Nov. 4, 2014
COACH KELLY: Another great challenge this weekend, Arizona State, nationally ranked team. Played a great game last year in the Shamrock Series against a very good football team.
Offensively I think Mike Norvell, one of the best offensive coordinators in the country, does a great job. Great balance on offense. I think that’s one of the things that stands out right away. Their ability to run the football sets up their play action pass. D.J. Foster is somebody that you have to account for him all over the field. Great pass catcher, running the football. Taylor Kelly back in the lineup really changes things, I think, in terms of his ability to run the football, as well. Extremely elusive and looks for Jaelen Strong, who is as good as any wide receiver in the country. Big, athletic, fast, reminds me of Michael Floyd. Just big, athletic, strong, hands, goes up and gets the football, just a very dynamic offense that is multiple. Multiple formations, multiple personnel groupings, play fast. Very dynamic offense, and they have been for the last few years.
Defensively you’re going to get a very similar look that we try to employ. It’s an aggressive scheme, one that is going to try to take away the run but also try to get the ball away from you. You know, I think the best team to probably compare them to, they’re very aggressive like Syracuse, but they’ve got big personnel, much bigger, much more physical, especially on the defensive line, big and physical, and they’ve got some guys that have a lot of experience. I think Randall in the secondary, Simone, both physical players that come down and obviously are big time hitters.
And they’re certainly a team that is getting better defensively. You can see that. There was a stretch where they were giving up multiple yards. Now they’re shutting teams down over the last three weeks. I think after their bye you can see they have really gotten this defense to play top notch football.
Offense, defense, special teams, on the road, it’s going to be a great challenge, and one that we’re excited and looking forward to.
Q. The other day you said you weren’t quite sure exactly what you do to make up for the loss at linebacker. Who is the play caller now on defense?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think that obviously we’ll signal in and work through. Our situation will be today, tomorrow, we’ll get a better feel. We’ve got a couple things we’re going to experiment with today, and then we’ll get a better feel. We haven’t practiced yet, so we have a system that we’ll employ today, and I think we’ll get a better feel over the next couple days.
Q. You mentioned stepping up. Are there one or two leaders that you’re looking for to take on the biggest amount of the load?
COACH KELLY: I think if you just look out there, there’s not a lot of guys out there that you would say that are at the linebacker corps really experienced. It’s kind of what it is. It’s Jaylon, it’s Onwualu, it’s Greer Martini. That’s what we’ve got. Sheldon Day is going to have to play a large role. Our safeties are going to have to do a great job.
Look, Nyles has been here 12 weeks. He’s had 12 weeks of coaching, and Coach VanGorder is extremely confident in Nyles’ ability to go in there and play. We think we’ve got a guy that can go in there. His traits are pretty clear. He’s extremely athletic. We’ll put him in a position where he can help us win a football game on Saturday.
Q. Jaylon, where is he as a leader? Obviously he’s just a sophomore but he’s seeing a lot of playing time. Is he ready to take on a bigger leadership role?
COACH KELLY: You know, I think it’s been evolving for him because he was in a new position. He went to an inside linebacker position, and so his first year here he sat on the outside of our defense and was the gatekeeper. Now he’s inside, and there’s a lot going on in there. So it was hard for him to be assertive because he was learning, and now I think he feels a lot more comfortable that he can be more assertive out there, and so I think he will be. I think everybody will pick up the slack there for the loss of Joe, and I think that we’ll make it so Nyles doesn’t have to do too much, but he’s going to have to do something, as well.
He’s been here — he’s got enough football. He’s had enough coaching. He’s been out there taking a lot of reps, and we feel confident he’ll be able to step in and do the job.
Q. Where do you think the defense has to improve the most? 30 points three straight games. What is the biggest step this defense needs to make this week?
COACH KELLY: Well, if you look at the Florida State game — I’d take the Navy game out of it. If you take the Florida State game, we had four or five free runs at the quarterback that we just missed getting there, and we needed to be a little bit tighter in coverage. So I think we’ve got to continue to improve in tighter coverage and get home when we’ve got the opportunities. I think if we do that, we’ll be fine on Saturday.
Q. You knew what you were getting in Jaylon probably the first time you looked at his tape in high school, but the Arizona State game last year was big for him. What do you think happened that night for things to really start to click for him?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it’s like anything else. I think he was put in a position where he wasn’t just playing the drop position as a contain player. He was forced to be in coverage. He was forced to pressure the quarterback. You know, he was asked to do a lot more, and I think that’s kind of what really put him in a position that I think we all felt like, all right, we can ask more of him that’s just playing the field and being a contain player.
