Brian Kelly

An interview with: COACH BRIAN KELLY

Oct. 25, 2011

COACH KELLY: Afternoon. We begin preparation now for Navy. As you all know, that’s a difficult task. You could probably ask South Carolina – a very good SEC team that was picked to win their side of it; battled 24 21.

You look at Navy’s record and you see the losses, and they’ve got four losses by a combined eight points. When you look at their team and I think we know the history as to what they did to us last year – you got four returning offensive linemen. You’ve got Alexander Teich; you’ve got Gee Gee Green back; Kriss Procter.

Obviously they’re going to run their system. Third ranked rushing team in the country. Going to be a challenge for us. Obviously we have to play better. From a defensive standpoint, some of it is falling on the shoulders of the offense and making sure that you score points every time you have the ball, because they’re so dangerous.

So today is Intense Tuesday for our football team. We’ll get out there and have an intense practice today. We’ve begun the groundwork for the Navy preparation yesterday, which is what we call Mental Monday. Most of it is just going over the USC game and then beginning the scouting report on Navy.

So we’ve already started that preparation. Today will be our first day out on the field. Again, from a preparation standpoint, very important day for us today. With that, I’ll open it up for questions.

Q. You mentioned Intense Tuesday. How intense and are you going to continue the hitting on Wednesday?

COACH KELLY: I think we have to get into a routine that we practice similar to the way that we want to play without putting our team at risk for injury. You know what I mean? But certainly we have to have a very spirited practice during the week so that our football team is prepared to play the right way on Saturday. And that falls on me in terms of the preparation.

Q. Specifically, do you hit Wednesday or is this the hitting day?

COACH KELLY: We’ll bang today and tomorrow. As you know, there’s a different style of offensive blocking for Navy, so we’ll have to coach our guys up. We’ve already done that and had our first walk through yesterday.

Q. You mentioned injuries. Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tommy Rees, Zeke Motta, where do they stand?

COACH KELLY: E.J. will practice for us today for the first time. We’ll see what he can do. I don’t believe he’s at a point now where he can take every rep, but we’re confident that he’s going to be able to help us on Saturday.

Zeke was cleared yesterday for full activities, so he is back practicing for us. Kapron will be out for the season. He has a knee injury that – I think I said I thought he had an ankle injury, but that wasn’t the case. It was a knee injury. It was a very unusual injury. Our doctors couldn’t get a good feel after the game for what it was. He had stability in his knee. He actually detached the medial collateral ligament. It’s like an ACL repair. We’re still talking four to six months. But one that I haven’t seen in 21 years and our doctors have seen very rarely, so it was hard to get a good assessment on him until the MRI yesterday.

Q. And I assume Tommy is okay. I’ll circle back to Kapron in a second.

COACH KELLY: Yeah, Tommy is fine. That’s a chronic subluxation of his patella, which he did in the Miami, Fla. game. If you remember, we braced him and brought him back in in the third quarter. So this is something that he’s worked through even in high school.

Q. Going back to Kapron being out for the season, talk about what you want to do with your personnel there. Does Kona Schwenke get more involved? Do you move Stephon Tuitt out of that rotation?

COACH KELLY: Well, we’ve got great flexibility because we have Chase Hounshell activated. Chase is in the mix. Certainly Kona is the in mix, as well as Tuitt has flexibility to play inside and outside. And if we can get some work from Ethan, that helps us out.

Q. Tough week not have to Kapron.

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, Kapron and Ethan probably have more experience against the option than anybody here in terms of actually understanding their jobs and what to do. But, we’ll call on the next guy.

Q. When you get into Mental Monday with your team, do you reference last year’s Navy loss or is it more about we’ve had some success against Air Force and Army?

COACH KELLY: We did very little talking about last year. Really for us Monday is putting Saturday behind us, and so we don’t even go back another year. I think they all know. They were there.

Q. This might be a tough day to ask you about this, but night game, just how it worked out with recruiting and everything else, would you like to see more home night games?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I thought it was a great atmosphere. I think everything was great except for the way we played. I mean, the fans were great; the atmosphere was great; it was an electric stadium. We had all of those things that helped build your program, except for the way we played. It was outstanding.

