Oct. 7, 2014
COACH KELLY: On to North Carolina, in a lot of ways, very similar team, young, athletic, a lot of very good athletes. I think Larry does a great job, followed his career. Did a great job at Southern Miss and do a lot of things similar offensively.
Again, I think they are playing a lot of young players and very difficult to defend offensively. They play very fast. Probably the fastest offense in terms of tempo that we’ll see this year. Marquise Williams, the quarterback, leads the team in rushing, and that’s unusual, obviously to have a quarterback that does both. Very similar, we had Terrel Hunt earlier at Syracuse.
I think he’s a better all around quarterback in terms of throwing the football and runner. You know, long, tall, athletic receiver, 6 3,6 4.
Ryan Switzer is a Wes Welker type in the slot. You know, Robby Tomo (ph) with a little bit more speed. Very savvy. Gets open. Catches the football extremely well. And you know, really two and three running backs that they can use. So very good offense. They are going to be a very good challenge for us.
The tempo, the size of the receivers, the spread offense, really, it’s a race for space. They are getting their guys in space, jailbreak screens, all of those things, they will be on display.
Defensively, the first thing you look at is a lot of very good athletes but more importantly, they take the football away: 12 turnovers this year. They forced turnovers. They are a three and four down defense. They start out of their four down package but can get into a lot of different looks. You know, they do some things similar to Syracuse, again, they can be very aggressive. They have some very good young athletes. You can see this team where it’s going to be in a couple years.
You know, again, can cause a lot of problems. I think they probably played their best run defense against Clemson and really limited what they can do in the running game, and then, you know, they gave up a couple of turnovers that resulted in points against Virginia Tech, or that’s a very, very close game.
We have to play well. As we’ve talked about each and every week, we’ve got to get better. Offensively, we are going to have to score points, because this is going to be a game where there’s going to be points put on the scoreboard, and we’ve got to hold up our end offensively and take care of the football.
With that, I’ll open up to questions.
Q. What was the connection like with Golson that you went back to him after he de committed from North Carolina back in the fall of 2010 I think.
COACH KELLY: Well, we were looking for a quarterback that fit the style of offense that we wanted to run here. There were very few quarterbacks at that time that fit that profile. And so that was really the connection there.
We knew a couple coaches in the area that had contacted us about him that were familiar with Notre Dame. We did not have a personal contact with anybody. There was somebody in the school that was looking out for Notre Dame that contacted us, and that’s kind of what got us involved there.
But after we watched some film and did some evaluation, he clearly fit the kind of quarterback that we were looking for our offense.
Q. Do you think he indirectly has helped to open that pipeline for you guys, where you’ve had so many good recruits come from the Carolinas and out of that area?
COACH KELLY: I think it’s helped, there’s no question. I think the tradition of Notre Dame football has been strong in that area from other players.
But I think more than anything else, being in the ACC has also helped, being in the Carolinas, north and South Carolina. I wouldn’t just put it on Everett but it certainly helped. His name and people know him, what did in that area was fairly prolific as a high school quarterback, certainly contributed to it.
Q. Football thing has worked out pretty well but when he committed to UNC, he talked to Roy Williams. Did those conversations come up when he first got here?
COACH KELLY: Oh, certainly. We had to settle him down in his first year when he wasn’t playing. He’d be regularly over there playing some basketball and we’d have to scold him and tell him he couldn’t play basketball. You know, I think that he still has a love for the game.
But I think that that now has changed because of his focus on being the quarterback here. But no, in his first year here, he was a handful. He all wanted to go out and play a little basketball.
Q. Couldn’t help notice, the last several games, there’s footage of effort throwing without the laces. Have you talked about that at all, reverting back to that habit?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we’re working on it. I mean, it’s a point of conversation. You know, it’s a habit that it’s hard to break. But you know, during practice, we’re on him all the time about getting the laces.
It’s just, you know, it’s just one of those things where he’s done it all his life and he’s trying, he’s trying to break it but sometimes he just grabs it and rips it. You know, the conditions were difficult on Saturday and some of the errant throws were maybe because of that, because of the conditions. No, he’s not at a point where he always has his fingers on the laces.
Q. I know it’s still early in the week but have you heard any updates about KeiVarae and the other guys?
COACH KELLY: The only thing I got yesterday was that there was a decision or decisions were imminent and the players would be notified.