Maybe a little bit more confidence in his ability to do more, and then put more on his plate after that game.
Q. You talked about Nyles there a second ago, but is there anything that he can give you that is remarkably different from Joe? Obviously the experience there is a blowout in favor of Joe, but what does Nyles do that is an asset?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think his physical ability is probably his biggest trait. He’s fast, he’s athletic, strong. I mean, he has all those traits that allow him to play the position and make up for maybe the lack of recognition that Joe had. Joe was able to put himself in the right position and maybe does not have exactly the same skills, but because he had recognition and understanding could get there as quickly as Nyles can get there because Nyles has got the physical ability.
So his trait is he’s got great physical ability. Now we’re trying to get him in a position where let’s get him to the right place. If we can get him to the right place with the physical traits that he has, he could be a good player for us.
Q. Does Brian VanGorder coach him any differently this week about more film or more time or doing extra stuff?
COACH KELLY: He’s been unbelievable. Look, we have been so hard on him. I mean, you know, I think we said to him about three weeks in, you’re either going to quit or you’re going to be one of the best players that’s ever played here because we’re hard on him, really hard on him, and he just keeps coming back asking for more, and that’s the kind of kid he is. From day one, he’s been in there asking questions, learning the defense, watching film. So no, there’s not any more, it’s just that he’s going to be out there now instead of watching, he’s going to be playing.
Q. Just big picture with your defense, Coach VanGorder mentioned that pass rush is still a concern for him. Is that something you can improve in the course of the season, or is that more of a big picture spring practice type thing?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, we’re recruiting some guys that we think can give us some natural pass rush ability. Some of those guys are not playing this year that we think have that ability, that are singular in that kind of pass rush mode. We’re getting pressure like most teams in the country. We’re adding another guy to the pass rush. Arizona State is adding two guys to their pass rush. You know, I think that that’s really where we want to go is that, look, whether it’s the NFL or college football, I think we all hear this: If you can pressure them in four down, you’re in great shape defensively. So we’re all trying to strive for the same things. We think we’ve recruited some guys that are going to give us that maybe slight advantage next year where we can line up four guys and get after the quarterback.
Q. On Arizona State’s defense, what do you think has changed since UCLA and USC for them?
COACH KELLY: A couple of things. I think that there’s a better recognition and understanding of the scheme. There’s eight new players on that defense, so you could see that they’re understanding what they’re doing a lot better and what Coach Graham wants them to do. Tackling better. I think when we broke down the film, I think USC had three plays for 256 yards, three plays for 256 yards. I think they’ve eradicated some of those catastrophe type plays out of their defense.
Q. Joe Schmidt’s surgery, have we heard how it went? And also, is it too soon for him to kind of step into a role of helping during practice, maybe even helping on the sideline during a game?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know Joe, right? So his situation was — his text was, mom and dad, get up here, one; number two, I’m having surgery tomorrow; and number three, I’ve got to go, I’ve got to get with Nyles. Those are the three things on his mind.
You know, that’s just Joe. So he’ll absolutely be working with us as soon as we get him out of surgery and get him up and around. He’ll be a coach on the field for us, there’s no question. He’ll be an asset for us and helping us and utilizing his great knowledge of the position to help Nyles.
Q. And I know when we talked to you Sunday, you had plan B in mind. You were kind of looking at some plan Cs. Is there any way Ben Councell fits into moving inside, or is he not an option for you in terms of giving you some more depth?
COACH KELLY: No, he’s an option for us. We want to take a look, and I don’t want to — I’d give you the information if I had it. We’ve got to look at a couple things today. We’re thin at the position as it is, right, so I’ve got to — we’ve really got to get our hands around a couple things today before I can get to more specifics. We don’t have a lot of guys to choose from. Councell, Michael Deeb, we’ve got to call on Randolph, Austin Larkin. These are the guys that we’ve got to get a look at today and kind of sort out where we want to go. Greer Martini was brought up as somebody the other day; could Greer Martini go from Will to Mike. That’s on the table, as well. I think we’ll get a better sense and feel for it. We’ll work through some of those things today and get a better sense for it.