Q. And you reference program building Sunday, and I realize that that’s a lot of things that aren’t what’s going on on the field on Saturday. Are the players aware of what you’re trying to do with the program building stuff? Are they involved in that kind of stuff?

COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah. They see it every day. If you want to pose that question to any of the guys that have been here or any of the guys that have graduated, I think you’ll probably get a better sense for the difference between building a program and building a team.

Q. I think you said on Saturday and Sunday about composure, competitive grace were a couple terms you used. How do you coach that into the players?

COACH KELLY: Well, I think they have to go through it first. I think they have to be in that situation and see where maybe they didn’t rise to the occasion and find out why. What are the reasons why you weren’t able to be the best when your best was needed? Is some of it is experiential. Some of it is them making the right moves along the time leading up to the game to match that level.

So I think they’ve got to experience it. I think that’s the best way of teaching it. And then building off that, which we’ll do all this week.

Q. I think you referenced on Sunday maybe on your coach’s show about how the coaching preparation last week wasn’t what you wanted or expected. Revisit what you saw. I think the reaction for some people would be, It was USC. How could you not prepare? What went into that?

COACH KELLY: Well, the word “preparation” is interpreted so many different ways. Preparation for me is the practice format and how we go about practicing. That doesn’t change by any standards. It’s when you show up for those two hours, where is your head at? What’s your focus level?

We had an unusual situation, and one that I haven’t experienced before, in that we had a bye week followed by mid winter break. Our players are a very disciplined group. They’re used to getting up early, going to class, being on a regimen.

During the week, it was a bit of a battle because there wasn’t that regimen during the week. I could sense it. I screamed about it. I yelled about it. But ultimately, it’s my responsibility to get the football team ready.

I think we all saw by the way we played in the first 20 minutes of the game, we didn’t play the same way that we played all year. So I told our team yesterday, I’ll take full responsibility for the preparation. You need to take full responsibility about the way you play and the level that you need to play at. So that was pretty much those comments that you brought up.

Q. What did you see from your guys yesterday, body language, all that?

COACH KELLY: Good question. I was looking for a read on our players. We had a lot guys running yesterday for a lot of different reasons. I wanted to see their body language, how they reacted. And every single one of ’em had the right language, their body language, their attitude.

It just cemented in my mind that our guys want that. They need that. They need that kind of disciplined structure. Here’s where you need to be and at this time. Maybe we didn’t have that last week and that affected the way they played.

Because I got to look at everything when it comes to why we didn’t play early on the way we should have played. Got behind 14 nothing. I think what galvanized it in my mind yesterday was it was a discipline day yesterday, and they were locked in.

Q. Is it fair to say it was a little bit more dialed in than what you saw?

COACH KELLY: Very much so.

Q. Lastly, this is a bit of a dead horse, but any time Los Angeles opens their mouth they seem to keep bring up the end of the game and quitting and not quitting and all that. Can you talk about not using your timeouts at the end of the game?

COACH KELLY: I thought about it. I think right around the 3:30 mark is when I started to think about the potential for using timeouts. Just never felt like the right situation. I think we were in a number of second and shorts, and where the ball was, I don’t know, intuitively, instinctively, I didn’t pull the trigger on a timeout.

Had nothing to do with, Hey, we quit or we give up. Just never felt like a timeout was something I was going to I thought about it, but why I didn’t call the timeout had nothing to do with, Hey, we’re throwing in the towel.

Q. I guess I was going to ask the same question. I would like to follow up.

COACH KELLY: Are we going to talk about Navy or not? I guess not, huh? They beat us last year. You guys know that? Really bad. So my focus is on Navy. I’ll take another question, but I would like to get to Navy.

Q. Did you address some of that? Some of those things were kind of hurtful for a competitive group of guys. How have you dealt with some of the things that have been said?

COACH KELLY: You get what you deserve. Words don’t mean much. We don’t spend much time on that. We got beat, and they can say what ever they want. I will say Lane Kiffin called me and apologized. I thought that was a very professional thing to do it was appreciated. Quite honestly, it didn’t affect me as much as from his end the professionalism and the way the comments were given.

But, no, our guys know what happened. They got their butt’s beat. They didn’t play very well, and that comes with it. You get what you deserve.

