Aug. 31, 2016
Brian Kelly: Good afternoon. It’s finally game week here at Notre Dame, and I know for our players they’re certainly excited about the opportunity to go to Austin and play Texas. Two great programs, great traditions. You know, playing on a stage that they have to themselves, in a sense, on a Sunday night. So a lot of excitement, I know, in our locker room as we get into game week.
It’s, you know — we’ve been in camp for an extended period of time, and now flipping that switch you get into a routine. You begin to now focus on the preparation for playing a Texas team that is very talented. It’s a team that we know well having played them last year. Watched a lot of film in the off-season and seeing a football team that came up with two really big wins last year against nationally ranked teams in Oklahoma and Baylor. And a team that obviously in Coach Strong has developed a lot of talent, has recruited extremely well. So we know that it’s a talented football team that’s playing at home.
They’re going to be honoring their 2006 National Championship team. So a lot of things that they’ll feed off of. And what they can’t feed off of is a Notre Dame football team that gives them any excitement in a sense that we go down there and turn the football over, give them big plays. So it’s very important that our football team gets off to a good start against Texas.
I think both teams are certainly focused on the little things in the opener many of you hear about the opener relative to special teams and taking care of the football and assignments. And I think that for me is the same thing when we’ve got a number of young players that are going to be playing in this game.
I think what I’m most interested in is how we handle the adversity that we’ll face the first time. Certainly there will be some adversity, and how we charge through that and manage it will say a lot about this football team moving forward.
Specifically both teams are going to be playing it looks like a couple of quarterbacks. I think a lot of attention, a lot of eyes, a lot of national media and local media will be wanting to focus on that, but sometimes when you focus on the quarterbacks, you forget there are a lot of other things going on out there and there’s a lot of talented players on both sides that will have to step up and make plays.
Texas is going to rely on tempo on offense with the new offensive coordinator. They’re going to push the tempo. And defensively they’re young, they’re athletic, and they’re certainly going to keep the pressure on our offense. They know full well that we don’t have an experienced receiving core, and they’re going to keep a lot of pressure on our running game and make us certainly throw the football at a number of times during the game.
So a lot of it in terms of playing out, I know people will focus on the quarterbacks, but there are a lot of other things going on in this game that are very important, and our kids have to execute quite well.
I think both running games are going to have to be very, very instrumental in this game. They’ve got two big, physical running backs in Foreman and Warren, and we think we’ve got great depth at the running back position as well. Adams comes off a great year. You know, certainly we feel with our offensive line, getting Folston back, that’s going to be a big piece for us; that we’ve got some depth at the running back position as well.
So those games, I think, will be featured as well. Then, of course, just when you start to forget about how important special teams is in this game, I think special teams will play a huge role as well.
So that’s my overview. You know, again, I think there will be plenty of questions about the quarterbacks certainly today and moving forward. But there will be so many other story lines in this game, how young players perform on the road, how young players step up to the challenges. I think, again, adversity and getting through that. Then carving out a running game I think is going to be very, very important in the outcome of this game.
So with that, let’s begin with questions.
Q. Do you know who will take the first snap Sunday at quarterback?
Brian Kelly: Nope, haven’t figured that out yet. I mean, we’re both doing the same things that we’ve been asking them to do, and that may be something that we discuss in the locker room. It’s not really an issue for us right now. It’s not something that we’ve contemplated.
Q. Do you have a plan how you want your reps and your offense essentially to be split?
Brian Kelly: It will be more by feel.
Q. Of the four players who were arrested whose status was still uncertain last week, have you gotten any clarity on whether they’ll play this week at Texas? Some of them were on the depth chart.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, they’re all on the depth chart. They’ve all — at this point they’re available to play, but as you know, some of these situations are out of my hands, but that’s why they’re on the depth chart. I’ll control what I can control from a football standpoint, but if there are issues that occur outside of my control, we’ll deal with it at that time.
But as it stands right now, they’re on the depth chart because they’re available to play as we speak and on Saturday, if they’re cleared to play as of Saturday, then we’d play them.
Q. I guess you get a decision from the university by Saturday? Is that kind of the deadline?
Brian Kelly: No, no, I don’t think there’s any deadline. The university will work their process, and we’ll continue to move forward. They’re not under — there’s no deadline, per se. But we kind of work as if they’re going to play, and if something changes, the university will let us know.
