Sept. 2, 2014
An interview with: Brian Kelly:
COACH KELLY: First and foremost, I did not lose a bet. For those that are wondering about my jacket, I am proudly displaying the spoils of my victory this year in the “5th Major,” a golf tournament that I play in each year for the last 15 years with other Michigan coaches that I came up in the profession with, and I thought this would be a great week to wear this jacket.
Notably, Tom Kearly at Michigan Tech, Keith Otterbein at Hillsdale College are part of this tournament I am in, so this is the jacket that you win, and I am proudly wearing it today. I thought it had some Notre Dame blue in it; it would be a great week to wear it, especially Michigan week.
For those that are part of the “Plaid Open,” it is called the “Plaid Open” and that’s why we have a plaid jacket. I thought this would be a great week to wear it. Petty good?
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH KELLY: We do, we do. Yes, indeed. Anyway, getting to important items on the agenda this weekend, our victory against Rice, I thought our guys did a great job. With openers we’ve heard the cliches of playing clean and making sure that you don’t beat yourself.
All coaches are going to want that, but what we wanted more than anything else is to let our kids play free and fast, and I thought they did that. There is a number of things we have to get better at, playing the kind of opponent that we will have with Michigan. We will have to clean up a number of things, especially as it relates to technique and communication.
But I was proud of the effort. I thought we had some individual things that showed up, but I thought some of the team things to point out, field position, plus 11 in field position, generally equals big things when it comes to winning and losing. Those are high predictors. Plus 2 in take away, high predictor, when it comes to winning. Another thing is scoring chances. When you have those opportunities to score. We did a pretty good job there. Those are high predictors for success.
Then averaging 9.0 yards per play, another high predictor, explosive play. Teamwise there were a number of predictors that are going to put you in a position to have a great chance of success, and I think, finally, the special teams. We had great effort. I think that’s really the big piece that we have to continue. The great effort that we had in special teams, we’re going to need that each and every week.
That is going to be an important part of our success this year. If we get great effort, I think we will have a chance to be a good football team.
Moving into Michigan, I think we all know, you know, the kind of game that we’re going to play here with this opponent. Each team knows each other very well. Certainly they’ve been great games. We’re playing an offense with Gardner and Funchess, a 1 2 combination that is very dynamic, Funchess being on the perimeter is the a match up problem and he will be a match up problem for everybody he plays this year. We will have to find ways obviously to slow him down, and he’s going to be difficult, and Gardner has played great against us.
Those two guys in particular. Well coached on the offensive line, Doug Nussmeier, I have a great respect for him, did a great job when he was at Alabama, Michigan State. Great teams; they’re concepts are outstanding, and they do a lot on offense. They cause a lot of problems. They handle a lot of the things that defenses like to do very well.
From a defensive standpoint, some seniors that have been there a while, Beyer, defensive end, and Clark I think set them up pretty well defensive, a veteran linebacker crew, depth at the corner back position. Greg Mattison is a veteran, NFL coach. We know him very well here, obviously, and we faced him a number of times, and we know his attacking, aggressive style. Two teams that know each other very well, very solid and sound fundamental football team with game breakers on offense.
I think Clark is a guy that you have to know where he is defensively. They like to bring a lot of pressures defensively. We’re going to have to do a great job of protecting our quarterback, outstanding punter, dynamic returners, should be a great, great game. With that, I will open it up for questions.
Q. Coach any update on the five players?
COACH KELLY: No, I have no update.
Q. You mentioned last week you talked about Jack whether you would let memorandum come to meetings. Any change on that?
COACH KELLY: We haven’t made that change because I haven’t got any updates relative to where we are in the process and the timing of that.
Q. Status quo as of right now?
COACH KELLY: Status quo.
Q. Could it change quickly if something were to happen noon tomorrow
COACH KELLY: Sure, absolutely.
Q. You talked Sunday about the communication problem with secondary. Is it communication between the two safeties or them calling setting everybody up and does the miscommunication involve the corner backs?
