Sept. 20, 2016
Brian Kelly: Obviously, back to work for us. Obviously, a bad start to our season, poor start, whatever way you want to characterize it. Three games into the season, nobody wants to be where we are, but we are 1-2. I’m a 1-2 coach. We’ve got to work to get better.
There’s four quarters in the season, and the first quarter, we did not get off to a good start. But there is plenty of time for us to come out of this in a very, very positive way. That’s what we talked about over the last day or so.
We obviously compete unevenly, if you will, in a manner that would probably characterize as we lack a sense of urgency in the way we play. We play in spurts. We play really well for a period of time, and then we kind of don’t play at the highest level necessary against really good competition. So finding that sense of urgency, that attention to detail that’s absolutely crucial to being a really good football team, and we can’t be the kind of football team that we want to be unless we play with a sense of urgency for four quarters. We do some really good things, and then we do some really sloppy things.
To be the kind of football team we want to be, we have to eliminate that. We have to eliminate it in our preparation. We have to eliminate it in the way we go to work every single day. And then we’ve got to be able to make certain that there’s an attention to detail and that urgency that I just mentioned begins to show itself.
So we get to work now on our ACC swing here over the next three weeks with Duke, Syracuse, and North Carolina State. You know, Duke is a well-coached football team. David Cutcliffe has taken this team and really transformed it into a physical, tough, aggressive defensive club. They like to bring pressures, but they just — they’re very stingy in what they do. They, I think, have manufactured a lot of pressures and sacks and turnovers. They’ll do a very good job on the defensive side of the ball getting after you.
Coach is really good at developing quarterbacks that lose their starter. You know, Daniel Jones has been as good as anyone in the country as far as running their offense. So very diversified on offense. Got some nice weapons, do a lot of things on offense. So good football team. They’ve got some guys that certainly can make some big plays on the offensive side of the ball.
Like I said, they’ve got 85 scholarship players. All of them are seasoned players. They played in a Bowl game, won a Bowl game last year, and certainly have the players back that can create all kinds of problems for us.
For us, a lot of respect for Duke, but we’ve really got to clean up our game, and we’ve got to be able to play with that sense of urgency for four quarters against another really good opponent.
I think that’s probably all I have from my end. I’ll open up for questions.
Q. Brian, you talked about urgency. How do you get the players to feel that sense of urgency quickly?
COACH KELLY: Well, first of all, I think it’s coming to the realization of recognizing who we are as a football team. Now three weeks into it, it’s pretty clear that we’ve got a group that will compete. There’s no quit in them, but they can’t turn it on and turn it off. So the realization of knowing who we are and what our weaknesses are — a lot of us could go to work on that.
You do that by, first of all, getting that out on the table. Hey, who’s we are. Let’s go work on that. Let’s be cognizant and aware of it and prepare better in practice. We don’t think the playoff in practice, but there’s a great focus and concentration in everything we do, and then we carry that over into games.
I think the first step is realizing where your weaknesses are so you can begin to address them.
Q. Both sides seem to feed off each other. Do you think that one side kind of ignites the other? Or why is it that they seem to get going at the same time?
COACH KELLY: I think that’s the game we play in, and a team sport kind of has momentum. There’s some inexperienced players that at times don’t play with that single minded purpose, that, unfortunately, emotion plays into it, and it shouldn’t.
That’s another point that was brought up was that we shouldn’t be waiting for the ebbs and flows of games to carry us. We should be the ones initiating the flows of the games, and that is the makeup of this team right now that needs to change.
Q. I think the running game took a step back against Michigan State. What did you see, and what do you think you need to work on?
COACH KELLY: I tend to disagree with it after evaluating our offense. Our first half, we had pretty good balance in what we wanted to do. We carved out the kind of run game. We were inconsistent in our performance, certainly, and then we only ran the ball twice in the fourth quarter and kind of got behind and never were really able to settle in.