Q. I know in the North Carolina game, tempo and the amount of plays they ran became an issue for the defense. Arizona State has been over 90 a couple times, actually over 100 once. I’m curious what you learned from that North Carolina game, what your staff learned, that will help you if the plays get up into the 90s.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we learned quite a bit from that. I mean, I think from a coaching standpoint, some of our situational substitutions put us in a tough position with some quick screens back towards their bench. That put us in awkward positions. I think we’ve got a better handle on it. We’ll work on it this week, and we’ll run some tempo. We’ll go against them. We’re only 16 plays short, our offense, in terms of how many plays we run versus Arizona State. I think they’ve run 610 and we’ve run 594, so we can duplicate their tempo and give our defense a pretty good look at it, as well.
Q. You’ve made progress on Eilar Hardy in terms of expanding his role, and how did he look in practice after being away for so long?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he looked good. Yeah, we’re hoping that this week is one where we can move forward and expand. He had a good week of practice, but we really had to get a lot of the rust off there. But we’re hoping that we can, now that we’re away from the option, he’s got a pretty good understanding of our defense from the spring. We hope that this is a week where we can make some progress there.
Q. You’re thinking more of a practice role, not necessarily get him on the field for the game?
COACH KELLY: Well, we still don’t have full clearance yet. We’re hoping to get that this week, we’ll see how that pans out. If we can get clearance on Eilar, he would be prepared and ready this week to play.
Q. I saw some Tweets about Kyle McCarthy. Can you update us on his situation?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he had successful surgery today as a follow up from his treatment for cancer, and I can just tell you that it was a successful surgery, and our thoughts and prayers are with him.
Q. The Florida State game, that was the first time Everett had lost a regular season game since he was a sophomore or junior in high school.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, that’s right.
Q. I heard he sort of had a positive edge to him during that two weeks off. Can you talk about how he responded to that loss, if he grew at all? Did you see anything different from him as you prepared then went on to Navy and played exceptionally well?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he definitely has felt like this is his offense, and it falls on his shoulders to make sure that we don’t lose another football game. I think whether that loss has something to do with it or it’s just his natural maturing as the leader of the offense kind of taking place before us, you know, I probably would say it’s a little of both because it was coming to that point anyway.
But I know that he wants to make sure that we don’t leave it up to the last play of the game offensively to decide the outcome. I think he’s taken that to heart.
Yeah, I think you’re just seeing a guy that’s just maturing and getting better each and every week.
Q. In terms of preparation, you talked about some of the similarities between not necessarily schematics but styles between what Arizona State does defensively and offensively. Do you do more ones on ones this week or do you keep doing what you’ve been doing, more scout stuff?
COACH KELLY: Well, we want to transition a little bit, so we would naturally, whether we were playing Arizona State or another opponent, we would naturally go together a little bit more this week just to get acclimated back from running to the triple option to dropping into the curl, so we would naturally do that.
But we probably have an eye towards doing it a little more because there’s some similarities that we can do offensively that really help our defense, as well. Yeah, we’ll be spending some time with ones versus ones this week.
Q. With them having that extra pressure, you said they’re sending two extra guys, does that kind of take Koyack out of the passing game a little bit, just to stay there and protect?
COACH KELLY: It did last year it did. As you know, we lost our tight end pretty much against them all last year. It doesn’t this year. He’ll be out in the routes, and we think we can get him matched up, so he’ll be part of the passing game. It doesn’t mean there aren’t times where we can max protect, and a max protection would be he’s in. We certainly could do that. But my style is to get our tight end out, and we think that we can and he can be part of the passing game this week.
Q. And with the success that Will and Corey have had in the passing game, has he been overlooked a little bit by the common observer, taken for granted a little bit with what he’s able to add to the passing game?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think so. I mean, in terms of catches and his ability to look, he still has to be accounted for, and by such, he allows one on one coverage. You can’t cover him with a linebacker. You still have to play over the top of him with a safety. You know, I think that still definitely impacts our ability to get favorable match ups from the other receivers. So having a guy like Ben Koyack, although maybe the numbers don’t necessarily show All American numbers, he definitely opens up other things for everybody else in the offense.
Q. Todd Graham has really generated some enthusiasm at Arizona State with this program and talked about the buzz around the campus surrounding this game. Talk about some of the hallmarks of a Todd Graham team, what has stood out to you over the years about his teams?