COACH KELLY: Without giving away too much information, suffice it to say we have to be more demonstrative and take more control back there. We aren’t standing back there like we are during practice, and I think Coach VanGorder, if you were here at our meetings yesterday, made it clear during the meetings how he wants those guys to communicate. I was in the quarterback meeting room and I could hear our safeties communicating very well during film study.
We’re starting that way, and we just have to be more assertive in the way that we talk to each other.
Q. Is that problematically worrisome against Michigan, which had a pretty good game last week and had a good game against you passing last year? Does that make it even a bigger concern going into this week?
COACH KELLY: I think where we are is that this is developmental more than it is one particular team. These are things that Max and Elijah are going to have to continue to get better at. Nick Baratti is going to have to get better at it. Austin was very good at it. It was part of his DNA. That was his strength of who he was. These guys are going to have to take control as if they have that same kind of ability and they’re going to have to do it right now. Michigan is on them and it’s going to have to happen immediately.
Q. Last month early in camp you mentioned that Max had enough on his plate, you didn’t think he would do much cornerbacking. Does that change now? And does he have to do more, or do you put more of it on Elijah.
COACH KELLY: No, he has to do more. The dynamics have changed, and that’s why it’s more important that we put more on his plate. We were hoping that we wouldn’t have to do that but the situation has changed and he has to pick up more of the slack.
Q. With the win in the Bowl last year, you passed Michigan in winning percentage. Is that an important stat to you in this program or is that just something you look at when you’re done?
COACH KELLY: No, I think those are important elements of a successful, longstanding football program. It’s something, certainly, that we talk about in recruiting, in terms of the elite programs and the tradition of our program. It doesn’t help us right now, but certainly it’s something that when you’re talking about the great programs of all time it’s something that we’re very proud of.
Q. I’m up!
COACH KELLY: We’re going to work only in the front row today! (Laughter.)
Q. Curious about update with Hunter and Grace.
COACH KELLY: Torii Hunter has made very good progress. He will partake in some individual drills today. It’s four weeks today since the injury. I think most would say that is a six week injury. He is well ahead of schedule. He will be getting that kind of accelerated process today with some individual work. If things go well, we will continue to progress him through the week and if he has a great week, you know, he could be in a situation where potentially he could play next week. We’re very feel good about where he is now at week four.
Jarrett Grace, it sounds like I give you great news and he is still not playing, but we’re seeing significant progress in his gait, and in the way his foot strikes, and those body mechanics that are so important to him to be at 100%. He’s not at 100% but he’s getting better each and every day. He’s running he’s able now to run the hill and do things that require that bend and torque that, you know, he just didn’t have coming into camp. So we’re hopeful. I would say we’re still a few weeks away from him being 100% but we’re really close on him, too.
Q. When he is 100% are you confident that he can step in and help you in some fashion based on the fact that he hasn’t practiced in this defense other than watching it mostly?
COACH KELLY: That’s a good question. We’re going to put him right in there and see what he is capable of. He’s so smart, very instinctive player, he knows football very well.
Our expectations are that he’s going to be able to assist us when he gets back. Now, it will be conditioning, and strength and those things but he’s going to be able to help us to some degree during a very long season.
Q. Corey Robinson caught a lacer in the game, wondering how his thumb/hand held up.
COACH KELLY: He was sore but everything looked great after the game. He’s one of those kids that thought that was a great challenge in his life that he wanted to undertake. He was going to play and find a way to succeed. Again, I think it just shows the kind of kid he is. He’s a little sore but he’s feeling confident that he can catch anything thrown his way.
Q. You came in late in the year to Notre Dame the year that Rees, Gardner, Massa, Hendricks were in the mix. How involved did you get with Gardner?
COACH KELLY: Not at all. Not at all. I knew him from just being in Michigan and knew about the school that he came from from close with George.
Q. Sometimes players handle failure better than they do success. I wonder how Everett has been given the wild success he had Saturday and how he’s handled that?