Q. And Devin Butler’s status still the same, suspended?
Brian Kelly: That’s correct.
Q. And I think you played a Monday opener?
Brian Kelly: We did, against Rutgers.
Q. I don’t know how much you can take from that, but just opening on a day of the week other than Saturday and having the extra day or two to prepare, how does that change your preparation, especially with the announcement coming?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, the routine, we try to get back into the same routine. Generally where it affects you more is on that next week is where you really have to be careful. Because we’ll get back in at 4 a.m. Monday and then we play Nevada that Saturday. So my concern is usually around the flip side of it. Because you adjust your schedule a little bit.
Like yesterday was a normal Monday for us, but we gave the kids a day off. So that is a change in the normal schedule for us just to get in on a normal week schedule. It was really a Sunday for us. So that’s not really a big deal going into it. It’s the next week where you concern yourself with making sure that they’ve got proper rest.
Q. I know over the summer you had mentioned something about single-digit jersey numbers being rewarded and the No. 1 rotating on a week-to-week basis. What is that going to look like now that the game’s here?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we’ll be awarding the No. 1 jersey out prior to the game, based upon a number of factors within our program that have to do with character both on and off the field, practice. And our captains will be involved as well as our coaches in singling out an individual who will wear that jersey on game day.
Q. That’s week to week?
Brian Kelly: That’s correct.
Brian Kelly: No, it’s just going to be No. 1.
Q. So there’s no special merit, I guess, to the sense between 2 and 3?
Brian Kelly: No, we just singled it out as No. 1.
Q. Sort of adversity, young players on the road, is part of the reason you go for Avery over Devin at safety to not invite any more adversity to a young player than you need to in this situation?
Brian Kelly: Well, Devin was a little behind with the hamstring as well. So I don’t know that it’s all that deep. But certainly you want to put veterans on the field, if you can. I think if Devin was clearly ahead of Sebastian, we’d have Devin on the field over Sebastian. But Sebastian’s had a good camp. He’s been really rock solid.
But there is merit to that question, in that you want to try to keep as many veterans in that starting role as possible and let those younger guys work their way into the lineup. But more than anything else, Devin put himself a little behind with the injury. He didn’t put himself behind, but the injury caused him to be a little bit behind. But he’s made up a lot of ground in a very short period.
Q. You’ve been able to open here with the exception of maybe (indiscernible) a different set of circumstances. Are you looking for something different for your younger players who haven’t played on Sunday night than they would be just at this time last year against Texas here? Is it a different set of factors that you’re trying to keep an eye out for this week? Even just on Sunday night in warm-ups and see how they’re reacting through it all?
Brian Kelly: Oh, yeah. You’re definitely taking all of that into account as how they prepare this week, what you’re pushing them through. Then when they get out there in pregame, you want to — I always get a sense of how kids respond to the moment. And we’ll adjust accordingly. If we feel like somebody’s having a problem at the moment, we’ll adjust accordingly.
So all of those factors, we’re definitely going to have our fingers on the pulse of some of our players as they get ready for their first big-time event, if you will.
Q. I guess without singling out any individual, in your coaching career have you gone through a pre-game with an opener to be like, okay, we can’t play this kid?
Brian Kelly: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I’ve had many of those. More than you would know. You’d go, “Why didn’t he start the game,” and I’d come up with some baloney answer for you later. But it was generally because I was looking in the back of his head during pregame and couldn’t see his eyes.
Q. On the four underclassmen, have you had interaction with the Office Of Community Standards in terms of a meeting or a hearing?
Brian Kelly: Procedurally they do not have hearings until they get the reports. The reports would have been released today, so they’ll get the reports and then the office will now commence on their work, I would assume.
Q. Would you expect to have any contact with them?
Brian Kelly: We always have communication. We have great lines of communication with the office.
Q. At your rush end, Trumbetti is listed first and then the Hayes. Is that somewhat due to Dae’s —
Brian Kelly: Yeah, put him back a little bit, but he’ll play. He’ll contribute. But being out five or six days in a very competitive situation gave Andrew just enough opportunity to take more reps and put himself in a really good position.
Q. What do you hope to see from Daelin Hayes?
Brian Kelly: You know, I think a lot of what we just talked about. Daelin hasn’t played a lot of football over the last year and a half. So settle into the game, get lined up right. Be don’t jump offsides. You know? Put your jersey on the right way. Just settle into the game.
