Oct. 14, 2014
COACH KELLY: I’ll begin which recapping last week’s victory against North Carolina. Certainly pleased with the victory. Lot of things that we’ll have to improve on against, obviously an excellent Florida State football team, but a lot to take from that game. I think we could teach a lot off of a victory, and a lot of the things that went on in that game are areas that I think our football team can improve on. So I think that’s probably the best thing as a coach that you can win a football game and know that there are things that can be improved upon. There are areas that we can do better as coaches. We can coach better. We certainly can play better, but we can also improve during the week of our preparation for Florida State. So great to get a win, but also great to be able to build off of that, which we think we will.
Segue into Florida State. Obviously 22 straight games, Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, but it’s not just the quarterback. This is a deep football team. Offensive line I think is where I would start. One of the best offensive lines I’ve seen in some time. I remember going against them three years ago, it was a freshman laden, young offensive line, extremely talented. Now it’s a veteran group. So I think that that’s probably what really stands out to me.
Outstanding wide receivers, great skill, whether you’re talking about either receiver, Greene, vertical depth, vertical play is the thing that concerns you about them. They can go and get the football. O’Leary at the tight end position, depth at the running back. Just a well balanced offense across the board. Defensively, athletic, physical, great corner play. I think led by Darby. Outstanding player, great speed, great make up speed, can play the ball. Again, that’s why they’re the defending national champions.
Playing at their place will be a great challenge. It’s the first time on the road for us, so we’ll have to play in that kind of environment. But I will tell you that we’re excited about the opportunity to go down and play Florida State. Our guys are looking forward to it. We’ll have a great week of preparation and be looking forward to playing Florida State. So with that, we’ll open it up to questions.
Q. On Sunday, you mentioned the desire to play (Indiscernible). I believe Notre Dame has one win against a Top 5 team. How important is it to where you want to go to win these type of games?
COACH KELLY: I think they’re very important. I don’t know how many times since I’ve been here other than playing Alabama. Is that the only time? Stanford? That’s how you’re measured as a program when you’re talking Top 5 teams. Those are the games that you want to win, certainly. But I think before I got here I don’t know that we had a top 25 win so we’re moving up the ladder and certainly want to get to that point where we’re talking about beating Top 5 teams.
Q. Is there anything particular that has to happen? Do you have to get a win like this to build confidence or what will it take to make the next step?
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t think so. I think you just gradually build your program to the point where you’re — again, when we first started here, we didn’t have a top 25 win in a number of years. Then you beat top 25 teams, and you beat top 15 teams. You get yourself in it consistently, and then you breakthrough and you start playing at that caliber. I think it’s a process and a journey that we’re on as a program. And we expect to beat Florida State.
I don’t think you go down there thinking that you play average. You have to beat the very best to play the very best in the country.
Q. If you lose this game, do you think it will knock you out of the playoff picture or be hard to come back from?
COACH KELLY: No, I think we still have a rugged schedule in front of us. So I don’t look at this as a game that ends our quest for being in the playoffs. It’s an important game for us. No, I don’t think our kids look at it as a make or break kind of scenario.
Q. DaVaris Daniels tweeted that he’s done. I wonder if you have a few comments on that and what was said?
COACH KELLY: I have not seen that tweet.
Q. Do you have any news on any of the four remaining players?
COACH KELLY: The only two players that I know of that have spoken to me are KeiVarae and Ishaq, and both of them will not be with us this year.
Q. Is there hope Ishaq will return? KeiVarae mentioned he’ll be back in June.
COACH KELLY: He would like to be back as well.
Q. When you went down to the National Championship Game against Alabama, you felt like your team was pretty prepared for that and in retrospect you said this stage was a little bit different. What did you learn from that experience? Do you feel like this game is somewhat the equivalent of that kind of stage?
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t think it’s the same. I think it will be an environment that our kids will have to certainly get used to. We’ll prepare them and talk a lot more about it this week. I won’t leave it up to we’re at Notre Dame and we play in these kinds of environments. We’ve already brought it up. We’ve already talked about it. We’ll spend more time on preparing them for the environment that they’re going to be in. It will be a huge game. It’s a national televised game. The crowd will be intense, but I don’t think it has the same kind of routine leading up to it like a National Championship Game.