COACH KELLY: Good question. Fair question, too. The first thing you want to see during film study is how you’re going to handle the critical analysis. I thought he did a very good job. I thought he was attentive to those things he needs to get better at, and I think with success, you know, you don’t want to be infected with it. You want to be driven by being perfect, and I think he erred on wanting to be better at all the little things. I thought it was a very productive day for him, and we’re excited about practice today.
Q. Did you do the 12:01 Sunday night/Monday morning experience with the recruiting and if so, how did that go?
COACH KELLY: We did. It’s, by and large, Twitter based now and social media based, so it’s not quite on the phone as you know. A lot of the guys that are in this room do it for a living. Guys just don’t pick up their phone anymore, but we used our social media pieces and, again, it will be a big weekend.
Q. Brian, how much more press coverage are you seeing from Michigan, or at least from their first game this year, and how concerned are you with a Fuller and a Chris Brown and a Corey Robinson, who aren’t the strongest, physically the strongest receivers out there?
COACH KELLY: I think we have worked diligently on their releases, and I think that we feel very confident that if confronted with, you know, press coverage, that we can hold our own with anybody.
I think it’s been a point of emphasis. I know that I worked with the receivers on day one on releases. It was something that we knew we had top end speed and that teams were going to try to come up and take that advantage away from us. So I think it’s something we feel comfortable with, that we can get off the line. You may get your hands on us, but we believe that we’ve got enough technique that we can get off the line of scrimmage and be very effective down the field.
Q. I asked you this last year and the year before and the year before but calling plays against Greg Mattison, what are some of the things that you have to take into consideration when you do that?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think, you know, there is a bit of unpredictability with Greg. I think he keeps you off balance. I think you have to be prepared for, in certain situations you’re going to see a little bit of everything from loaded bare fronts to exotic pressures. So I think you’re spending time in making sure that you have answers to a lot of different pressure situations. He makes you stay up late wondering about where those pressures may come from. So I think going against Greg is a lot like what we seen from Coach VanGorder in preseason camp, and you have to be prepared for what you’ve got.
And I think we got a good jump on that going against Brian, and it’s helped our guys in a lot of areas be aware of the different kinds of looks we could see.
Q. The NFL background is obvious?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, absolutely, I think you can see it, and the kind of looks you are going to see from the corners and the safeties and obviously the fronts mirror a lot of things that you’re seeing in the NFL, too.
Q. A couple of your receivers were talking about after the game when a play breaks down or Everett spins out and gets to the edge that it becomes playground football. I would imagine with Everett as your quarterback or all your quarterbacks in general now that’s a big emphasis, something you work on. Could you talked about the things within that that you work on?
COACH KELLY: Well, we have rules where Everett obviously flushes and moves out of the pocket. There are rules for all those receivers, and they have to get to certain locations on the field. All of them are tuned into that. It’s something we work on. We will throw a play in during our skelly or 7 on 7 and we will call a play and have Everett get out of the pocket and force our receivers to adjust. So it’s something that we spend time on and our receivers clearly know that there is no area on the field that Everett can’t get to. So it keeps them on their toes as well.
Q. What are the rules regarding them settling in at different levels when that happens?
COACH KELLY: If you’re a short receiver and there is nobody deep, you will turn and go deep. If you’re a deep receiver, you’re coming back, and then there is intermediate and backside rules and in both instances on those deep plays, that was a backside post in both instances that kept climbing to the other side of the field. So it was actually a backside receiver in both instances.
Q. Rewatching the game, No. 92, Blankenship seemed to show up on the ball a lot. What did you see?
COACH KELLY: He plays fast. He plays fast. He’s got some suddenness to him, it’s what we saw in camp. He’s got a lot of physical development to do but he plays the game really fast and it gets him around the football because of that.
Q. And do you feel you have enough physicality at the linebacker position and is Tranquill a possibility at that spot?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we do. We have Ben Councell that can play the Sam linebacker position, and we feel like when we need again, as you know, that game was spread, it was fast, and it was not a Stanford type offense. Ben Counsell will play a lot against a Stanford. Even this weekend, if it gets into two tight end situation, Ben we feel is a guy who can step in there and play physical football, if we feel we need more size on the field, so we think we’ve got an answer to that kind of situation.