And so imminent meant to me that today, tomorrow, something was imminent. But I have not as I stand in front of you have been notified by anybody in the university nor any of the players of any decisions regarding the hearings.
Q. Saturday was a big game in terms of Joe Schmidt, whether he could handle physical pounding.
COACH KELLY: He played well. Him and Jaylon Smith has a tandem played very well.
Again I think it’s more than just two linebackers. I think you have to have your run fits up front. I thought that our defensive line did their job, which allowed them to really fill and play downhill.
But Joe handled himself very well. We left the game I can just tell you in the first couple years here, you know, it was a hot tub/jacuzzi kind of Monday for us. It was a bruising kind of game.
We weren’t that kind of football team yesterday. It was a typical day for us, and that includes Joe. Stood up very well to a physical offensive line and a physical football team.
Q. On weeks like this, where you just got off the high of beating Stanford, you have Florida State coming up, who among your players do you think does a good job of getting the focus for a team like North Carolina who can be dangerous?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think we do a lot of things to prevent having somebody stand up and really try to re center.
For example, during last week, we didn’t make too much of the emotional part of the Stanford game. We talked more about, it’s one game.
Yeah, it’s Stanford and the fans are going to be excited and it’s going to be a great atmosphere. But in its totality, it’s one game and it’s one step. So we can’t play up each week because you just can’t do it here at Notre Dame or you’re going to stumble. I think it’s been a mind set that we’ve tried to cast into our day to day preparation.
Now, having said that, we have some guys, and that are pretty smart, that will continue to lead and that are our typical guys, the Joe Schmidts, Matthias Farleys and Austin Collinsworth, all those guys have already had their say about focus and preparation.
But I think more than anything else, we kind of lay the foundation that we don’t we don’t play up. We sink to a level of preparation than rise to a particular opponent.
Q. Ben Councell was a guy I think a lot of us anticipated seeing a lot of in the Stanford game. Didn’t see maybe as much of him. With your defense playing so well, you probably don’t want to tinker, but what could be his role moving forward?
COACH KELLY: Well, it would have been we got him out of 22 and 32 personnel. They went to 11 personnel, which was just fine with us. But if they stayed in 22 and 32 personnel, Ben Councell would have been on the field more.
He’s a big, physical, you know, close to the line of scrimmage linebacker for us. We’re getting much more spread, and so situationally, he’s got to be able to be ready when we need him in those kinds of situations.
He’s helping us immensely on special teams and he’s a role player for us in terms of playing a significant role when we need him. But we got him out of 22 and 32, which is what they wanted to do. They got into 11 and it diminished his role a little bit.
Q. With Everett, I’m sure what you talked about him wanting to see the game from a coach’s point of view on Sunday, you mentioned that. What’s the next step in his evolution and his development?
COACH KELLY: Consistency in practice, consistency every day. He’s such a creative person that, you know, we don’t want to take away his creativity as a quarterback. But there has to be those fundamentals that we have to drill down and really get to the point where he’s got to master some of those things. And he’s working on them.
But you’ve got a great young player here that has a ton of ability and is very creative, and you don’t want to handcuff him, but yet, you still have to grow and develop him on some of the fundamentals and that’s what we have to do and that’s what he has to work on.
Q. You talked Sunday about the production of Cam McDaniel versus the promise and potential of Tarean and Greg. What has to happen for that promise and potential to become production? What’s the next step?
COACH KELLY: A lot of it is learning. Greg is a freshman. He truly is getting his first sense of competition, and it’s going to come for him, there’s no question about that. I think Tarean’s further along. You know, he suffered a bit of a setback with a quad contusion during the game, which kind of pushed him back a little bit. We’re really comfortable with Folston and his development.
It’s Greg’s that we need to continue to move forward. So I think that that’s what I was kind of referring to is that Greg just needs more time to develop, and he will, and he’ll be an outstanding player for us. It’s just, I think everybody wants it to happen right away.
He just needs a little bit more time and finishing off runs is probably biggest thing right now. He wants and I think I alluded to this maybe last week or one of the conferences that we had is that he wants everything to be a big run, and he’s got to finish off some runs and he’s working on that.
