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Brian Kelly Sunday Teleconference Transcript

Oct. 30, 2016

Brian Kelly

Q. Just with Jarron, you guys have seen the side of him for flashes, like at Florida state in 2014. Was there something about his preparation this week that allowed him to play as well as he did yesterday?
Brian Kelly: I think it’s been probably the last, I would say five weeks, four, five weeks, that he’s had really good practices, consistently week in and week out. So I think that his consistency has really shown itself this year more so than any other year.

Q. Is there just like a, I don’t know, like a switch that sometimes flips for veterans like that in terms of the preparation?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, here’s a guy that’s completed his degree and obviously, has achieved a lot, but knows that there’s more for him out there and I’m sure he wants to continue to play at the next level and he’s got to show a consistency. That’s been our conversation with him.

So, flipping a switch I think is one way to think about it. But I think more than anything else it’s the consistency that he’s lacked that he’s bringing to his preparation. A lot more focused in the way he comes to practice. He’s not, at times, I thought that silly and a bit immature. He’s much more mature and professional in the way he’s coming to handle his work and his preparation.

Q. I think last year you mentioned about him that the way that he went through his recovery from the injury was really impressive. Is that maybe where this process for him started?
Brian Kelly: I don’t know. I think that he really did a good job of coming back from the injury, but I don’t know that that ever really left his mind until some time this year. He still favored it a little bit even during camp. I think when he really put that behind him is when he really started to accelerate his game.

Q. How about an overall level, what was the attitude like for the team after you guys finally are able to win one of these close games? Was it like a sigh of relief almost, was it just like exuberance, what sort of was it?
Brian Kelly: I think it was a little bit of both. I think it was, there’s a lot of, obviously, it just builds on them, all the pressure of trying to get out from the noise of not winning, so there’s definitely that, like the weight of not winning, certainly.

But I think really what I felt more than anything else was them really enjoying the fact that they know now that this won’t be a hindrance. In other words, they know how to win and they can go out there each and every week and they know how to execute, they can trust that they can go out there and win. I think that that’s what I felt more than anything else.

Q. It seems like the freshmen cornerbacks and your freshman free safety have really come on lately. I’m wondering as you delve into the option game, and I know Navy’s slinging it around a little bit more than usual, how do you keep the continuity with maybe the equity you built up with those young guys in the passing game?
Brian Kelly: Well, you’re not playing a ton of coverages and variation coverages. You’re certainly playing a lot more man coverage and you just have to be a little bit more disciplined. I think that these kids have shown some really good discipline. Miami tried to throw the ball every which way they could down the field and the best they could muster was 24 yards in terms of an explosive play.

So as long as they carry the same kind of eye discipline that they have shown over the past month, they should be able to do a good job against Navy and Army as well.

Q. Donte Vaughn had three pass breakups, that’s more than some teams have in some games. Is it just a matter of combination of people trying to test him and him passing the test or do you anticipate those kinds of statistics from him moving forward?
Brian Kelly: No, there’s definitely a little bit of he happened to be in the game at those times. But Julian was tested as well, he had two pass breakups, and they were all on vertical routes. They both play the ball well down the field, they were both tested, because that was the game plan. They had been much more of a curl flat team and. But that wasn’t what they wanted to do against freshman corners, they wanted to push the ball down the field and they were up to the challenge. It’s just, I think when you see three freshmen corners, I think your first thought is, let’s push the ball down the field and they all did a very good job.

Q. After looking over the film, how would you grade the offensive line in that game? Notre Dame’s offensive line.
Brian Kelly: I think some individuals played better. I think collectively we still have to do a better job collectively as five. Sometimes we get a little bit lost in wanting to win some one on one matchups where we got to be a little bit more cognizant of combinations and things of that nature.

But our pass protection I thought was really solid against a really good front. That’s a very talented front. Our quarterback had time. I thought we scrambled out one time into a sack where it wasn’t on our offensive line. So in terms of pass protection, I was fairly pleased. I think in terms of run blocking, we can be better. We did some pretty good things, but we certainly could do better as a unit.

