Sept. 13, 2015

University of Notre Dame Football Media Conference

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Brian Kelly

Q. Could you talk about what you want DeShone focusing on this week?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think there’s some things that we have to do in terms of our game plan, first of all, and you know, paring it to the point where he feels comfortable with what we’re doing offensively.

So I think that that’s the first thing. I think there’s some things that we want to do with him relative to mechanics and getting him comfortable there. But I think by and large, you know, he really showed his competitive nature. He really showed a poise late in the game.

So we know he’s got the ability to play winning football. Now it’s just kind of honing in on some of the specifics that we want to highlight that are his strengths, so I think that that in particular is what we’ll go to work on here starting tonight.

Q. You mentioned yesterday that he doesn’t have the running skills of Malik. Is his skill level a little more in line with like Everett?
COACH KELLY: I would say he’s a bigger kid. We feel comfortable running him and we’ll continue to run our read option series with him. He’ll be part of our running game. I think he’s a little bit different in that he sees the field very well, he’s got escape-ability. I just don’t see him as elusive of a runner but he certainly is somebody that you’re going to have to account for in the running game.

So we’ll do some things a little bit differently with him than we did with Malik. But I also think he has some other skill sets that we can definitely go to that will help our offense.

Q. So yesterday with the first — most of us — what is he like personality-wise?
COACH KELLY: Well, he’s very bright. He’s got excellent leadership skills. He’s respected by his teammates, and he can go in there, he’s very confident. He just has a confident air about him and he believes he can go in there and win, and you love that about a kid that can go in there and get the job done. So just carries himself very well, and like I said, more than anything else, he has a ton of respect from his teammates.

Q. Who is next in line after Brandon?
COACH KELLY: Brandon is next in line. His package will be a little bit more limited, but he’s got some real high-end skills. He’s got an incredibly strong arm, very athletic. We think there’s some things that he can do to help us, and we’ll play him if we need to.

And then Montgomery VanGorder would be our third quarterback if we got to that situation.

Q. When you were at Cincinnati, you went through five quarterbacks. Is that something that you bring up to the team — you know, when a team is tough, you can overcome stuff like this?
COACH KELLY: Well, we are not going to make any excuses for where we are. There’s no reason why we can’t win with DeShone Kizer. There’s no reason why we can’t win with C.J. Prosise or Antonio Folston. Anybody that we lose, we believe that we’ve got guys that can step up. You know, I don’t bring up any specific things that have happened in my career relative to the position of injury, other than we’re not going to make any excuses for it and we believe that we’ve got players that we’ve recruited that can go in and get the job done. Now it’s DeShone’s time and I’ve got confidence in him and I know our players do.

Q. Just want to know, what do you think the timetable is going to be for Malik to both have surgery and then the recovery after it?
COACH KELLY: He had surgery this morning. He is in St. Liam’s here on campus. Surgery went well. And you know, he’ll begin the process of rehab once he’s able to get the swelling down. I think it’s a couple weeks before we start to begin some movement. It’s non-weight bearing for about six weeks, and then Rob Hunt, our football athletic trainer, will begin some movement. We are hoping to have him back full go for spring ball.

Q. With an injury like this, do you have to be a little more cautious with Malik, just given his kind of style as a running quarterback and not rushing him back a little bit too quickly?
COACH KELLY: No, we had two injuries that are very similar, Mathias barley had a similar injury and Joe Schmidt. Both of them were involved in everything that we do. So we are very used to it.

Brian Ratigan and Dr. Balint did the surgery this morning, so we are very familiar with the surgery, unfortunately. And we know the rehab process, and we’ve gotten two other players that are playing prominent roles in our program back to 100 percent, and both are very important in our program. They have handled it very well, so we’ll take the same path with Malik.

Q. Is he a guy that you would consider traveling to road games, even though he won’t play obviously?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he’ll be involved. We hope to have him with us going to Clemson.

Q. Wondering if you could go back to DeShone’s recruitment a couple years ago, what you remember about him and what you liked about him in high school and what ultimately gave you confidence back then that he’s going to be a leader for you guys?
COACH KELLY: Well, he was — we liked his makeup, again, out of Central Catholic, obviously very good student, very smart, liked his character, leadership. Had all the traits that I look for in a quarterback.

And then very good size, athletic. Played in a spread offense, and did all the things on the field and off the field. And then his senior year, junior and senior year, won a lot of close games. Like the way he handled himself late and won some games for them. Saw that again Saturday with the way he handled himself coming in late. Really solidified in our mind a lot of the reasons why we wanted to have him on our football team.

Q. Switching gears, I know so much was made out of Donnel (ph) and Jeff preparing for the option; can you clarify how much of their job really was geared towards just two of these next three weeks with Georgia Tech and Navy and stopping the option?
COACH KELLY: Well, there’s going to be 11 guys on the field that are going to have to stop the option honestly. But when you play two option teams, you’re certainly going to take time in the off-season to do what’s necessary to research as much as you can.

