if he’s on time, if he’s reading it properly, if he’s doing all the right things, he can get the ball to exactly where we need him to get it.
He’s matured as an individual as well, and all of those things, I have been able to see firsthand. There’s no reason why he can’t do the things that we’re asking him to do, and he’s shown us that he can do them.
Q. How does last season’s accomplishments affect it, if at all, this team’s receptiveness to being coached or their motivation level. Has it been more difficult because of any sense settling in that they have achieved something or they’ve arrived?
COACH KELLY: Well, it’s been the topic of conversation from day one, and everything that we’ve talked about has been focused strictly on you don’t just begin this climb at the top of the mountain. We have to start all over again.
That has been the consistent theme in January in talking about how do we get back up there. If we go back and we start relying on what we did in the past here’s what I told them, to answer the question. If we do it like we did last year, we’re going to be an 8 5 team because everybody has taken their motivation off what we did last year and have worked harder.
We supplied motivation for the entire college football world that, if Notre Dame can do it, we can do it. So everybody has worked exponentially that much more in their off season because of us. So if you do it like you did last year, you’re an 8 5 football team.
So that’s been the message since January in terms of what we needed to do, and we’ll find out because that’s how they’ve worked. There’s nothing that I have seen that has shown that we have not answered that challenge each and every day.
Q. How conscious will you be of how you deal with Tommy Rees on Saturdays in comparison to the last time he was your full time quarterback? In that does he have a little bit more leeway? Will you be a little bit more understanding? Does he have more input?
COACH KELLY: I think my relationship with Tommy has evolved and grown over the last couple years. I think my relationships with the entire football team has grown and evolved over the last couple of years.
I think this whole football program has changed over the last few years under my leadership, and I have changed as we have grown together.
Now, I still reserve the right to bark at them if it doesn’t go the way I expect it to go, but I don’t see those our practices run so much so much better on a day to day basis because we’re all on the same page and we’re all speaking the same language.
Q. Coach, a lot of the players have been talking about the the defensive players, that they can be as good or better than last season. How can you lose a player like Manti and still be better?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think you’ll have to look at it in its scope of 11 players, right? If you ask me, is Danny Fox or is Jarrett Grace better than Manti Te’o? Well, I don’t know. They haven’t played. But you could probably begin by saying, well, probably not.
But could Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell tie down and play more man, and we can pressure a little bit more, or we can play some more coverages that can compress and bring down a safety more to supplant maybe some of the things that we were not doing last year in run fronts? Yeah, sure, we could do that maybe this year.
So I think you have to look at it that we have some other pieces that might be a little bit stronger than they were last year. So I think you have to look at all 11. We lose a great player in Manti Te’o, but we gain some other pieces that, I think, are stronger across the board, and we still have a consistent, strong front seven.
When you look at the front seven and those pieces, there’s a consistency there, and then I think we do some things that might be a little bit better in other areas that can strengthen that.
Q. To have the kind of season you want, do you have to have them be as good as they were last year or better?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly, we’re going to have to play very good defense. I think we know that for certain. But we have to score more points. We did not score enough points. We were not effective enough in the red zone. Those two things are pretty clear. And we did not throw the ball effectively enough in first and second down situations.
So a bigger piece falls on the offense this year than it does on the defense. If the defense can stay within the same area code as it played last year defensively and we really up our offensive output, then we can have the kind of year that we’re all looking forward to.
Q. Coach, one thing I’ve always wondered in preparation between unique to college football is at the end of the season and before the most important game of that year is an incredibly long layoff that we’ve come to accept in our sports over the years as normal. There’s no other place like that. When you were leading up to the Championship game and maybe for the future for any bowl game, is there something you would see in a game of that magnitude that you or your staff would have changed in preparation, not necessarily Xs and Os, but just generally the way things go between all that time of the last game and the big game?
COACH KELLY: More bodies. We just needed more bodies. We weren’t deep enough yet. We just needed more bodies, more healthy bodies, more bigger bodies. And that’s in recruiting and continuing to develop and build your program.
The ability to go live and tackle and do the things necessary. I think there are some programs going through that. Miami is going through that. Penn State is going through that during the regular season with reductions in scholarships. Not that we were in that level, but we were low on numbers and the ability to duplicate some of the things we needed to do with that long layoff.
We’re almost through that. We’re getting closer to the numbers we need to be, and those long, long layoffs are almost behind us. We’ve got to get through one more year, and then we get into the playoffs, and those layoffs start to shrink.
Q. Brian, here in the back. You mentioned in the answer about your relationship with Tommy Rees that it has changed, and you said that you have changed as well. How have you changed over your time here at Notre Dame?
COACH KELLY: I mean, there’s so many things. I mean, I think we all get the opportunity to grow in so many ways in our life. I think I do a better job as a parent, balancing my schedule. I think I do a better job at delegating. I do a better job of not listening to you guys as much. That’s helping me a lot.
I just think, when you’re the head coach at Notre Dame, it’s so important that on a day to day basis, that you keep in perspective why you’re doing this job, and that is you want to be around 18 to 21 year old kids that are the best and the brightest in the world, and that’s why you’re doing this job. You’re not doing it for any other reason. And keeping that in perspective.
Yes, I understand I’m an ambassador for the University of Notre Dame and I’ve got all these other things that I have to do, but I’ve now kept it in perspective that I’m coaching 18 to 21 year olds. So it’s allowed me to stay focused on that, and it’s helped me stay centered from that perspective.
So all of those things, it’s helped me immensely.