Q. Any chance you’ll get any of the concussion guys back this week?
Brian Kelly: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I think all of them Cage, Martini, McGovern, each one is evaluated each day and they all have a chance to make it back, but each one is a stage and a step every single day. Some are ahead in terms of the next step in the process, but they all have a chance to make it back, absolutely.

Q. I know that you haven’t been in this situation too often where you’re going through a rough patch, but when that did happen, when that does happen, do your, do you hear from people like Mack Brown and Lou Holtz or do they kind of stay away from you during that time? How does that generally go?
Brian Kelly: Nobody wants to talk to me. Everybody stays away from me. Including my wife.


Q. Couple questions about special teams yesterday. On the onside kick, it looked like Jalen Elliott wasn’t sure or didn’t know what he was supposed to do. Was that the case?
Brian Kelly: Well, obviously, he was confused and that’s on us to do a better job of making certain that he knows what to do. I’m out there every day and the first thing that we say is, your feet are in concrete until the ball is kicked to be aware for the onside kick.

But, obviously, we have to do a better job with Jalen in that situation. He knew what happened after the fact. And again, he’s a very smart football player. I think he, I think he was caught off guard and probably panicked a little bit, but we got to continue to work on that and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Q. Kind of similar question with C.J., ball’s about the five yard line, bounces and he’s surrounded by defenders. I assume that you want him to let the ball try to roll into the end zone. Did he think he could make a play there or did he lose track of where he was?
Brian Kelly: His heels are supposed to be at the seven yard line and he never, he’s not supposed to retreat from the seven yard line. And C.J. knows that. Look, I think I mentioned it last night, C.J. was tentative and he wasn’t trusting in his own ability, but he’ll get through it and we got to just keep working on him and he’s got to — look, when you’re back there, if you lose your confidence, it can be a disaster. He’s got to be a confident player. When you lose your confidence back there, it obviously shows. And I thought that him being indecisive was the reason that there were two miscues there.

Q. Troy Pride, with the ball, obviously he doesn’t know where the ball is going to land, he’s trying to make a block. Did he not hear or did no one call him or what was the situation with his play?
Brian Kelly: Well, we felt that that ball was one that should have been fielded. C.J. was close enough that he could have caught the football. And in that kind of situation, we should be calling out and clearly, we feel like as we evaluate those situations, again, we have to be more decisive at the returning position to get up there and run up and fair catch that football.

Q. What are the positive things that you took out of this game last night? Evaluating it after the game when you got home. What positive things did you get out of this game?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think that you probably start on the defensive side of the ball. We had 12 tackles for a loss. That’s the most in a single game since 2005. I think that any time that you sack the quarterback and I thought it was one of our more dominating performances with our front four in a long time. And that causes a lot of issues.

So, if your front four’s going to play that way, it helps your pass rush, it helps, obviously, in pass coverage, I thought that was probably a real, real big positive to take away.

And then I think that offensively mustering 10 points after giving up 27 consecutive points, that was the bounce back we were looking for.

Q. Talking about the second half, you guys were up 20-7 and Miami came out right away and scored a field goal and then a touchdown and took over in the third quarter. How did you get the defense to play better in the fourth quarter because you guys were behind at the seven minute mark and then you guys got that big run.
Brian Kelly: Well, it was the situation like before where our guys knew that this is what needed to happen, that they have to find a way to win. So, there was a resolve there that this was probably going to be the case, that it was going to come down to the fourth quarter and they were prepared for it and made it happen.

Q. I heard Navy has now got a passing game. So what are you guys going to do next week to get ready for a probably a Navy team that can run and pass at the same time?
Brian Kelly: Well, they’re a formidable opponent, they always have been. Certainly, it’s a run first offense and we have got to be able to defend a very, very good and talented football team. We know the challenges there that are going to be in front of us. So it will be a big challenge for our football team, but one that we’re looking forward to.