Q. Coach, in the case of Ronnie Stanley, what technique and conceptual things go into changing from right to left? Making that adjustment and how did he do?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, I think first of all you have to have somebody that is a really good athlete and I think athleticism has to be part of making that switch. It has to be somebody that here is a kid that played on a very, very good high school basketball team, I think it might have been one of the better ones in the country. Somebody that is athletic is premium in making that kind of decision because he’s changing hands, if you will.
Then I think repetition. He has to get a lot of work. That was one position that we didn’t mess around with once we moved him. He stayed there, he got the reps and we committed to keeping him in that position and be not moving him around. We made all the other changes internally but that was the one that he needed that work. So, one, the athleticism and, two, giving him that opportunity to settle into the position.
Q. Did he live up to your expectations?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. He’s still learning it; I think there is still some work to be done there, with his kick and getting off the line and getting more comfortable with changing that kick step that gets him some depth off the line of scrimmage. That’s still a work in progress. But he certainly is somebody that we really think is going to be an outstanding player at that position.
Q. What finally convinced you that James Onwualu would be better at linebacker than on offense?
COACH KELLY: I just think that his toughness and just his demeanor, the way he played the game. I think we probably saw it on special teams more than we saw it as, per se, a blocker and a wide receiver. We just saw a guy that had that innate ability to attack and shed blockers and, again, play the game in a manner that we felt like defensively it would be worth taking a look at.
Now, we weren’t absolutely certain, but that’s why we took a look at him in the spring and Brian had a great chance to evaluate him and say yea or nay, and when we got the chance we took it.
Q. I wanted to ask you about special teams. Unbelievable return yardage numbers in that game, punt returns, kick returns, and holding them to zero. I guess your kicker is going to have a new song called, “Unreturnable”?
COACH KELLY: That would be good. And I think we’re probably getting a little too much credit for it and probably took a little too much in defending it in years past. What I told our team more than anything else, the biggest difference for me was our ability to stick our foot in the ground. The surface really made a difference for us. I know that might sound a little bit crazy for you, but we were able to really make some sharp cuts on that surface that allowed us to get north and south. And number two, the effort was outstanding and we have to continue with that same kind of effort.
We think that the personnel shifts that we have made on the team has made a difference as well, but I would say that when you’re talk about the two returners, they’re both fearless. I think I said that at the presser after the game. You’ve got to have two guys back there that, we would like them to fair catch on a safe punt situation, but they got to be fearless, stick their foot in the ground and go north and south and you gotta have great effort. Those three things were hit and miss for us over the last three years.
Q. The running backs, you seem to stick with that platoon system where somebody would come in and have a series of downstairs. Did you notice the defense making adjustments based on who was in the backfield and what do you glean from that for weeks to come?
COACH KELLY: Defenses will general make adjustments based upon where our back is set more so than who the guy is that’s in the game.
We try to do some things relative to the back’s sets more than we do the individuals that are in the game. There is nothing that Coach Alford gave to me or that I picked up on film that would tell me that Rice did anything different for each of the backs, but they do, in fact, make adjustments based upon the set of the back that’s in our backfield.
Q. Brian, with Amir, Coach Denbrock mentioned that he maybe got in his own head last year. When you have a guy that has the talent that he has and making the catch that he did on Saturday, how much is it for him getting the confidence to play that position and letting his talent show through?
COACH KELLY: I think it’s very important and that was the case for a lot of players on Saturday. Winning is important, and then making plays. How do you get your guys to mature and progress confidence, so I think that’s the only way that they really begin to, you know, emerge, if you will, is through confidence and winning. The best teachers would tell you that. Confidence is definitely something that he has more of, because he made plays.