Q. You’ve faced Andrew Luck before. Winston’s numbers through 19 starts are kind of similar. How do you defend a guy like that without giving away the playbook? What do you try to do against a guy that’s that accomplished and does the Andrew Luck experience help you?
COACH KELLY: Anytime you’re playing a quarterback that is so efficient, and that is what stands out here is efficiency. Not turning the football over, minimizing any of the mistakes that they make. I think you have to look at yourself the same way. Not giving up big plays is important for us. Not forcing us in a situation where we make that big mistake. They’re waiting for you to make a mistake, and I think that’s where they’ve shown themselves to be very, very good, and Winston in particular, he’s waiting for you to make a mistake. We have to be on top of our game. If we do that, we think we’ve got enough to make some plays as well. He’s so efficient. You can’t let your guard down against him any play or he’ll beat you.
Q. How did the MRI come out on Austin?
COACH KELLY: It was delayed until this afternoon. He had a conflict with some academics.
Q. Again, you haven’t practiced yet, but I’m sure you’ve had meetings. How do you feel the psyche of your defensive players are? I don’t think they felt like they were invincible, but there was a throw of momentum in the first five games and then they hit the speed bump. How to you feel they’ve responded to that?
COACH KELLY: I think anytime you get into a game like that you look at certain areas and say well, you know what? I’m not maybe maybe I’m not as accomplished in this area and I need to get better. So I think in certain areas it’s a good thing. We broke down the game. Certainly we feel like offensively we didn’t put our defense in a very good situation at times, we think, as coaches. We didn’t put our defense in a very good situation at times, and we take some accountability for that as well. And I think our players feel like they needed to make some plays that they didn’t make. There is a little bit to go around for everybody in this matter.
So bottom line, our players are still confident in their ability, but I think it was a nice way for them to be reminded that there is still a lot more work to be done.
Q. Now that we’re getting close to finality with the players and suspended players, is there any inkling, has anybody talked to you about the concept of vacating victories still being in play?
COACH KELLY: Nobody has.
Q. Do you believe it’s out of play or do you believe it?
COACH KELLY: It hasn’t been addressed to me in a formal setting and talked about as here’s the next step. Here’s what we’re going to do. I haven’t had that meeting with Jack Swarbrick about what is the next step, if there is a next step. We haven’t had any concrete conversations about whether there is a next step. We haven’t talked about it.
Q. Eric made the correlation of the Alabama game, and I was thinking 2012, and I know that’s something we focus on and write about. But do you see more of a correlation with Oklahoma State?
COACH KELLY: I do. I think that’s a similar environment that we’ll go into and we’re preparing in that vein.
Q. How do you apply that? There are a few guys that experience that.
COACH KELLY: Sure, there are quite a few, actually that have experienced it. I mean, look, first of all, we haven’t been on grass since we were slipping down in New York on the ice. So we’ll have to get on the grass as soon as we can. The conditions aren’t great today, but we need to get on grass and get used to that. We’ll certainly need to work on non verbal cadence for the first time this year. So those are things that need to be addressed and worked on, there is no question about that.
Q. Do you see this as a team that’s better — you did a good job two years ago in Oklahoma. Do you see them as even better prepared than the one was two years ago?
COACH KELLY: This group does not strike me as one where they’re going to go down to Florida State and be affected by the crowd. Our problems have been self inflicted. So I’m more concerned about our self inflicted wounds than I am what may happen because of the environment.
They’re a pretty focused group on what they need to do. We just need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes we’ve made over the last few weeks.
Q. When you evaluate the pass protection especially since you’ve reconfigured the offensive line, when you’ve had break downs, is it a break down with the protection of the offensive line? Is it Everett not getting them in the right protection, or is it Everett leaving the pocket too soon? It’s probably a combination of all three, but how do you weigh those factors?
COACH KELLY: Well, you answered your own question, and it’s all of those. Look, when we’re talking about an offensive line, you’re also talking about the trust that comes with the quarterback working within the depth and the width of the pocket. You know, sometimes not taking away the solid depth of the pocket by stepping up when you don’t need to or if the width is protected, not leaving the pocket, or not communicating when we need to be in a particular protection and that happened.
