Brian Kelly watches his team.

Brian Kelly Recaps Saturday Night's Win Over ASU

Oct. 6, 2013

Q. Can you give us the full rundown on Jarrett and Daniel Smith?

COACH KELLY: Jarrett had surgery this morning in Dallas, in which they put a rod in his leg for the fibula fracture. He’ll spend the next couple of nights there. Just talked to him, got off the phone. His spirits are good. You know, that’s a process that could take four to six months. But obviously a big loss for us, but we’ve got a senior in Danny Fox that will step in at that position.

Smith will have surgery once the swelling goes down. He has a substantial amount of swelling in that ankle. He did suffer a fracture and once that swelling goes down, he’ll have surgery this week.

Q. Does depth become a concern or how do you manage that moving forward?

COACH KELLY: Certainly you’re losing somebody that we had counted on as a starter, so now you’re deep into your depth and that wasn’t an area with a lot of experience.

So Kendall Moore is going to have to obviously play. Schmidty is going to have to play for us. So those guys are going to have to be counted on now. We’ll obviously look at Michael Deeb. So those three guys, we’ll have to activate them on the bye week and start to consider all three of those guys in terms of being in the gap.

Q. You talked last night about the rapport between Tommy and TJ, it seems like it would be a different rapport between Tommy and Tyler, but in some ways is it the same because of the way you use Tyler, there’s not much drop off, like exchanging a 6 6 guy for a 6 1 guy?

COACH KELLY: I think that’s a fair assessment. I think it’s also a familiar you know, guy that they have worked so much together. Time and place in the game, location, where we put him, all those things; I think really Tommy feels comfortable knowing where he’s going to be getting in and out of his breaks.

You know, some of the younger guys, at times, there’s not that certainty of where they are going to be sometimes in press coverage, and obviously one thing TJ does is he gets people off him, because they respect his ability to get over the top easily.

Not that the other guys can’t do that, but I guess as I come back to your original question, it would still be, these guys have been together for four years, and TJ flat out is our No. 1 guy, and he sees that in terms of going to him.

Q. How do you balance getting people rested and healed up in the bye week versus tweaking some things in your scheme or personnel?

COACH KELLY: Well, first thing I think the next six weeks, they are going to have to get some work this week. I don’t think we need to see anything more from Louis Nix or we don’t need to get more reps on Danny Fox or Carlo Calabrese or even TJ Jones, but Daniel has to get more work; Folston has to get more work; Nick Martin has to get more work. We’ll balance those guys that need to continue to work their skills and get better at their positions versus those guys that need some rest.

So I’ll take it I’ll take it as our practice will look like that; in other words, we’ll work those guys that need to continue to get some more work, and we’ll look at those guys that need some time off to really get healthy.

Q. I know you like to coach a lot by feel in the game rather than by scripting everything. As far as the complementary quarterback of Andrew, you were able to get a first down out of it. Is it something that you still picture carrying forward or do you think that that won’t be necessary moving forward?

COACH KELLY: No, I would like to. The game was a hard game to put Andrew in because there was very complex pressures coming from different locations. We didn’t want to get caught in a bad situation where we could, you know, potentially be in a blitz situation and expose Andrew.

You know, it got very complicated because it was a blitz or pressure virtually every down and then in the second half, they went three down and mixed up a lot of pressure. So it really was more of the way the game was going than it was anything Andrew Hendrix did, but I want to continue pushing that and keep working him and keep him as part of the game plan each and every week.

Q. As far as Michael Deeb is concerned, can you talk about what you’ve seen from him in practice, and do you commit to putting him in the game just to get his feet wet, or do you wait until circumstances kind of push you to do that?

COACH KELLY: You know, I’m still kind of putting that together in my own mind and I’ll talk to Coach Diaco about it a little bit more in detail in the next day or so. You know, Kendall Moore is really the next man in, and then Michael.

Dan Fox has played a lot at will, too, so now you’re changing the volume of reps at the will linebacker position for Carlo. So there’s a couple of factors that we have to figure out really before I can give you a real good answer to your question.

Q. Just because he’s a local kid, too, can you just comment on Daniel Smith’s career? He’s had a lot of bad luck, but just what he’s meant to your program.

COACH KELLY: Well, he’s I’ll tell you, we talked about it after the game. It was pretty emotional at half time. We mentioned Danny at halftime, and there was a lot of emotion in the locker room.