Q. And on a separate note, with the rules this year regarding how you can hit somebody and personal fouls, has any official been able to clearly explain to you, so that you can clearly explain to your players, how the rule operates?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think really what we’re talking about here is intent, right? Here’s the deal. It happened so quickly, right? It happened so quickly.
I think everybody in this room can tell when somebody launches, right? And launches and is intending to harm somebody with their helmet. What we’re all worried about is that bang bang play. Was there intent, right, to hurt somebody?
We’re just informing our players of the proper way to play this game, how to properly tackle, to see what you hit, to obviously have no intent to injure or harm. That’s all we can do. The game is so fast.
I think we all have seen the clip of Clowney look, they slanted the offensive line. Somebody cut him loose and bang. Was there intent to no, there was no intent there.
So we’re just going to play the game, and hopefully, we’ve got video replay, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure there’s going to be some tweaks to this, maybe that down the road it comes to there’s no ejections and maybe it becomes like an NFL situation where there might be an ejection later if there’s real, true intent that you can see on the video.
But it is what it is. We’ve informed our players, and we’ve talked about intent as really being the key phrase.
Q. You’ve entered this season with expectations for your team. You’ve been through camp now. Any surprises about this team as you get set for game day?
COACH KELLY: I don’t know that I’m ever really surprised as much as I will say that there are some younger players now that are physically, physically able to compete at a high BCS level.
That’s a bit of a surprise because they’re coming out of high school, like a guy like Steve Elmer. I mean, here’s a kid that played at Midland High School last year that physically can block a man like Stephon Tuitt. Now, I’m not saying he can block him every down, but he can block a guy like Stefan Tuitt. That’s surprising, in a sense.
A guy like Jaylon Smith, who is playing in high school, can throw a guy like Troy Niklas down. He can’t do it every down, but those things surprise me a little bit now and then, you know what I’m saying?
A Corey Robinson, who’s playing small high school ball in San Antonio, that can go up and impact a play. So I think the freshmen sometimes surprise me. They were playing high school football, and then they can come in, and they can actually impact in certain situations some college players. Those guys surprise me now and again.
Q. A couple weeks ago, when we asked you about Everett Golson, you didn’t know exactly what his plans were for the fall. Have those been finalized?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I talked to him yesterday. He’s been working out in Chicago.
His plan right now is to spend some time with George Whitfield. George is an established quarterback coach out in San Diego. He’s planning on spending probably two months out there in San Diego to really work you know, most of it is having the right training partners, as you know, receivers, and having somebody that can film him and obviously spend time on his footwork and physical development and keeping him sharp.
So he’s going to spend some time out there, and I think that’s during most of the inclement weather time, and then he’ll be back in the Midwest probably around Thanksgiving and then settle back here in Notre Dame around the holidays.
Q. So he won’t be involved in classes?
COACH KELLY: No, he does not he does not need to take any classes, and his advising has been such that he’s not really needed to take any classes.
Q. I was curious about the coaching staff. So much continuity within the coaching staff obviously, and you’ve addressed it before. What kind of advantage does that give your program?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think you can see it in a couple of areas. One, the ability to turn over play calling, first of all, to Chuck Martin. If I was hiring a new offensive coordinator this year, that certainly wouldn’t have occurred, right? Which has allowed me to do a lot of other things.
I spent a lot of time on special teams. I’ve gotten involved in some other areas, you know, in terms of the kickers and the punters and some other areas that I’ve wanted to kind of delve into. So that’s helped.
I think, when it comes to communication, I think that’s probably the biggest plus. On a day to day basis, we know what to expect from each other, and it allows your practices to run so effectively because everybody knows what they’re looking for.
And then the message. Look, when something is said, it is echoed across the board with all the coaches, and that is, when there’s one voice and there’s one message and that goes across the board all the way down to the players, that’s pretty powerful.
Q. Do you think the prospective recruits appreciate that as well? Do you notice it showing up on the recruiting trail?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it’s unmistakable on a visit when a recruit can come and parents are perceptive. They know when they’re getting a sales pitch. They know. They go to other camps, and they go to other recruiting stops. They know whether they’re getting sold a bill of goods.
They see my staff. They see the continuity. They see the connections in the relationships, and they see that across the board and know what they’re getting when they come to Notre Dame.
Q. Bob Elliott, what attracted you to him?
COACH KELLY: Well, his his connection with our defensive staff. He was Bob Diaco’s position coach at Iowa. So we like to keep it in the family, and all those guys have strong relationships. He’s a great teacher, a former coordinator, again, a guy that we trust and in that room is well respected.
Q. Last one, has he been what level of inspiration has he kind of provided in the program?
COACH KELLY: It’s not talked about a lot, but everyone knows what he’s kind of gone through physically. What he did last year of self dialysis in his office is the ultimate sacrifice to be with a football team, and our players, they really respect the heck out of him for what he did.
Q. Brian, in naming T.J. Jones your punt returner, that part of the game can be a weapon, but it seemed that at times in the past you were more content to just keep it from being a liability. Is there something that T.J. has shown that will maybe allow you to make that part of a weapon again, if you will?
COACH KELLY: One of the cores for wanting to be successful is a burning desire to want to do the job. I didn’t have a guy that had a burning desire to want to do that job. He wants to do this job badly. I mean, it’s important to him.
He wants to return punts. It’s important to him. Right there, that’s, in itself now, he’s got the skill for it as well. And he didn’t have that passion for it leading up to it, something about being a senior. Obviously, it’s going to build his resume. That’s fine with me. But he’s got that passion for wanting to do it.
