Oct. 27, 2010
An Interview With: Coach Kelly
COACH KELLY: Okay, playing a very exciting and prolific offense in Tulsa. Kinne, the quarterback, is he reminds me of Brett Favre out there. He’s got the number. He likes to obviously have the ball in his hands. Pretty exciting player in Johnson on the perimeter. Good athleticism. Very good speed. They have shown themselves to be an offense that can put up a lot of points against some quality opposition. So from that standpoint, another very good offense coming into Notre Dame, and for us, it’s about, obviously playing the kind of defense that we have played leading up to the navy game and getting back to that kind of consistency. And offensively, we have to put more points on the board. This is a team that, as I said, can score a lot of points and we have got to be able to match that offensively with a great production. So if you look at those two areas, obviously from a defensive standpoint, playing another very good offensive football team with very good team speed with a quarterback who is elusive and can throw the football. And then from our standpoint offensively, certainly having to put points on the board, something we didn’t do very well last week. With that, I’ll open it up to questions.
Q. Injury rundown, starting with Ian Williams?
COACH KELLY: Well, it seems to be the worst kept secret in America. Ian Williams will be out four to six weeks, and we will be able to modify any of those comments based upon when we can get him moving around again. It’s an injury that some come back quicker than others. We’ll be able to get a better feel for it probably next week after we get it to calm down and go from there.
Q. Is it an MCL sprain, tear?
COACH KELLY: Sprain.
Q. No surgery?
COACH KELLY: No surgery.
Q. Did you get a look at the play he was injured on whether in terms of it was a high low or a clean block?
COACH KELLY: Ian was double teamed virtually every play so he was in there battling on every play. It’s hard to really look at any particular block and say, well, that was, you know, high low. I didn’t feel that way. Our coaches didn’t feel that way. And he was in there the battling a couple of guys virtually every play.
Q. And then Jamoris (Slaughter) and Carlo (Calabrese)?
COACH KELLY: Jamoris, again, it’s been a slow healing process for him. It’s one that we think he made some progress this past week. Hopefully he’ll be a little bit better for it. He felt better today. Hopefully we get more out of him. That’s really what we need. Carlo has got a hamstring, as you know, he left the game with a hamstring pull, and we have begun the rehab process, and we are hopeful that he’ll be able to answer the bell on Saturday. But that’s one of those hamstring injuries that is more about power in contact during the game, versus a pull, say, in a practice setting. So if I had to characterize it, it’s more like what Taylor Dever experienced in the game situation than maybe a Michael Floyd, for example.
Q. Michael Floyd, I’m assuming Riddick is still out for a little bit, but are you hopeful Floyd might be back this week?
COACH KELLY: We are hopeful. We are obviously going to move them around. And again he’s feeling better. And we want to make sure that he’s able to play at full speed when we get him back. So, again, I think we’ll manage that during the week and see how he feels. Theo obviously is out four, at least three probably three to four more weeks. Non surgery situation as well for him which is good news, and we’ll probably put him back in a cast and for another week or so and then begin the process with him.
Q. And then just with Ian out, can you talk a little about what Sean (Cwynar) has been giving you and then also, the way the depth chart shook out this week instead of (Tyler) Stockton moving in there and then Kona (Schwenke) moving up at end just talk a little about what you saw that led you to make those moves in that order?
COACH KELLY: Well, Sean’s been, you know, a consistent performer in there when Ian came out of the game so, we feel good about Shaun stepping in for that position. The next player, really, for us, is Hafis (Williams), and Sean can’t play the whole game. He doesn’t have the work volume to do that yet. So Hafis and Sean, together, can get that done. So that then meant who becomes the next guy in at the defensive end, and we want to take a good look at Kona. So Kona would be that next defensive end, and whether it’s for Ethan (Johnson) or whether it’s for Kap (Lewis-Moore), who knows. We’ll kind of see how that plays out this week and then Emeka (Nwankwo), we believe Emeka can give us some reps, as well.
Q. Do you feel like it’s a lock that Kona will play this weekend?
COACH KELLY: Kona is going to play this weekend, yeah.
Q. And your philosophy, I know it’s game nine, kid hasn’t played all year.
COACH KELLY: Right. Got to help us win games. This is still about winning, and we are in that mode where we have got to win some more games obviously. You know, getting to a Bowl game is very important, so this isn’t one of those, let’s ride out the streak here. We need help.
Q. The Tulsa offense, it’s pretty balanced, even though they don’t have a whole lot of guys rushing the ball for a whole lot of yards, can you describe where they try to put pressure on defenses?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, mis direction, zone offense, so clearly the quarterback’s part of that zone read scheme. But they do it with a number of different players that touch the ball, and they are all similar in type and size, very fast, very fast, elusive kids that they are trying to get more touches for them within their spread offense. A mis direction, zone scheme, where you’re running some zone option with the quarterback, as well, but you’re utilizing why you are speed on the perimeter as running backs as well. So it’s a bit of a unique offense, but I think when you break it down, it’s really the spread, you know, read option.