If he dropped a lot of balls, we would be dealing with a different situation, but I think he’s gained a lot of confidence. Quite frankly I think he gained a lot of confidence in the spring. He made some tough catches in the spring game, and I think a little bit of that confidence started to come out in preseason camp, and I was pretty confident, if given the opportunity, he was going to make some plays.
Q. With Steve, Coach Hiestand said he was kind of almost still he was playing tackle in a guard spot.
COACH KELLY: Yeah.
Q. What sort of things does he have to do to get back comfortable playing tackle?
COACH KELLY: The tackle position requires a little bit more of you are confronted in most instances with the defense’s best player. Whereas at the guard position, you’re working a lot in tandem, right? Getting four hands on somebody, work in combinations, you’re so used to helping. It’s interesting. Steve would take a set, a tackle and he would be punching inside while he’s got a loose end. Steve, listen, you got enough problems with that loose end. You don’t need to be helping the guard in this instance.
That’s what Harry was trying to articulate, where he’s got to worry about, what Steve needs to worry about and not try to help, because he’s been so programmed to be that guy that is either on a trail technique or he’s on a lead technique and he’s always working with somebody else.
So that’s that mentality. Ronnie doesn’t have that, you know? Sometimes we’re like, Ronnie, you need to help out a little bit. You’re not by yourself here. That’s what we’re trying to get to Steve. He’s such a conscientious kid, you don’t want to rate him down because he’s trying to help on an inside stunt, but on the other hand you’ve got a speed rusher off the edge. You gotta set and be ready for him.
Q. You’ve got roots in the state of Michigan, you referenced them when you were talking about your wardrobe. Looks so good on you, by the way.
COACH KELLY: I appreciate that comment. I wasn’t getting the same look from anybody else here.
Q. I can appreciate that.
COACH KELLY: Thank you.
Q. Given how long you spent in that state and the stature that Michigan has in that state, is this game special to you for some of those reasons?
COACH KELLY: It definitely is a game that is exciting to play, for me. Michigan, Michigan State, those games obviously were the big games when I was at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan. We played in the cloud, or we were in the shadow, if you will, of those games. They always got the attention. So I recognize the Michigan and Michigan State attention that they have in the state of Michigan.
So certainly for me it’s an exciting game, one that gets everybody’s attention. But, you know, I will tell you that the games that we have this year on this schedule force you to really be balanced the way you look at the schedule. If it was Michigan and then a bunch of “1 A” teams coming up, that would be fine, but we have such a daunting schedule that it forces you to keep a balance when you look at it from week to week.
Q. Over the last four years in this match up, whether it’s been here or in Ann Arbor, every game has been close and come down to the last series or two. Can you put into words why you think that is?
COACH KELLY: I think two programs that have such great pride that they’re going to battle and fight to the very end. I think it was alluded to earlier. These are the two winningest programs in college football, and that’s for a reason. There is an immense amount of pride, both teams want to win this football game and that’s why regardless of what the teams’ records are and what the personnel looks like, there is just great pride in both programs.
Q. This is the last time you guys will play for an indeterminate amount of time. Is that anything that you use for motivation with your guys, the fact that there will be no more chances with this team?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think I would use that as motivation as much as this is a great opportunity. You may not see a Michigan game for a while and relish the opportunity, you know? Live in the moment and enjoy this opportunity to play a great program.
Q. You went into Saturday, you had Coach Denbrock as offensive coordinator, it’s a bit of a change for him, new quarterback’s coach, a little bit of shuffling around and you counted that with Rice showing things that you guys hadn’t prepared for, more pressure, more adjustments, you guys seemed to adjust to that quickly. Talk about how your staff seemed to pick up the adjustments and start attacking them.
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, Mike is a veteran and you guys fail to realize he’s had two tours at Notre Dame, he’s been at Stanford, Washington, he’s a veteran, veteran football coach. He’s seen it all. There is not much’ hasn’t seen. I’ve been around a little bit, Matt LaFleur is a bright, bright coach, spent the last few years with the Redskins. Tony Alford has some experience. I think we have a pretty veteran staff and one with Harry that keeps things together.