And he’s immediately impacted that punt return team. They block a little different for guys that want to do it and can have some success with it. We’ve already seen an uptick in the guys that want to be on that team.
Q. So is it fair to say that you’ll approach that side of the ball from less of a safe perspective and be more aggressive with it?
COACH KELLY: Yes, in one sense. The numbers were pretty clear. We had 43 percent safe punts last year. The way we played last year too had a lot to do with it. We were in a lot of safe punt situations, and the way we played defense, we held people’s we held people down. They were at midfield. They were at the 45.
We’re going to try to set up some punt returns regardless of some of those field positions where we were in safe punt keeping our defense on the field. We’re going to try to set up with some returns. So we’ll be a little bit more aggressive with it.
Bob Diaco – Defensive Coordinator
On the new personnel …
“Every year you have to put the team back together and the team is going to take on a different persona. We had maybe not a large exodus of personnel depart, but a major void in leadership and some real stalwart players. Just to name a couple, Manti (Te’o), Zeke (Motta), Kapron (Lewis-Moore) and Jamoris (Slaughter). They were really a backbone of a unit so that really needed to be created or redirected/reshaped. Through the course of camp we have done that and the players have responded to that. We have great energy over there, really solid leadership and everybody really likes and cares about each other a bunch so that part has been accomplished.”
On the mix of Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese and Jarrett Grace …
“There are enough accumulated plays and experience there to perform at a high level and although Grace may not have as many reps as the others, he practices full speed and prepares for the game the way you should. He will be game ready.”
On the confidence in Jaylon Smith …
“Both Jaylon (Smith) and Ben (Councell) are going to be stalwarts out there at that outside linebacker position. They are both very different tools. You know if you have a toolbox you are going to need a Phillips head screwdriver and a flathead screwdriver. One’s going to be a flathead screwdriver and one is going to be a Phillips head screwdriver. So when you have a screw that needs to be screwed in and it needs a Phillips head screwdriver you better grab a Phillips head screwdriver.”
On the challenge of having a great defense again …
“All I can say is that we don’t think big picture that way, but we have an expectation that the defense is going to improve because the players improve and the coaches improve. So the people in the organization improve in all aspects that we’re working on and talking about, so when you get that done the overall unit should improve and that is what we are trying to get done.”
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’ Chuck Martin – Offensive Coordinator
On Tommy Rees coming into games last year …
“It is incredible. It is a testament to his upbringing and who he is as a person. I think what really got him through it more than anything is that he has always loved Notre Dame and he loves his teammates. As you know we have a very tight knit team and a lot of similar types of people get attracted to Notre Dame, so it makes senses. What kept him going strong through the tough times was seeing Zack Martin, Tyler Eifert or anyone else, was that he was never going to quit on those guys. So regardless what was going through his head during a moment or day when heard something in the dorm, something he read, or anything yelled from the stands he just looked at his teammates and fight for them until the end. What the fans typically forget is that when he entered the game [at home vs. Purdue] that they booed him. It is tough to lead a two-minute drive when you are getting booed off of the field. Even how he [Rees} handled it last year, with his relationship with Everett [Golson]. By proving to Everett that he was there to help him even though he was battling for the same job. This helped bring along Everett and they had a great relationship still. Tommy was really a back-up quarterback, assistant coach, and really made everything go.”
On using offensive weapons …
“The challenge is figuring out what you are trying to do based on the weekend and on who is good at certain things. You would rather have three Michael Floyds in, where maybe you don’t have as much depth or balance. There is a coaching saying that when everyone looks the same you have a lot of depth, but when you have a Michael Floyd you ask why you don’t have another player like him. So, it is good and bad. We like to play a lot of guys. Coach Kelly likes to play a lot of guys because he knows it is a long season and players develop roles on the football team. Danny Smith is a good example where he found his niche as a blocking wide out. Our highlight tape of Danny Smith is of him in all the huge plays in Norman (Oklahoma) and at USC.”
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’ Harry Hiestand – Offensive Line Coach
On Nick Martin and his consistency with the first team …
“He was going to do everything in his power to take the position, and he’s done it. He did it in the winter, he did it all spring and he’s had great summer training. He’s just kept himself in a position where he’s been steady to not open it up for anybody else to have a shot. He’s made mistakes, he’s got to get better, but he’s done enough to maintain the position all the way through and he gets a little better each day.”
On (Nick Martin) going against Louis Nix every day …
“He knows he’s got to be at his best on every snap, so that in itself is a great help to any player that he has to be ready to go. If he’s a little bit off or not totally focused, he’s going to get blown up, so that’s a great benefit to play against great competition.”
On Ronnie Stanley and how he’s progressed …
“We worked Ronnie a lot last year in the two-deep, but unfortunately as time went on he ended up with that elbow injury and missed some time. But we saw enough of Ronnie to know what he was capable of and then it was up to him to show up to camp and take the next step and he’s done that. He’s worked really hard and gotten that thing (elbow) healed up really well and built his strength. He’s a big, strong guy that’s still figuring out how to play, but the arrow is pointing up for him.”
On the leadership qualities of Zack Martin …
“It’s exceptional. He’s in a very small percentage of players that play this game that has the ability to do what he does on a daily basis. And there are a lot of people that can lead from time to time when it feels convenient or when it feels good or you’re having a good day, but Zack brings it every day and that’s what sets him apart and makes him such a unique and special player. He’s the picture of what an All-American is. He’s an All-American football player and offensive lineman that has all the abilities and skills that you look for to say `that’s the example of what we want to accomplish.”