You know, Bob Elliot was assigned a lot of that. Coach Quinn was assigned most of the work on the offensive side of the ball, Coach Elliot on the defensive side of the ball and quite frankly we did some extra work. And Coach Elliot did a lot of that, talking to other teams and other coaches, and again just putting more information together and looking at the things that we do and what other schools do, and coming up with a plan. We are not trying to reinvent anything, but trying to really make certain that we are doing the right things and preparing our football team.

So Coach Elliot has assisted in it, but it will still go down to the preparation and in our ability to get off blocks and make plays against a really good Georgia Tech team.

Q. And everyone else came out relatively healthy yesterday?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I’m looking at my report here, mostly bumps and bruises. I think probably the most serious, Durham Smythe has got an ankle. He’s probably the one guy that we’re not sure about his status going in, but everybody else looks to be a go for Saturday.

Q. Going back to a question earlier, I think you said Mathias had a fractured ankle?

Q. How long ago was that?
COACH KELLY: I’ll have to look at my notes. Just talking to the doctors, they said they had done the same surgery on Matthias and Joe Schmidt.

Q. With Kaiser becoming your No. 1 quarterback, is he still going to remain — given the fact that you have a freshman kicker and that might be kind of tricky to change that in midstream?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we won’t change that. I feel fine having DeShone out there as the holder, as well. So we’ll continue to keep that as the same moving forward.

Q. And with Brandon, you mentioned his skill set. We haven’t seen him in quite some time. How is his progression going, and is there a delicate balance in trying to get both these guys ready and upgraded kind of at the same time.
COACH KELLY: Well, Brandon will benefit by getting second-team reps. He was getting third-team reps, so his reps will double now. So did I Sean will get first team reps and Brandon, his reps will double, so that will accelerate his progress. I think that will help him certainly get a better feel for what we are doing offensively. That’s how we’ll progress moving forward.

Q. In referencing both 2008 and 2009 at Cincinnati, you had all the quarterbacks and I’m sure it was all over the place. How do you help the players around the quarterbacks adjust if their skill sets and their strengths and weaknesses aren’t the same?
COACH KELLY: Well, what we did, really, is spent a lot of time during practice in what we call pat-and-go and one-on-one, and took about ten minutes a day and just worked routes on air and really just so they got a chance to really start to feel comfortable with the quarterbacks. So we’ll continue to do that.

This week we won’t work against our defense very much because of Georgia Tech, so it will be a week where the quarterbacks and receivers and DeShone will get quite a bit of work with the receivers and getting on same page.

Q. Prosise had such a strong first couple of games, yet a durability issue, maybe you’re not sure what you have with him yet. Could he be a 25-carry back if you needed him? Would that be red-lining him too much?
COACH KELLY: I think that’s probably asking a lot right now. I think he could be down the road. I think he still has to gain some more volume in terms of getting comfortable into the position. Like we have to get him out of the game early until he got into the flow.

But I think we can ask more of Adams and Williams. And the volume at the running back position can continue to increase and it can increase with all three of them and as the season progresses, I think it can increase with C.J., as well.

Q. I know last night, you mentioned you wanted to clean some stuff up in the pass defense. Obviously you’re playing a team that doesn’t pass very much, but is the No. 1 team at pass efficiency, but just a different thing. Are you able to clean up that stuff this week? Does it have to wait? How do you look at that?
COACH KELLY: Well, our problems were really eye violations where we were not doing our job in being disciplined in our job in particular. We’re in cover two and we’re not rerouting a severe and we’re not playing over the top.

And so, you know, we’ll have to be more disciplined in what we do in pass coverage, even against Georgia Tech, or we’re not going to be in very good position.

We played really hard up front. I was really pleased with the way we played up front. Our front seven played very hard. And we tackled pretty well. But we didn’t make enough plays on the back end, and a lot of it was that we were not fixated on our specific jobs. And that’s something that is an absolute must this weekend against Georgia Tech.

Q. I was curious just in terms of you said Malik could be a ten-carry max guy. Could you see a similar role for Kizer in terms of running the ball, or is that naturally going to be less based on skill set?
COACH KELLY: I think if you are going to take away our run game in a certain way, DeShone is definitely capable of picking up yards in running the football. He’s an athletic kid. He’s big. He’s certainly capable of hurting you if you do not defend him. I think it will be dependent on how you decide to defend us.

It’s not out of the question that he could get ten carries a game. If you don’t want to defend him properly, he certainly can get that. It was pretty clear that Virginia was the way they were playing our option pinching down inside and having their ends up the field, but they did not want Malik to carry the football. I’m not sure that they will defend us that way; if they do, obviously your running back is going to get a lot of carries.

If they want to take the back away, I think DeShone Kizer is extremely capable of carrying the football and being effective.

Q. In your time here, you’re 15-1 when starting a freshman quarterback and I realize a lot has to do with the talent you have on defense, but offensively, what do you think has gone into that success?
COACH KELLY: I think just making sure that we put our guys in a good position, not trying to do too much. You know, playing to the strengths of what we have around the quarterback.