Harry does such an exceptional job of staying focused with his line and making the in game adjustments while Mike and I and Matt and Tony, we’re taking care of personnel and making sure that we’re in the right looks to make plays. I think we just work very well together, and we’ll see how that continues to go during the year.
Q. Steven, right tackle, is it one of those things that he had to see the live bullet to sort of get a grasp, and you go back to film and expect sort of a quick progress, or is it week by week, you gotta see how he develops?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think that’s part of it, certainly not the only be thing. I think he needed the live bullets at the tackle position but there is a learning portion of this as well. He’s seeing things differently at that tackle position, his angles are different, his point of departure is much different than it is at the guard position. The speed is one thing in terms of, you know, picking up that speed rusher, but his point of making contact is a lot different in the run game than it was at the guard. He just needs that work and repetition.
Q. With Ronnie, have you seen him develop into a leader as a second year starter? Obviously you have a captain at center but what have you seen out of him in that regard?
COACH KELLY: Ronnie has a personality that allows him he definitely you know, the room heats up when he’s in there. You know Ronnie is in the room. I think he’s definitely growing and maturing. I think he’s got leadership capabilities. I think every day he starts to show more and more of that. I think it’s pretty clear that Nick is the leader on the offensive line, and I think Christian is probably right there with him, and then I think Ronnie is starting to grow into his role as well.
Q. You mentioned Saturday that you didn’t want to get too much of a pass rush because you wanted to keep a mobile quarterback in the pocket
COACH KELLY: Well, I didn’t say I didn’t want to pass rush, as much as we were making calls that were more for keeping the quarterback in the pocket, because we were worried about him running it. I would have loved to get a pass rush out of those calls as well. I just want to be clear.
Q. Well, is that opponent specific or something that
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah.
Q. So Michigan with Gardner, another mobile quarterback, you would probably be changing that?
COACH KELLY: I would think we would have a little bit more and a variety of schemes for Gardner because he can hurt you obviously running the football, throwing the football, we’re going to have to have a comprehensive plan for him.
Q. Cole Luke was in the shadows in the spring with KeiVarae there, and with Cody coming in, and for a first start they challenged him some but he seemed to respond very well. Can you talk about the progress that he’s made, especially adjusting from his role last year?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. Cole, very gifted athlete. I think what we were waiting for was I guess a sense of urgency and maybe that sense of urgency wasn’t there in a back up role. Once he became a starter you could see everything elevate in his the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he went to meetings. There was that sense of urgency in everything that he did. I think since that day we’ve seen a growth in elevation in everything he has done within practice.
We felt like he played very solid at the corner back position on Saturday, so we hope that that continues to elevate itself.
Q. You mentioned the same with Tarean Folston, you wanted to see him grab the bull by the horns a little bit more. Have you seen that?
COACH KELLY: He played well. He’s elusive, as you know. He very rarely does the first tackler take him down. The players like to watch him run. They actually, when it’s film study, the offensive players want to keep him in because he general has that move that makes somebody miss. That’s his style. Greg has a different style, Cam’s got a different style, I don’t know if taking the bull by the horns and being the number one back is what you’re eluding to. They all three had solid games but for Tarean did what we wanted him to, he’s an elusive runner and he can turn it on and eat up yards quickly.
Q. Needing a comprehensive plan for Devin Gardner
COACH KELLY: He’s a better quarterback than what we saw this weekend.
Q. He was the leading rusher for Michigan against you last year, over 100 against Penn State. When you have that type of dual threat without giving away secrets, where is your plan more focused on, as far as where he can do more damage? Does the running ability and having containment on defense take a priority or did you want him flinging the ball.
COACH KELLY: I think down and distance will have a lot to do with that certainly and formation sets versus speed sets. There are so many factors that go into answer that go question. It’s not as easy as saying what do we want to take away as much as we will have calls based upon formations, we will have calls based upon down and distance that will affect, you know, what we do in that particular circumstance. Again, if there are two tight ends or there is a full back in the game, that will adjust our calls accordingly versus if they’re in a speed set and four wide, your calls are going to be different relative to his running and throwing the football.