On Steve Elmer’s potential …
“Steve is a big, powerful and very explosive guy. He can really get out of his stance exceptionally well. His process in learning right now is more of `when can I go after this guy like a wild man and then when do I have to take a little something off based on what the defense is doing.’ So he’s figuring that out as he goes but it seems like every day he’s making progress. He’s a very intelligent person in general and came from some very good training. He was also interested in how to do it better and work hard at this particular skill.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Paul Longo – Director of Football Strength and Conditioning
On the biggest improvements for the team …
“It has been an overall change in the entire culture of how we go to work every day. The neat thing now is that we are in year four. Since being with coach Kelly the last 10 years this is the first time that we have really had a year four together. Since we went to Central Michigan together, then moved on to Cincinnati and then moved on (to Notre Dame). The first two years is when the heavy lifting is done because you got to put the foundation in of your program and everything you are doing. Then you begin to see the fruits of your work in the third year. The fourth year is fun because you got the culture in and everyone in the program is trained under your system. So that is the year that you like to harvest most of the stuff you have done in the last four years.”
On the incoming freshman …
“I would say that is accurate overall [Talking about the incoming freshmen coming in faster and stronger than previous classes]. Obviously we always have good players and we always actively seek guys that have not only a passion for football and academics, but also have a real passion for working out. That carries over to what we call holistic lifestyle of training and training away from here. It is a lot easier when you have 85 guys doing it, as opposed to trying to change the culture when there are only about a dozen guys actively subscribing to that type of thing year round.”
On having fourth-year players around to help the new players …
“It is tremendous. That is what it is all about. That is the culture, where the freshmen can come in and you can point and say there is Zack Martin, he is one of the best left tackles in the country or there is Louis Nix, he has been through it. It’s good for the younger guys to see what the older guys are doing and be able to see that they are doing it the right way. It makes it a lot easier for them to make that transition and to just fall into place.”
On seeing the work translate to the field …
“Absolutely, those are the kinds of things when you are out there training that you work for [goal line stop vs. Stanford]. It [football] is mental as well as physical and one thing we are after is that a mental is to a physical as two is to one. So we are out there during those times and trying to push them beyond what they think they are capable of. So, when it happens it validates what you are doing and once you can validate what you are doing, then you have a chance of getting even higher.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Bob Elliott – Safeties Coach
On the development of Bob Diaco …
“He’s always been a brilliant guy. He’s got an intellect that would be successful in any walk of life. He’s a great communicator, always has been. Even when he was playing he was a great communicator, either in front of groups or one on one, and those are two great traits to have. What I’ve realized about Bob is that he has worked hard at his own development as a leader, he’s read a lot and has worked under a lot of people and has been influenced by different people. He’s developed his own philosophy, which is really unique and I’ve been coaching football a long time and I’ve never seen his style of leadership as a defensive coordinator. It’s way beyond anything I’ve seen.”
On Diaco’s philosophy and coaching …
“He’s always had great rapport with his players even as a graduate assistant. Guys respected him, so I think he’s really worked on his own self development and I think what you have here is really different and unique. I can’t name one other defensive coordinator that does the things Bob does.”
On difference between questions concerning secondary entering last season and now secondary seen as a strength entering this season …
“We can [teach more difficult concepts] with some of them, but we do have to replace Zeke Motta and it’s a battle for that position and it hasn’t been resolved. There’s different stuff every year, last year at this time we had Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta, which was a real blessing for a coach. Even though we had lost Austin and our depth wasn’t great at least we had two accomplished and returning starters, so our attention was trying to develop the guys behind them. This year we’re starting out trying to replace a starter and there isn’t as much experience as people think. Austin Collinsworth has been in the program three years and had a lot of playing time on special teams but not much time at safety. Elijah Shumate has had last spring and this training camp at deep safety, so he has very little experience. And the other guys, Eilar Hardy and Max Redfield, are obviously inexperienced so there’s a lot of inexperience at that one spot. This has been an interesting work in progress.”
On Collinsworth taking reps at number one …
“Well I would say right now the two guys [Collinsworth and Shumate] are listed as even in our minds. Collinsworth has worked with the ones and the twos and he’s worked at dime. So both of them are going to play, but as to who starts, they’ll earn that and it’s not over yet. But I think the other one knows even if he’s not the starter he’s still going to play a lot of football. But speaking about Collinsworth he is a really smart player. He actually is playing two positions for us – one to the field and one to the boundary, which are two completely different positions as far as responsibilities and knowledge and technique. There aren’t very many guys that can do that. Slaughter could do that and I would think probably Harrison (Smith) could do that. He’s a smart and great effort player and he can compete athletically and he does. He’s a great competitor.
On Matthias Farley and his development …
“Last season I’m not sure he really understood the whole defense. He understood what he had to do and what was going on his side of the field. And now he understands the whole defense and he really directs traffic and is the guy that directs traffic for us in the secondary and linebackers and he drives the defense for us. He has a broad knowledge now of what we’re trying to accomplish so he and Coach Diaco can get on the same page with what Bob wants. What Bob wants is a boundary safety and a safety that thinks the same way he does as much as possible. Harrison Smith was that.
“So Bob could do little things with Harrison and with the entire secondary through Harrison that were really important. I’m not sure we had that a year ago. I think Matthias gives us that option for him to think the way Bob thinks on the field, which is really a great gift.”
Kerry Cooks – Co-Defensive Coordinator
On Bennett Jackson as captain …
“I think Bennett is everything that we ask our players to be. For one, he leads by example the right way off the field and on the field. He’s been a great example for what it takes to start off as a young guy and continue to develop and continue to strive. He’s put himself in a position now to lead this team and lead this group and he’s very deserving of that captainship.”
