Sept. 8, 2011
COACH KELLY: There’s nothing like getting back to work for our football team, especially after a loss. So our focus has been Michigan. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. Exciting to continue this rivalry. We need to start winning some of these games in this rivalry.
I know our players are excited to put a good week of work together and work on a lot of the things that were not done up to the level that we’re all capable of. That work started yesterday at 5:55 p.m. Couldn’t wait for 5:55 p.m., because that meant we put South Florida away, in the past, and moved towards Michigan.
This is a good football team that has, as you know, one of the most talented offensive players in the country. We got a chance to see him unfortunately firsthand last year, how talented he is. It’s our job now to obviously contain him. We talked about B.J. Daniels and his ability. You don’t stop those players, you definitely try to contain their big play capabilities.
Last year Denard (Robinson) had too many big plays against our defense. So we’ll be looking for answers towards keeping him in that realm where he doesn’t take over the game.
I think the largest run we had last week was 17 yards. If we can get to that same kind of defensive play against Robinson and the host of backs that they have, that will be a job well done.
Got good balance with the wide receiving corps and the ability to run the football. Fitzgerald, Toussaint, obviously Shaw. Those guys we know a lot about. Roundtree. So they have got good balance.
New offensive coordinator, Al Borges, who’s got a great resume and knows what he’s doing. So you’ll see a very balanced football team.
Defensively, they’re a four down team on first down. Second down, third down they’re going to get into their three down pack. Greg Mattison does a great job with the scheme there. (Mike) Martin, they’re defensive tackle, is very disruptive inside. They have got some experience back in the secondary. I know (Jordan) Kovacs last year was all around the football. He’s a guy who made plays, and defensively they came up with two touchdowns last week. So if you look at our situation last week, certainly we want to take the ball away defensively as well. They were able to take it away for two scores last week.
Again, getting our players focused on Michigan will not be difficult at all. We know the challenge in front of us. We’re excited about obviously getting an opportunity to play in a grand stage in a great atmosphere, in a night game atmosphere at Michigan for the first time, I believe, in their great history.
So with that, I’ll open up to questions.
Q. Have you come to the decision on the quarterback?
COACH KELLY: Yes. We’re going to start Tommy Rees against Michigan. You know, as we had talked about relative to Dayne (Crist), we talked about production. You know, Tommy was very productive in the second half, and he’ll get a chance to start against Michigan.
Q. Was it a difficult decision for you?
COACH KELLY: Oh, any time you take your quarterback out those aren’t easy decisions, because they impact so many things that you’re doing. I think I said after the press conference, Any time you take your starting quarterback out, that’s not a good situation. So, yeah, very difficult situation that I felt needed to be addressed.
Q. As you move forward, do you then go with the idea that Tommy is going to be the starter for all 13 games, or do you say, you know what, I’ll ride the hot hand? What do you do with those two guys?
COACH KELLY: I think all of that. I think we go in look, nobody wants to go in and change their quarterbacks each and every week. That’s just not the way you play this game. So our hopes are Tommy is productive and can play at a high level week in and week out. He’s got a pretty good resume, 4 0 as a starter, and he’s come of the bench twice and has played very well under those circumstances. So we don’t come to this decision thinking, Well, he’ll give us one game and then we’ll go back to Dayne. That’s obviously not why we made this decision. We believe that Tommy is capable of leading this football team, just as I believed strongly that Dayne is capable. But let’s keep it in perspective now. The quarterback gets way too much blame and way too much praise. I think we all know that. He didn’t have a lot of help on Saturday. You know, it wasn’t all Dayne Crist. Unfortunately it falls on the quarterback as the leader to be productive. That’s why we went with the decision.
Q. Did Dayne have answers for why he didn’t think he was productive? Was it a confidence thing? Was he pressing too much, do you think?
COACH KELLY: I think it was just a confluence of a lot of different situations. I think you all watched the football game. It was probably one of the most frustrating experiences that I’ve ever had as a head football coach. I mean, extremely frustrating. Everybody was frustrated. So I don’t know that there is one specific thing that we would point out. I think it was just a number of things that came together. If one thing comes out differently, you know, whether it be a catch or a penalty that’s not called or holding on to the football or making a field goal, I could go on and on and I’m not making this stuff up and is possibly still your starter. So I have a great deal of confidence in both of ’em; Tommy gets the nod.