There were some things that we clearly have to get better at. There was some movement up front that we didn’t handle very well. There were some pressures that the ball needed to get thrown out and the ball not run — all correctible errors. I don’t stand here right now worried about our running game. I believe our running game is going to be where it needs to be. I think we made some mistakes and then never got in the kind of committed run flow in the second half that we needed to because we got down so quickly.
Q. Can you talk about why you gave Josh the number 1, what he did last week and why you awarded him that honor.
COACH KELLY: It was the way he — and since he’s gotten here as a freshman, the way he’s worked. It’s been a championship level kind of work ethic. You’ve got to have — to have the all time winning percentage for college football, you have to have players that are your best players. Also, they’ve got to be your best workers, and he’s one of clearly our best workers in practice. So he sets a high bar, and that’s why he’ll wear the jersey number 1.
Q. Offensive line play, after you’ve had a chance to review it, how do you feel like your practice is three games into the season?
COACH KELLY: You know, I’ll tell you one thing. We’re a physical attack. Quenton Nelson had his best game of the year, got back to playing physical football. He knocked some dudes around, and it was fun to watch. It was kind of what we expected him to look like, played that physical kind of football. Probably was thinking a little bit too much, worried about his partners, not worried about getting off the ball and getting after people. So that was nice to see.
Mike did some really good things. Needs to finish off some of his pass protections, but did some really good things. We missed a couple of protections. We got a little sloppy on some protections that were easily some of the easiest protections that we have. That goes to that sense of urgency that we have to have all the time. There was some movement up front we didn’t handle quite well, and that has to get better.
If there’s one thing that I would critique more than anything else, we’ve got to finish off our pass protections. We’ve got some unnecessary hits on the quarterback late after throws — or what were not illegal hits. I’m not claiming them to be such. We’ve got to hang in there with our protections to the echo of the whistle. And then there was some movement up front we didn’t handle quite as well. We’ve got to do a better job of that. I think in those two areas, I would be critical.
Other than that, we did what we needed to do offensively on the offensive line to have success. We would not have lost the football game because of our offensive line play.
Q. For a guy that really had to step up in competition, you seem to be getting a lot of mileage out of Chase Claypool both on special teams and offense. Do you see a possibility for him to continue to extend his role?
COACH KELLY: I think that’s a guy we’ve got to look to get on the field more. We’ve had conversations with the staff to define a more expanded role for him. We’ve got to be careful with loading up too much on him. Football — you know, at the level he played — I have to be careful with what I say. He wasn’t getting all the kinds of route running and comprehensive coverages and all the things he’s got to make adjustments on in high school as he is now. This is a big leap for him. So we’ve got to be careful with what we give him, but we definitely want to keep giving him more and more each and every week.
Q. I think every media opportunity, from March until the beginning of the season, you got asked about who your leaders were going to be, what kind of leadership you were going to get. Now that it’s here, now that you’re into the season, what are you seeing from your leaders after one or two starts?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think leadership at this point, you know, takes on a role of accountability and responsibility, and that is there. It’s clearly there. I think what we want to see more than anything else is that all of our players now — when you get the game rolling and get into the season, during the week, accountability and responsibility is what I’m looking for from our seniors, and that means not just on the field, but off the field.
Then when we get into the games, that senior leadership kind of goes away, and then you expect them to be playmakers for you, your veteran guys. You want your captains to be your best players. So we have those guys pegged to be top players for us, and they’ve got to continue to come through.
Q. On your Sunday teleconference, you mentioned your optimism about some young defensive players that you think in time are going to help you as you kind of measure overwhelming numbers that’s pushed them to their limit. How do you kind of gauge that? What’s the right balance?
COACH KELLY: Well, you’ve got to look at, first of all, we’re playing a freshman safety, and we’re playing a freshman nickel. We’re playing a first year starter at will, a first year starter at corner. So I don’t know how much you can keep pushing that envelope in terms of how many first year players do you put out on that field against outstanding competition and it become, you know, problematic, if you will.