Q. That was an example in the second quarter? He had a one on one with their safety, looked like he made four or five moves and finally just lunged into him. Is that an example he was trying to hard to fake the guy out, he ran out of moves?
COACH KELLY: I would say that’s a pretty good analogy or a good example, not an analogy, but a good example of what we’re referring to is that in certain instances, he’s a physical kid, run the safety over. Stick your foot in the ground and go north and south.
You know, in high school, he could make that guy miss. You know, that’s one heck of a good safety at Stanford. Lower your pads, run through the tackle, get us four yards. That’s all we were looking for on Saturday. We were looking for four yards. Sometimes that’s hard, you know, when you’re 19 and you’re used to getting 40 every time you touch it.
So that’s just development and it will come.
Q. With Tarean, it’s a matter of he was injured
COACH KELLY: He was nicked up a little bit, and so we kind of pulled back a little bit from him participating. He felt much better today, moved around earlier with our training staff. We expect him to be good to go and get back up in the carries on Saturday.
Q. What are you looking for from him? Where could he make the most improvement?
COACH KELLY: You know, he made two outstanding blocks I know you want me to talk about his ability to go down the field, and he is a very instinctive runner. He’s a smooth cutter. But he does a lot of really good things.
We ran a boot into the boundary where we hit a comeback route to Chris Brown. On the back side of that, Tarean Folston made an incredible block off a blitzing safety. He does little things sometimes that don’t show up in the stat sheet that as coaches, we really appreciate. He really is an accomplished player, and he’s less about potential and he’s more in that production, as well.
Q. The overall running game, I think you’re 76, 77 in the country right now. You’ve had a pretty good balance but where do you need to be to be the team you want to be?
COACH KELLY: You know, statistics are a bit misleading.
We rank ahead of Florida State in rushing per game, and they are the No. 1 team in the country and won the National Championship last year. We rank ahead of Stanford and you could argue that Stanford is not rushing the ball very well. But that’s what they do.
So we want to rush the ball better. But we made a substantial change on the offensive line after three games into the season, and we are still we’re doing okay. We’re going to get better. We’re committed to being better at running the football. We haven’t said, the heck with it, we are just going to pitch it around 70 times. There’s a commitment to it. We think we can be better at it. We want to be better at running the football. I think that’s the most important thing at this point.
Q. Matt Hegarty just made his fifth start on Saturday going against some pretty good players. There were a couple plays that stood out where he got abused a little bit, but wonder how he graded out over 75 snaps.
COACH KELLY: You know, it’s interesting, when we made the move, we were seeing and I think I probably talked about this. We were seeing a lot more four down. When you put a big guy on him, one on one, you can expose a center a little bit more. He got beat a couple of times when he had somebody on him. When he’s working in combination, he does a nice job for us.
What he has to minimize is some of those one on one misses, and we had a couple one on one misses where he has to do a better job. We had a snap situation on third down where he snapped the ball before Everett had called for it. Those kinds of mistakes we have to eradicate.
What we were most pleased with is that in the third and fourth quarter, he played his best football. And so I think once we settled into the game and started to get into the flow of the game, he graded out much better. But not to take away, there were some of those big misses that we have to really eradicate from his game.
Q. A lot of focus on your holder Saturday, which is uncommon. I just wonder, you’ve got 107 guys on the roster, excluding lineman that would be holders. You have a lot of people from which you could choose as your holder. Who is Hunter Smith and why is he the guy?
COACH KELLY: Good question. First of all, that special team battery spend so much time together. So much time that Hunter actually moved in and he was living with Daily. Those guys Scott Daly is our long snapper. And they developed such a close relationship; they do everything together.
And again, you’ve got to understand, although they are certainly part of our football team, they work off a different schedule. So even though he is a walk on, if you can kind somebody that is committed to that craft and committed to wanting to do the work, and somebody that really takes the time and effort to be with that group, that’s a good situation. So we thought, and we still believe in Hunter 100 percent; that he’s the right guy for that position. He was put into a situation that was a little bit different for him and quite frankly, the first snap if you saw it was not a very good snap.
The second one, Scott wanted to make up for a bad snap and fired that thing at about a hundred miles an hour about a being to him. So part of my coverings with Scott was, listen, this is a two way street here.