COACH KELLY: Aggressive defenses, innovative on offense, you know, and I think that those characteristics have equaled wins, right? He’s won at Tulsa. Well, he was a highly successful high school coach, and certainly from Tulsa obviously to Pittsburgh and then Pittsburgh obviously to Arizona State, he’s won. He’s been a successful coach.
It’s not surprising that he’s created a buzz at Arizona State. He’s been a top 25 coach, top 15. He’s got great wins this year over Stanford, USC, Utah. So yeah, it doesn’t surprise me. He’s done it wherever he’s been. He’s been a winner wherever he’s coached.
Q. Over the years they’ve been awfully tough at home, but especially this year, three ranked teams that they’ve beaten in their own place. Do you have to prepare your team, or is there anything special you can do to prepare your team considering you’re going into a far different environment than South Bend in terms of the weather and everything?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, I think the environment will be a great one. Certainly we had to be prepared for the Florida State environment, and we’ll prepare similarly as we did for Florida State in terms of crowd noise and things of that nature.
But the weather is something that we’ve addressed. We’re consuming 40 ounces of fluids daily starting yesterday to prepare for that. Our dietician and nutritionists have.
Really worked with our kids beginning on Monday to properly hydrate them because there’s no doubt about it, it’s going to be hot.
We’re going to try to duplicate practice. We’re going to maybe try to get indoors and crank up some heat in there and see if we can create a similar environment to the heat, but at the end of the day, you’re going to have to rely on hydration and your conditioning level to get you through that kind of environment.
Q. Would you like to take a sip of your Gatorade now to hydrate?
COACH KELLY: No, I think I’m pretty good. I’m going to make it through the game just fine. I’ll have a visor on.
Q. We didn’t ask Sunday, but Jarron Jones had to leave the field a few times. How is he recovering, and Sheldon’s shoulder status? I know they both went back into the game.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, our full medical would be James Onwualu was cleared yesterday through his concussion testing protocol, so he is cleared for practice today. Jarron had an ankle sprain which responded well to treatment, so he’ll be full go at practice today. Sheldon Day had a brachial plexus, so he responded well to treatment. He’s strong today, so he’s cleared for practice.
Those were three of them.
Ben Councell has got a slight calf strain. He’ll be able to practice today. Cody Riggs has got a foot strain. He’ll be able to practice today. I think those were the major ones, but all of them are cleared to practice today.
Q. Is Austin Collins going to continue with the harness?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he’ll continue, and we’re eally on his timetable. This is a matter of confidence, and when he feels confident that he wants to go and let it loose, the doctors and our training staff has cleared him. When he’s ready to go and feels confident that he can go in there, then we’ll get him ready.
Q. Is your game preparation altered a little bit by the fact that you have to kind of, I use the word experiment as far as what’s going to be the best answer to maybe replace Joe? Does that take anything away when you’re just trying to fill that void?
COACH KELLY: Yes and no. I mean, I think in certain instances there’s some things that you would want to do that you know Joe Schmidt can do, and then there’s some uncertainty as to what Nyles can do. Having said that, it opens up a whole new path to some things that we couldn’t do with Joe that we’re pretty excited that we can do with Nyles.
You know what I mean? There’s some things that we know that we can’t do with Nyles that Joe could do, but I know Coach VanGorder is pretty excited about some of the things that he couldn’t do with Joe that he can do with Nyles this week.
Q. I think all of us were surprised when the game was announced to be in the afternoon. Do you see any benefits for the game to be earlier as opposed to waiting around until the evening hours for a game on a road trip or just even coming back earlier?
COACH KELLY: I mean, we were in a routine of playing night games, so I mean, my preference, I’m a coach, right, so I’m a product of habit. I would have preferred the habit of playing night games.
Having said that, it will make no difference on the outcome of the game, whether it’s at noon, 1:30, 2:30, 6:30 or midnight. I’m used to getting in that routine for our football team. It might have been a little bit cooler at night. Other than that, no excuses, let’s go play.
Q. Just curious if two thirds of the way through the season if you could kind of assess where you feel your strength of schedule is this year the way things have shaken out?