So we’re going to keep pushing and getting those athletes out on the field. They’re playing a lot of special teams right now. So that’s kind of where they’re dipping their toe in the water. And we hope that that’s gaining some confidence for him so we can continue to play him more, like a Chase Claypool. He’s gotten a lot of confidence on special teams, which has allowed us to open the door to more offensive plays.
Q. You’re in this situation. I know you’re supporting Brian VanGorder 100 percent. But you mentioned getting fundamentals right, getting teaching right. As the head coach, do you feel compelled to kind of shift your emphasis, your time, over to the other side of the ball while it’s in this state?
COACH KELLY: Well, I have to be able to know that everything in the program is being taught, being effectively communicated on a day-to-day basis. So physically, does that mean on the practice field I have to stand on the defensive practice field to get that done? No, it doesn’t mean that. What it means is that I have to be in defensive meetings. It means that I have to be aware of what the game plan is. It means that I have to know how we’re teaching things and communicating them, which I do.
So I don’t need a headset. I don’t need to be on the defensive side of the ball coaching tackling. I’m very confident that I’ve got good coaches to do that, but I’m the head coach, and I’d better be certain that I know exactly what’s going on in all facets of my program — offense, defense, special teams, recruiting, all of those things. But from an optic standpoint, I don’t need to be standing on the defensive end of the field to make sure that gets done.
Q. I had the same question. How have you handled defensive issues in the past?
COACH KELLY: Scored more points.
Q. Is there anything — nothing else like being more active or anything else?
COACH KELLY: No. I think certainly there are some things that you can do and some that you can’t. If you’re doing all the things fundamentally, as I just kind of alluded to, if you believe that all the things that you can do as a coach and all the things that you’re doing from preparation are being covered, then there’s not much more you can do other than believing in your players, working to get better each and every week, and sticking by them so that they improve and get better as the year progresses.
I believe the group’s going to get better each and every week. Some of the mistakes that were made out there are fundamental errors that are correctible errors. That’s why I believe we’re going to continue to get better in that area. So it’s a little bit of both. It’s a little bit of both.
Q. One more question. What do you think about the cameras kind of catching your interactions with your coaches on the sidelines?
COACH KELLY: My office. My office. If it was in your office, they’d probably see your interactions with your employees on a day-to-day basis too. It just is what it is. If we were up 55-0, we’d probably have no interaction conversations, but there’s going to be conversations on the sideline because it’s on national TV.
I have great respect for all my coaches. They have respect for me. We have a chain of command. If I don’t like something, I’m going to make my opinions known. It’s just business as usual. It’s not personal. It’s about getting it right, and, again, it’s my office. So I think, if you have a camera in your office, there will be those moments that we all have that people would ask what was going on.
Q. Coach, Cole Luke struggled at times against Michigan State. How do you feel like he’s going to bounce back going forward? How much do you need him to set that example for all those young defensive backs?
COACH KELLY: Cole is a good player. He’s the smartest defensive player we have. He’s got to play with a sense of urgency. He’s got to catch that football. He’s got to make that tackle. He’s got to stay above the cut and be in good position to break on number one. He’s got to do all those things, and he’s capable of doing them, and he knows that.
All I’ve told Cole is that he’s a really good football player. He’s put himself in good positions. He’s just got to go make some plays. We’ve got to rely on him because he’s a three-year starter for us out there, and he’s got to be able to play better for us, and I’m confident he will.
Q. Your special teams hurt you in Game 1 and really helped you in Game 2. What’s your message this week? Coverage returns and mental errors that took points off the board and also gave Michigan State points.
COACH KELLY: It’s a bit of a mixed bag. The kickoff return for a touchdown, if you watch, blocked beautifully. We have one situation where a kid tried to do a little bit too much away from the main play because you look at it and you go, wow, it’s beautiful. He blocked. And then you’ve got one guy that’s trying to do a little bit too much.
And then the punt — again, if we had to do it all over again, C.J. needs to run like heck and scream in that situation. Very difficult situation, where the ball’s on the ground like that. We practice it by yelling. It was very loud. We’ve got to be more aware. Very difficult, both of those situations, but they occurred, and they were big plays.
