Sept. 14, 2014
Q. Just wonder if you have any clarity of the injuries to Amir, Cole Luke and Nicky Baratti.
COACH KELLY: Yes, Cole Luke had a head injury, and he’ll go through our concussion protocol. He was feeling pretty good today, will still take the steps that he’ll need to go through to be cleared for practice this week. We’re confident that he’ll be able to work through that.
Amir Carlisle is having an MRI on his knee. He’s got some laxity in there. We don’t believe it’s the severity of Austin Collinsworth, which was I think about four weeks. So we’re hopeful that the MRI turns out well and that we’ll have him back for Syracuse. But we’ll know a little bit more on him when we get the MRI results. Met with the doctors today and they had their hands on him. They felt pretty confident that this is not a severe knee injury.
And Nicky Baratti, unfortunately his shoulder needs to be taken care of again, so he’s going to have to have surgery and he’s gone for the year.
Q. Going back to last night a couple of the receivers after the game talked about Everett Golson kind of running the troops so speak and in the huddle, being a lot more vocal and telling them to pick up their play. Obviously more vocal sort of guy than he was three years ago. But where do you think that confidence has kind of originated from for him to take a man like that in the huddle?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it’s been the journey that he’s on and that journey started when he was a freshman. Obviously when he got his opportunity to come back here, he wanted to obviously take control of his destiny on offense and that means be a leader.
Since he’s been here, he’s gradually been more assertive every single day, and as he’s become more comfortable with who he is, he’s holding others accountable. He’s clearly, I would say right now, he’s more the vocal leader. I think he’s got to do it more consistently. I would like to see him even more vocal at times, but he’s definitely showing the signs of the leader on offense that we need.
Q. And anything on the five suspended guys?
COACH KELLY: No, I have no update at all.
Q. Just to clarify that, do you know if they have had their hearings yet and are appealing?
COACH KELLY: They have not. I talked to a couple of the guys; as of Friday, they had not had their hearings.
Q. I noticed last night you talked about opportunity to maybe critically evaluate your offense. When it comes to offensive line play, is it a matter of staying with these five and kind of going through some growing pains with them, or would you consider different personnel in the offensive line?
COACH KELLY: That’s a very good question. I’m going to meet with Coach Hiestand in about 45 minutes and we are going to have a pretty in depth conversation. It will probably evolve around the five guys that played, plus Christian Lombard, and whether we have the five in the right position.
We’re not going to entertain maybe one other player, Mike McGlinchey would be involved in that conversation. But quite frankly, we’ve got to find a little bit more push inside, and that’s what we’re going to try to come up with. So we’re in the process right now of kind of sorting that out ourselves.
Q. I’m probably answering my own question a little bit, but Steve Elmer just seemed more comfortable inside. Do you see that? Or again, is it just part of the growth process with him? COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, I think you could look at it one of two ways, right. One, let’s hang in there and let him continue to work through a new position; or, two, he’s much more comfortable at guard.
We’re going to have to come to that decision here, and so that’s really where we need to sit down. We’re going to evaluate where we are after three weeks, because we have to get better. We know we’ve got some good players. We have to figure out whether we have them all in the right place.
Q. When you are evaluating your defense, you’re at a bye week now, do you come to a point where you weigh whether it’s beneficial to you as a year of eligibility for like a Jay Hayes or Jhonny Williams or Jonathan Bonner versus nine games left? Is there a tipping point where it doesn’t make sense, and are you near that tipping point?
COACH KELLY: Certainly, I have used the standard all along, that we are not going to use a freshman unless they can contribute to our success as a football team.
And in regard to both of those guys, and in particular the guys that are closest to being able to help us, they are the situational designated pass rush types and that would be primarily Jhonny Williams; can he help us win football games this year. He’s close to being able to do that.
So we have to kind of make a decision as to if we are going to travel him, which we did; if we lost one more guy last night, he was going to play.
So I think that that’s probably going to be the case all year; that Jhonny’s going to be a guy that we need to keep ready to go because he’s that close to being able to help us and get on the field, where some other guys that may be a little bit further behind, we may not put in the game regardless of the situation.
Q. You mentioned some of the other injured players. Do you feel optimistic Andrew Trumbetti and Christian Lombard will be able to join the group playing Syracuse?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, Andrew Trumbetti, he’s going to be fine. I think he’s pretty much without getting the clearance officially, he’s cleared to practice on Monday and I think with Christian Lombard, we could have played him.
We wanted to use this week and the bye week to get him back to 100 percent, and we think we’re going to have him pretty close to 100 percent. So both those guys, very confident that they are going to be at their best.
Q. And with Torii Hunter Jr., do you need to just kind of see more of him before you decide where you want to kind of insert him whether it’s an inside or an outside guy?
COACH KELLY: No. I’ve got an idea of I want to use him both at X and the Z position. He’s got the ability to play both. We are going to look at him primarily at the slot this week. We have to get him moving and change of direction, and really push him a little bit this week to get him ready for Syracuse. But the plan is to get him in at the slot position and really accelerate his work this week.
Q. Is Syracuse realistic at all, or is it just too early to tell with Jarrett Grace?
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t think it’s realistic. He’s still not getting that full strike with his foot biomechanically. He’s gone into some treatments with some acupuncture that are really helping him right now, and it’s not the leg. It’s more the ankle right now.
We are through the healing process with the break and now we have a little restriction in the ankle that Rob is working through. I think we are getting close. We are just not there yet.