We’re not asking him to change the complexion of the game, but just to get into the flow of the game. And I think if he does a good job of settling down and getting into the flow of the game, I think he’ll have some success. But really not asking too much early on and then get into the flow of the game.
Q. We’ve seen very little of Avery Sebastian, just spots here and there since he’s been here.
Brian Kelly: We haven’t seen much of him either.
Q. I’m just wondering, the guy that’s going to play for you at Texas, how close is he to maybe the peak of who he was at Cal?
Brian Kelly: Well, what we’ve seen and what we can evaluate is a consistent performer. He’s assignment correct. He makes very few errors, and that’s what we like. We have two performers back there in Tranquill and Sebastian that are assignment correct.
Now, do they have the range maybe at times that we’d like? Probably not. But they do a lot of really good things for us, and they can play the kind of defense that we need to to be successful. So where maybe they lack some of the rage of the younger players who will play and play considerable roles, they’re rock solid and they’re veteran players.
You know, I think that’s where, Pete was kind of alluding to earlier, we’re starting a guy who has been around and played some college football and we feel good about getting him on the field first, and then eventually getting all of these guys in the game.
Q. Sometimes a guy, a lot of players get injured and they’re not quite themselves again. And every once in a while you have a guy that’s better than he ever was. Is Folston in that second category?
Brian Kelly: I’ve been very impressed with his camp, his elusiveness, the way he’s run. I expect him to have a significant impact in what we do offensively. Yeah, he’s really always been an instinctive runner. I think he’s been more of a grind-it-out, in-line kind of runner that most teams love to have. He’s patient. He gives the offensive line an opportunity to get on their blocks. I know they love blocking for him because he makes our offensive line really look good on combination blocks. So I expect him to do some good things for us.
Q. The last one for me, the young men that were charged with (indiscernible), if they hadn’t gotten pulled over, there are people that kind of wonder if Notre Dame (indiscernible) drug testing, would this eventually come to a head through that? And how often are kids drug tested?
Brian Kelly: We have a very rigorous drug testing policy. Our drug testing policy along with the NCAA drug policy — I’ve been at four schools, and I believe our policy is as stringent and — and when I say “stringent,” I mean we are on top of it on a day-to-day basis. But we’re also — it’s not just punitive. It’s education. And if the education part is not working, then the punitive part comes in. But I think we’ve done a great job with our drug testing policy.
Q. You mention that it’s punitive, and not to belabor a point, I know you want to talk about football, but —
Brian Kelly: Well, I think it’s educational, first and foremost. There is a component that’s punitive as well. I think all drug testing programs need to be educational first. And if you find as though that that is not changing somebody through counseling and education, then I believe there needs to be a punitive component.
Q. Is that your thought process in allowing them to be available to play this Sunday?
Brian Kelly: Absolutely. Absolutely. I believe there needs to be an educational component in that end, and as we continue to monitor these guys, they are in a program as such and will be put on a program that they will not know when tests occur. So that is part of our program as well. We have an element within our program that they can be tested at any time. I think that’s appropriate in this case. So we think that that is an important part of the education process as well.
Q. How do you get the message to the rest of the team that Notre Dame does not have a culture of tolerance? Because a precedent has been set now that you can have one strike and you’ll still get to play. It’s the second, third and fourth strike that would be punitive?
Brian Kelly: Well, we have that throughout our entire athletic program that your first time is an educational process. In other words, counseling and education. Then you enter into that track program that you could have random drug testing. So it’s not just football. It’s the entire athletic department. And our whole department is set up that way. I don’t know how other programs are, but we certainly consult and look at other like schools. And I’m confident to say that most if not all are pretty much the same.
Q. I’m curious, because I’m a father of three, you’re a father. Five of your players are caught in a car with an unlicensed handgun, and you mentioned last week you did not know who it belonged to. Why did you feel it wasn’t important to ask that question?
Brian Kelly: We did. We found out. We ended up finding out.
Q. Just at that time you didn’t know?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I didn’t know at that time. Yeah, we ended up finding out.