Q. When you were talking about all the different things that went wrong in the game, seemed like when you’re writing the story it’s senior, junior, senior, leader, captain. How are those guys responding to that? You think if you’re going to have those this might come from younger guys.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think this led to the frustration of everybody, you know. We certainly didn’t expect it, let’s put it that way. We did not expect to have the kind of mistakes that we had. But we’re clearly committed to playing those guys and playing through it. Those are our guys, those are our leaders, and they’ve got to play through it. And they know. Players make plays, and they’ve got to step up this weekend and make some plays.
Q. Who do you feel like in your locker room is going to lead that charge this week? Who do you see out of the guys are going to make the difference?
COACH KELLY: I think it’ll be the same guys. They know they can only do so much as it relates to leading off the field. They also have to lead on the field by their production and making plays. So it’ll be the same people. It won’t be anybody different that steps up. But they know that now they have to Saturday is payday, if you will. Saturday is where you get evaluated. We’re all in a production related business in that sense. So if there is a business end of college football, for me, as a coach, it’s on Saturdays. That’s where you’ve got to be more productive, and those guys understand this.
Q. (Theo) Riddick, I assume you guys practiced yesterday. What did you see from him yesterday, and how do you feel about him going into this week?
COACH KELLY: You know, Theo is a young man that I think we will continuing to go to Theo. The thing that he has to work on, obviously his body language. You know, he can’t get down on himself. We’re going to keep coming to him. He’s going to our guy. He’s got to fight through a very difficult set of circumstances that were presented him. First time in punt return, obviously that was very difficult for him because it seemed to affect his play on the offensive side of the ball. We’re going to make that a very competitive situation this week relative to punt returns and see how that plays out. I don’t know where we’ll go with that, but we have with to continue to evaluate as a coach where we see some of the issues that occurred on Saturday.
Q. Obviously Dayne played for halftime and he comes in. How did you now make sure that Tommy is sure he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder?
COACH KELLY: Because he knows what I’ve told him: You got to be productive. If you’re not, you should be looking over your shoulder. If you’re a productive quarterback doing the things we ask you to do, you should just go out there and play the game the way you know how to play it. So when you have two really good quarterbacks, you know that if you’re going to err on one side or the other you want to your quarterback to be productive. I keep coming back to that word. Maybe I’m overusing it. But both of those guys are capable of leading our football team, and those are the expectations that are placed on them.
Q. End of last year, and then even the second half the last game, Tommy and Michael Floyd, who’s probably your best offensive weapon, had a pretty good rhythm, a pretty good rapport. How much did that go into it, Tommy’s ability to find Michael and put the ball in his hands?
COACH KELLY: I think we try to consider all those. I don’t know that Tommy has a better relationship than Dayne with Mike. He seemed to find him at the right times. Maybe some times that he threw the ball to him he shouldn’t even have thrown it to him. So I think I’ve got to be careful that we’re not trying to feed the ball to Mike when he’s being doubled. Those other guys need to step up: T.J. (Jones), Theo, Tyler Eifert.
Q. Watching the game, you could almost see a little bit for more of I guess a verve in the offense when Tommy was in there. Is there some sort of intangible quality he has and he when gets out there? Maybe just a comfort?
COACH KELLY: I hope so. You know, I’m as hopefully as everybody else that he has that ability to go out and lead our team. He’s shown he can do it. 4 0 as a starter and he’s come off the bench twice. We’re hopefully he continues to do that.
Q. Building on that, with Tommy it seems when the plays are coming into him he’s processing them quickly or more effortlessly than Dayne is.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don’t want to say incorrect, Pete, because you know the game. I’m not here to cover Dayne’s butt, okay? That’s not by job. But I’m gonna tell you what. He did some really good things, and the offense comes pretty easy to him. The difference between being good and great sometimes is being decisive. You know, not whether you can process and understand, but decisiveness. Some of this is just what we’re all talking about. Sometimes it just happens that way. And, again, when you look at the film and you really break it down, Dayne did some really good things for us in the first half.
Q. There was one play that was probably one of your most frustrating when Tommy hit T.J. in the helmet. Tommy looked like he was trying to say it was on him. Walk me thorough that.