Q. Does it put any pressure on the nose guard position, not to harp too much on Ian’s absence, but is that a position that would be in any way critical to containing that?
COACH KELLY: Any time you lose Ian Williams, who is, you know, we could say is our best defensive player and certainly puts you in a situation where the production has to be there at the nose guard position. But I wouldn’t say that you can’t execute your defense against this offense if your nose guard is not an All American. We feel like we can fill it in with those two guys but you’re still losing a very good player in the end.
Q. Where do you start this week defensively, what messages do you try to get across? Without I guess trying to institute too much panic after one game, where did you start?
COACH KELLY: The start is where we finished. We finished the Navy game and talked about the things that we collectively need to do better, players and coaches, and then close the book on that, and I think probably the biggest thing is don’t let Navy influence how you play against Tulsa. You’ve had great answers all year, you’ve played good defense and you’ve played solid against the run. We expect that that would carry over. I believe you are who you are based upon the body of work, and I look at the Navy game as, you know, an isolated incident and we should be able to in my mind have no problems playing the kind of defense we need to against Tulsa.
Q. Kind of stole my question a little bit, but how do you do that? How do you avoid letting that derail the rest of your season? Is it a conversation that you have or are there other preventative measures that you take?
COACH KELLY: That would be a long answer to the question. I could probably tell you and in its best manner, look what you’ve done through the body of work through the year; it speaks for it than just this one game. What we have to be concerned about is when we play another option team in Army that there’s no carryover there. I don’t believe that there will be any carryover in terms of the Navy game going into Tulsa because of what they have done all year. So I think showing them the things that we need to obviously get better at, when we get another option team coming our way; but going back to playing the kind of defense that you’ve played against all of the opponents that you’ve had up to this point.
Q. There have been a couple of times now where you’ve said, we weren’t expecting that or we didn’t see that on film, is that just the reality
COACH KELLY: I didn’t say that we weren’t expecting anything. I said that we were responsible for all form of option.
Q. Is that just the reality of being a coach or is there any way to avoid the things like the 3 8 that Stanford used is it just bound
COACH KELLY: I think it’s experience in terms of making sure that you’ve covered all of those things as players and coaches. You know, this isn’t just on coaches and it’s not just on players. You know, it’s collectively as a team being prepared in all facets and prepared to execute. So some of it I think we can look at as very important for us to cover all bases and for our players to have enough experience and a base that they can execute those things.
Q. You’ve talked about growing pains on offense throughout the year, with this scheme going from a 4 3 to a 3 4 or base 3 4, should we have expected growing pains on defense? Is that natural when you flip schemes like that, players have been playing in a different scheme?
COACH KELLY: Well, I’m there’s a lot of ways to look at it. It’s not like we were in the top 20 in defense last year. So I think if we had a national caliber defense last year, we probably would be a little bit concerned right now. I think we have made great strides defensively, even putting in a new scheme with the 3 4 defense. So I think it’s perspective. My perspective is, and I see it every day, is that we have made very good progress defensively and I think we’ll continue to make that as we go forward.
Q. This environment here is a lot different, and I’m sure you had a pretty good feel for what you were getting into when you took the job. Some of your assistants probably have not had the day to day scrutiny that they are getting now. Do you talk about that with them? Do you just kind of let them deal with that on their own? And how do you feel like they are holding up with that?
COACH KELLY: Oh, they are fine. They are fine. They understand when they come to Notre Dame, or any BCS program that has national attention on its program, that you know, you’re going to be given way too much credit when you win and probably way too much credit when you lose, or lack thereof. They understand that. But we talk about it as a staff and keep our guys focused on the right things, and that is player development; continue to develop our players. That’s the area of, for me, great importance as we move forward, to continue to develop our players.
Q. Matt from Tulsa has not played a lot of football here until this year, can you just talk about what you’ve seen from him this year?
COACH KELLY: I think he’s been, you know, very mature in the way he’s handled himself. He’s practiced hard. He overcame injury in preseason camp and has helped us win. He helped us against Western Michigan. Obviously he was in there against Navy, as well. I would say very mature, and again, he’s handled his role on this football team from the very beginning in a very consistent manner. He comes to work every day. Does the right thing in the classroom and represents us in a positive way.
Q. You mention, I think it was either after the game or Sunday, you thought T.J. might have tweaked something.
COACH KELLY: He’s more chronic fatigue in that hamstring. We upped his reps so much, he still is a freshman and he got a lot more playing time, especially in that slot position. He’s involved in a lot more volume of work than he is out on the perimeter. So I think more of it was fatigue than anything else. We checked him out carefully. We did an MRI and everything is clean there, and we should have no ill effects with T.J.