You know, I usually don’t use a win one for the gipper talk, and I don’t want to equate it in those terms, but generally speaking, we talked about losing Danny and in particular that he probably wasn’t going to play again. There was a lot of emotion in the locker room, because they love Danny Smith and what he’s done for our program as a dedicated player for Notre Dame. He loves Notre Dame, and we’ve seen him grow as a person and as a player and he’s going to be sorely missed.

So I would say that his impact is a local player that was on a 12 0, undefeated regular season team, and he’s left an impact on our younger receivers as to how to work every single day and how to handle himself both on and off the field.

Q. You mentioned last night about how you’re feeling about already about the defense; how much better do you feel about it after seeing how they played last night?

COACH KELLY: Well, you know, I wasn’t doing jumping jacks. I guess all I was saying was that I felt our defense was playing well enough for us to win, and I still feel that way.

There are things that we have to continue to improve on. Nobody was happy with the last drive. Coach Diaco was not happy. Our players were not happy. But we think there are things that we can take from it. You know, it’s the first time we saw a team that actually wanted to get back there and try to throw a comprehensive passing game and we were able to get some pressure.

We were opportunistic in turnovers and I thought we did a very good job in again, obviously they couldn’t run the football against us. So those are all basic, important tenets of playing good defense.

So I think those continue to show themselves week in and week out and if you do that, you’ve got a chance to win each game that you play. I’m not saying that, you know, we’ve got a spectacular defense, but we have a solid defense that is getting better week in and week out.

Q. Stephon Tuitt, is he one of the guys that you rest this week or one of the guys that you get more work from?

COACH KELLY: He needs rest. I’ve said this before; you know, the surgery that he had has affected his back; it’s affected his hip flexors. He’s really struggled with some people dismiss it and say, well, you know, you just had minor surgery. Well, it’s affected a lot of things. This is a big man, and you know, he’s really struggled all week with back tightness. He missed a day of practice because his back locked up.

You know, we’ve got to be careful with Stephon. This week we’ll work on technique, but we are going to make sure that he’s healthy for us going into USC.

Q. In college football, obviously every week is important, but it seems like it’s a pretty big swing between being 4 2 and 3 3. What’s the mood of the team do you think, and how important is it to go into a bye week with a victory?

COACH KELLY: Well, I think it’s — for our guys, you know, winning they know how difficult it is to win, and when you’re on a stretch of games that they were on, and they knew a bye week was coming up, it was a very important game for them, and they understood the significance of winning, and they clearly — they clearly knew the difference between 4 2 and 3 3 going into a bye week.

They are feeling pretty good. You know, again, I think the most important thing for them is they now look at it as a six game schedule and they have got to be perfect for six weeks.

Q. I know you said that getting better every week is what the goal is, but I imagine it’s important to you can’t winning the National Championship is probably a tough chore now, but the BCS Bowl is still alive; I’m sure that helps keep the team focused.

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I guess. I really — I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know that we even really have that in our mind set as much as the guys want to win football games on Saturday. And we just don’t get too far ahead of ourselves, because we are staying in the present. And if we think about anything else but the next day of practice, we just we just would be putting ourselves in peril.

So they have done a great job since I’ve been here of just really trying to stay focused day to day, and if they get ahead of themselves and start thinking about anything else, we’ll find ourselves looking at it on the other end.

Again, I think if they just focus on — they are going to get some time this week to focus on their studies and academics, and get ready for USC.

Q. Wanted to ask you about Jaylon Smith’s performance last night; was there something you saw him do that you had not seen in the first couple of games and what have his biggest improvements been after the first six weeks?

COACH KELLY: I just think football recognition. That position is being constantly probed and attacked on a game to game basis. If you’ve watched film the games, teams are in three and four open against us because they can’t get — they can’t run the ball inside, primarily because we have got the best nose guard in the country.

So they are attacking Jaylon Smith, so it’s been his recognition and awareness week in and week out; he’s learning. He learned a lot this week. They ran some playaction boots to his side that we had not seen before, and you know, he’s got to learn how to level off on flooding his zones.

I think the biggest improvement is that he’s learning football and how he’s being attacked at his position week in and week out.

Q. With Grace, what are the logistics? Who performed the surgery, is it a Dallas surgeon or someone more familiar with the team?

COACH KELLY: Brian Ratigan, our team surgeon, stayed in Dallas and he teamed up with the Dallas Cowboys team surgeon this morning. They finished the surgery about 10:00 A.M. this morning central standard time. Ernest Jones, my director of player services, stayed with them, as well, until the family arrived, sometime around noontime.