Q. Last year when you faced Navy, obviously it was the first time as a unit under you they had faced the option. You now have got three games under your belt. How will that affect your preparation as you prepare for Navy?

COACH KELLY: Well, when we go on to the field today, when we say some things relative to the structure, there’s going to be some recollection. These guys are going to recall and have that recall for Army and Air Force, and the things that we did even a few weeks ago against Air Force.

There’s going to be recall. We’ve got obviously a football team that’s a lot more comfortable in knowing what those calls will be.

Q. In the front seven you have a lot of young players.


Q. Against Air Force, that was their first taste of the triple option. How do you see their growth and progress?

COACH KELLY: I think they know it’s a different scheme. It’s not your traditional scheme. You still have to be aggressive and be able to defeat blocks, but I think they’ll have a better feel and a better understanding when this game is in front of ’em.

Q. You mentioned that you weren’t real pleased with the way Cierre Wood played last week. At what point because of the productivity of Jonas Gray and the 8.4 per touch, are you trying to get him more touches per game?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think it’s a very competitive situation. I think Jonas has done more from his production per se than Cierre playing so poor. He did not play his best, but I can give you a long list of guys that did not play their best.

I think the answer to the question is that Jonas Gray, by his play, has warranted more time on the field.

Q. Cierre started a little slowly against USC last year. Is he maybe getting a little too cranked up playing the Trojans?

COACH KELLY: Part of my job is to get the best out of our players. I didn’t get the best out of him. He’s got to figure it out. He’s an adult. He’s got to figure out what he needs to do to play at a high level.

There are so many circumstances that we could talk about other than the fact that it’s game time and the lights are on. You got to go play.

Q. Obviously you’re getting the production out of George Atkinson III you would like. When you watch him as kick returner, what sets him apart or makes him excel?

COACH KELLY: Well, his ability to separate at that second level. Somebody had an angle on him and he was able to run away from ’em. So first of all, he’s got that open end speed that can turn a 30, 40 yard return into a touchdown.

Obviously there is no substitute for that. Also got pretty good vision. He’s been able to see blocks, the setup of blocks. You’ve got to have great vision as a kick returner as well. So I think the combination of very good vision, we’ve nice job schematically of blocking, and then that second level speed.

Q. You saw that on film. Was that blocked about as well as it could be blocked?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, Justin Utupo, there were two or three outstanding blocks that set that up. And then quite frankly that had a great angle on him. He just ran away from the last defender.

Q. You get the sense that your guys have kind of looked forward to this rematch with Navy for a while?

COACH KELLY: I’m sure, but we only get 20 hours with ’em. You know what I mean? There are a lot of hours in the day. They got time to think about things. I’m sure they probably do, but around me we don’t talk about it.

We talk about Intense Tuesday; you better be ready to go. I’m a football coach. Give me 120 yards and a whistle and that’s what I’m thinking about. But certainly they’re kids. They listen to the media and they listen to the reports. I’m sure there’s a little bit of that.

But when they’re around me and our football program, we’re talking about having a great practice today.

Q. Thursday marks one year since Declan’s death. Are you guys doing anything?

COACH KELLY: We talked about it yesterday. We haven’t decided exactly what the format is gonna be. Unfortunately we have a lot on our plate this week with a memorial mass for Xavier Murphy as well, X. But we are going to do something as a team as well. As you know, on Saturday the memorial was dedicated right out here in front of The Gug. So we’ve intimated to our team that that might be the appropriate place for us to recognize the year that has passed since that tragic event.

Q. How do you feel like the cameras you guys installed have worked?

COACH KELLY: Outstanding. Outstanding. Peace of mind, but also very high end relative to its technical capabilities. We can get all the film that we need at all of the angles.

Q. Sometimes we have a tendency to feel guilt or blame ourselves whether or not we are to blame. Did you deal with any of that, wrestle with any of that? If I would have done this or not, you know, it was on you.

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think this has been talked about and revisited. It never leaves you. We lost a young man. You never forget about that. Obviously this week and the memorial out front of The Gug is a daily remembrance of that.

Blame is not a word that we feel is appropriate. We never thought in those terms. We thought in terms of loss and making sure something like this never happens again.