To answer your question, you would like that relationship, instead of having a quarterback that’s going to be there just for special teams, you would like somebody there the whole practice. And they are working the whole practice together. So you would rather have somebody that’s specialized in doing it rather than somebody that’s part time.
Q. At the end of the game, you said he’s a mature kid. When you take a walk on and throw him into a crucial situation for the Notre Dame football program, I would imagine you have to take that into consideration, too, how he can handle the pressure of these moments.
COACH KELLY: And we vetted it out pretty good. He was with us last year. We traveled the last few games. So we didn’t just throw him into it. We’ve been evaluating him in that situation for some time. We just didn’t say, all right, it’s your turn, go out there, we don’t know who you are.
So we gave it great thought and it wasn’t somebody that we just pulled out of thin air. He’s been in the program a couple years.
Q. So what’s the verdict on the gloves? Is there a temperature range that he has to wear them?
COACH KELLY: No, I think it was just a moment of, let’s just try something different here, and it kind of worked at the time.
Q. NBC did a graphic during the game listing both Stanford and Notre Dame players with famous athletes for fathers, Collinsworth, Hunter, Robinson. Is there a common thread that you see in these athletes that you coach that come from and those Dads are not just run of the mill players. They are stars and even Hall of Famers.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think that all of them have recognized that professional careers are well, maybe they are more experiences than careers, and that one day those end, and that sending their son to a university where they can be in an environment where they can grow, mature, get a degree and be taken care of for the rest of their life.
You know, I think that that’s what that means more than anything else; that they have seen it and know that going to the NFL or going to Major League Baseball is great but you have to do something after that and I think that’s why you see him going to Stanford and that’s why I think you see him going to places like Notre Dame.
Q. And just one last thing, having observed VanGorder reacting to, or at least I think I see him reacting to something on special teams, what’s his role on special teams?
COACH KELLY: Well, we had a situation where well, we certainly do, because we’re deciding whether we want to be in a safe situation where we keep our defense on the field, whether we’re pulling one off or we’re changing the whole unit.
And there was some miscommunication as to whether we were going to be in a safe punt situation, which would leave our entire defense except for one on the field; and when that miscommunication did occur, I subsequently had to use a time out.
So that was and we don’t want to use a time out in that situation.
Q. Wondering, Everett has had some ball security problems. When he becomes a runner and no longer a passer, do you put him through some of the drills the running backs go through?
COACH KELLY: Do you refer to putting him in the wrong way (Laughter).
We started that last week. I think he learned, if you remember on his long run on the draw play, he actually took his top hand and put it over the ball. I think it’s just a matter of him understanding how important ball security is, but we’ll continue to do that drill.
Q. Against Stanford, Ty Montgomery had nine touches for 26 yards. When you’re able to do that against a physical team like Stanford with a game breaking guy like Montgomery, just speak to the overall skill of your defense.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it speaks to a couple things. One, it was a must. We had some musts, so that was part of our must. And then it becomes enacted within our game plan. It’s important to know your opponent, and your strengths of your opponent.
So I think we enacted the appropriate game plan and our guys knew where he was. We set some defensive things in motion to attend to that. And then I think we had some players that can certainly challenge him.
So I think all those things came together to get that kind of net rut.
Q. With Cole Luke, the two interceptions and the volume increase he’s had this year; is his consistency improving?
COACH KELLY: Well, he was not technically our best corner. That’s what kept him from being one of our top two corners. What he’s improved dramatically on is his technique. So he’s been technically a much sounder corner, a much more dedicated corner to his technique, which has made him a better corner as a result.
Now, along the way, he’s gained a lot of confidence. And I’ve said this before, especially that position. First of all, you can’t have any kind of memory at that position. You have to let it go quickly.
But technique has been probably the No. 1 thing that he’s improved on over the past six weeks that’s allowed him to grow as a corner.
Q. There’s a play on Saturday where Isaac Rochell bull rushed Pete and knocked him over. How does that stand out on film compared to the rest of the game?
COACH KELLY: He is extremely powerful. I think I’ve alluded to this on a few occasions. One of the more powerful players that I’ve coached, and he’s only going to get better. He’s extremely powerful.
Now, is he a dynamic pass rusher? No, he is not. But I’m telling you what, he is hard to move, and he allows linebackers to fill again, you don’t see a ton on the stat line from him. But when you can’t move Jones and you can’t move Rochell, the net result is, you’re going to play pretty good run defense.