And whether it’s a defense or an offense that has skill receivers and good offensive line and very good backs; I think we’ll have to do the same thing again this weekend against Georgia Tech. We’re going to have to play really good defense, and DeShone is surrounded with some good players. We saw that on Saturday. He managed the game very well for us, made some key plays, and I think we can continue to do that this year with DeShone.

Q. Before the season started, you mentioned that you felt like Joe was maybe a half-step from where he was last year. Do you still feel that way? Do you feel like he’s getting himself all the way back to where he was in September of last year?
COACH KELLY: I think he’s better. I don’t think he’s all the way there yet. I think he would tell you that he’s really close. I think he’s going to probably peak here in the next couple of weeks in getting himself back to where he was.

Q. And then lastly, with Folston, has his surgery been scheduled in terms of getting the rehab process going there?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we’re working out arrangements right now. It should happen here in the next week or so.

Q. Is he going to have it with Ratigan?
COACH KELLY: We’re still deciding on what the best course is for him right now.

Q. How are you defending Georgia Tech’s option? How do you get your players ready for that game? Because after you play a team like Virginia, now you’re going to do the option, it’s going to throw everything out of whack. How do you get that ready to go?
COACH KELLY: Well, we know it’s a challenge, not only playing option, but playing a team like Georgia Tech who obviously is one of the top teams in the country.

So our guys know that they have to be on top of their assignments. They have got to tackle well. They run a great system. Coach Johnson has proven that against the top teams in the country. We know it’s a great challenge.

So you just go back to work. We’ve got an idea of what plan we want to putt into place and now we’ve got to go execute it. We’ve only got a few days to putt it in but we’ve been looking at option now during camp and our guys are familiar with what we want to do and now we’ve got to go and execute it.

Q. With Zeke going down yesterday, what was the mood like with your top quarterback going down? Did the move change? How do you get the team ready to go after that injury and staying positive knowing that you have to finish the game?
COACH KELLY: Well, all of our guys are competitors, and they know that you’re going to lose guys in this game of football. They have a great deal of confidence in DeShone and he was there when they needed him and made a big play to Will Fuller to win the game.

You lose guys unfortunately, but our guys are pretty used to knowing that you can’t lose sight of the fact that injuries are going to be part of the game and you’ve got to pick yourself up and get ready to go when an injury happens, and our guys are good at staying in the moment.

Q. Yesterday DeShone said he has a different personality than Malik but that might have to change now that he’s in the starting role. I wonder if you can compare their personalities and do you think now he has to step up and take Malik’s role, or does he not have to go into that much of a leadership role with the guys around him?
COACH KELLY: Well, DeShone, he’s not as emotional maybe. Malik wears his emotions on his sleeve, as you know, and that’s great, because that’s who he truly, truly is. DeShone is not quite that type of person, very cerebral. He’s a really good leader.

He’ll probably have to be a little bit more vocal now, being pushed out in front now; I think that’s probably what he’s alluding to. Each one has the respect of their teammates and that’s what I think is really the most important thing.

Q. And we talked a lot about the tight ends and the depth there and the passing game during fall camp. Is there a particular reason why they haven’t been utilized, or is that just something that happens based on the game?
COACH KELLY: I think it’s really how the game has gone thus far and how we’re being defended in particular. So you know, I think a lot of the catches have happened on the perimeter, and so they haven’t gotten as many opportunities. But I think you’ll see that it will balance itself off as the season kind of progresses.

Q. We’re seeing a lot more younger quarterbacks now than we used to, at least I believe. I’d like to know about the challenges for a coach dealing with them in ways other than learning the playbook, finding out whether they are overly confident or under-confident or dealing with some of the immaturities?
COACH KELLY: It’s certainly the case, if you’re having to play quarterbacks as true freshmen, I think that you have to do a great job in the evaluation process, and that means when you’re recruiting them. Especially here at Notre Dame, are they going to be able to handle the difficult schedule that they have academically; can they handle the scrutiny of the position, all that goes with it.

So I think more than anything else, you have to be very, very good in the evaluation process; that they can handle themselves when they are called upon to actually go on the field. And not just rely on what they look like in a combine or how they throw the ball in a seven-on-seven. There’s so much more to it, and I think that’s that where you can get caught here because there’s so many other elements, because they are going to play early. They are wanting to play early. So I think it’s the full evaluation that you have to really get right.

Q. There’s a number of non-traditional powers in college football giving good games to more major programs or ranked teams. Why do you think that’s happening? Is it schematic or a fluke or what?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it might go back a little bit to what I said. There’s so many kids that want to play college football, and they want to play right now. There’s not room for all these players at every school. If they can get an opportunity to play early and play as a freshman, they will choose to go to a school that will give them that opportunity.

And so you’re seeing a lot more parity, a lot more competitive opportunities at non-power five schools, as well. We saw that this weekend. So it doesn’t surprise me, quite frankly, that teams in non-power conferences can beat those schools because there’s so many schools now that are committing themselves to putting in the resources and bringing those recruits to their schools.