So I’m not standing here to condemn my special teams unit. They did some really good things. I think it’s a trending group. They’re doing some really good things. We’ve got to clean up some of those mistakes.
Q. That’s my next question. There’s some uneven guys on coverage and return, but it seems like they are — you have faith in them. You don’t need to get the guys that used to do it, like (indiscernible)?
COACH KELLY: No, I agree with you. I like what we’re doing. I like the energy in the group. I like their investment in it in terms of — I don’t have to beg anybody to be on these teams. A few years ago, it was like we had to pay them to be on special teams.
So I like where they’re going. We’ve got to clean up some of those unfortunate mistakes.
Q. I know that circumstances of the game called for, obviously, a lot of passing in the second half, but early on, what went into the guys getting Josh Adams significantly more carries than Tarean Folston? What does Tarean need to do to split the load, so to speak?
COACH KELLY: They’re different runners. The game probably from week to week will kind of dictate who we’re playing, how we’re playing. That was a more pressure-oriented team where you’re going to have to break more runs inside. But I wouldn’t read too much into it. I think they’re both going to share a lot of carries throughout the year.
Q. Daniel Jones, a little bit similar situation to Kizer almost last year in the sense of pressure and got thrown in a week before the season. What do you have to guard against against a guy that you have so little film on and don’t really know him?
COACH KELLY: We have film on him. He’s poised. I love his poise for a freshman. He has a really good command of the offense. He does not seem at all fazed when he’s back there.
Now, they’re in an open-ended offense where you’re exposed at times, and he does not blink back there. I like the kid. I think he shows a lot of poise, and he’s got some athletic ability.
Q. I know you downplayed the lack of sacks last week, but just pressure in general, what do you think the front seven need to do either differently or better?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think we all know, if you bring pressure, you put pressure. So it’s measured. It’s measured by how much pressure do you want to put on your corners and safeties? And so we’re measuring that. We’re measuring it by down and distance. We’re measuring it by opponent from week to week.
So we’re in a position where we have to — obviously, we have to bring pressure in certain situations, and we got to get home, and we’re close to getting home. We had a couple where we’re right there. We’ve got some hurries, but we don’t have the sacks yet, obviously. Duke got two out of two guys that are 5’9″, 180.
So we got to get there. We understand that. We’re clearly aware of the situation. But bring pressure, you add pressure.
Q. You mentioned those Duke sacks, Brian, and two coming from Edwards, a safety. But they also have a ton of experience in their secondary.
COACH KELLY: Very experienced group.
Q. Is there ability to get pressure based on scheme or personnel or a little bit of both?
COACH KELLY: A little bit of both. Edwards is 5’9″. He bent underneath the tackle and sat, and he is flexible. He got underneath the set of the tackle. I mean, they do a really good job. Coach Knowles, he’s been coaching football for a long time. He’s got a good scheme. They do a really good job of coaching their players. They do a nice job, and they’ve got some veteran players that have played a lot of football.
Q. Edwards has also proven to be a dynamic return man?
COACH KELLY: Very good, four touchdowns plus. Yeah, he’s a guy that we’re aware of, and we have to take special note of him in special teams.
Q. Will you kick to him?
COACH KELLY: Absolutely. And then maybe not.
Q. Finally, I wanted to ask about Borders, the cornerback. What is it that makes him so effective?
COACH KELLY: Again, here’s another veteran guy who’s played a lot of football. He’s smart. He doesn’t put himself in awkward positions. They mix things up coverage-wise. He’s not always on an island, and I just think they do a nice job with him, and he’s a smart player, and I think you would expect that. The way they play, they know their strengths, and they know their weaknesses. They do a nice job.
Q. Do you ever put on the tape of another team and show it to your team and say, these are some of the things that we would like to emulate, that we would like to do? Can you adapt like that?
COACH KELLY: You know, those are things that we would do in the off-season if there were some things that other teams are doing that we liked. We probably wouldn’t do that during the season. There are definitely teams that utilize personnel or teach things or have schemes that we’ve stolen from others that we think that are really good, but that’s generally something we’d do in the off-season.
Q. Saturday we saw Daelin kind of running with the tight end turning, around and making a play on the ball. You talk about not wanting to throw too much at the freshmen. What about Daelin Hayes’ mentality that allows him to play in those situations?
COACH KELLY: Again, you’ve got the tight end. We’re trying to gradually bring him along into you don’t have two-to-one, and you’ve got to defend against the vertical because tight end blocks, you’re a second wave blitzer, all that kind of stuff. So we’re trying to keep it, you know, as a natural progression for these guys to learn and gain some confidence, and Daelin’s coming along.
He hasn’t played a lot of football, quite frankly, and we had a hard time getting him lined up early in camp. He’s coming along. He’s defending, and you’re going to see more of him as we move forward.
Q. A player with that natural ability, to follow up on the last question, to bring pressure, is he a guy who, as he continues to get lined up correctly, he’s a guy that can maybe help with that?
COACH KELLY: There’s a lot of those guys. They’re coming. I know you want him now. I want him now. I wanted them all last week. But they’re going to get there.
Q. DeShaun after the game — it was kind of the same thing against Texas, where he took responsibility for basically not putting up enough points. He said that he feels like the offense could put up 70. Is he a guy that is well-equipped as a quarterback to have that perfectionist mentality?
COACH KELLY: He’s got to play with more sense of urgency. He’s one of those guys. We had seven plays in a row that were negative plays that are just unacceptable offensively. It’s not just him, but he’s running the offense, and there are plays that are out there to be made that we’re not making. We come out in our first drive, and we look pretty good. We drop a ball and make a mistake, and we lose that urgency there for a while. We have to is have that from the very beginning. That starts with the guy with keys in his hand who’s driving a car, and he’s got to have more of that.
Q. Brian, kind of playing up the sense of urgency, are you a coach that will use playing time as a carrot for players in terms of, if you’re not executing, we’ll take you out of the game? And then building on that, if you are, how do you balance that with defense not wanting to get too young on that side of the ball?
COACH KELLY: I’ve only used it for guys that don’t play hard. If you’re not playing hard — and we ran into a little bit of that with our receivers that were not — they just weren’t physically able to go as long as we wanted them to go when we were trying to push the tempo late in the game. And they couldn’t go vertically, come back, hit another route vertically, come back. That, we have to keep an eye on.
But if you’re playing hard and you’re giving us everything, I don’t use that as a way that motivates you. But if you’re not playing hard, that’s the way that I’m going to pull you off the field.
Q. On game days, how do you handle a guy who’s playing hard but maybe not playing well?
COACH KELLY: I just let him go. He’ll break out of it. As long as he’s giving us everything that we have and we’ve evaluated him as being the best player we have at that position, just keep playing. It will come. You’ve just got to keep playing.
Q. What do you feel is the strength of this team right now?
COACH KELLY: They’ve got a competitive resolve. They want to win. They’re willing to — they’ve got pride. When you’ve got pride and a competitive spirit, that’s a big piece. They don’t like to lose, but they have to understand that to win, you can’t start winning until you stop losing. They do some things that prevent them from winning, and it’s kind of the things that I pointed out.
Q. You say you don’t need to be on the defensive side of the ball coaching tackling or to be physically on the defensive field. What would it take for you to be in that position to say, okay, I have to be more hands on on the field with the defense during practice?
COACH KELLY: If we weren’t coaching it the right way, if we weren’t teaching it, if we weren’t on it every single day. When I’m at practice, that we’re not starting every day of practice with our tackling circuit and talking to our players about how to get in the proper position and going from speed to power. Our problem is we don’t go from speed to power. We go from speed to speed. And we miss tackles, and that’s not how we teach it.
So we’ve got to communicate it better. We’ve got to break it down. When I say do a better job coaching, obviously, speed to power is not getting there. So what do we have to do differently? We’re going to do some things differently that allows us to actually talk about the power end of things and put them in a power position before they tackle instead of just going from speed to power because they don’t understand power because all we’re seeing is speed and we’re missing tackles.
If we weren’t teaching those things, if I didn’t see them with my own eyes, I’d be over there wearing a hat and a whistle and coaching it myself.
Q. What’s your relationship with Brian VanGorder right now? How is it in the meetings or behind the scenes one-on-one? How is the relationship? Is it still as strong as it’s always been?
COACH KELLY: Colleagues. Colleagues in it together to get the most out of our players. He’s coaching his butt off. His staff is working hard. We’re trying to find the best solutions to what we have on our side of the ball, and we’re going to keep working hard to address them and get our defense to where it needs to be.
Q. Before the season, you said the goal was to make the playoff. That’s your goal every year.
COACH KELLY: Yes.
Q. That seems very difficult to do at this point. What’s the goal for this team for the rest of the year?
COACH KELLY: When you — even if we were undefeated, we wouldn’t even be thinking about that goal. We’d be so focused on Duke right now, and you guys would be hearing that every day from our guys that you’d just keep shaking your head. You’re going to hear the same thing from me at 1-2. We’re so focused on getting the win that the goal is really off to the side.
And really the focus is on how do we play the game better? How do we get this football team to play better on offense with more consistency? How do we eliminate the mistakes that we’re making in special teams that are causing us to really stub our toe? And then defensively play better and more consistently instead of shutting out Michigan State for two quarters. How do we shut them out for four quarters? That’s really what we’ll be focused on.
Q. I think you might have just answered this, but the speed-to-power concept, do you change up sort of the practice routine this week to emphasize tackling more or how you go about teaching tackling more?
COACH KELLY: We’re going to go against each other a little bit more today. And I’m going to do it to add more speed to the practice, and we’re going to thud up so we can get from speed to power. Normally, we’re in a whiz phase, where our guys run by the ball tackler and whiz, which may have — I don’t know. I’m just looking to coach better. So we’re going to thud up everybody, which is going to put us in a power position on everything that we whistle off today.
So we’ll go 20 minutes together, which we normally don’t, just to re-emphasize that speed to power to clean up what I’ve seen to be — if we just make some tackles on Saturday, we’re in a much better position.
Q. Three games into the second phase of Nyles Morgan’s career, what have you seen, and what do you like the most?
COACH KELLY: Toughness. Gets up front. He makes some great front checks. They’ve got into some unbalanced situations. He’s moving the front, keeping calls on. We had a couple of defensive linemen that checked out of calls, that shouldn’t have made it. He’s doing a great job of really running our front seven.
Q. And one concept that we saw more on Saturday than the first couple of games, Daelin and Julian out there together, Greer and Nyles, and then Bonner and Rochell inside. It was pretty effective. Statistically, what do you like about that package, and where do you think that can go moving forward?
COACH KELLY: Julian can bend really well off the edge. He gets there and really forces the quarterback to step up in the pocket. We think with Rochell and Bonner inside, athletic guys, that we feel we can generate the kind of pass rush that we’re looking for. Jonathan gets outside his pass rush lane one time and we get a quarterback that runs out, I mean, we’ve got other things that we need to get better at, but we think that that mix can be effective, and we’re still trying to find that rotation, but I think we’re getting closer to finding that group.
Q. When did you start working with that lineup? Was that August?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it was August, but it was more about trying to find the rotation that looked right and whether it was going to be in a three down, four down. Remember now, we had to make some big changes at Texas in moving our nickel out to corner. So we kind of had to scratch some things over the last couple of weeks.
Q. There’s been so much emphasis on safety in football, maybe going toward less physical practices. The Ivy League is talking about not permitting any tackling during the week or contact during the week. Do you feel that has any effect on the tackling performances as far as the tackles and some of the fundamentals lacking?
COACH KELLY: I really don’t. If you look at all — I went through, and I tracked all of our missed tackles, every single one of them is just poor fundamentally. Out of control, not being in control of their body. And if we’re just in a better position, a better football position, if we just put ourselves in front of the ball carrier and get run over and hold on for dear life, they’re only going to get another yard or two.
But we’re in a poor position, and so I don’t believe that. I don’t believe it for a second. I think we have alternatives to teach it safely. We just got our guys, and they’re just too anxious. They’re too anxious. They’re either behind the play and they’re just late in recognizing and trying to make up for it and they’re out of control, or they’re trying to block tackle and should be in a good fit tackle position.
So I don’t believe that the safety has anything to do with the poor tackling. That’s just my opinion.
Q. You talked last week about Daniel Cage playing some of his best football early on in the season. It seems that Jerry Tillery is a lot more active. He’s getting 60, 70 snaps now whereas last year as a freshman he could only get 20 or 30. It seems the inside was closing off against Michigan State. So they were going over to the outside. How would you assess the play of Tillery?
COACH KELLY: Tillery was outstanding. He was our best defensive lineman on Saturday. Played his best game since he’s been at Notre Dame, which is unfortunate in some respects because I stand up there every week, and I don’t talk about all four of them playing their best each and every week.
Now, Jarron did some good things, but he lacks a sense of urgency. Isaac’s got to let it go. In particular, in pass pro. We’re waiting for him in pass to get that quarterback. He’s so close, we want to see him go. Andrew played really hard and really physical. I mean, we’re close to getting where I stand before you and go all four of those guys, or all five of those guys played their very best. We want to get to that point. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.
Q. What have you seen from Jeron in terms of stamina to get to 60, 70 snaps. Is that something you want to see with him?
COACH KELLY: He focused a little bit more on football. He didn’t go to Europe. He cut down on his social agenda. He only ran one presidential campaign this year. Honestly, he focused a little bit more on football and his conditioning, and it was on Jerry. Jerry’s put more time in football, more time in his development. And, again, he’s a year into the program. He was a freshman last year. So now he’s a year further along in the program. So he’s built that stamina. He’s built that conditioning.
But a lot of credit goes to him. He put a lot of that other stuff, those other things that were part of his freshman year — he did a lot in his freshman year. He did more than most people would do in four years, and he put a lot of that aside to focus on football.
Q. Let me follow up with this then. There’s sometimes the perception that because Notre Dame student-athletes are so well balanced in their lives, whether it’s Jerry Tillery or others, that they don’t invest the time into become top level football players than maybe at other schools where there’s a greater emphasis? I don’t want to say that’s a problem.
COACH KELLY: I like the fact that our student-athletes, in particular, are our football players have the option to do other things because I think you can do other things. I think there’s enough time to do all those things. It’s a holistic education and that’s a great thing. It’s one of our distinctions. You get a chance to go abroad and do those other things.
I think you have to just be really, really disciplined. You have to be unique in that sense. You have to be so focused and disciplined on your football while you’re here. You have to have a sense of urgency. We lack that with our group right now, and we’ve got to get to that. If we can get that sense of urgency, then we’re going to be in pretty good shape.
Q. Lastly, I just wanted to follow up on, I think from the outside looking in, the reason you get that question so much of why don’t you spend time with the defense, the perception is Mike Denbrock has been with you forever. He knows the offense. Mike Sanford was brought in to really help augment some thinking there. If the boss goes over to the defensive side of the ball, perhaps then that sense of urgency on that side will be lifted up.
COACH KELLY: Yeah. Well, like I said, the players know that, from the head coach’s perspective, that I’m aware of everything that goes on because I can speak to them about what their techniques are, what they’re doing, how they’re doing them on a day-to-day basis.
So I can pull Nyles aside, and I can pull the DB aside and our defensive linemen, and I can talk to them intelligently about their defensive techniques. So they know that I’m in tune to what they’re doing, not, hey, what did you do on that play?
So I think that’s the most important thing and that I’m aware of what’s going on on a day-to-day basis. If I didn’t, then you’re right. Then I’d have to be more active in terms of what we’re doing defensively on a day-to-day basis.