On confidence level in the cornerbacks …
“I’d say it’s a lot more comforting for me knowing that I got some guys that have experience. Last year it was kind of unknown. I had two guys starting for the first time, one was a true freshman, and you just never know how they’re going to react once they hit that field for the first time. So now they have 13 games under their belt, quality games, and now we got Lo (Wood) back who also has some experience and adds to that position, so it should be very exciting for that position group this year.”
On KeiVarae Russell …
“When we had KeiVarae last year he really didn’t know much about defense. He’d been an offensive player for most of his career. We did a lot of stuff as a staff to take some pressure off of him with some of our coverages and things like that early on in the season. The more that we felt he was confident and understood our packages a little bit better towards the back half of the season, we started giving him more and he showed that he could handle it. Now, watching him come into this camp it looks like he’s been playing for three or four years. His understanding of our packages is better but then just his confidence in his ability is better. I think when he first came over here he wasn’t sure if he could be a top level corner and I just kept telling him, `Listen you got all the tools, I’ve seen it before,’ and I just kept saying that to him and he kept believing it. Now, he’s taken it to heart and you can’t tell him he’s not the best one in America. It’s that fine line between you want him to think that way but you don’t want him to be overconfident. You want him to think that when he walks out onto that field, he’s going to be tough to handle. He’s improved night to day in every aspect of his game and it’s only going to get better. He’s not near the level of what he is going to be.”
On Cole Luke …
“From a mindset and an understanding and just being a savvy football player, I don’t know if I’ve had a player like Cole. That’s something that’s very uncommon for a freshman to come in and be able to grasp concepts and adjust so quickly to what defenses are doing, especially in our system. He came in, he’s got a great understanding and obviously his fundamentals aren’t where they will be, but his knowledge of the game is. Maybe that’s in part to having an uncle who played a long time in the NFL in Darren Woodson. He’s always been around the game so he has some knowledge that a lot of kids that come in as 18 year-olds don’t have. He’s put himself in position by understanding the game and being savvy, those things that you can’t teach. He’s got a great feel for the game and all the other stuff will come.”
On this year’s defense compared to last year’s …
“From my perspective when you lose guys like Manti (Te’o) and Kapron (Lewis-Moore), guys that were so dominant and vocal, you have no other choice but to improve. We don’t have that guy right now, that superstar so to speak, or that vocal leader. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been around us as coaches. We’ve got guys that have been in our system, a lot of guys that have played great football for us and guys that have played a lot of football. We have very experienced guys and from what we’re seeing right now they’re a tight knit group and the expectation is for everybody to be on the same page and play as one. If you do that, you have a great chance to play very good defense.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Tony Alford – Running Backs
On the loss of his brother …
“That was my best friend. He was five and a half years younger and my mom and dad did a great job with him. He was a great man and he has a great legacy out in Park City, Utah. He was a selfless person and a servant.
“People talk about the Notre Dame family a lot, but you don’t find out about it until you go through something hard personally. The outpouring of support from the Notre Dame family from people who didn’t personally know me was out of this world. This place is special.
“Football puts a lot of things in perspective about what’s important. If you care about people, let them know. Do not let a day go by without telling them.”
On getting excited about this season …
“Are you kidding me? We play in a week – yeah I’m excited. Do not get me wrong – I love my brother. But that does not mean I don’t want to play and win and compete. If you remember we played my brother a couple years ago and beat the mess out of them (Utah, 28-3, 2010).”
On freshman running backs …
“They are going to be good players but there’s a learning curve obviously. They are cutting that curve – they have done a nice job. There’s a huge volume of things to know in this offense, but they have done a nice job. I’m impressed with their ability to learn and their desire to learn. They are going to be really good players at the University of Notre Dame. It’s clear we did not make a mistake with those guys. They are going to be dynamic football players for us.
“I think we have great depth, even outstanding depth at the position. They are a group of guys that can do a multitude of things. The only thing we do not have is a ton of experience, but you get that by going out there and playing.”
On continuity of staff …
“It’s a great advantage because when we go into meetings we know what Coach Kelly’s expectations are on certain plays. He’ll just cut us loose and tell us to go and coach our guys up. For our players there aren’t the anxiety levels of not knowing what he wants. They know the expectations.”
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’ Mike Denbrock – Outside Wide Receivers Coach
On the advantages of having continuity amongst the staff …
“There are a lot of them. I think as much as anything, as important as it is for the players to understand not only what they’re doing, but what the guy next to them is doing, the guy on their right and the guy on their left, it’s the same thing with the staff. The more continuity you have the more easily you function day in and day out. Everything doesn’t necessarily have to be explained down to minute detail because you understand the people that you’re working with. You know who’s responsible for what. You’ve got a bunch of professionals that are very good at what they do and they go about their business everyday in a team-like manner. Not only do you end up with a football team, but you end up with a team of coaches and they’re all pulling in the right direction and doing things the right way.”
“Efficiency would be a good way to think of it. Instead of spending your time on big picture things, we all understand the big picture, you can kind of dig into the smaller details of things and make sure you’re giving the kids and the program your best everyday.”
On the wide receivers …
“It’s as talented a group as we have across the board and the balance in what that affords us is an opportunity to not necessarily have one particular guy be the feature, but he won’t be the feature of the defensive strategy either. I think the balance helps us in so many different ways and that we have a number of guys who can make plays on the outside. Then it’s hard to prepare for from a defensive standpoint because if you’re going to bracket somebody or double-team somebody that becomes a little bit of an issue if there are other guys on the field who can make a lot of plays.”