Q. The first practice, Tyler Luatua, you had him in the first snap of the game on Saturday, neat to see him there. What was the thought there and what was his role?
COACH KELLY: He has practiced very well. He has not played fast enough. So we love the way he practices. He’s really physical. The transition from practice to game, we’ve got to get him up to speed. It’s a little fast for him right now.
We love everything about him. We love his demeanor, his toughness. The game is a little fast for him right now, and we’re going to keep putting him out there, because when it comes and it clicks, he is a pretty powerful player. He’s got soft hands. He’s going to be a really nice player for us.
It’s just it’s a little fast for him right now and he does not meet that I mean, look, we played him against Stanford. I mean, pretty good defense to go up against, really, but he’s got to get up to snuff with it from practice to games, and it was a big step for him.
Q. Being from California made that all right with him?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don’t think he doesn’t really care. He’s that kind of kid. It doesn’t matter for him.
Q. Want to ask you about the gloves, too. Peyton Manning has gone to wearing gloves when he throws the football. Have you thought about doing that with Everett?
COACH KELLY: You know, he had one glove on in his off hand. He’s just a kid that needs that feel. Kind of alluded to it a little bit. Anybody that throws without the laces is a guy that needs that feel, and he loses the feel, the tactile feel of the ball. So it’s not an option for him.
Q. It’s October, in addition to having a busy schedule for yourself, your wife’s been busy. You been fixing dinner?
COACH KELLY: If you want to eat at 11:30 at night, I’ll fix you dinner. It’s going to be a late dinner, though. If you want to do Zumba with my wife, you could have met at the stadium last night.
Q. Last Saturday was a terrific Saturday for college football and your win was a part of that. After your game, how much of last Saturday were you able to watch as a spectator and what are some of the things you watched?
COACH KELLY: I watched a little bit. I watched baseball. I get tired of college football, if you can imagine. Unless there’s some significance, I think the last time I really sat down and watched it was a couple years ago when I think Kansas State was playing Baylor and there was some significant games that affected Notre Dame.
Really it’s too early in the season to have any significance for me. So I think I was relaxing and I was watching a baseball game.
Q. Corey Robinson last week, very quiet for the first three quarters in terms of receptions and all of a sudden came up with four big catches in the fourth quarter. Was that because Stanford was taking something away?
Was it designed?
How did that develop?
COACH KELLY: You know, it’s just we got into a throw first kind of scenario. So in a throw first scenario, Corey is going to be a major contributor in a throw first mentality.
So I think that that’s why you saw him; where I think our play calling was a run first, playaction mentality leading up to that.
Q. Where have you seen him make the most improvement as a receiver?
COACH KELLY: Physicality, releases. Last year there were times he couldn’t get off the line of scrimmage. This year he can get off of any kind of coverage rolled up against him.
I think he’s still learning on some of his read routes but I think that’s probably the biggest jump that he’s made is getting off press coverage.
Q. A couple years ago, you had zero experience at the cornerback position and both Jackson and KeiVarae had big seasons all the way through. This year it’s almost the opposite with the defensive line. I think everyone had that as maybe the weakest area of the team on paper. How are you able to make that into a strength like the run defense without taking away something else from the defense, such as pass defense?
COACH KELLY: Right. Well, I think first of all, in developing your program, you can never leave yourself short in recruiting and so we worked really hard at making sure that we had enough pieces there. Even though sometimes you feel like you’d like one more guy here or there in a recruiting cycle, it’s never just one year. It’s the four or five years together that make that depth happen. And then you have to develop your guys at those positions.
As it relates to the defensive line, you know, we felt like we had enough guys there that we’re going to be able to give us the kind of play necessary. It was just a matter of giving them the opportunity.
Q. Is it more of a snap count base with the defense, because a couple years ago, Louis and Stephon were taking a good volume of snaps.
COACH KELLY: It’s much more down and distance for us. It’s first, second and third down. You know, we probably had with Tuitt, he was a guy that could play all three downs for us. As I mentioned before, Isaac and Jarron, not necessarily guys that would be on the field for all three downs. So you’ve seen our packages. We’re nickel, we’re dime, we’re into more situational substitution. So those guys don’t play as many reps.