Q. How important were those pass break ups and third downs, I think there were at least two late in the game.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, certainly the ability to being on a body and contest the vertical throws were probably as key as anything. But keep in mind now, the pressure that we had up front at times forced the quarterback to get rid of the ball maybe a little bit quicker than he wanted to.

So it was a combination of being in good position with our defensive backs and really getting very, very good pressure from our front four.

Q. I know you talked about indecisiveness. Do you think that this is an issue more than the special teams right now than anywhere else? And what is behind the handful of special teams miscues?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think you can see that we have had a number of them in terms of fielding the ball, right? So I think that that’s clearly been more than anything else a major issue.

Then we have also had one of them blocked for a touchdown, which we felt was structurally an issue.

And then this last one, where it was a deflected punt, you know, again, I think that from a protection standpoint we just have to do a better job against some really, really good athletes in being able to take the sting off of some guys off the edge and we didn’t do a very good job.

So I think on our special teams more than anything else the indecisiveness is probably in fielding the ball. I think the rest is just continue to work on everything that goes into special teams and every team is constantly trying to tweak every single week.

Q. Do you change anything with that moving forward, knowing that I know in previous weeks you kind of hinted to the fact that you know you’re going to be in close games and kind of just getting down to the fact that you guys have to win to make it to the post-season and, obviously, don’t want any special teams to kind of make or break that.
Brian Kelly: Well, I certainly have to address the punt return situations and that is something that I haven’t made a decision on yet. But that has to be addressed.

And, certainly, our punt protection has to be looked at and evaluated more carefully. Those are the two areas. I think some indecision on an onside kick, I think we can coach through that. Those are the real issues that will be in front of me this week to decide so it doesn’t cost us a game.

Q. I just wanted to follow up on something Coach Richt noted yesterday at the end of the conference. He said right before, there was the timeout, before the sack, he thought you were going to be in a certain coverage and anticipated that it wasn’t going to change. Was there a change that you made in the timeout, subtle or otherwise, that maybe with the blitz coming, that you decided to do on the timeout?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we definitely — we didn’t like what we were in, that’s why I used the timeout. And generally, you’re taking that timeout because you don’t feel comfortable.

Look, there were a couple things going on. One, they have an outstanding field goal kicker. And the cliff for us was the 40 yard line. In other words, we didn’t want to give up any more room, other than the 40 yard line, which was only about 12, 13 yards, I think. And the coverage that we had called I felt like we may give up a little bit too much yardage. So, we decided to call a timeout and change and tighten the coverage up. And it, obviously, made a difference in what their play call was versus what we had originally called defensively.

Q. You did go into a press coverage after a timeout and you didn’t call that before it?
Brian Kelly: That’s correct.

Q. Okay. Also, I think that we anticipated maybe that there was going to be a change of kickers for kickoffs that might be Tyler Newsome, who did a decent job last year. What was it with John Chereson that you decided that would be his role?
Brian Kelly: He had been really good in practice. His hang time was really good. I mean, we just like his placement and hang time. And that is more of a concern for us in terms of what we want than how far you kick it. Unless you’re going to kick it out of the back of the end zone every time. Tyler has a tendency to kick it a little bit lower. We like the fact that John can really place it where we want it and has pretty good hang time. You could see it on his, I think it was his last kick, we were almost able to make the tackle on the four yard line, if we are in better position. So, he didn’t get our guys down there and that’s what we like about john kicking off.

Q. I know you said you didn’t makeup a decision yet for the return game. Chris Finke, he has a 23 yard return that set up the game winning score there. Does that maybe help him get an edge for at least the short-term?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we have always had confidence with Chris. I think Chris went in in the North Carolina State game as well, or the Michigan State game, I can’t remember which one of the two that we placed him in the game. But, yeah, it’s a competitive situation. I think I’ll have to make a decision on it. But certainly he bolstered his chance by having a key return late in the game for us.