On Josh Atkinson …
“Josh is somebody that’s got some versatility and obviously is able – as we’ve seen from evidence by his prowess on the track – to really pick them up and put them down. Fall camp is always a time you can really dig in and not only evaluate and reevaluate, but just make sure you’ve got everybody plugged in the right positions. He’s not a fulltime wide receiver at this point and he’s not a fulltime defensive guy. I think we’re just making sure we give him an opportunity, if he can contribute to the football team in a number of different ways, to utilize the strengths he brings to the team.”
On Josh Atkinson’s catching …
“It doesn’t come as natural to him as it does some other guys, but what he is more than anything is a consummate worker – a guy who whatever weakness he has in his game is going to find a way to turn it into a strength. I’m just happy to have a chance to work with him and see what he’s capable of doing.”
On Chris Brown …
“He’s had some nagging little things kind of slowing him down a little bit. He hasn’t been able to run as well as he can, but from a confidence level and an understanding level of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, he’s so much farther ahead than what he was a year ago. He’ll play significant time for us and contribute quite a bit to what we’re doing. ” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Mike Elston – Defensive Line Coach
On the depth of the defensive line …
“All our guys are going to have to play at some point. We are going to have to be as deep as we need to be. With Jarron (Jones), Tyler (Stockton), Kona (Schwenke), Justin Utupo and Anthony Rabasa there’s a lot of guys in there to give us added depth.”
On Anthony Rabasa moving to the defensive line …
“He can play any role. The good thing about Anthony is he can go from outside linebacker to defensive end based on the situation.”
On Stephon Tuitt …
“He has been consistent. Stephon has played very hard and is preparing himself to play a lot of football. He has a better knowledge of the game, a better understanding of our defense and his technique has improved drastically. He should be much improved from where he was a year ago.”
On the areas Louis Nix III has improved in …
“He’s improved in the same areas that I mentioned for Stephon (Tuitt). He’s more in-tuned to how offenses work, splits on the offensive line, stances and all those things that can help you shrink down the playbook of the opponent. He’s shown very good leadership through the course of two-a-days and has a consistent effort and determination to move his game forward.”
On Tony Springman’s absence …
“Anytime you have something like that happen you have to have guys step into those roles and I think we’ve had guys step in nicely.”
On the guys stepping up in Tony Springman’s absence …
Kona Schwenke, Tyler Stockton, Jarron Jones, Isaac Rochell, Anthony Rabasa and Justin Utupo are all guys that are getting reps on the defensive line.”
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’ Scott Booker – Tight Ends
On overcoming the loss of Tyler Eifert …
“Going into this season we have Troy (Niklas), Ben (Koyack) and Alex (Welch), who have all played football at Notre Dame. We feel that all three of those guys can do the job. Whatever they are asked to do something they can do it, and they have improved.”
On how Ben Koyack has improved …
“He is doing a good job. It’s the maturation of any kid, and that’s what is great about coaching college football. You see a kid come in at 18, and by his third year he has more confidence in his abilities. I am excited to see him play this season.”
On Alex Welch’s improvement from the spring …
“In the spring he was 8-9 months away from a torn ACL. He has more confidence in his leg, and he’s just getting back to what he was doing pre-injury. I am excited to see his growth and continued improvement.”
On the open tight end competition …
“Competition brings out the best in guys, and they are working hard everyday. They are trying to get in on every snap.”
On Troy Niklas’ blocking …
“Going into his second year at the position Troy understands the techniques we want a little bit better. He is trying to improve everyday by working with the offensive line and get comfortable with the blocking at that position.”
On how much the other tight ends learn from Tyler Eifert …
“They were able to see it (the position) played at the highest level. It was similar to when Michael Floyd was able to mentor TJ Jones. Those guys got to see it in action, and now they have to be in the spotlight and perform every single Saturday.”
Chris Watt – Senior – Offensive Guard
On not getting the attention that other positions receive …
“Yeah, we don’t really care that much. We know that if we’re focused going into games and we do our job that the team is going to do well. At the end of the day Coach Hiestand reiterates that it’s all about Notre Dame and helping Notre Dame win. And if we’re on our guys doing our job every play, playing physical and playing tough, it doesn’t matter the recognition that we get because it will all take care of itself.”
On the BCS title game …
“We were just focused on getting better each and every day, with all those practices, but we’ve put that in the back of our minds and are just getting ready for the season.”
On the continuity on the right side of the offensive line …
“It’s great. This whole summer we’ve been working together. Each and every guy so we kind of got to know each other, so we’re on the same page. The biggest thing is just to continue to communicate with those new guys in there. If we’re communicating, we’re going to be helping each other out and we’ll all be on the same page.”
On Nick Martin and his improvement …
“He’s determined to get his guy blocked, which is the most important thing for an offensive lineman. Going against Louis Nix every day in practice is a tough job, and Braxton (Cave) would tell you the same thing, but Nick has done a great job just competing and I think that’s the biggest thing he brings to the table is that he’s a competitor and he’s determined to get a down block on every play.”
On the O-line responding to Tommy at quarterback …
“I think it was great for him to be named starter in June, because it gave him the confidence going into summer workouts that he’s going to be the guy that will lead our team to wherever we go. And he still has a chip on his shoulder and still has something to prove, so I think that will be very beneficial for us this year.”