Q. You were asked last week about the Syracuse game, whether you gave any thought to possibly replacing Golson for a series or so, and you gave a pretty succinct no answer. Wanted to follow up, what is your threshold with a quarterback? Is it based on experience? You’ve taken Everett out before. Is it a feel? Is it how much experience he has out there? What’s kind of your threshold on when you make that decision?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think I would take Everett out of the game unless he was injured. So I don’t think there is a threshold.
I think that we’re trying to compare a situation where I had a veteran starter in Tommy Rees who had started games; and comparing it to what we have, I have a kid who has not taken a snap, really, in Malik Zaire is the next guy in. He doesn’t have the experience that Everett has and hasn’t experienced the things that he has.
So I don’t think there is a threshold. He’s playing unless he gets injured and that’s probably the period. End of discussion.
Q. Having a week like last week with a lot of shuffling and you’re back in the Top 5, do you have to reinforce the message that they can’t be focused on what they have done but instead looking ahead?
COACH KELLY: My sense is no. There are too many guys in here that just want to play. They don’t get look, they know that they are ranked. But they are more interested in playing the game than anything else. And then the veterans that we have here have been down this road before. They have been undefeated, and they know what it takes and what you have to put in, to beat an opponent when you’re at Notre Dame.
So I’ve got a good balance. I’ve got some veterans that have been through it before, quite a few that is, and then I’ve got some young guys that they don’t even know they don’t know. They just want to play.
So it’s actually a pretty good mix of guys in that respect.
Q. Is there a lift and enthusiasm throughout the week when you come off a win in exciting fashion?
COACH KELLY: Absolutely. There’s a belief. There’s some confidence. There’s no question that the guys feel like they can win any game they play. But they also are grounded enough to know that they have to play better, and that’s all units. I think there’s a good sense that a win like that does a lot of good things for you, but it also keeps them grounded in the sense that they know they can play better.
Q. You mentioned you thought decisions on your five guys were imminent. With that in mind, do you have a plan in place to potentially work guys back in this week should you get them back?
COACH KELLY: I do. Yeah, I do.
Q. Is it realistic that some of them could play this Saturday were they to be back to you, say, tomorrow, or is that too soon?
COACH KELLY: I think that there are limited roles that could find themselves come together. But I think it’s hypothetical right now because I don’t have any I don’t have any information.
I was asked this question on our teleconference and it forced me to kind of give it some thought, so I did, and have put some thoughts together in my mind.
I think the overriding thought for me is, you know, six weeks is a long time. There’s no way that somebody is going to come back in and start on Saturday. We’ll see how it plays out if, in fact, we do have a player back. We’ll try to get them an opportunity to contribute, but it will have to be in a limited role.
Q. How much do you think Elijah benefitted from the fact that you had to play him with Austin’s injury and he had some game tape he could look at and learn from a different way than he could on a Tuesday or Wednesday?
COACH KELLY: Invaluable. It was invaluable. We couldn’t have developed him to the point he’s at now. Now, having said that, he has to make the play in two man when the ball is floating in the air.
So I think he’s still learning. You know, he’s still got to make some of those plays. He’s great around the line of scrimmage. He’s got to get better in space off the hash. But we can’t even have those conversations with him unless he has those weeks of experience.
So extremely invaluable for him and his development.
Q. Why do you think that is, that game experience may be ten times more valuable than just going over something in a practice?
COACH KELLY: Well, everything slows down in practice. Even though you try to get it to go fast, it’s the ability to register what’s going on out there by formation, by tendency, your communicating. It’s live. You’re on stage. It’s just the lights are bright there, and so you can’t really duplicate that. I think that’s why you have to have those live reps because they are not the same.
Q. Teams coming at you more in 11 than 22 or why do you think that is?
COACH KELLY: Well, weren’t able to run it, so they were averaging less than two yards rushing ball and so they got into 11.
To me, I know that we went into the game wanting to get them out of 22 and 32 personnel, and we achieved that goal. We did not want to play the game in 22 and 32 the whole game, because we knew it was going to be a long day if that was the case.
So we feel the same way. If we can get you into 11, then we feel better about it because we can do a lot more things. But I think more than anything else, we limited what they could do relative to down and distance and got them into third down situations.