COACH KELLY: We prefer to call it three fourths because we break it up by first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter, so if you could talk in terms of football, I’d appreciate it. Since I was rude and interrupted you, could you
Q. That’s fine. Your assessment of your strength of schedule to this point through eight games?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think you’ve got to look at the fact that all power five except for Conference USA defending champs and Rice, who are playing pretty good football right now. I think you take that versus other teams that have really had glorified byes in their schedule — I think the one thing that you have to understand is the amount of plays that our guys have to play. When you play Navy, you have to play for four quarters. Those are the best and brightest, those are the most committed. They never quit, and you have to play those guys for four quarters. I don’t care who you are. You have to play your guys for four quarters. That eats up a lot of plays, whereas our guys, for example, Ben Koyack has played the most snaps of anybody on our team. I think he’s played 636 snaps. If you compare that to some other opponents that are ranked ahead of us, they’re playing somewhere near 450 snaps. So our guys are playing a very rugged schedule. They’re playing a lot of snaps. That makes a big difference when you’ve got to play that many snaps each and every year, and that’s the kind of schedule we play.
So regardless of what the win loss schedule is, at the start of the season, when you put our schedule together, you’re going to have to play four quarters, and you’re going to put a lot on your kids, and that’s kind of how I look at our schedule.
Q. You may look at the schedule that way, but the selection committee in explaining it, how much of it is a crap shoot, though, getting opponents on the schedule that an outside body may look at and say that was a good win?
COACH KELLY: Look, in 2012 I think we started the season with the No. 1 schedule in the country. I think we started that way this year, too. That’s all we can go. We go into this putting together the toughest schedule in the country, right? Nobody else does it that way. They put on teams that are clearly glorified byes. We don’t operate that way. That to me is strength of schedule in terms of the way we put it together.
If it’s not evaluated that way, there’s nothing I can do about it. We’re just going to play the schedule that we have and we put together. Look, we don’t play a Conference Championship game, but we know that the schedule that we have to put together over 12 weeks has to stand up to that strength, and so that’s how we do our business. I don’t know anyway else to do it, and then let the chips fall where they may.
Q. What does Torii Hunter, Jr., have to do to get on the field a little bit more? In terms of his snap count, what does he need to do to get higher volume?
COACH KELLY: Well, if Will Fuller practices the way he did last week, he’ll get a lot more playing time, because that’s the way he played.
Q. How did the Devin Funchess, Rashad Greene, Ty Montgomery maybe prepare you for a strong player like Jaylon?
COACH KELLY: They do help, no question, because we’ve seen similar players of this caliber. He’s a guy that’s going to get targeted more, though. They’ll target throws, especially with Kelly. Kelly has a special affinity of getting the ball to him.
Yeah, we certainly have had players of his caliber, but he’s a unique blend of speed and size that I don’t know that we’ve quite seen, but clearly we know what we need to do. We saw him last year, too, and he’s an outstanding player.
Q. Would you say at this point that he’s probably the best of that group that you’ve seen, and how do you expect your young cornerbacks to handle maybe keeping him in check like you’ve been able to do with the other guys?
COACH KELLY: You know, they’re going to have to fight. They’re going to have to fight for every possession against him. You know, I think it’s more about timing. If they have time to get the ball to him, it’s going to be a battle every single time, there’s no question. He’s that good.
Q. Back in September you said the game sometimes goes too fast for Max Redfield —
COACH KELLY: How do you guys remember all these things? I can’t even remember yesterday what I said.
Q. Have you seen it slow down for him at all since then during the course of the season?
COACH KELLY: I think so, yeah. He’s definitely coming along. Yeah, he’s — look, Max has got — we’ve talked about this a ton. He’s got really high end athletic ability. The game is what he’s catching up to, understanding the game, recognition of sets and formations, and just understanding the game and what it looks like back there, and that’s where he’s gaining — look, how much did he play last year? I mean, we didn’t play him. He played in the Pinstripe Bowl, right? I mean, he’s a freshman.
We talk about him like he’s been here but he’s really a freshman. He’s playing in one extra game than everybody else. That’s about it. And so he’s coming along, it’s just the knowledge base is what is lagging because the physical ability is pretty clear. He’s just learning the game, and that’s the shame of it all, right, is that in two years, this kid is one of the best safeties we’ll ever see. I mean, it just takes time, and that’s what we’re we’ve had to put him in the fire, and he’s learning as we go.
Q. With a lot of that, is there no way to get around it other than simply putting him in game action?
COACH KELLY: There’s no other way to get around it. I mean, we are who we are in terms of the depth at that position. We lost Baratti, we made a decision that we were going to commit Farley to the nickel position. We lost Collinsworth. We had a true freshman in Drue Tranquill that we were just trying to get lined up, and then we’ve got Shumate. That’s really it. We lost Farley at the start of the season, so that’s the math.