COACH KELLY: It’s on both of ’em really. When it comes down to it, the quarterback can’t throw the ball to a receiver that’s not giving him his eyes. At the end of the day, the responsibility of the football remains with the quarterback. Now, all of the things that go into that, you would think that, Okay, get your eyes, you’ve got some green grass, they just weren’t at same page. Again, one of those things that you scratch your head, because we’ve run the route so many times and it’s never happened before; it happened on Saturday. So we’ve got to go back and look at how we’re coaching, how we’re teaching it, how we’re communicating it. All those things have to be evaluated.
Q. Last year against Denard, your starting defensive line, when they were in the game, you guys held him down pretty good. It was kind of you’re backups got in there they gassed you a little bit. How much better prepared for that you do you think you are because your reserves seem to be maybe more productive right now at that position?
COACH KELLY: You know, I hope that’s a little bit of it, because obviously as the game goes you’re going to be moving in young guys and guys that don’t have a lot of experience. If I recall, last year there was a couple of big play passes out of the option series that really affected us as well. It’s a different scheme, and the depth that we have will definitely contribute to our long term success.
Q. On Theo at punt, a lot times there’s a lot of traffic around him. Is part of improving that also just clearing the way for him, that if you’re going to have a be a big play returner, you need to be able to block for a big play return?
COACH KELLY: Four of his punts were short field punts. One way to look at is have a short field punt return guy who is probably not going to be able to return the punt anyway. You know, fair catch it and let’s move on. He had two opportunities in a long field, and in both of those opportunities we didn’t do a very good job blocking up front. So it’s a little bit of both.
Q. There was a stretch last year where you guys seemed to make inopportune turnovers in the red zone, and you were able to eventually move through that. Is there anything you did during the week to get your guys over that? Last year I’m talking about. How did you get ’em through that trouble.
COACH KELLY: Well, it’s interesting. If you break down our offense, you look at our blue zone which is from the 6 yard line on in. We had five runs, one pass, and the one pass was an interception. If you move it back and you go into the white zone, we had more balance running the pass. Last year we actually threw the ball a little bit more down there. So you try to look at what you’ve done in the past and what you did relative to the turnovers. You try to look at play calls and how play calls may have influenced some of those things. But we couldn’t come up with a good answer, other than we’ve got to be obviously better with the football. Our quarterbacks have to make good decisions down there, period. We’ve got to hold on to football. Those are really the glaring things that we’ll talk about this week. So on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday when we’re practicing red zone, there will be a constant echoing of touchdown, checkdown. You know, give me zero. Let me kick a field goal. Give me a chance to kick a field goal. Those are the things we’ll talk about all week.
Q. What was your confidence right now in Jonas Gray?
COACH KELLY: My confidence? He’s got to go back out there. He’s got to play for us. He’s physically able to do it. Mentally he’s got to be able to do it. We’re not sitting him down. He’s got to play for us against Michigan, and he’s got to play for us all year.
Q. Just curious, there is some criticism about your behavior or demeanor on the sideline. Do you feel like that’s warranted?
COACH KELLY: Did I hit somebody? Did I strike somebody? Is that what you’re referring to? I’m asking specifically what you’re referring to.
Q. Some articles about anger and yelling at kids on the sideline.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think I was extremely frustrated with the game. You know, what I have to recognize is that I’m on TV all the time. You know, do a better job of understanding when that camera is on me. Seems like it’s on more than I’m used to. So I’ll have to do a better job of controlling my emotions.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH KELLY: I want to win right now. I believe Tommy gives us the best chance to win against Michigan. There are so many things you do within your program that you build for the future. Recruiting is always about building for the future. But your roster has to be evaluated about how to win right now. Especially at Notre Dame. So I don’t think that we mortgage our future here. We don’t just live in the future. We try to live in the now. The now for me is winning football games, and Tommy Rees gives us the best chance.
Q. Is there a fine line between maybe putting too much on Theo Riddick’s plate? Is that a consideration at all?
COACH KELLY: Well, you have to evaluate that based upon what we saw on Saturday. It’s got to be a consideration. I didn’t think that going into the game. He had shown me no cause for that. I’m thinking it’s an aberration. We’re all hoping that. But we’ll continue to evaluate the situation to see. If that’s too much for him, then we’ll scale back. I don’t know if we went into the game saying, Wow, this is a roll the dice deal. We didn’t feel that way going in.
