Nov. 2, 2014
An Interview With:
COACH Brian Kelly
Q. Any update on Joe? Has he had his X ray yet?
COACH KELLY: Yes. He has a fracture and a dislocation of his ankle. He’ll have surgery on Tuesday, so he’ll be out for the year.
Q. In terms of the inside linebackers then, would it be Nyles would you figure to slide in for him, or would there be other guys in the mix there?
COACH KELLY: Nyles will be in there, yeah, for sure. Yeah, that will be Nyles, and we’ll figure out what the depth looks like this afternoon. But yeah, Nyles will be the first guy to figure into that position.
Q. And would you put most of the kind of play calling, sort of the checks on Jaylon, or would that maybe shift toward the safeties, or what will be sort of the genesis of that?
COACH KELLY: Not sure yet. We’re still kind of trying to figure out what direction we want to go there. Too early really to decide what direction we want to go.
Q. Anything on James, too?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he passed the first set of tests for his concussion protocol, so he looks to be on track to be able to get back to practice here. If things continue to go in the direction that they have, he’ll be cleared for physical conditioning tomorrow.
Q. Just kind of changing gears, Justin coming in yesterday, having the interception, having the game he did, what does it speak to the character that he’s kind of stuck it out these five years, kept working, and now is getting this opportunity with you guys?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, that’s why it’s so important to have fifth year players. They’re mature. He’s a guy that can come in in the fourth quarter, and he made two huge plays. If he doesn’t deflect that pass that’s intended for the tight end down the middle of the field, who knows where the game ends up, and then of course the interception.
You know, to have a we’re playing so many young kids. To have a veteran like that on your football team, it’s so important. That’s why I’m such an advocate of having these guys hang in there. They’re going to get a chance to play, and you know, contribute. But I think it says a lot about him, sticking with his teammates and wanting to be part of Notre Dame where you’ve got a lot of other guys that just are not thinking about their teammates, they want to go play. That’s why Justin is a special kid.
Q. I was curious if Greer would be a candidate at all at the Mike position, or is it basically just Nyles?
COACH KELLY: No, I mean, I think Greer is pretty much a Will linebacker for us. He’s Jaylon’s backup. We’ll look at Nyles, we’ll look at Mike Deeb. Michael Deeb will get a chance to work there, as well, and we’ll kind of assess where we are. We can certainly do some cross training with some other guys, too, see how that kind of plays out.
But I’d say Greer has been doing a lot of work at the Will linebacker position, but like I said earlier, it’s still kind of early. I think I’ll get a better understanding by Tuesday where we are.
Q. Last night you didn’t really have a quick take on Nyles and how he played. After watching the tape or just sort of going over it, how did you assess the way he hung in there for the last quarter and a half of the game?
COACH KELLY: You know, two major mistakes. He let the fullback out on the two point play. That’s his. We repped that all week, and he just had poor eye discipline on that, and then on the toss sweep, he overlapped the defense. But his trait is physical, and that trait shows itself. He made some real big physical plays for us. We just he’s going to be a good player, he’s just a young guy that just needs to continue to grow, and he’s going to get that opportunity because he’s going to be put in that position now.
Q. I’m curious, you were installing sort of a new defense last week. How much work did Nyles actually get during the week leading up to the game?
COACH KELLY: Oh, he got a lot of work, yeah. Yeah, we repped both the linebackers at that position. You know, he got plenty of work at that position.
Q. Greg Bryant, Romeo Okwara, I don’t think either of them made it in last night. Were they banged up, just didn’t get enough game in Romeo’s case?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, Romeo was in a backup position. He was backing up Sheldon Day, and Sheldon had a terrific game. You know, when we made those changes and moved the personnel around a little bit, Utupo really took Romeo’s position, and then he was going to be a guy that spelled one of those two ends, and so again, just the nature of the option, we felt better with those two guys in there.
Greg Bryant was not 100 percent, still fighting through that ankle. We just felt like the way Toryan was playing and Cam, we weren’t going to go to a third back.
Q. I wondered if you could talk a little bit about the complexity of playing Mike linebacker in your system and what the challenges are for Nyles. I know he’s young, but he’s a guy that at least when he was in high school liked to study film, was a pretty cerebral guy. What are the deep challenges about playing that position?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly it generally has a leadership component relative to understanding all of the fronts and adjustments and clearly getting people lined up. So the complexities are that that position generally takes on that leadership role.