Q. From what you’ve learned in the last three weeks, where is your most effective pass rush going to come from?
Brian Kelly: I think probably on a consistent basis it’s come from Isaac Rochell. He’s been very difficult to handle one-on-one, and that’s across the board from all of our players. When I say “all of our players,” all five guys up front. Individually at times when Jarron Jones is on, boy, he’s a handful inside because of his physicality. But I would say Isaac Rochell.
Q. Are special packages necessary to really be effective?
Brian Kelly: Oh, well, I think first and second down today in college football are your base defenses, then third down, everything becomes a specialty. So people are going to be moving around. You’ll have different position groups. You’ll have different personnel on the field. And that’s really to try to take advantage of some of the guys that maybe wouldn’t be as effective on first and second down, but can provide you one-dimensional advantage, and that is the pass rush.
So we think we’ve got a couple of freshmen. Okwara is going to travel with us. Jones, junior, the young — Jones is going to travel with us. Because we think they’ve got some skills that can help us in pass rush. So there are a number of guys that we think can get to the quarterback, Daelin Hayes. Individually, Isaac Rochell presents first, second and third down for us. But I think there are probably half dozen guys on third down situations that can get to the quarterback for us.
Q. How did their two quarterbacks differ?
Brian Kelly: They’re quite different. They’re not quite the same in the sense that we have. Swoopes, obviously, big arm, he can obviously get the ball down to the field. We know about his size and physicality. He’s got a lot of athletic ability. They want to move him around. He’s not a guy that’s going to stand in the same launch point. He’s going to change launch points, move around. And, quite frankly, I’ve been impressed when teams have pressured him. He’s done a really nice job of getting the ball down the field.
And Shane is — he’s more of a guy that will hit open receivers. He’s more of a guy that can be reading across the board, relative to progressions. And precision passer, if you will.
So you get two different quarterbacks, both of whom can make plays down the field. And both have been effective. So I can see how coaches probably want to play both of them, because they do have different styles.
Q. On the surface last year when Max was sent home from the Fiesta Bowl and kicked off the team, on the surface it looks from the outside that these kids were arrested for possession of drugs, and now Max is kicked off the team. Was there a reason you didn’t suspend them? And could you have — the procedure you follow here, could you have superseded that and suspended him anyway?
Brian Kelly: We did. Max was charged with the possession of a handgun. That changed the whole situation. And that’s what caused the dismissal. And as an upperclassman not really living up to the standards that I set. The other four guys, we’re talking about possession of marijuana and me dealing with that situation. It was the handgun that was the game changer.
Q. Did you consider suspending the other four?
Brian Kelly: Did I?
Q. Yes. In terms of possession of marijuana.
Brian Kelly: No, I did not.
Q. Is that because of procedure?
Brian Kelly: I’ve never suspended a player for a game for a first defense in this instance.
Q. Okay. Thank you.
Q. I know you talked about what you’re going to do at quarterback, but have you thought more about whether you want to do it situationally or keep one quarterback in for a series at a time so they can build some consistency?
Brian Kelly: The comfort level of the quarterback and his rhythm is something that is always an issue with them, and I can’t help them with that. What we’re mostly focusing on is what Texas wants to do and then how we counter with our two quarterbacks and how we think effectively they can run our offense. So there will probably be times where, man, that probably doesn’t feel good for his flow or tempo. That probably doesn’t work best for him.
But what we’re trying to counter is the game within the game, and that is how Texas is trying to defend what we’re doing offensively. So that’s really the biggest issue that I have moving forward. We’re going to run the quarterbacks how we see the defense is playing us.
Q. You talk about the hot hand with the running back. Do you see something similar at the quarterback, hot hands (indiscernible)?
Brian Kelly: You know, I think that plays a little bit into it. I think that you want to keep your quarterbacks — flow is important, rhythm is important. But if we get into a particular field zone that I think another quarterback can be more effective based upon what Texas is doing, I may have to supersede the hot quarterback, if you will, for the right person at the right time.
Q. This game is a game of routine. Do you worry about (indiscernible) quarterbacks will upset things a little bit, just the fact that a few things differently when you’re warming up, splitting the warmup time, the first team and all that, how everything progresses during a game?
Brian Kelly: I’m not that worried about it. They’re two veteran players. They know how to play. They don’t like it. They would like to be the guy, but they want to win, and they’ll do whatever is necessary to win and find a way to win the game.
So we get to pregame, they kick the ball off. We’re on the sidelines, the game starts, and they’ll be fine. When all the press conferences are over and we’re done talking about it, they’ll be fine.