So it’s a little bit of all of those things, and all of them are correctible. All of them have been coached that we’ll have to continue to coach with all of our guys. Here’s a good play. All of the guys are committed to seeing it and getting better at it.
I think it starts with Everett. He sees it, and yesterday he’s working on it already. You know, his attitude is awesome, and he understands how important it is for him to be better in the pocket. And that’s a really good thing.
Q. How much Torii Hunter played on Saturday, did he have a setback?
COACH KELLY: God, it was hard to get him out. We probably should have played him a little bit more, but Will had a hot hand out there and we didn’t want to pull him out of the game.
Q. Could you explain the technical reasons? I think you’ve taken Riggs and made him the nickel and inserted Butler corner, flip flopping their responsibilities; is that accurate?
COACH KELLY: We did on this particular game, but Matthias will be back at the nickel position.
Q. What is your kick return philosophy? There was one instance where Cam McDaniel was coming to tell Amir Carlisle to stay in the end zone. Carlisle brought it out so he was a blocker short because Daniel was playing traffic?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, there is a fine line between the confidence of that unit and wanting to make a play and then what has been communicated to the players relative to the depth which the ball has been kicked. I have no problem if that unit comes to me and says, Coach, take the green off. Green is a call for how for the depth of how deep that ball has been kicked which means we cannot take it out. If they convince me to take that off because they’re so confident in their ability, then go ahead and do that. But when I have that on and they still go through and do it on their own, then we have a problem in communication. That’s what happened on Saturday, a guy wanting to make a play, so that can’t happen.
Q. What is the depth?
COACH KELLY: It varies depending on who the kicker is and what the circumstances are in the game.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, I think what we try to do is stay on course all year for all of our games and not to try to get too high or too low. I think that I’ve done a pretty good job of setting that as the standard which keeps us within reasonable amounts of up or down, reasonable amounts. What we don’t want are high spikes of emotion and low spikes. They know that this is a game that everybody has been looking forward to. I try to keep that at a minimum one way or the other, so we don’t do a lot of talk about hyping the game. We talk more about it’s still going to be about your preparation. It’s still going to be about how you play the game and how you execute. I think we’re all kidding ourselves that there is a little bit more here because there are two undefeated teams playing on the road and in a primetime game. They know that. But we try to keep it to a minimum because we have so many other games that we have to play.
Q. With your corners and the secondary, how do you walk that fine line of okay you can’t make mistakes against Winston, but you have to have that courage to take a guy one on one sometimes?
COACH KELLY: You’re right. I mean, that’s where you are. You have to mix up some coverages. You have to give your corner some help certainly sometimes, but you can’t be double zoning or they’re going to run the ball all day at will with that offensive line. Then there are times that you have to be out there and you have to play tight coverage. It’s a balance. That’s why they’re difficult. That’s why they’ve won 22 games in a row. But you can’t be one dimensional. You have to be able to do both.
Q. You’re here now in mid October still getting resolution on suspended players yet here you are 6 0. How has this team been able to handle the uncertainty of that and still get to this point, still undefeated and still all their goals still in front of them?
COACH KELLY: Well, I just think that we’ve handled it with the right amount of respect and the right amount of understanding that we all have to attend to our own business. We miss our teammates. We care for them, but yet we have our own lives that we have to move on. Our guys clearly understood that and they’re here to get a degree and play football for Notre Dame. So I think we balance that out as a group. We have very good leaders that we’re able to continue to move that message forward through the group. And I was really proud of the way they’ve handled it.
The easiest thing would be for them to be out on social media taking a side. They’ve stayed away from doing that. They’ve handled themselves with great maturity in a very difficult situation. I think it’s been really the way we’ve handled it internally that’s allowed them to stay focused on themselves and their teammates and doing their job on a day to day basis.
Q. With the players you lost, has it been surprising the players have stepped up in their place and performed to the level they have?
