Sept. 22, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Kelly.
Q. Brian, was the game plan yesterday kind of almost perfectly tailored to where Corey is right now?
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah. I mean, it’s outside the numbers. It’s not conceptually a lot of different route adjustments. You’re going to get press man, go up and get the football.
So, yeah, in a large degree, that allows a guy like Corey to get some more playing time.
Q. You mentioned before the season that the next step for him was getting the strength to run inside a bit. Is he still working on that? Is that something that maybe comes this year or next year?
COACH KELLY: No, I think it continues to progress for him. He I thought got a lot better over the last two or three weeks with more zone route running where you have to sit down and find areas.
A lot of that is just making the transition from high school to college, like a lot of other receivers. So he’s not alone in this process. Will Fuller is doing it. James Onwualu. They’re still developing, but we can see they have the skill to help us.
Q. Did he come out of yesterday relatively healthy? What is Sheldon’s status for this week?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think just your typical bumps and bruises from a physical football game. Sheldon obviously is a guy that now another week is going to give him a great chance to be ready to go.
Q. The question about Tommy last night. What does it say about where he is right now when he’s throwing it 35 times a game a third of the way through the season, doesn’t have his best game, but he’s only turned it over twice so far this year?
COACH KELLY: That’s what we’re asking him to do, against Michigan State in particular. If it’s not there, let’s make sure that we don’t give Michigan State an opportunity to have a short field. They had been so opportunistic defensively, that was so much part of the game plan of him making good decisions, making sure he could get the ball to where we could get to it.
Did his job from that standpoint. Would have liked to have hit a couple receivers. Again, taking care of the football is crucial in the way we’re playing offense.
Q. He’s obviously so good with the presnap reads. Can there be at all a fine line between him making those reads and possibly giving defenses more time to make their own presnap reads?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think we make maybe a little too much of it. Some defenses, Michigan State in particular, really doesn’t care what you’re doing. They’re going to run their stuff. Some get into we check, you check. I think that’s probably overplayed, too.
I think from what we see more times than not, defenses are going to run what they run. Tommy tries to get us in the right looks most of the time. He doesn’t get it right all the time either.
I think we make a little bit too much of all that.
Q. I know not only at Notre Dame but in the past your teams have done really well in November. They’ve kind of evolved. With that in mind, what do you see the upside in your offense that maybe you’re not getting now, and the upside in your defense that you hope to see in the future?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think we’re still trying to find ourselves in the running game. The runningback position, we’re rotating four guys right now. I think you’re seeing a lot. We saw two freshmen play for us at the wide receiver position. So I think there’s a great deal of development going on there.
I think defensively, you know, the middle linebacker position, Jarrett Grace, playing really a lot on Saturday, played a strong game for us. I think our secondary is evolving and playing better and better. They were much more physical in the way that we want them to play.
Yeah, the team is just evolving. What we were struggling with was playing 60 plays really well and a half dozen plays not so well. I think we’re getting closer to playing every player and every play. That’s how you evolve into November, where everybody, all 11, are fitting the plays correctly each and every time.
Q. We’ve danced around questions with Stephon Tuitt. You addressed pretty straightforwardly he couldn’t do the core workouts during the summer. You mentioned yesterday he’s finally rounding into the shape. Is he still feeling some of the lingering effects of that surgery and what he wasn’t able to do? Is that what you were saying with that?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he couldn’t cut loose at times. In camp he dealt with a strain in the same area where he struggled at times really being able to cut loose. He’s feeling great. He had a great week of practice. His volume is up. His reps are up. You could see he’s really starting to come on.
Q. Tarean Folston, what you saw in practice, to want to plug him in, what you saw from his few carries in the game?
COACH KELLY: Just like his vision, his size. He’s a guy that’s always going forward. I guess more than anything else, you can see that he’s got a nice forward lean. Very talented kid out of the backfield, as well.
So I think all the things that we’re looking for in a back. We just wanted to get him in the game, give him an opportunity. His really only opportunity was when the game was in hand against Temple. We wanted to see him when the game was on the line and we thought he did very well.
Q. I imagine you get some of these questions, I get them from fans every day, I’m asked about Max Redfield, how he’s doing. I realize he’s at a position where there’s not great opportunity. How is his progress going?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we really see a young man that is making the progress that we thought he would. I mean, it’s a situation where from the safety position, with Shumate, Collinsworth, Farley in particular, he becomes our fourth guy right now. But he has definitely taken the steps forward that he’s getting closer and closer where he could be battling for some playing time.
We’re really pleased with his progress.
Q. Malik, what kind of week did he have? Again, do you kind of envision him more as a prep quarterback now or is it possible he could help you down the road in games?
COACH KELLY: Well, we’re going to prepare him to play in games. This past week was one where we wanted to get him some reps with the demo squad.
But he’ll be with us preparing in the game plan. He’ll be actively more involved in it this week than he was last week.
Again, I think you always want to prepare your third quarterback that if he needs to go in the game, he’s ready to go. We’ll have more of a focus on his preparation as we move forward.
Q. When you watched that defensive game film, did you see a defense that was rising to the level that was a baseline of what you guys deem acceptably good defense or did you see signs of this is the kind of defense we played last year in some ways?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think there’s a combination of things. You’re talking about consistency up front. So on the defensive line we’re looking for that consistency. We’re looking at the linebacker position. You know, we’re replacing a guy like Te’o where you’re looking for a play maker at that position. Then the physicality that we want.