Q. You mentioned last week about preparing differently if the quarterback is injured and you’re not sure who will play. Kriss Procter hurt himself last week. How are he and Trey Miller different and how does that change your approach?

COACH KELLY: Procter is a lot more experienced, but Miller threw the ball very well and very effectively and led his team back. They’re going to run their system and plug in the next guy and run the same system, so for us it doesn’t change anything.

This is one system where you don’t go in and go, If quarterback A plays we do this, and if B is coming in then we got to do that. So there is no difference as it relates to the two quarterbacks. The skillset is the same. There’s a little bit more experience with Procter. Great question, by the way. So keep that up.

Q. You mentioned plugging in the guy and working their system. Last year they had so much success. Actually the year before it was a different fullback. What it is that (indiscernible) does to kind of isolate their fullback?

COACH KELLY: Well, we’ve seen every scheme. They’ve seen every imaginable scheme. So when your system is set up, what you want to do against three down, four down, all the different variations and coverages. You know exactly what you want to do, so there is nothing that they haven’t seen.

So they’re running their system, and they’re very, very aware of how to block each and every front they see. At the end of the day, you still got to get off blocks, defeat blocks, and obviously it starts with it from the option standpoint inside out with the fullback.

So if you can’t get off blocks and you can’t defeat, he’s going to carry the ball a lot.

Q. It’s an option week, but as you mentioned obviously your defense hasn’t changed from Army and Navy last year. Is there anything you can go back to?

COACH KELLY: No, there’s a lot of carryover. Yeah, there’s carryover from Army; there’s definitely carryover from Air Force.

The game and how you manage the game changes. We managed the game against Air Force because we had exchanged 7 for 3 and we got some separation. We were okay keeping with ball in front of us. You just never know how the game is going to be played out.

But as I said earlier, we’re very much more familiar our own terminology and how we’re going to defend the option.

Q. Into that game management, how important is it for you to reestablish the running game this week to try to give your defense a little bit of rest off the field knowing that they’re going to grind on you?

COACH KELLY: I think it’s important every week. We got down 14 nothing and then got down after the turnover 24 10 and got us out of we got behind schedule.

So it’s very important that we get off to a good start. If we get off to a good start, then our running game is gonna be part of what we do. We don’t want to be in a situation where we don’t run the ball enough, because it makes it more difficult for us to throw the football obviously. So it’s very important to get off to a good start.

Q. With Teich as a fullback, as you take a look at him, what are the attributes that he brings that concern you?

COACH KELLY: He’s extremely athletic. He’s not a guy that just drops his head and runs up inside. He’s extremely athletic. So you’ve got a big, physical kid. He’s got a heart of a lion. I mean, he’s just a competitive kid. He makes it very difficult to defend, because inside out, they’re very, very dangerous.

Q. Against Air Force you were able to take away the fullback pretty well. You also stopped the quarterback. When you face a program like that, is it almost having to chose your poison and sacrifice one area and take away the most important element?

COACH KELLY: Big plays; keep the points down. Big plays, minimize, take away the big play, and keep the points down. Don’t care about yardage. When you play an option team, you’re going to give up yardage. You can’t give up the big play, because you’ve got somebody with their eyes in the backfield and now here comes the slot on an arc release and he’s running three down the middle of the field.

So when you play option teams, the yardage is irrelevant. It’s all about minimizing big plays and keeping the points down.

Q. Without Kap, maybe without E.J., looking at perhaps three guys that are true freshman.


Q. That front line controlling and beating the blocks, what is the point up there with so many young players? Is it more of a discipline scheme? Is it an attack?

COACH KELLY: It’s both. I mean, like I said, you can’t sit back and not be aggressive. You still got to whip the guy in front of you.

But no question there’s a lot more discipline involved. You have to be disciplined to be effective in it. We’ve got some coaching to do. There’s no question. But those are our guys. We’re going to play ’em, and we’ll get ’em ready.

Q. Obviously we all know the talents of Aaron Lynch and his abilities. He has had several personal fouls called against him. Facing a disciplined team like this, does that become a concern?

COACH KELLY: Well, we address it differently in the sense that first of all it’s unacceptable to put your team in a situation like that where you give up 15 yards. He’s maturing. He’s learning how to handle his emotions. He’s growing up as a young man.

