Sept. 28, 2014
Q. Coach, I wondered if you could talk a little bit about what you thought you got out of your reconfigured offensive line arrangement last night?
COACH KELLY: You know, obviously we felt like we moved the ball effectively last night up and down the field, punted twice, and then had obviously great opportunities to score all night. Gave up one sack, which was really the quarterback not getting us in the right protection.
By and large, a good first start from that group, did some good things. But it’s going to be a process for us. Look, we did it because we felt like it was an area that allowed us to grow, and so I think that what we saw in the first game together was that it validated the fact that this group will be able to grow together throughout the season.
Q. Getting our first look at Torii Hunter was kind of exciting, the little burst we got toward the end of the game. Can you talk about what you saw from him and the different ways that you used him and may use him in the future?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you saw him he’s a guy that we think we can run the ball with at the receiver position. You know, he’s a physical kid. We just think he’s got an all around skill set. I think in baseball it’s a five tool player. He’s got all those tools that we’re excited about getting him healthy. I don’t even think he’s at 100 percent yet. I think we are getting closer to it, but he’s just going to add more athleticism to that position. He’s going to take some reps off other guys and keeping them fresh, so we’re excited about him, and then obviously we’re going to get Amir back this week, too, so it’ll really bolster that receiving corps and keep them fresh and allow us to really amp things up offensively.
Q. When does Will Fuller get to the point where he’s a guy that can come up and say, hey, coach, throw it to me, I know I can get a 1st down or a touchdown? When did he get that kind of confidence and that gumption to be able to communicate with you like that?
COACH KELLY: When I ripped him for not getting the 1st down the first time he had a chance. He’s a young guy that is gaining confidence, and I just think he has a lot of ability that we’re really trying to get him to think in those terms, really believe in himself. I believe in him, and I think at times I want him to carry himself in that fashion, that you get me the ball, I’m going to make plays.
We’re kind of my conversations with him are leading in that sense, that I want him to feel that way and act that way, and I think when he does, you see what he can do.
Q. I know there was a time, I think a lot of us on the outside looking in looked at Joe Schmidt and wondered if he could be an every down player. I’m not sure you share that opinion, but as you get into the more physical teams, do you feel he’s kind of passed that test or do you feel he’s going to be challenged by some physical offensive lines?
COACH KELLY: No, I think he’s passed that test. Joe is not 255 pounds, and so clearly we’ve got to be careful with him. But I think that as the season progresses, we have to continue to get now Morgan more times on the field. But it’s the teams that present multidimensional issues for that Mike linebacker, and Joe gets us set up to get that defense aligned, and Niles can’t do that right now.
If we get into some more 13 personnel and power G and things of that nature, we can get Joe a blow here or there, but he’s integral to what we do, and we think he can stand up to any kind of offensive structure that we see.
Q. Ever kind of on the periphery of the Heisman chatter, I wonder what you learned from the experience of going through that with Manti, if it does get louder or what you learned from that, and if you can help Everett with that.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think it’s more about that is always going to be out there, and when you’re a quarterback at Notre Dame, if you’re having success and you’re 4 0, those things, if you’re winning, they’re going to be there. But I think the real challenge is looking at what you do on a day to day basis and how he can really hone in your craft.
I think what has to really be at the core of this is are you critically looking at what you do on a day to day basis and looking at the things that you can get better. If you do that and you’re grounded truly in that, then all that other stuff is fine. But if you’re being affected by all the talk, then that’s where you have an issue. So far I haven’t seen that with Everett. He looks at things critically and wants to get better every day.
Q. The last one from me is the timetable that you laid out for us last week with the five players, is that still in play? Any new information given to you on that that you can share?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it appears from all that I’ve heard over the last 72 hours since we’ve talked that everything has been consistent in what we talked about, that there should be some resolution here by the end of the week.