COACH KELLY: I think we’ve seen great development from Cole Luke. Here’s a young man that arguably we didn’t know about Cody, certainly a transfer in, whether he was going to be a starter or a nickel. But Cole Luke has obviously done a great job. He’s been developing and turning himself into a really fine corner for us. So that development has been outstanding. Will Fuller, obviously has emerged as a go to wide receiver from that are standpoint. So if you look at the two guys in that respect have really stood out for us on offense and defense.
Q. Finally in your experience, how unusual is it to be playing your first road game October 18, and in a neutral site trips help at all in preparing for that experience?
COACH KELLY: I think so. I think playing in two NFL venues there is a kind of glamour and big time atmosphere associated with those sites. We weren’t playing in a small little stadium. We were playing in an environment that kind of evokes that kind of feel that we’ll get in a similar fashion at Florida State.
Q. You’ve lost three safeties now with Collinsworth, Baratti, and Hardy. Any contingency plans there?
COACH KELLY: Drew Tranquill and Matthias Farley, that will be the four man rotation.
Q. Is there help on the roster available for that? You don’t want to go down to three safeties, obviously, they both have roles in your defense?
COACH KELLY: Those would be the four, right? Those would be the four safeties we don’t have anybody else at this point.
Q. You mentioned Riggs on the last question. This would be his fifth game preparing for Florida State, not playing against them. (Indiscernible) any tendencies for him to talk to the defensive backs or the staff?
COACH KELLY: I saw him coming in this morning, we were coming in this morning, and it was dark out and I didn’t know who it was when we were coming in. And when I got to the door I saw it was Cody. I said Cody we’re playing Florida State. Those guys are big, and they’re strong, and really fast. Are you scared? He goes, coach, I’ve played them the last four years, so I’m not really scared. So he said he wasn’t scared. I think he’s all right (laughing).
Q. Kind of a technical question. Golson’s had success the last two games escaping up the middle whether designed or scrambling, and Williams obviously did. Kind of a different quarterback than last week. What is the challenge for a defense, and what usually breaks down when that vacates in the middle for a running quarterback?
COACH KELLY: Those were designed for us. They were matching one of our interceptions. They were matching hard to our spread sets, which gave us the ability to run him inside. So anytime he’s scrambling inside out, those are generally designed runs for us.
Q. I guess defensively, what is the challenge?
COACH KELLY: Oh, well, at times we were spying Williams, and he’s just, he beat our spy on a couple of occasions. When you have an outstanding guy in there, it’s hard for defensive tackles to maintain that pocket awareness when that guy’s back there. I mean, the athletes at the quarterback position are difficult to keep in there, and Winston is one of those as well.
Q. One quick clarification on Ishaq and KeiVarae. Are either able to stay in school for the semester?
COACH KELLY: No.
Q. Not this semester but the spring or the fall?
COACH KELLY: No, they’re not.
Q. You had mentioned earlier in the year when you played Purdue, you had to match their intent and playing a much higher level opponent, and their intensity might be ratcheted up maybe perception wise because of all of that swirling around. Do you feel you have to take the same us against the world mentality that they might have or do you try to tone that down as well?
COACH KELLY: No, I think the development of this football team has lots to do with education, learning, teaching them. There is so much teaching going on with them. It’s so much fun to teach, and for them to learn that that really doesn’t come into play. There are experiences in games because they prepare pretty darn good. They’re a focused group in their preparation. But there are things they can do better during the week and we can point them out. Like there are a number of things that we’ll do this week differently in our preparation that are a result of what happened during the game. So that’s the fun part. So we don’t need to get into the psyche with this group really.
We have to do better at the execution, playing in the game and how we prepare so that’s really how we focus week to week. We don’t have to worry about all the mind games, if you will, with this group which is pretty good.
Q. You had talked about Cole Luke and Will Fuller emerging in place of players who have not been able to practice. Isaac Rochell in place of Ishaq William. What is his role in the future? He’s so stout holding up that end position. Do you see him moving inside in the future, or do you like him in the role where he’s at at the strong side?
COACH KELLY: Well, we love where he is because of what he can do and holding the point in our defense. He can move inside as a pass rusher on third down, and that’s what he’s really doing. I think he can do both for us to answer your question. I think on first and second down he can be an outstanding defender for us on the edge of our defense. And I think on third down he can move inside and be a guy that can really push the depth of the pocket for us. I think he’s getting to that point for us.