If it’s not; in other words, if it’s given to somebody else, the Mike linebacker position can be as easy as you make it. You can be a single gap run supporter; you can be a hook player, and you can make it really easy. We certainly are going to have to take some of that load away from Nyles and really kind of disperse it to others because we’re not going to heap that all on him.
We obviously felt good about putting all that on Joe’s plate. We’re not going to be able to do that with Nyles.
Q. I mean, Joe just as he evolved this year became like the soul of your defense, and some of it is that he’s in the middle of it, but just what you described there about all the moving parts and just maybe an emotional leader, who takes that leadership kind of in the middle of a formation? Does it fall on to Jaylon?
COACH KELLY: I think everybody is going to have to pick up a little bit. Jaylon is going to have to pick up. I think the defensive line is going to have to be more assertive in making sure they’re taking care of their end of things. I think our safeties. I think everybody is going to have to pick up the slack for the loss of a guy that really did most of the work.
Yeah, he’s a big loss, but I think our guys understand that it’s a next man in, and let’s get ready to roll.
Q. Schematically Navy is so different than anybody else left on your schedule, and yet you have some young guys like Drue Tranquill, Greer Martini and Nyles getting a lot of reps last night. What can they pull from last night’s game knowing that schematically it’s such a different team?
COACH KELLY: Oh, I just think there’s so much great stuff that we can pull out of there, just eye discipline on your job, you know, just from a competitive standpoint, you know, competing in the fourth quarter and making big plays late, stops on 4th down, all those things you can’t duplicate until you’re in the game. So many things.
You talk about we had a big 4th down stop, they took the ball away. There were five freshmen on the field when those things happened, and you just can’t duplicate that stuff. That’s all beneficial, and then all of the mistakes that were made are all teachable things that they can carry over going into Arizona State.
Q. At some point I kind of asked you this question on Tuesday, but I’ll revisit it. How do you shift out of that Navy mentality and get back to your base defense and the way that you will be playing the rest of the year? Is that a hard transition?
COACH KELLY: No, I think it’s already happening. I think when we were on the plane, the guys are already thinking about getting back to some base calls. It was interesting, the last series when they started throwing the ball, we were getting into our base familiar calls, and the guys were obviously teeing off and getting after the quarterback. You could see there was a different sense of not relief, but they were getting after the quarterback in a way that they’re used to.
There won’t be it’ll be a quick transition and one that, like I had mentioned to you before, we ran some seven on seven and did some things to keep our calls active, knowing that it was going to be a quick transition.
Q. And the last one from me, kind of a two parter, Jarrett Grace, I assume he’s just too far away to be able to help you this year? And can we assume that Joe Schmidt will be back next year?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you can make that assumption on both.
Q. You guys have given up 113 points in the last three games. Is that something that you’re aware of and that’s something you’ve got to fix before you have a game against the Pac 12 next Saturday?
COACH KELLY: We’re aware of how many points we’ve given up. We think that obviously that’s not what we want to do, but each circumstance is different, and we know what our challenges are as they lay in front of us. We’ve got to play great offense, defense and special teams against Arizona State.
Q. And I know you had a two week layoff since that last game in Tallahassee. Were your players ready to go last night? Seemed like the beginning of the first quarter you guys were off firing pretty well with the offense. Was the defense kind of sluggish?
COACH KELLY: No, our guys were ready to play. I told them that I was really proud of the way that their energy level was up. Navy is a difficult team to defend. We went in there with a plan, and I thought we were efficient on 1st down. They hurt us with the quarterback scrambling. You know, again, they’re a difficult team to defend, and our kids fought their butts off.
But no, I was pleased with the way their mindset was coming in and their energy.
Q. You’re playing Arizona State on Saturday out there in the desert. What do you see from Arizona State I know you have a whole week to get ready for them. What do you see on film? I guess you’re going to do that tomorrow, right?
COACH KELLY: No, we know Arizona State. We played them last year. Obviously one of the better quarterbacks in the country in Kelly. Very aggressive defense, outstanding wide receiver play, very good balanced attack. It’s a very good football team. There’s not a lot of holes there. Offensively I think it’s a well put together offensive scheme, and then defensively Coach Graham has got a very aggressive defense and makes you work.
It’ll be an exciting challenge.