On coach wanting more scoring this year and how that affects the O-line …
“Just looking at film this past spring and summer there were opportunities that the offensive line missed and we know that had we gotten those guys we would have scored. We know we have to eliminate some of those things and just continue on doing our job every play.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Dan Fox – Senior – Linebacker
On [the LBs] having big shoes to fill and the plan for doing that …
“I think relying on each other to do our jobs and having a “count on me” attitude is crucial. If we can do that then we’ll be pretty successful.”
On going into “second” senior season and maybe feeling some anxiety …
“I wouldn’t even say it’s that. I would say I feel more comfortable. I don’t feel any sense of anxiety or anything. I’m completely comfortable and I’m ready. This will be my third year starting. I’ve played in a lot of games and I’m feeling good. I love my team and there’s no anxiety towards anything. I’m excited.”
On Jaylon Smith and the progress he’s made …
“When he came in during the summer he was asking me if I wanted to watch some film and I was like ok let’s watch some film. So we get in the film room and he’s saying some things that took me a little while to pick up on and he knew it right away so I was impressed by his knowledge of the game. Being so young as a freshman and he knows certain things about the game that really impressed me.”
On defensive pride carrying over from last season that no one could score …
“I think our mentality would carry over more than anything. The mentality that we don’t want anybody to score on us is something that we take pride in. We hold it close to us.”
On growth in the MIKE position …
I think I’m more vocal during the play, making the right calls, getting the defense aligned properly and I think I really stepped up that part of my game.”
On switching positions and the biggest adjustment …
“I’m on the boundary as opposed to the field, so I’m going to get a lot more field space and different route combinations to the field as opposed to the boundary.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Matthias Farley – Junior – Safety
On things you wish you knew as a freshman …
“When you are a freshman it is really hard to adjust to everyone being a big fish where they come from and you are being put in a pond where everyone else is a big fish and in most cases are a lot bigger fish than you are. Remain humble and really enjoy the experience and realize that the people in front of you were in the same position, and to work hard everyday and to not get ahead of yourself. It is a big adjustment from playing every snap in every game to maybe playing special teams.”
Good/bad that there are no individual big personalities on the team …
“I think that is a good thing honestly, because instead of trying to have one person or a couple people get everybody excited or whatever it may be, or everybody is looking to one person to lead and if that person is having an off day then it’s hard for the team to rally. When you have a whole team that has a similar mindset you do not have to say a lot and there is a lot of trust there between everybody of just knowing what the expectations are and knowing that everyone is going to give everything that they have to reach that and nothing has to be said at all. I think that it is a very positive thing for our team.”
On how anxious the team is for Temple …
“I don’t think or have sensed any nerves or anxiousness, except being excited for the season to kick-off. We are just focusing on practice a day at a time, and we are going to play Temple in nine days regardless so worrying about it or thinking about it 24/7 is not going to make it come any faster or slower. The mindset of the team is to focus on right now and worry about right now.”
On describing team in one word …
“Blue collar. There is no hype-man. There are a lot of guys with great personalities. Not much needs to be said as a whole. Everyone knows what the expectations are and they know what they have to do to insure that my game as well as everyone else’s game is at the highest level that it should be.”
On Bennett Jackson being a captain …
“It’s awesome. Bennett is one of my best friends on the team and the way he comes to work everyday, the competitiveness he has, is infectious for everybody. Seeing him named captain is a great thing. No one on the team will question who the leaders are and he is definitely deserving of being a captain.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Bennett Jackson – Senior – Cornerback
On the excitement level for this season …
“Overall I’m real excited. I know the rest of the guys are excited. We’re finishing up camp and starting to get into game prep and focus in a little more on Temple. We’re tired of going against each other and ready to go up against Temple.”
On the state of the secondary …
“The secondary as a whole is a more confident group this year with a lot more veterans and more confidence in one another. We continue to grow each day and continue to push each other to get better every day.”
On the defense’s potential …
“I think the defense can be tremendous this year. We just need to stick together and continue to push each other forward. We need to keep continuing to build our chemistry and as long as we do that throughout the year I think we’ll be pretty solid.”
On this year’s defense compared to last year’s …
“I’m not necessarily sure what position or where the defense will be better I just think we have a higher morale as a team and a little better chemistry with one another. We’re moving in the right direction a little faster than we were last year and if we just continue to build those things I’m interested to see where we could end up.”
On preparation level …
“I think the preparation level has to be higher and I think ours has been higher. Making it that far last year and not ending the game the way you wanted it to, there’s definitely motivation. It makes you pay attention to the little things. We’ve definitely prepared a lot more and a lot harder than we had in past years and that comes with just having another year with the same coaches and building off what we had last year.”
On being named a captain …
“I find it a great honor. I’m glad the coaches look at me as being that connection from them to the team. At the end of the day I’m going to continue to do what I do and play my role on the team. In the time of need when you need to boost the team morale a little bit or get things going, I’m happy that the team chose me to be that guy to boost everybody and get everybody going.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Carlo Calabrese – Senior – Linebacker
On starting to game plan for Temple …
“It’s nice to finally focus on another team besides your offense and I’m excited to get started on that.”
On Coach Kelly’s comment on this team’s personality …
“We have a bunch of leaders on our defense and instead of looking to one person we can look to several people. It helps the younger guys to be able to look to a lot of different people for leadership.
“It’s great being a leader, and having the younger players come up and ask a question about a play. I take a lot of pride in bringing the younger players along. Once you graduate you have to show the younger players what our team is about and what the expectations are.”
On forgetting last year’s accomplishments and starting the climb again …
“We left last year in the past. We are focusing on this year and focusing on today. It was not hard for me to flush out last year. I left it in the past and we are focusing on this year and this team.”