Q. I don’t know how many snaps Louis Nix ended up playing or how many you anticipated going in the game, but did he exceed what you anticipated going in?
COACH KELLY: His play exceeded that, yes. He played very well.
Q. Looked pretty nimble out there?
COACH KELLY: I think it’s the new TechFit adidas. We just need TechFit hands. If we can get those, we’ll be in great shape.
Q. Who graded out the best on defense?
COACH KELLY: You know, I think from a defensive standpoint where were pleased with our defensive line in how they played. Communication wise we were outstanding in the back end. So the communication was really, really good. You know, I think Carlo (Calabrese) and Foxy (Dan Fox) played well, both of them. That splitting of reps was almost right down the middle. They gave us really good play, both of ’em. A lot positive things. Some things we have to clean up on obviously. We feel like couple third down situations where one situation we squeezed the slant down so far that ball outflanked us on a third down and long. Another time we didn’t get down in the curl. We’re nitpicking a little bit. Manti (Te’o) was all over the field. I could probably give you ten or fifteen guys, but I think it started with our defensive line.
Q. NBC made a point of saying that during the extended halftime break that both coaches agreed to not looking at film. Was that a consideration?
COACH KELLY: I didn’t think you could look at film. So when it was raised to my attention, I immediately thought that we needed to have a conference about it. We did. Skip was great. The ADs met and we said, Listen, even if it is a rule, we’re not going down that road and watch film. That was communication that was easily put together in a very short period of time.
Q. Did you have ti make a decision about feeding the players?
COACH KELLY: Oh, sure. Feed, hydrate, taking gear off, put it back on. How many times you take those pads off? I don’t know if you’ve been in a locker room where the pads and the jerseys are such a tight fit. It’s very difficult if get them on and off. It’s not the old days where those things were loose and floppy. So all of those these things went into it. We did bring some food in. Hydration, how we stretched, all those kinds of things, we don’t practice those. Now that I think about it, we probably did that the best. So that tells you a little bit about what practice does for you.
Q. Going back to Jonas briefly, normally what happens between the lines before you get here doesn’t really impact you at all. I think that was his fifth fumble in his career, first under you. How do you work with senior like that? Is there anything you can handle in your experience to fall back on?
COACH KELLY: I’ll tell you exactly what I said. How do you want to be remembered? As that guy that fumbled on the one yard line or as that guy in your senior year that bounced back from some adversity and had an incredible season? You know what, I think he’s going to have a very good season.
Q. Eric mentioned that some of the veterans that were making the mental mistakes, you have smart guys, Ethan Johnson, Gary Gray, with personal fouls that impact the game heavily in a comeback effort like that, and Harrison Smith might have been technical getting his hands too high. How do you clean that up in practice? Is it on the assistance? Attention to detail?
COACH KELLY: You know, I just think we were pressing a little bit. You know, first game. All of those are very correctable. None of them are such that there’s nothing we can do to correct those. Most of that correcting comes in the individual, but it’s also coached. We don’t say, Well, it was really a bad call; don’t worry about it. All of those things are talked about and coached. I’m certain that the way they play the game, those guys individually, they understand the importance of playing clean.
Q. Just on Cierre (Wood), did he even exceed your expectations? I know with circumstances you couldn’t throw much. In the fourth quarter he had about 100 yards.
COACH KELLY: No, we were hoping that’s what we thought we had. I thought that last year as he was emerging as our runningback. We expect to see that all year.
Q. How much of this week is about cleaning up your team and how much of it is about stopping Michigan?
COACH KELLY: It’s all about us. It’s all about how we play. We’re going to prepare the right way, do all the things necessary to prepare our football team, and then they’ve got to go play Saturday and they’ve got to play the right way. I was really proud of our effort. I thought we showed no quit. Even down 16 to nothing there was a football team out there that kept competing right to the very end. We get an on side kick and who knows what happens. That’s a huge piece for me. We just have to clean those things up. We’re last in the country in turnovers. We gave the ball up five times and didn’t take it away. That’s our focus, and playing cleaner is going to give us a chance to win.