Leading up to it, they won’t be fine. And when you guys get them tomorrow, they won’t be fine with it. It’s just the nature of it. It’s not an ideal situation for either one of them. It’s best for our team that they both play. How long this happens? I don’t know. We’ll see how it plays out.
Q. Would you prefer coming out of it knowing who the No. 1 quarterback is for at least the next game?
Brian Kelly: It depends how both of them play.
Q. Well, would you prefer — is that your hope, is that you find somebody?
Brian Kelly: I’m not trying to elude the question. But if they both play dynamically and feed off each other, my ideal situation would be I’m playing them both because they’re both playmakers. And if we can find a way that they both can feed off each other, help our offense to be the productive offense that we want it to be, I’d love to see them both play. You know, nobody seems to think that this can happen, but we’re going to give it a shot.
Q. You talked about how young the receivers are. How confident are you that Torii Hunter at this point is ready to step up and be a primary receiver that you hope he’s going to be?
Brian Kelly: He’ll play well. We’re not ready to put him up in the category of All-American. He’s got to go prove himself. He hasn’t proven himself yet. But he’s going to be a good receiver for us. But he needs help. He’s going to have to have complementary receivers around him.
So for us to say Torii Hunter’s going to be our savior is fool’s gold. He’s going to have to make some plays for us. But he’s got to play himself into some confidence as well. He doesn’t have a big resumÃƒÆ’Â©. He’s got to go make some plays himself. So as much as we are young, he’s inexperienced in the sense that he’s got to play a lot more football and play a lot more snaps than he’s ever played before.
Q. You mentioned watching a lot of Texas film. What about Buechele? Spring game? What are you working off with him?
Brian Kelly: Well, spring game was a typical spring game. It was difficult. But we know the style of quarterback. I remember from high school. I know what kind of quarterback he is. He’s high percentage. And I think if you look at the two quarterbacks, he fits the system pretty good with the new offensive coordinator.
So I think for them, it’s a comfort level that they know he can run the system. It’s just that Swoopes is such an athletic kid. I mean, it’s hard for him not to get your attention in his physicality and his arm strength.
So I can see where they are. He’s such a young kid. I see his potential and his growth to one day be the starter there. But with Swoopes, I know where they are. I mean, you’ve got an athletic kid that can do a lot of things, and you’ve got an emerging player in Buechele.
Q. You mentioned the offensive coordinator. With their new offensive coordinator, it’s a whole new ballgame for you guys compared to a year ago.
Brian Kelly: It is. I mean, it’s fast. This is going to be North Carolina fast. This is fast, fast tempo. We’ve worked hard on that to prepare our defense for the kind of tempo they’re going to see.
Q. Obviously you hammer them and you guys were ready to play last year and maybe they weren’t ready to play. Where have they improved? And I know it probably starts with the ground game and you shut it down and they were really good the rest of the year. But how did they improve as much as they did from Game 1 to beat Oklahoma and Baylor and put themselves where they are now?
Brian Kelly: I think two areas. I think the running game started to emerge. I think they got some confidence there. I think, secondly, some of the young players settled down, Malik Jefferson. I think a couple of their younger players of the linebackers settled down and started to be a little bit more fundamentally sound in their areas. I think defensively they just tightened some things up. So tightened up defensively and began to run the ball effectively.
Q. Those two big backs, they only carried six times against you guys last year. You held them to nine yards. Obviously you’re going to see a whole lot?
Brian Kelly: They’re coming after it, there’s no question. It’s going to be a feature of what this game is. So that said, we talk a lot about the quarterbacks, but the running game on both sides will be a big, big factor in this game in my opinion.
Q. I realize using two quarterbacks throws a different slant on everything for you. But when you look at this offense and project and think ahead as to what you’re going to have, how do you think this offense is going to produce? Last year, big play with Prosise and Fuller. You talked about Hunter, maybe he’s not as big play. Is this more of a, for lack of a better term, grind-it-out offense as opposed to a big-play offense, or don’t you know?
Brian Kelly: I think each year your offense finds its identity. Did we know Prosise was going to be the kind of back he was going to be? We weren’t really sure once we lost Gholston. We really weren’t sure what Kizer was going to give us. So each year the offense has the ability to mend itself to what we are and who we’re going to be.