Is there any individual that is going to have to step up on defense …
“It’s more of a team defense. We don’t have just one guy standing out this year. We have a bunch of guys that can play and can lead, which is going to make us successful.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Zack Martin – Graduate Student – Offensive Tackle
On putting in extra effort this summer …
“Well, we had five new guys coming in, five new guys who are really talented too, so any extra that me and Chris [Lombard] and some of the older guys could give to them when Coach Hiestand obviously wasn’t allowed to would only help them. You could tell coming into camp they were definitely more prepared than they would’ve been. So just trying to catch them up a little bit was what we were working for. This was our best summer as an offensive line, outside of being with Coach Hiestand. Just being out there together, everyone on the o-line definitely saw some great progress and it helped us out a lot.”
On being named a captain for this season …
“It’s a huge honor to be considered by the coaches and Coach Kelly. To have an opportunity to lead this team along with Bennett [Jackson] and TJ [Jones] is obviously a great honor. I think the good part about this team is that we have so many other guys too. If you look at our roster there are so many seniors on our team that could’ve easily been there.”
On his fellow captains Bennett Jackson and TJ Jones …
“They’re obviously great players so they will lead by example, but I’ve definitely seen their vocal side come out a lot during camp. Anytime they can get the freshmen and the younger guys going, which I’ve seen, is great. They’re obviously example guys first and foremost. They’re always out there working hard.”
On playing with his brother Nick Martin …
“It’s been great. It’s been really cool just being able to line up next to him out there. Also, if someone messes up on the line you kind of get on him a little bit, but if he messes up or I mess up we’re not afraid to say something to each other. It’s been a lot of fun. “
“He knows he’s counted on like everyone else and he knows that the coaches have high expectations and that I have high expectations for him. He’s done a great job.”
“He’s not afraid to give it back to me as maybe some of the younger guys are. It’s good to have someone like that.”
On the process of being named a captain …
“Coach Kelly just came out today and said they met as a staff and those were the guys he decided on.”
“It’s a great honor. We had myself and three other guys last year and two other guys this year that are great representatives of our team and our school. I’m very excited to be a part of that.”
On the three captains as a unit …
“I think the other two captains are a little more similar than I am. Obviously they’re very hard workers. They like to talk a little bit. They’re kind of the pretty boys. I guess I’m kind of just a little more quiet and can just go out there and do my thing.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
TJ Jones – Senior – Wide Receiver
On being selected to handle punt returns …
“It means a lot to me. It’s something that this past spring, I started becoming passionate about. It’s a position that we need big plays from coming into the season and I felt that it was a spot that I could do and make those big plays happen. It’s a resume builder, but at the same time, it doesn’t help if I’m not good at it so I definitely have to work at it and make sure I make things happen and make the right decisions.”
On competition between the wide receivers at camp …
“It’s been fun to watch everyone compete. We’ve been pushing each other. It’s not hostile, it’s a loving environment, but at the same time a very competitive environment. We’re just helping each other learn and everyone’s becoming the best they can be.”
On how captains were announced …
“He actually told us today after practice. We all came together and he announced a little bit of why each of the three was chosen. It’s a great feeling. You think about it, you work towards it and never really know how close you are from it so when your name is called it’s definitely a great feeling.”
On being named captain …
“It means a lot to me. There’s a lot of family ties that I have to Notre Dame so being named a captain in my last year here and do my family and father justice by going out with a bang, it definitely means a lot to me.”
On how the captains plan to lead the team …
“We just need to lead the team in a way that they want to be led. I know that’s a general statement but being named captain, we don’t want to change who we are and I don’t think we have to do anything differently than what we did to be named captain. So we are just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and lead the team where they need to go and pick them up when they’re down.”
On what the team needs to work on …
“There’s always something to get better at. Whether it’s getting bigger, faster, stronger, intricacies of your personal play or being more explosive. There’s always something to get better at; you are never your best and each individual has to find what their weaknesses are and just work to get those better.” ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Ã†’
Tommy Rees – Senior – Quarterback
On difference in physical tools from 2011 to now …
“I was pretty focused on all aspects. I wanted to get stronger and faster by working on the fundamentals of throwing. I also was placed on a good nutrition plan. I was pretty happy with the way things went in the offseason. When I got back here (Notre Dame) I worked with Coach Longo and Coach Flint to work on squats and hang cleans, which helped with the lower body.”
On how getting in shape will help …
“Now when plays need to be made and things don’t go perfectly I can create something by getting outside of the pocket, which are things I couldn’t do a couple of years ago.”
On coming back after being a backup last season …
“I love my teammates and I love the guys that I am out there with everyday. For me it there was not another option. I have to stay prepared, and when the moment comes for you, you have to be ready. The team counts on you, and you count on them. It’s what our team is built on. People talk about their team being a family all the time, but until you are a part of it and until you feel how close this group is it’s hard to explain.”
On being named the starter to open the year …
“It’s the first time in my career I have had that happen. I haven’t changed in how I prepare for practice and how I go out there and compete. It gives me an opportunity to go out there and compete, along with being the voice on offense that everyone is looking to.”
On the running back competition …
“We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. George (Atkinson III) has proven he can go out there and play. Amir (Carlisle) can do a lot on the field, including catch the ball and make moves out in space. We have the two freshmen (Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston) that have shown some potential.”
On the younger receivers …
“We have a lot of young guys who have done some nice things for us in camp, and they will continue to grow and learn. Day by day they learn to focus on getting better and staying within the playbook.”