He’ll stay there until he is out of the woods relative to developing any blood clots after surgery. Once he’s out of the woods relative to that because of flying and obviously the altitude, he’ll be able to fly back home.

So that’s generally the procedure on any time there’s an injury and somebody has to stay overnight.

Q. Earlier in the week, you said Sheldon Day would definitely play — was there a setback with him?

COACH KELLY: He definitely played one play.

Q. Three times in the last two weeks, Nick Martin has had a snap infraction; that because he’s a young center or is that something you’ll need to take a look at?

COACH KELLY: Well, I think it’s a little bit of both. You know, we spent some time this morning looking at that closely. We think there’s some things that we can help him with. There’s a lot going on out there in this ballgame that we just played on Saturday.

As know, how things are moving out there, with a lot of checks, I think we can take some of the pressure off; a lot of teams have gone to alternate ways of snapping the ball; for example, guards now are looking back and capping the center, because there’s so much going on with the center; he’s looking for a linebacker alignments, there’s movement. And a couple of times, it was just moving the ball in his hand as he was making some checks.

So I think a lot of the things we can clean up, and some of it is just being a little bit more disciplined during the game.

Q. Yesterday seemed like Arizona State blitzed about 85 percent of the time and the offensive line does an unbelievable job picking up blitzes in almost every situation; can you expand on that?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think one of the strengths of our offensive line has been their ability to sort out and pick up incredibly exotic pressures, different looks. We saw 3 3. We saw 5 up. We saw so many different looks that we have been able to manage and Harry Hiestand does a great job and our offensive line in particular does a great job of picking those up.

Again, I would say that, you know, with the left side in particular, with Martin and Watt, they have done a great job of communicating and helping the right side pick those things up, as well.

I think the area that we want to continue to get better at is that there’s also a lot of run stunts that we want to get better at picking up. I think that’s the area of improvement that we want to see with this group, because in the past, stunts and blitzes, they have been very good.

Q. We saw Steve Elmer a little bit yesterday at right guard; was that more of a matter of maybe Lombard not doing his job at times or was it planned going into the game?

COACH KELLY: We just felt like at times we wanted to get a bigger body in there. You know, Sutton is a handful in there at over 310, 315 pounds. Christian was battling, but we felt like it would be a good opportunity to get a bigger body on Sutton because he’s such a tough guy to handle play in, play out.

So we had a little bit of rotation. We got Christian a blow, he came back in, and it worked out really well for us because Christian did a very good job on that last long drive where we took about five and a half minutes off the clock.

Q. How significant was it that you got some complementary play defense gives up a quick touchdown, offense comes back and get one; offense stalls out at midfield, defense scores a touchdown — is that something that’s big, is that something that’s significant moving forward?

COACH KELLY: I think that’s significant in that everybody on the team feels the entire team complementing each other, and we haven’t had much of that. We haven’t had units complementing each other, and I mean all three units.

You know, the long field goal, and then certainly the punt return, the punt on the one yard line; the defense coming up with the big interception and the offense driving the ball; we had not had that kind of complementary offense/defense special teams this year, and it wasn’t a complete game, but it was a move in the right direction that all units were starting to complement each other and it’s something for us to build on.

Q. Among the younger guys that you want to see during this week, how does Max fit into that group? What are you hoping to see from him and learn about him over the next two weeks?

COACH KELLY: We just want to keep working with him, keep getting him more reps now. He’s getting a ton of reps right now. He’s getting closer and closer. There’s so many calls, so many things going on out there.

It’s a quarterback position when you’re out there at that safety position. It’s not just dropping into cover two. We had to show so many different looks last night in the secondary, so we are hoping to get him some work this week, as well as some of our younger corners that are playing a little bit, and some guys on offense. We want to see Folston and Fuller, certainly Elmer, we want to get those guys some work this week, too, because we are going to have to count on them in the second half of the season, too.

Q. Jaylon probably has enough on his plate already, but do you give any thought of having that dime set where Grace played and he’s the one linebacker on the field just based on the speed that he has?

COACH KELLY: There are so many different packages that we can discuss in terms of where we can move him. But you know, one of the things we won’t do is we will not change his eyes in terms of where he’s going to play. He’s going to play on the perimeter of our defense, so how he looks at the football game will be outside in, not inside out.