I think we have enough players across the board that we can be who we decide to be. If we get the support at the other areas, I think we can be a balanced offense. If we find out that we can’t be, then I think we can be that offense that runs the football with a grind-it-out mentality. But I’d like to be more balanced, and I think we can be, but we’ll find out.
Q. You had mentioned about the week after Texas there’s just a problem with the rest aspect. How about going into Texas, the fact that sometimes when you go on the road on Friday and don’t play until Saturday night there’s that downtime, now you have that extra day of downtime? Is there any way to alleviate that, or are you making this almost like a bowl trip?
Brian Kelly: Well, we’re not going to leave until late Friday. So we’ll do all of our work here like it’s a Thursday, right? So it’s really a day earlier. So we’ll do all of our work here, and we won’t get in until late Friday. So we’ll get up and like most Fridays, we’ll do our work.
The only bonus for us is they have no class that day. So they’ll be on the road, able to sleep in a little bit, able to catch up on rest. Then we’ll go through our normal Friday for the entire day. We’ll get in our practice, we’ll get in all the things that we do on a full Friday, which will be really good for them.
They’ll have some downtime. They’ll have about two or three hours to watch some college football games. But then we’ll get them back up on Sunday and we’ll move them around again on game day. So I like it. I think the guys enjoy getting a little extra rest, extra treatments. And so I think it comes at a good time for our team.
Q. On the depth chart I noticed Coney is now listed as Mike linebacker, have you cross-trained him?
Brian Kelly: We have, we have.
Q. Would he be the next guy in as opposed to maybe Martini?
Brian Kelly: He has the ability to play there, but Greer could play at Mike as well. It depends on what kind of game it is and what the situation is.
Q. With Jamir Jones also at No. 2 with James at the Sam linebacker position, what have you seen in him?
Brian Kelly: Smart. We like his retention. Smart football player. Picks up things very well, and have been pleased with his ability to hold material and carry it on to the next day. So that’s kind of stood out to us. And he’s got some pass-rush ability as well. I think those two things have been a pleasant surprise for us.
Q. What earned the starting position for Colin McGovern at right guard over Tristen, and is there a possibility in the course of the game he might be rotated as well, or would you rather not have that in the offensive line?
Brian Kelly: I think Colin by virtue of being really good on his feet, a good pass blocker, great pass blocker, great balance, stays on his feet. He’s been really solid for us. I think Tristen is physical, you know, and he’s getting better each week as a pass protector.
You know, at that center position, it’s a little bit different in terms of pass-pro than it’s at the guard position. So that’s evolving for him. I do see him playing. I don’t know if it’s a rotational situation right now. But I do see him getting into the game.
Q. Would Tristen still be the next option at center?
Brian Kelly: He would, him and Mark. We think both of them can go into the game for us. But Tristen right now would probably be the first option.
Q. With so many unknowns going into this game, is this game less about game planning and more about making adjustments on the fly, communicating with the other coaches in the box?
Brian Kelly: I think when you go into an opener, even if you have a veteran team, you’re always looking to get a sense and feel in that first quarter what a defense wants to do, what an offense wants to do. So there is a little bit of sparring going on in every opener, because you just don’t really know.
So there is a bit of that going into this game. Throw on the fact that there are some uncertainties with some inexperienced players adds to that a little bit. But I think every opener for me has always been the same. You want to see what they were thinking. All those hours in the off-season, what was the plan? And that’s generally my take has been in openers you’re kind of in a sparring match there in the first quarter.
Q. Fans get excited about opening day. How excited do you still get about opening day?
Brian Kelly: I get excited for every game. To me, the week I hate. You know, it’s not knowing if you’ve covered everything and the preparation. I love going to practice and I love preparing, but I hate the fact that you may have forgotten to go over something or you didn’t drill it deep enough.
You love going out and playing the games, but it’s the fear of not covering every little thing that could occur in an opener. I find myself at these times in openers: Did I go over the lanes on the punt after a safety instead of the kickoff after a safety? Do I have the right guy out there on kickoff after a safety versus a kick after a safety? All the little things like that that go through somebody’s head like mine, the very weird kind of mind that I have.
Q. Yet we still try to probe it.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, which I don’t know why you try. You’re getting some bad stuff there.
