Oct. 3, 2016

Q. Curious how you thought Hayes graded out yesterday?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, he did some pretty good things. He’s a big physical kid. Obviously when you’re in our stack defense, it allows him to really bully that tackle, playing inside-out. It really fits him well and so it’s a front that you’ll see a lot more because of his ability to really two-gap that tackle and it allows him to do a lot of good things.

Q. Is that the kind of two-gap — is that something he picked up working as a defensive tackle for the last couple years, and now he can apply that defensive end?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, you know, it helps him. He’s 285 pounds. He’s not a speed rush end. He’s not a tip call five technique speed rush end.

So it’s just the type of player he is — he’s kind of a tweener; is he a three technique; is he a five. He’s really probably a four. And so it’s just the scheme fits him. So my job is to really get our guys in positions where they can maximize their talent and so including this defensive front, really allows Jay to blossom in this kind of look.

Q. With Dexter, where have you seen him take the biggest step in his growth from this point last year to right now?

Coach Kelly: You know, certainly the one area is the physicality. He’s gotten bigger and stronger and faster, but where I see it is off the field. He’s grown in maturity, and I think that that’s translated itself on the field. He comes to practice every day with great energy and enthusiasm and I think that that has a lot to do with him being very comfortable here at Notre Dame.

But let’s not mistake the fact that he’s also put on about 15 pounds. He’s explosive, and that’s all because he’s made that commitment to obviously Notre Dame and himself.

Q. I know you mentioned, soul Lincoln had the high ankle, but any other injuries that came out of yesterday that maybe could affect NC State?

Coach Kelly: No, nobody that will be even limited on Tuesday for practice.

Q. Following up on injuries, was Folston banged up yesterday or was it just not an opportunity to get him in there the way that Josh and Dexter were running?

Coach Kelly: No, he was hurt, as well. Thursday in our two-minute drill, he can you tell a screen pass, and turned his ankle. Was pretty tender. He still wanted to give it a shot. We weren’t certain that he was going to be able to go. He worked hard to try to get back, but he just was not even close to being able to give us the kind of play necessary.

Q. But you’re optimistic this week for him then?

Coach Kelly: Yes, yes, much more optimistic. He’ll be able to get back in the rotation.

Q. When you kind of dived into the defense last week, obviously that’s where your focus was, was just getting things ready for Syracuse. Now that you’ve had your hands in it, is this the table setting for the way you want to play defense in the future, or is this, hey, let’s get through this year and be the best we can this year?

Coach Kelly: It’s really a short-term approach. It’s let’s put these guys in a position to succeed this year, utilizing a lot of young players, gaining experience as we go, and being smart about utilizing our personnel. In other words, putting them in places to succeed. So this is a short-term approach to the season, but it’s also a long-term approach in the sense that we are getting a lot of young players some valuable experience.

Q. And then again, jumping into it last week, you got involved with the defense the last couple weeks really; do you see that kind of as your role for the rest of the year or do you play it week-to-week?

Coach Kelly: I think I’d want to stay involved in really everything that we’re doing. Much more focused on much more of the big picture items. We’re still drilling down on some things defensively that require a little bit more of my attention than, say, conceptual things on the offensive side of the ball.

My offensive concerns are still about detail and maybe some finer things within the game. But there’s many more other things that I have to be involved with on the defense, so I would say if you’re breaking up the day, a little bit more time on defense, but not losing sight of what’s going on on the offensive side.

Q. With everything, the travel and everything, have you gotten a chance to kind of assess where you are with Watkins? I know we asked you about him Thursday and you said the X-ray would be Friday. Do you have a sense of where that’s going?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, it did not take full growth and so he’s going to need an additional surgery. So he’ll be out for the year.

Q. You played your 13th freshman, which I think is a record for you at Notre Dame on Saturday, with Troy. One other freshman we asked you about at the beginning of the year and that was Tommy Kraemer. Now that you’re almost halfway through the season, is there any value to getting him game experience this year?

Coach Kelly: I don’t think so. You know, I think that there would have to be a slew of injuries for Tommy to be on the field. I think the guy that we felt like was more ready and prepared was Hunter Biven. Hunter played and did a nice job for us on Saturday, and he’ll be our swing guy at this point.

Q. Talk about the third down, in a shootout, I guess you don’t do a lot of third down; you were third, three for 12. Is that something that you guys have to work on, third down, because it seems like in a shootout, you really don’t need third down if you’re going first down, second down, touchdown, field goal, whatever.

Coach Kelly: Yeah, I mean, I think we look at everything in terms of our third down production. You know, third down for us is something that we feel like we want to be somewhere in that 47, 48 percentile. Any time we’re not there, we go back and we look at each play, each play call and critically analyze everything that we do. So we’ll do that again, certainly today and tomorrow.

Q. What’s it like having your kickoff, your special teams looked pretty good yesterday, with C.J. returning that kick and opening up all the scoring. Is that something that you’re glad to see, the special teams working?

Coach Kelly: Well, you know, there’s been a lot of really positive things in our special teams, but we’ve had the penchant of giving up some big plays, as well. We just need to eliminate some of the big plays that we’ve given up, because we’ve been really good in so many areas of special teams this year.

But it just seems like we’ve had bad timing where we’ve given up a punt return or a kickoff return. Or you know, we had a punt situation against Michigan State. At times, we have done some really spectacular things, we need to continue to improve in our tackling and just overall the consistency of the unit.

Q. And coming up against NC State this Saturday, what are you looking forward to get better at, another road game, state of North Carolina with a team that you have not really played at all. So what are you looking for?

Coach Kelly: We’ve just got to get back out there. We’ve got a lot of things to work on from this weekend. Obviously we’ve got to get the points down. It’s too many points we left this weekend. From my standpoint, we’ve got to be a little bit more effective in our four-minute offense and running the football.