We have to expect him to continue to progress and be the kind of complete player that we want him to be. He’s a really good athlete right now. We need have to him mature into a complete player. That takes time. He’s 18.

But by no means am I excusing him from personal fouls. I am not. But we’ve got to develop that young man, and we’re working hard on that.

Q. Aggressiveness seemed to be his strength, just the fire in him. How did you temper that? You don’t take it away, but also be able to not get involved and take away with a 15 yeard penalty.

COACH KELLY: That’s why I’m in this business. Because I don’t have the answers. We’re working with this young man every day. We’re trying to reach him, trying to reach our young guys. We’re communicating. We’re having dinner ’em at 5:00. You know what I mean? We’re talking to them in the hallways.

That’s what we do. We’re trying to reach him to get to be the kind of complete player he needs to be. There’s no easy answer for that.

Q. Talk a little bit about Xavier Murphy and how you are remembering him?

COACH KELLY: Well, as you said, we had on our helmet last game a shamrock with the X on it. That was our way as players and everybody associated with the program to celebrate his life. There will be a memorial mass this week, which many of our players maybe not all but many of our players but most importantly or support staff. Ryan and Adam and our staff, our equipment staff, obviously were very, very close with him. All of our managers. So that will be this week.

But he’ll be with us. He was a special young man.

Q. And the players have dealt with the loss?

COACH KELLY: I think each individual deals with loss differently. I don’t think there is any one particular way. Others have been very affected. Some didn’t know X at all. But we’ve also allowed them the opportunity we’ve had professionals available for our players and our support staff if needed. Again, we’ve had that dedication to his family, which will happen this weekend.

I think we do a tremendous job of marshaling all the forces in very tough times.

Q. What do you think of Mark Emmert’s proposal?

COACH KELLY: Is there a right answer? If anybody’s got it, let me know what it is. At first glance and I have not spoken anybody, so this is just the head football coach talking it seems reasonable. It seems like it allows for those incidentals that are not covered. That’s my first reaction to it.

I’ve seen some comments that it’s the haves and have nots that it’s set up for. I don’t necessarily agree with that. But I would say that at first glance, it looks to be a reasonable proposal. But I’m sure there will be more officially from the university, from Jack Swarbrick, if it’s ever presented to him. He has better information than I do.

Q. How much are you involved with Swarbrick, if at all, on we want this on third down or we want as the head football coach are you involved with that?

COACH KELLY: I’m involved in all of that.

Q. Was there even any discussion about that?

COACH KELLY: No, no. As you know, Tommy went down; boom, Dayne went in the game. He’ll be our No. 2.

Q. You mentioned on Sunday it’s up to him to react.

COACH KELLY: Absolutely.

Q. How did he react?

COACH KELLY: He’s good. I mean, he’s disappointed. Look, nobody wants to for us, it’s never about blaming anybody. It’s the circumstances. Did we coach you well enough in that circumstance? We all look at it that way.

But certainly he’s disappointed. He’s got to get through that and bounce back and be ready if he’s called upon to come out and play. Dayne is a big boy. He’s 22, 23 years old. He’s got to shake that off and come back and be ready.

What I saw yesterday, I liked. He came back with, Hey, this is not going to stop me from competing.

Q. On Sunday you talked about the red zone being a problem. What are you doing to address that this week?

COACH KELLY: We’re trying to be more effective, as you know, with the connection between Mike and Tommy. That’s really what we’re trying to do a better job of, and being on the same page when Mike is double teamed to come to the other receiver. That’s some growing pains there.

We’re spending a lot of time, but a lot of it is not conceptual as much as the individuals hooking up at the right time and the right place. That’s what we’re working hard on.

Q. How does the running game factor into that whole big picture thing?

COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. And I felt like in the red zone the opportunities to run the football, we took our chances and ran the ball. We had some pretty good plays set up against what they like to do down there. We didn’t execute. We had a wide open tight end.

Tyler Eifert misfired there, which obviously was a touchdown that we feel like we should have had. And then we fumbled the football. So, running the ball helps us in everything that we do. But in particular, we’ve got to do better with hooking up with our playmakers down there.