Q. You have to vote, obviously. Do you consider this a Top 10 team, and what do you think about team’s potential long term?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, as it relates to the voting, we are three weeks in. It’s so hard to tell who is Top 10 to Top 15. So we are really starting from where the season began and you’re slotting based upon winning and teams losing. That’s hard to tell really from my perspective. We’re just kind of playing the numbers game right now.
But I really like the potential of this football team. It’s a young team that is learning and getting better. We are not playing, I think just two seniors, one on offense and one on defense last night, I think it was Ben Koyack and Cody Riggs. So I think the potential is as high as any team that I’ve had here at Notre Dame.
Q. What sort of things can Corey Robinson key on here in the bye week to maybe develop that consistency to be a more reliable target like we saw he had the potential last night to be?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything I think it’s more for him just playing time. And he’s a different type of receiver. He’s a vertical threat. He’s a guy that we just need to get the ball to probably a little bit more, and you know, he’s sharing time with Chris Brown right now.
So just continue to develop as a player. I think he’s done a great job of managing a fractured thumb through this whole time. So I think he’s just developing; route running, releases, all those things are a process for him.
But I think what we know is that he’s a guy that if you put the ball on him, he’s going to go up and get it, and I think it’s now just a matter of probably giving him more of an opportunity.
Q. We had talked earlier in the week kind of about Everett Golson’s pitch count as far as a runner; 14 carries, he was the leading rusher. Is that kind of your template, or is there more of a limit you’d like to place on him?
COACH KELLY: No, I mean, it’s pretty clear the way teams are playing us. We’re getting a lot of six for five, six defenders for five blockers, and your quarterback has to be involved in the run game. So if we’re going to stay in our detached spread sets, the quarterback is going to have to be involved in the run game.
So there’s probably four or five of those runs that should have been passes, and there should have been four or five hand offs that should have been runs. So we need to get better in the option game with Everett, as well. So he’ll still be central to what we do in the running game.
Q. You had mentioned earlier in the year about Tyler Luatua perhaps providing that downhill running ability to the team. What’s been holding back being a factor in that area of the game?
COACH KELLY: Just my not going to that formation set.
So it’s just been a decision on my part not to utilize that set, that running style with an h back in the backfield. So it’s really nothing that Tyler’s done. It’s just been a decision by me in terms of play calling not to feature that set.
Q. A couple years ago, you had the big run here, you had the huge rushing performance and leveled off in September. After three games, you were averaging 157 yards rushing. Same thing happened, first game, big rushing game and kind of leveled off and now averaging 158 yards rushing. What enabled you to become a 200 yard rushing team after a slow start in 2012? And is it something that you might be able to emulate, do you think, this season?
COACH KELLY: Oh, it’s a different team. We were trying to protect a young quarterback. We knew we had to run the football. We’re much more of a spread offense where our running game can be dictated by what defenses do. Where in 2012, we ran with a lot of two tight ends, and it didn’t matter what you did defensively; we were going to run the football.
That doesn’t mean we cannot run or should not run for 200 yards as an average. And I think in the original question that was asked, one of the things from an offensive perspective that we’ve got to get better at is running the football, even in our detached sets.
So I think the difference is, we’ve got a different quarterback, we’ve got different receivers. It’s a different offense than it was in 2012.
Q. First three games, you’ve been able to score in the final 30 seconds of the half. Is that a thing, or is it just a coincidence, and is there anything that you can take out of that to apply to the offense in general?
COACH KELLY: Well, it’s just the fact that we are capable of putting together quick scoring drives. We have got some players that can make plays, and we just need to be more consistent.
I think that if we can operate with a little bit more a sense of urgency; we had some silly penalties and some concentration issues, and when we are locked in and focused, we’ve shown that we can score quickly. You saw our first drive of the game.
Seems like the first drive of the game and the drive right before the half, when there’s a sense of urgency, we operate a little bit better. We need to grow up and carry that mentality in every possession; if we do that, we’ll be a pretty good offense.
Q. And then defensively, you sort of looked at the secondary overall, you talked about Drue Tranquill last night, but Devin Butler coming in, how do you feel like that group held up considering the adversity you faced?
COACH KELLY: Well, there’s a lot of things that I would say. First of all, after week one, we were concerned whether Elijah Shumate would hold up at the strong safety position. And then last night he had to go play free safety, where he had taken no reps at free safety since he’s been here, and did a very good job at free safety for us and getting us lined up and communicating. That’s the first piece.
Drue did a great job, obviously as a true freshman, stepping in there, and Devin obviously had a nice interception and four tackles. We couldn’t be more pleased with those young guys stepping up under the circumstances that we were playing under and the way that they performed.
We have got to tackle a little bit better. We weren’t as clean on the edge as we need to be. But I was pleased with Shumate, Tranquill and Butler.
Q. You were high on Chris Brown coming out of camp. Where do you feel like he is at right now?
COACH KELLY: He obviously made some plays last night. He’s just got to continue to grind and play. He’s sharing time with Corey Robinson, and he’s an important part of what we do. And that won’t change.
But he’s a receiver that is finally getting some more playing time and he’s got to grow into that position and be more productive for us. I expect him to do that.
But again, I don’t think there’s any one player on our offense at the wide receiver position that has arrived. I think they are all, you know, trying to find that consistency that they need to get to, and I think Chris is one of those guys, too.