Q. Naashon Hughes for Texas is a player we haven’t talked about a lot, but he is certainly somebody that could be a difference maker on defense. What makes him so effective?
Brian Kelly: Well, first step quickness, I mean, plays with low — I mean, he’s a big guy that plays low and plays physical. He’s a big front. Big, athletic front. You know, again, a group that I thought played better and better as the year went on. We were talking earlier about where they saw improvement. I thought they really tightened things up defensively against the run, and he was certainly one of them.
Q. If you have a chance to watch one of the myriad of other games on Saturday, is there one that intrigues you more than the other?
Brian Kelly: I don’t even know who is playing, honestly. No, I know USC’s playing Alabama, but that’s about it, because I saw that the other day on TV. But I really don’t even know who else is playing.
Q. Wanted to follow up on Eric’s question about Tarean. He’s mentioned that he has maybe a greater appreciation for practice and just the little things, day-to-day, week-to-week after his injury. Have you seen that? How does that play out for a guy like him in practice on a day-to-day basis?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think he appreciates the fact that all of the things that he does or is asked to do has a direct impact in how he can perform on Saturday. In other words, I think he gets it that it’s purposeful. It’s not just, hey, we’re making you do this. And that’s a perspective that a veteran gets. We don’t ask you to go out there and run around just because we want you to run around. He sees each drill and each thing that we do will have a direct effect on how he can be a better football player on Saturdays, and I think he appreciates that.
Q. Is that something when it’s taken away from a guy like that — a lot of veterans probably get it between sophomore and junior, and junior and senior, but when games are taken away like that, is that almost more of a lesson for him that it has that much of an impact?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think they get it twofold. I think they get it when they’re injured and they come to practice and they see it from that perspective or they hear so much more. When they have the helmet on, it’s do, do, do, do. When they’re injured and they’re there, and he was there for all of our bowl preparation and a lot of the games down the stretch, they’re listening. They’re listening to the interactions. They’re listening to coaches.
And I think they gain a different perspective when they’re injured. And I think he gained that perspective. Then I think what happens is you then apply that to yourself when you’re back practicing. And I think those two things come together. And I’ve seen it with a number of players that come back from injury. They practice different. They have an a tension that’s a little different, and I’ve seen it with him as well.
Q. With Texas not announcing who is starting at quarterback, does that at all affect you in how you prepare?
Brian Kelly: No, no. As I said earlier, it changes a little bit in terms of keeping Swoopes in the pocket and not letting him break contain. We have some things for him that we may not employ for Buechele. But it’s the tempo and being able to meet that.
Q. What do you find tends to be your biggest concern heading into a season opener?
Brian Kelly: Again, the things I just talked about. You know, did I prepare them? Are we peaking at the right time? Are their legs tired? Did we give them enough rest prior to? Did we handle every situation? What if they come out in bear defense, cover one, are we running enough rub routes? All of those things. A myriad of things. Are you prepared for all of the eventualities?
For me, it’s always about the preparation. Did you prepare your football team for all the things that can happen in an opener? After you’ve played a couple games, three, four games, you start to become who you are, and you know what to expect a lot more. The opener, there is a little bit more of that uncertainty and that’s never good for a football coach because we’re not — you know, we’re always thinking of the worst-case scenarios anyway.
Q. What do you feel strongly or confident about as you head into the weekend with this team?
Brian Kelly: Strongly or confident that, you know, no matter what happens, we’re running the football and strongly and confident that no matter what happens from a defensive standpoint, we’re going to be in a pretty good structure defensively. We’ve got it. I think we’ve got it figured out pretty good in terms of what we need to do. Now it’s just go execute.
Feel pretty good about our plan defensively and how to handle Texas and what they want to do with their tempo. And we’re going to run the football. Those two things are absolute certainties.
Q. When you’ve got a group of guys that beat this team, how do you convince them that they’re not going to be able to go in there and expect an easy game?
Brian Kelly: They have a good sense that last year was last year. They don’t carry much of that with them. There are so many of these guys. Eight or nine of these guys are in the NFL. They know they’re all gone. They just look around the room and say this is not the same football team. This is clearly a different team. If there was only one or two guys that weren’t on this team maybe you might have that, right? But this is a totally different group from last year.
So there’s not much looking back on last year and going, hey, we rolled these guys last year. This is a totally different team. They’re focused on their itinerary trying to get on the plane.