Q. I want to get back to the receivers a little bit. With DaVaris out of that group, so you lose some experience there, what are the roles that you’re looking for these players to fall into? I imagine you probably want them to have a certain amount of versatility, and do you feel like that is maybe now coming together with Amir coming back, that you can sort of find the right roles for these guys and the right type of depth that you need?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, well, you need some guys that obviously can take the vertical piece to your offense and win downfield, and we think that Will Fuller gives us that vertical downfield threat. I think Chris Brown if given the opportunity can certainly do that, as well, so that’s one place. You want to be able to work the ball on the perimeter like we did last night, and you’ve got to have guys that are willing to block, and C.J. Prosise did an incredible job. He’s 225 pounds, he’s a guy that can block on the perimeter for us, and you saw that that can be an effective piece for us.
Corey Robinson is a great match up at 6’5″, 6’6″, in the red zone. Those pieces are emerging. Get Carlisle back and Torii Hunter, they’re slot receivers that you can hand the ball off to them, you can run screens with them, so now we’re starting to develop some real pieces within that wide receiver corps that we can develop because these are all new guys for us. They’re going to be around for a while. These are guys that are underclassmen. So we’re starting to develop some consistency with that group.
Q. I’m working on a story on Connor Hanratty. Obviously he was a little bit of the odd man out with the offensive line shuffle. How has his attitude held up through some of the changes?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think like anybody else, he’s certainly disappointed. He wants to be in there. He’s a good football player. He’s a committed kid that we felt like his done a good job for us, but we were looking for some more size. The guy that’s moved over there is Nick Martin, who arguably at captain is our best player. It’s not like Connor Hanratty has been replaced by a freshman or he’s been phased out. He’s an important part of what we’re doing offensively. Very rarely do you go with five linemen the whole year.
Connor is going to be called on to help us win this year, and although disappointed, he’s still committed, working hard in practice, and I’m sure you’re going to see more of him this year.
Q. What do you like about him? What type of player and kid is he?
COACH KELLY: Toughness. Just a grinder. Every day he’s there giving all that he has, and I think just his mental toughness, plays injured, plays through a lot of different situations, and I think what he’s respected by his teammates for is just that toughness that every day you can count on him.
Q. You talked a little bit about the reaction in the locker room last night. I was curious when you came in there, did you sort of sense that the players had received your message about this performance will get you most weeks before you even had to deliver it to them?
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah, they’re a very tuned in group to my message. I always start with you need to be excited about winning. It’s hard to win in college football, especially when you’re playing power five teams. Winning is difficult. Just look across the landscape of college football. We start always with that premise because if you can’t enjoy winning, it doesn’t mean as much.
Then we get to the heart of it is that you can’t win consistently by turning the football over. You can’t win consistently if you don’t compete for the ball in the air. And we know that. That was a given. That conversation took place, but I know that when I walked in that locker room, those kids had already had that passing through their mind.
Q. How significant is that to you, that they already had that passing through their mind?
COACH KELLY: Well, it’s what you build your program on is a level of expectation that you know that you don’t have to go in and deliver the message that’s already pretty clear. If they were in there giddy and happy, I’d be a little bit concerned. I want them to enjoy the win, but I also want them to know that there’s better football that needs to be played, and they knew that.
You know, five years into your program, I think you walk in the locker room and you expect the kind of locker room that I got. In the first year you don’t know what to expect, and so you have to make sure that that message is heard loud and clear. I was not shocked about the way our kids handled themselves after the game.
Q. Greg Bryant, Tony was kind of walking with him off the field after a rough night for him. What do you want him to take out of last night?
COACH KELLY: I think sometimes he wants to do a little bit too much. Greg is going to be fine. He got 11 carries, so we upped his carries a little bit, got back in the game after putting the ball down, so he’s going to be fine. He’s a young kid. He’s learning. He wants to do well.
Again, I think what that’s about more than anything else is just there’s a lot going on out there, and he wants to make every play a big play, and sometimes three, four yards is okay.
I think just continue to work. He’s a young player. This is his first season of competition. Greg Bryant is going to be a great back for us, just one step in a long process of developing a great back here at Notre Dame.
Q. Regarding running backs, Tarean looks like he suffered a pretty tough injury there, but he came back into the lineup, too. How has he graded out today, and do you see him practicing this week?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he got hit in the sternum and had a bruised sternum but was cleared to go back in the game. We don’t have anybody that showed up on the injury report that would be affected for Stanford.