Q. Sticking with the defensive line, Sunday you described Sheldon Day as starting off well but he got tired and compared to Jarron Jones 30 something snaps, what are Sheldon’s numbers right now?
COACH KELLY: Well, he was about 50, so we need to continue to build in the first game. He plays so hard. His energy level is so high, his motor is high, so it’s just a matter of building that up each and every week. We started in game one, somewhere in that 50 play range. We hope that it continues to grow and it will from week to week but that’s what it is, that cliff.
Q. When you say “cliff,” that’s where you start to see the drop off?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. That’s where we start to see a drop off.
Q. Is it invaluable when a leader comes and shares his thoughts with you when he gets a rest?
COACH KELLY: Absolutely there is great communication between Coach Elston and his defensive linemen when they’re coming in and out of the game. So they’re getting great input, Mike is talking to them as they’re coming in and out of the game and we’re trying to get him in in crucial situations, too, so trying to be smart as to when we are pulling him out of the game as well.
Q. Coach, on Saturday we saw Greg Bryant and Cody Riggs back there returning punts. Is that something you want to continue throughout the season or did you want to identify one to be your primary punt returner for the rest of the season?
COACH KELLY: No, I think we’re going to continue to use both. Cody is taking a lot of snaps right now, and we want to make sure that we keep him healthy for the entire season. We cannot afford to lose Cody. So we’ve got to be able to give him a blow, given the circumstances. If it’s a quick 3 and out situation, and they are on the field, we have to be very careful. If they’re on the field a long time and it’s a punt situation, you know, we’ve got to give him a blow. We’re just trying to get a feel for the situation, how many snaps he’s taking consecutively, and that’s why we’re looking at that closely and using them both right now at this point.
Q. Coach, how important was it to get Malik Zaire in the fourth quarter and have him lead a scoring driving?
COACH KELLY: You know, I think anytime you get your second string quarterback in there without an injury, obviously a positive thing because you’re winning the football game in that respect. So that was good. It gives him some confidence, and, you know, that’s always good going into preparation for your next opponent. So obviously a positive thing.
Q. With Onwualu making the change, how did he react when you initially came to him with that?
COACH KELLY: He’s a very interesting young man. He wants to know that he has a chance to play, and if he has a chance to play, he just wants to get on the field. He didn’t ask about whether it was for a short term or a long term, all he wanted was an opportunity, and that’s just the kind of player he is. He doesn’t get caught up in all of the minutia, of, well, am I going to be here and get moved? Where did you want to play me, Coach? Show me the meeting room, and he is that matter of fact. He’s a fun guy to coach.
Q. What did you see or Coach VanGorder see in his skill set that lent him to that position?
COACH KELLY: Well, he’s got toughness. He’s highly conditioned as an athlete. Highly conditioned. Takes great care of his body, can go all day. He’s on every running team, too, he plays a ton of snaps for us, he could play every snap. From a physical standpoint, he plays bigger than his size, and, you know, he was our special teams player of the game. You know? He earned more points than any player on special teams, and he stopped the fake, which is a game changer in itself. He’s got that awareness that he’s playing all these plays and can smell out a fake on special teams. That’s just a little bit about James Onwualu in a nutshell.
Q. Brian, do you think it’s a good thing for college football in general with the rivalry with Michigan ending for the opportunities that be coming up for both you guys in the next couple of years?
COACH KELLY: I’m not going to go so far as to categorize not playing anymore is a good idea, because that’s going to come back to me. So I’m going to stay away from that. I will say this: Given the complexities of our schedule, in not being able to play Michigan, it opens up so many more exciting opportunities for us. The Texas opportunity, Georgia, so, look, we understand the great tradition and the rivalry of the Michigan game, and if it could have worked, it would have worked, but it does open up some pretty exciting games in the future.
I think that’s you know, that’s the silver lining that’s out there. How did I do with that? Pretty good? I know, you did a great job, super! Super!
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody.