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Brian Kelly Sunday Teleconference Transcript

Nov. 13, 2016

Brian Kelly Press Conference

Q. I’m curious, I believe you coached against Bud Foster and Virginia Tech at least once at Cincinnati in ’08, maybe twice. I’m curious just what sticks out in your mind and what you know of him, and also any connections you have with Coach Fuente.

Brian Kelly: Kam Chancellor stood out for me when we played last time at the safety position. No, I mean, Bud is obviously so well-respected in the coaching fraternity, and obviously his scheme and what they do defensively keeps pressure on the offense.

I’m familiar with Coach Foster and what they do defensively. They keep you off balance, and I don’t know Justin. We have not met, but look forward to meeting him. He’s done obviously a great job taking a program similar to the one that we had at Cincinnati and really getting them on the front page, and then obviously taking over a great program from Coach Beamer and doing quite well. Looking forward to getting a chance to meet him.

Q. I’m curious as to the ACC scheduling agreement. Is it easier for you to prepare for these ACC teams because of crossover tape, or does it not make a big difference?

Brian Kelly: No, it’s more helpful, certainly, but we have so many first-time opponents each and every year that we’ve kind of gotten used to having to prepare without much history. Obviously there’s no history here other than my knowledge of going against Virginia Tech when I was at Cincinnati.

Having the tape in the bank from those other ACC games definitely helps.

Q. Does making this a two-game, two-to-win season make it easier to focus than the beginning of the season or change the focus at all?

Brian Kelly: Well, they know that obviously the season is one week at a time here now, and obviously two weeks is all that’s left in their regular season. So from that perspective, you know, everybody tends to ratchet it up and focus a lot more on the day-to-day, especially when you have 18 to 21 year olds. Anything that can stay right in front of them is always a positive.

They’ve been really good at staying in the present all year, regardless of whether they’ve been up or down, so that’s not much of a concern for me. It’s really been about how they’ve played and their execution, and that’s getting better and better each week.

Q. What can you anticipate, just the fact that you guys obviously have to win these next two games? I know you said the focus hasn’t really changed, but are you guys going to do anything different? I know you probably won’t, but is anything going to be different this week?

Brian Kelly: Well, we’ve got to transition from playing option for the last two weeks into traditional offensive structure. So yeah, our practice schedule is going to be a lot different in terms of our preparation, and we have to squeeze in a lot more into our practice to pick up for the loss of those types of reps that you would normally get over the last couple weeks. Yeah, the practice schedule will look a lot different from what they’re used to over the couple few weeks and require a lot more attention to detail.

Q. I wondered if there were any personnel shifts that you made just for the option defense, or defending the option rather, that maybe said, hey, Jonathan Bonner or somebody, you saw them in a little bit different light, something that you can pull, and when you’re playing these conventional offenses that this might be valuable to you?

Brian Kelly: Yeah, we’re definitely looking at the option offense different than the traditional offenses, in terms of where they may be able to fit in a specific role. Jonathan is much more athletic in terms of the position that we wanted him to play, could get off the scramble blocks, and really just fit a lot better into that scheme, and that’s why he got his first start. It doesn’t mean he can’t help us, and he will continue to help us in the role that he has, but certainly he’s fit into the scheme.

Same thing with Julian at safety. He’s not moving to safety, but in terms of what we were asking him to do, he was the better fit in that scheme.

Q. Since the last six games you guys have climbed from 103rd in total defense to 39th, which is actually higher than you finished last season, I’m wondering if beyond the enthusiasm part with Hudson if you can talk a little bit about what you have seen in him and also from Mike Elston during the stretch.

Brian Kelly: Well, I think, first and foremost, a very detailed, organized plan, well-coached during the week of practice, a focus on the fundamentals, and in-game adjustments that have been followed through by the players. So I think just a coordinated effort that has seen this defense get better and better. I think the utilization of some more of the freshmen that have really matured and have gotten better by obviously later in the season, you know, they’ve gotten more and more playing time, but I think all of that has come together through really good preparation, great morale, and at the end of the day, kids executing the game plan.

Q. How did you come out of the game from an injury standpoint, and do you have an update on Daniel Cage’s visit with Dr. Kutcher?

Brian Kelly: Yeah, we came out of it without any — some bumps and bruises, but back to back weeks going against the option offenses, there’s nobody that won’t be able to play against Virginia Tech, so feel good about that. Cage had a meeting with Dr. Kutcher. Don’t feel like there’s anything that we’re missing. We’ll monitor his progress from a day-to-day standpoint and see how he continues to feel. It’s really now just a matter of him feeling good and comfortable to the point where we can progress him.

Again, I think that third opinion or that second opinion, I guess is the best way to put it, third person coming in to evaluate always is helpful, and I think he feels much better that there’s nothing more there than him just feeling better each day.

Q. I know you’re sick of probably being asked about Jarron Jones, so I’m going to ask you about Jamir Jones. He had three tackles yesterday and maybe a couple in the game before. Can you talk about what you’re seeing from Jamir?

Brian Kelly: Yeah, Jamir is obviously starting to show himself. His physical traits are ones that we have been very impressed with. We think he’s going to come on quite quickly for us in the spring and over the summer where he can be a very valuable player for us. He played very, very physical for us. Some big hits on our special teams, and I think he’s just a young man that’s going to continue to grow and be a big part of what we do.

Q. Talk about Martini, your defensive guy, No. 48. Seems like he’s always around the football during these option games. Just talk a little bit about him.

Brian Kelly: Well, Greer is a very smart football player. He has a good sense for finding the football. But he’s a very disciplined player, which you have to have that trait when you’re playing option teams. You know, I think when you look at some of the traits that great players have, very disciplined players are going to find the football, and he does that quite well.

Q. And what players stood out yesterday during this game? Is there any other player that stood out, like wow, he stepped up this week? Were there any players that you saw?

Brian Kelly: Well, I think obviously you start with the quarterback. I thought his leadership skills, his ability to make plays with his arm and his feet extended plays for us. I thought our running backs ran extremely hard. Any time you have 200 yards, your offensive line has to be doing some good things, and it’s always good to see your tight end catch a couple of touchdown passes.

But I think the story is the defense, the coordinated effort of 11 guys doing their job to hold a very good offense in Army down. Pretty good all-around effort.

Q. Senior week this week with Virginia Tech in town; just talk about your senior class and what you’ve liked about them the last four years. I know you haven’t faced Virginia Tech yet, but it’s going to be a long week of getting prepared for them.

Brian Kelly: Well, it is the senior class that in some respects is — two of our seniors are student managers for us, Corey Robinson and Doug Randolph, that have been very helpful for us off the field, and then we have in this class a number of guys that have remaining eligibility. We don’t have a huge class that have used up all of their eligibility. It’s kind of an interesting class in that sense that we’re certainly going to be honoring them, but a number of these guys will have eligibility remaining if they choose to come back.

Q. I just remember during spring practice you kind of mentioned that Kevin Stepherson was really good catching the ball over the middle at full speed. Where has he kind of expanded his game beyond that one trait to get to the point where he is now?

Brian Kelly: Well, I just think he continues to mature as a player in the understanding of where he needs to be and getting on the same page with DeShone. That’s the most important thing; where is he going to be. And when you were talking about a quarterback and a receiver hooking up consistently, they’ve got to know where each one of them is going to be, and I think that that’s probably the biggest change in Kevin in terms of over the past five, six weeks.

Q. I think he’s been your most productive true freshman receiver since I think TJ Jones; has it been kind of a product of maybe having a younger receiving corps, or has it been kind of just the gradual improvements getting on the same page with DeShone, learning the route concepts, that has allowed him to get to this point?

Brian Kelly: No, I think it’s both. I think it’s, first of all, the product of opportunity. Certainly a young, inexperienced group opened the door for him to go win a position. There were other guys there that certainly could have secured down that position, but he won the job. We didn’t give it to him.

But again, there weren’t a lot of guys with a lot of experience in front of them, so I think it was a little bit of both. Inexperience, and then his skill set allowed him to go in there and win the job.