Q. How different is 1 1 with a win over Michigan than 0 2 coming back home and trying to figure things out?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, they’re all important for us. Our guys want to play better. I think Saturday can’t come quick enough for this football team.
Q. You can simulate a lot of things in practice. How do you simulate a Denard Robinson?
COACH KELLY: You don’t. I mean, we really couldn’t simulate B.J. Daniels either. What we did is we used (Everett) Golson and (Andrew) Hendrix because they’re both really athletic, and we’ll probably use them both again this week to help us with that. Both those guys have Hendrix is more of a physical kid, but extremely athletic. Then Golson can get out on the pocket, the perimeter, and be that run pass threat guy. Probably use a little bit of both to help our defense.
Q. Because you had the make the change at quarterback, does that change in anyway the roles of Everett or Andrew in the coming week or weeks?
COACH KELLY: They’re both on call. We can’t put either one of them on demo squad. We have to keep them learning, both of ’em. So they are really splitting time and staying with us and then going down. We’re picking our spots back and forth because we’re trying what I don’t want is it to be a year where they don’t learn and don’t accelerate their growth. So we’ve got to work with both of them this year. When we feel that they’re ready to go out there and take care of the things that we need offensively, then we’ll look towards them playing.
Q. There are some problems with the short yardage situations there, especially near the goal line. Cierre was throwing for a 3 yard loss on one play prior to Dayne’s interceptions. The jumbo package that you implemented, when did this really come about? Was it because of concerns with the short yardage situation?
COACH KELLY: It’s a formation and a set that I’ve run virtually my entire year. I did not run it this past year because we weren’t certain who our defensive personnel were. I generally like to borrow some defensive personnel that are bigger ans stronger at the point of attack, especially because we don’t have many fullbacks or any fullbacks on our roster. So we borrow from the defense, and it’s something I’ve done quite a bit. We jumped in that expecting to have better success than we did.
Q. Finally, you just alluded yesterday or Sunday on Ben Turk it’s a matter of just being able to do it in front of 81,000 or a crowd. As a coach, how much can you do? You can prepare physically, but mentally, how much does, You’ll do well help?
COACH KELLY: It hasn’t worked for me. That’s why sometimes I get a little emotional on the sideline. It hasn’t worked doing that very much in my career. So Ben’s got to go and do it; simple as that. He’s the best, most talented guy we have. He’s just got to find himself out there and be more consistent. And based upon what I’ve seen, he can do. He it can hit it down the fairway. We just got to get him to do it on Saturday.
Q. But there’s no way to simulate 110,000 at night screaming…
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t know of any. You just got to do it. Yeah, just got to overcome.
Q. Tommy Rees is still a relatively young guy. I’m sure he’s a hero, every game they counted on him in high school and we certainly counted on him last year. Is there a point in the development of a quarterback where you learn the value of an incomplete pass?
COACH KELLY: You know, when he did that, right after he made that mistake, we had a man route, a crossing route, and he was looking for Mike Floyd to come back across the middle. He threw it and it was on the left harsh, third quarter. He threw it away. Prior to that, great play, throw it away. Both of ’em have and that understand that. It’s just the point of making that decision. That just has to be repped and talked about. You just have to stay vigilant with those coaching points when you have a quarterback situation like we do where we have two really good ones, but not a ton of experience either.
Q. Talk your relationship with Brady Hoke and the times you’ve coached against him.
COACH KELLY: I have a lot of the respect for Brady. We’ve come up from similar backgrounds. He was at Grand Valley State. You know, obviously head coach at Ball State; extremely successful. We got a chance to go against each other when I was at Central. He moves to San Diego State; I go to Cincinnati. We have had similar paths of success. Now we’re in this that dream matchup against Michigan and Notre Dame. But won’t be about Brady or I; it’ll be about how we play.
Q. Obviously first night game in Ann Arbor history. You have five this year, six if you include this past Saturday. What’s the hardest part about preparing a team for that? How do you manage that as a coach?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think I have a pretty good system in place on how to keep the guys moving, you know, but not to the point they’re using up a lot nervous energy prior to the game. We want to them to peak at that 8:05 start or whatever it is. I think we have a pretty good regimen in place, a pretty good routine, if you will, leading up to the ballgame.