Q. Going back to the receiving corps, it seemed like earlier in the year there were maybe some timing issues with that screen pass out into the perimeter or some chemistry things, but with the blocking especially that you mentioned, especially seemed to enhance everything. Is that an area that you particularly emphasized last week?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we worked a lot on it. It’s been a point of emphasis since I’ve taken over the play calling. We wanted to be more proficient in our screen game. We felt like that was a missing piece to our offense and needed to be more effective with it. It’s really just been an important piece in developing our offense and getting back into some of the screens versus teams that wanted to bring a lot of pressure. We saw a lot of pressure last night, and we wanted to combat some of that with our perimeter screens.
Q. C.J. Prosise, how has the entire grew kind of grade out pretty well in blocking as far as that area of the game, because it seemed there were a lot of yards after the catch?
COACH KELLY: Well, Will Fuller got the game ball, and you would think obviously that the touchdowns were primarily the reason. But his blocking on the perimeter was outstanding, and here’s a guy that’s not physically an imposing guy, but his effort on the perimeter throws was really outstanding, and so he was given the game ball because of it.
We got great effort on the outside. We had to combat their three down pressures and exotic looks by taking advantage of the perimeter numbers that we had in our favor by getting the ball out there, and you can’t have success out there unless the quarterback can get the ball out of his hands and you can block on the perimeter, and we had both of those things going for us last night.
Q. Speaking of the pressures, were there any sacks recorded by your team? Sometimes that doesn’t always indicate the pressure. It seemed like a Joe Schmidt forced a lot of errant throws. How did you view the pass pressure from your team?
COACH KELLY: I thought it was fine. I mean, we’re not we don’t have that one dynamic edge pressure guy. We kind of create our pressures. I think Brian does a very good job of mixing it up and giving different looks, and when we really need to get at a quarterback, we can find a way. We ended the game on a 4th down sack.
I think we’re very smart in the way we try to get at the quarterback. I think if we had to do it all over again, there were a couple of times where we lost contain on him with some of our pressures with our young guys. But we got some young guys that are in the pressure packages that have to do a better job for us, but I think by and large, we do a pretty good job of keeping the quarterback off balance.
Q. A number of times last night the defense came up with some key stops and 3rd and short, fourth and short situations. Have you been surprised with their success in that area this year, and what’s enabled them to be so good at that?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, we’re pretty physical up front, and I think I mentioned this in camp, I feel like Isaac Rochell is a physical presence at 290 pounds, Jarron Jones is a big, physical guy at over 300 pounds. We’ve got some physical players in there that allow us to really show up. We move our fronts, our backers fill aggressively, and I just think that our scheme is really solid when we’re confronted in those short yardage situations.
You know, a lot of that goes to the development of really virtually a new defensive front seven and a very good teaching element from Coach VanGorder and the defensive staff.
Q. How much in those situations is attitude and kind of a desire to want to make a stop, play a role?
COACH KELLY: Well, defense actually has to have that kind of demeanor. Again, I think that’s we’ve been good at it for a while. You know, that’s been something that’s indoctrinated and has been passed on here over the past five years, that we’ve been really good in short yardage situations and coming up with big stops. It’s kind of been passed on as a tradition of how to play great defense, and it’s carrying on under Coach VanGorder, too.
Q. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, but from your perspective what has empowered Jarron Jones to have three blocked kicks in the last two years?
COACH KELLY: You know, he’s got great size, and at 6’5″, 6’6″ almost, playing in that inside shade, it’s an unusual player that has that size that can play in there at 300 something pounds. He’s a unique physical presence at that position. You don’t find many guys at 6’5″, 6’6″ in at that position. I think that has a lot to do with it. He’s had some success, so that really spurs him on, as well.
Q. Looking ahead to Stanford right now, just looking back two years now, how did that goal line stand and the way you guys were able to beat them two years ago kind of set the tone for what ended up happening the rest of the season?
COACH KELLY: Well, it certainly was a big win for us. Looking back on it, we hadn’t beaten Stanford, so it was something that we needed to get for our program, but we had more close games to follow. You know, I don’t know what significance that will have on this game. This is a lot of new players, and they’re similar in terms of what they do, but I don’t know that we’ll draw too much on that game.