It wasn’t just at one position. It was really at three levels: the defensive line, linebacker, and defensive backs. We saw on Saturday all three of those things show themselves. We’ll now need to see that on a consistent basis.
Who is going to show up now is really going to be what we’re asking. Are we going to see the group that showed itself against Michigan State consistently or the group that we saw the last couple weeks that played hot and cold? We’re going to look for that consistency now from our defense.
Q. Jarrett Grace, what have you seen from him that is allowing him more time? What is he doing that’s making him have that position?
COACH KELLY: He’s just got natural linebacker instincts. It’s a position that he’s familiar with. He just fits it very well in terms of run, ricocheted into his fits. It’s just a natural position for him. You can watch three or four plays and you can see that’s a natural position for him.
Q. The game ball to Kyle Brindza, how often in your career did you give the game ball to a kicker who didn’t kick the winning field goal? Has it happened very often?
COACH KELLY: I’d have to think whether I’ve ever given it to a punter. Cincinnati had a pretty gifted kid, Kevin Huber, who punted for Cincinnati, the Bengals, who was a guy that changed the games.
The way the game was and the big plays that were made for us were certainly his two kicks in the fourth quarter. We thought, as we talked about it as a staff, he singularly had to come through big. It was easy for us to give him that game ball.
Q. What do you think it says about the game in general, that a guy that had a missed field goal and a blocked punt gets the game ball?
COACH KELLY: You know, that’s football. He’s in a situation now, as you know, where he’s taking on all the kicking duties. I think he’s got a lot on his plate. Here is a guy now who can impact the game in so many ways. He was still able to impact the game even with a missed field goal by punting so effectively in the fourth quarter.
Q. Brian, a couple of the defensive players talked about the adjustments you guys made during the week in terms of wrapping up, tackling, also how the staff was a little bit more demanding. Can you revisit Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, what you guys did maybe slightly differently. Was it more attitude? Was it changing things up? I guess, why did you feel that was important to do?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it really just comes back to you get what you demand. We demanded more from our defense. We demanded more in terms of the attention to detail.
I think if you really cut it to the chase here, what we saw on Saturday is demanding that our guys do their job. We had guys trying to do other people’s jobs, not taking care of their own business.
So this week really was about you get what you demand and do your job. I know those sound like some pretty standard watch words, but we didn’t reinvent any defense. We didn’t create any new schemes. We just demanded more and expected more from our players, and we got it on Saturday.
Q. Going forward, do you demand that every week? Is that oversimplifying how you get consistency from that aspect of your defense?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think you can point and say, This is the player that will play for us. The kind of player we saw on Saturday, that guy will play for us. The other guy will stand on the sideline.
You clearly have video evidence of what we expect from you. This is the way you need to play on a play in, play out basis.
Q. Jarrett Grace, in terms of his personality and leadership, do you see that as a role he could grow into looking forward in his career?
COACH KELLY: Oh, for certain. He has a pretty large role. He’s the leader of our fellowship. Very strong spiritually. He’s actively involved in that. A lot of our players follow Jarrett because he’s a guy that they can trust.
He’s very hard working, leads by example. Yeah, it would not surprise me that many, many of our players would follow him.
Q. I was curious about the offense. As teams kind of load the box a little bit more, force you guys to pass, do you expect that’s how teams are going to play you until you can show something differently in the passing game, whether it be more a vertical threat, more efficiency, what have you? Is that the kind of look you expect moving forward from defenses?
COACH KELLY: Depends how good their personnel is. I think Michigan State’s personnel is outstanding. If they feel they match up well, yeah, we’ll probably see it again. If they think that they can prevent us from throwing the ball over their heads, then we may see it again. If they don’t, they’ll play more zone and give us an opportunity to run the football.
There were seven, eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately we weren’t able to complete some of the balls that we felt we had available to us. But we were able to manage the game the way we needed to to come out with a win.
Again, moving forward, we’ll see. Teams will have to decide how they want to play us. But they know what we’re going to do if they play man to man.
Q. Brian, Tyler had eight tackles yesterday. What have you seen from him throughout the season?
COACH KELLY: One of his better games that he’s had in quite some time. He’s been playing solid football for us. He’s contributing on special teams. He’s having a good senior season for us. Really liked his attitude, his commitment. All the things you want from your senior. He played real physical football for us Saturday.
Feel really good about the season he’s having up to this point.
Q. Switching over to offense. How would you evaluate the offensive line’s performance yesterday?
COACH KELLY: Well, as you know, you’re going to be talking about pass protection, running the football. Those are the two things that they’re being evaluated on, as well as penalties, drive stopping penalties, which we really didn’t have any drive stopping penalties on the offensive line.
I thought our pass protection was really solid. I think in the run game, we need to continue to evolve. We’re getting so many different looks where at times we have to be able to identify different backers, who to work to.
But by and large, we’re continuing to evolve offensively up front. But with Ronnie Stanley, obviously Nick Martin as first time starters, those guys are making progress for us. We’re getting strong play from the left side with Watt and Martin each and every day. And Lombard continues to play consistent for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.