Q. Has he almost been as much a surprise as Luke and Fuller?
COACH KELLY: We had a glimpse of him in the spring and his physical ability in terms of his strength was on display. We knew how strong he was. We knew his numbers in the weight room, and we knew how that was starting to translate itself. If you had asked me if he was going to have the kind of year, I would not have been as surprised because we saw it coming.
Q. You said it was his lower body that really needed the strength?
COACH KELLY: That’s correct. And we saw that coming and those numbers were skyrocketing, and that’s why I’m not as surprised because those were starting to show themselves.
Q. Do you have any recollection of the 1993 Notre Dame Florida State game and memories you might have of that game?
COACH KELLY: I do not. I have zero recollection of that game, I’m sorry.
Q. Since being here have you seen highlights of it at all?
COACH KELLY: No. I don’t think I’ve seen one highlight of that. Was it a good game?
Q. It was.
COACH KELLY: Did we win?
Q. Notre Dame won, yes.
COACH KELLY: Okay, I like the game already.
Q. They were number one, Notre Dame was number two, and it was here. 31 24 Notre Dame.
COACH KELLY: I like that. Let’s have a repeat of that one.
Q. That game was played on grass too.
COACH KELLY: Was it on grass? Okay. Was it snowing?
Q. I don’t believe it was. I don’t think it will be snowing this Saturday either?
COACH KELLY: No, it’s going to be 80 and sunny.
Q. We’ve heard you say a lot this year about you want your guys to rise to the level of your opponents and talk about the spikes and highs. I suppose the obvious danger of getting too high this week would be a lull. But aside from that, wouldn’t it be a good thing for guys to get a little more up to normal this week if there is a way to coach them to playing higher than they already have?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I’d like them to play smarter, more locked in, more aware of their surroundings, attention to detail, fundamentals. Those are really the things. Our guys are excited to play. They love competition. They love the battle. They love playing the game. It’s a great group. We’re a little sloppy. We need to focus on those things. It’s a different group of guys each year and this group loves to play. They sometimes forget what they’ve got to bring with them to play the game clean and play it with an a tension to detail in all areas, and we knew that.
I mean, look, I knew there were going to be some times where some of our inexperience would show itself, and it did on Saturday. But we’re prepared for it, and we’re not going to lower our standards because of that, and we’re not going to use it for an excuse. We want to get better because of it, and I think we will this week. I’m very confident we’ll play really good football because of what we experienced this past Saturday.
Q. I know you’ve said before you’re not really big on time of possession, but you are 26 2 here when winning the time of possession battle. Is this one of those games where it’s important to control the football a little bit and keep it out of Winston’s hands as much as possible?
COACH KELLY: There is no question in these kinds of games where you have two really good football teams and there is not a big margin for error, there are a lot of factors I look at in these kinds of games. You have to have the running game. The run game has to be part of it. Obviously, turnovers are huge, starting field position, there are some key keys that are part of our game plan and what we have to accomplish in this game.
Time of possession certainly you want to minimize the snaps that Winston gets, but it’s not one of the top ones for me. It’s still, for me, about an effective running game and minimizing the turnovers.
Q. Another thing when you first got here you talked about was the ability to win close games. Those first couple of teams struggled with that. Now you’ve shown a proclivity for being able to do that. What turned that around for you?
COACH KELLY: Winning the first close game and then believing that that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll find ways to win. Then it just builds on itself, and then they have an expectation that they’re going to win. There was nobody that didn’t believe they were going to win the last couple of games. I mean, there was no sense of feeling on the sideline at any time that we weren’t going to win those games. That takes time. You have to win games to get to that, but I think that starts with winning that first one.
Q. Coach Fisher yesterday was very adamant in his support of Jameis Winston and all the things he’s gone through. Considering what you and the program have gone through this year, can you empathize with him a little bit?
COACH KELLY: Well, your players, right, you’re with them and you know them, and he obviously knows him better than anybody else, so I think I’d come from that perspective. That he knows his quarterback better than anybody else, so I take it from that perspective more than anything else.
Q. You guys obviously jumped in front and sat the guys down when they had hearings coming up. Was it frustrating not just because you’re playing Florida State, but is it frustrating to know that Winston is still playing given what he’s facing both in his autograph deal and possibly with the sexual assault charges?
COACH KELLY: No, I’ve got so much to worry about in my own program, I can’t even fathom to think about other people’s issues. I’ve got to handle what I handle, so that is so far from my radar that I have to really focus on my group. There is enough here for me, trust me, every day. So I really don’t get into those kinds of scenarios thinking about what other programs should be thinking about and how they should do their job.
Q. You’re obviously prepared for Jameis, but is there preparation if he doesn’t play you guys?
COACH KELLY: Well, we’re preparing for their system. Jimbo’s system, we know it, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what that system’s going to be, and we’re pretty sure that Winston’s going to be the quarterback.
Q. Finally for me, you mentioned Jhonny Williams a lot during the preseason, but we haven’t seen him at this point. Is it probably more of a red shirt situation for him?
COACH KELLY: We’d like it to be. We’d like it to be. We’re hopeful that that ends up being the case, yeah.
Q. Given the youth of the secondary, last week’s game was kind of unique in you saw a lot of different things. You saw wildcat and quarterbacks, and half back options. For the young guys in the secondary, and not that they needed a lesson from a team like North Carolina, but they saw an awful lot in one afternoon that might have taken three or four games, maybe another half season to see that much of one game.
COACH KELLY: You’re absolutely right. There was a lot going on there. First quarter was not good. We didn’t play with the same kind of, I don’t know, focus, energy, use whatever word you want. Second quarter they weren’t on the field that much. Third quarter we really settled back into playing the kind of football defensively that we had been playing. You know, we gave up three points, the other one was a turnover on our part, and they threw the quick quarterback option pass, which was tough to defend, to go to your question. They brought the tight end across, and Butler took two steps with him, and then the quarterback came out and nice play. Having said that, the fourth quarter, those young guys played pretty good. They got tired. They got tired. So there was a lot going on out there.
But the nice part about it is that we saw from the young players, the young defensive players in the back end, we saw with Redfield and with Butler, in particular, we saw some progress.
Q. With the week off following this game, are there any thoughts as you get into the game plan, whether (Indiscernible) does the week off have anything to do with it at all?
COACH KELLY: We’re going to get them out of here. We’re going to look at Navy on Monday and Tuesday, and then we’re getting them out of here. We stayed the first bye week here. We did not let them leave with the expressed purpose to get them out of here on the second bye. So we’ll get a good look maybe on Monday and Tuesday, and then they’re out of here, and they have to report back on Saturday.
Q. The screen game has not probably been a real staple for you guys the last four years. This has been a big part of what you do when you’ve done it successfully. What do you think has been the biggest key to that being part of your offense?
COACH KELLY: The screen association threatened to take my card away. That’s all I did when I was at Cincinnati. When I got here they were going to take it away so we had to get it going again. We needed it as part of our offense and it was definitely missing within our offensive structure. It was something that we recommitted to in the spring. Really spent a lot of time with it and getting it going. I think it’s given us four touchdowns at this point.
So I think it was just an important element that was missing within our offense that I felt like it needed to be reintroduced back into the offense.
Q. Did your personnel have a lot to do with that or was that more your decision we need to focus on this?
COACH KELLY: Personnel, screen game requires. The quarterback has to have a comfort level with it, somebody with the ability to release it at different arm angles. Everett’s really good at it. It requires that as well so that has something to do with it as well.
Q. You talked about the offensive line on Sunday. But in terms of their run blocking, is that their best performance of the season you thought?
COACH KELLY: It was their most probably their most consistent in terms of run blocking. We missed a couple of calls. We were out of position on a couple of things. Nick is still feeling his way through on a couple of areas. Ronnie Stanley was outstanding, graded out the highest.
Matt does some pretty good things in the run game. Once in a while in protections he gets overextended and Elmer is really starting to settle in at that guard position. So we feel like we’re getting there. We had a combination of things in some pass protection that were quarterback related, running back related, and communication related that we’ve got to get better at. To answer your question, it was probably our best.