Q. Have you ever gone through a season where there’s been, you know, a particular body part that this year it’s hamstrings, maybe it was knee somewhere else, wrist somewhere else. Have you had a year
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah, I’ve had some years where you’d worry about what shoulder was going to separate this week, or, we had one year where we had two centers that both had torn ligaments in their finger that required immediate surgery. It’s just one of those things that just, when you’re in this game of football, you’d better prepare for injuries. It just seems as though it’s one of those strings that you go through. I think it’s making up for the three years at Cincinnati where we, I think two out of the three years, we started the first game with the same 22 and finished the last game with virtually the same 22. So maybe just getting even with me.
Q. You talked on Sunday about not finding those couple leaders yet on the team. How important why is it so important to have one or two or three guys that everyone can look to as leaders?
COACH KELLY: I think it’s important, but our guys are a mature group, and they are able to really take care of business as a collective group. It’s a little bit of a different football team from that standpoint. There’s more individuals that we are trying to bring together as one. So I think each year brings different leadership styles and strengths and weaknesses, so we have tried to develop leaders from the ranks, and that means freshmen, sophomores and juniors, as well. I think our seniors have done a really good job of putting this on their back and what I mean by that, this is the group that had to buy in immediately when we got here, and they did. They are the ones that are having to build this foundation. It’s on their backs that we will have this program back to where it needs to be. So I’m proud of our seniors, I’m proud of what they have been asked to do, really. And that is dig a foundation. And on their backs, we are moving in that direction. So leaders are called on in different ways, and I think that’s how our senior class has led.
Q. That being said, are you surprised you haven’t had a couple of guys jump out and have you been able to identify a couple of guys who you expect to?
COACH KELLY: I’m not surprised. As I said, each year brings different personalities for your team. Some of those guys are primed for those leadership roles but sometimes it takes graduation, and it takes that changing of personnel for them to feel comfortable stepping out. So I think as we look at the 2010 football team, I think our senior class has done a very good job collectively as leading and I think individually our guys have shown very good maturity, but not one guy has really just said I’m the leader of this football team, but I’m starting to see some of those things emerge and moving forward, I think we’ll have more of those as we look towards next year and the year after.
Q. We have talk a lot about the defense today but you also mentioned the offense this week needs to score more points. What’s your message this week about what they need to be better at?
COACH KELLY: Well, if you just look at the game itself, it’s pretty clear. You know, you go 80 something yards, and you’ve got to punch it in. And then obviously turning the football over has been really our problem all year, as you know. If you just look at why we haven’t put enough points on the board, it isn’t because we are not executing at times; we are. We are putting together long drives. We are putting together productive drives; they have to end in points. And so our focus has simply been about scoring points and however you do that, whether you rush it 72 times or for 72 times, we need to score more points and a lot of it has to do with red zone. We have had that opportunity. We have been really good in the red zone all year. That was really our first hiccup but it was a huge one. When you’re playing a team and I said this last week, is going to minimize your possessions, you’ve got to make the best of it. So that’s really been our focus.
Q. With the young quarterback in terms of just how many starts he has, is the turnover thing just something that you have to continue to emphasize all year long, even if you might be good at it one week because of how costly it can be the next week?
COACH KELLY: Certainly. One of the first things that we were concerned about is fumbling the football. I think we have by and large done a very good job of correcting that, which bothered me a little bit earlier in the year. The interceptions keep popping up at very critical times during the game. So we just, you know, again, eliminating those interceptions, if we knew how to do that, we’d be in pretty good shape. All we can do is continue to coach, continue to develop, and you know, Dayne has made great progress, he really has. I don’t know what other way to look at it than watching him against Michigan and watching him against Navy; he made some mistakes, but, boy, he did a lot of things that he couldn’t do against Michigan.
Q. This is in no way a second guess, but the fourth and one on the goal line; that just a philosophy, that, hey, if we can’t get two feet when we need it, we have bigger issues than not scoring here?
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t think it’s a philosophy as much as, you know, you’ve strung together a great drive. You’re really on the road. I don’t think you back off for three there under those circumstances. If we are up two scores, yeah, I’d probably consider kicking a field goal in that situation. So I don’t think it’s a philosophy as much as it is time and place. And most of my decisions are based upon time and place. Other than a couple here and there, whether you go for two at the end of the game when you can kick the tie, those are made on Thursdays. But time and place told me to go for it.
Q. And you mentioned how important it is for the program to get to a Bowl game this year. At what point if you haven’t already do you start talking to your guys about making that a goal and emphasizing what’s at stake a few weeks from now?
COACH KELLY: It’s an important goal. We need those 15 practices. They are very important to the development of our program and moving forward. Those 15 practices are important. So, you know, getting to a Bowl game allows you more time with your players. I need more time with our guys. Our coaches need more time with our players. So, yeah, it’s very important to us, and it’s important to the development of our program.
Q. You seem pleased, at least with the potential of the offensive line to playing winning football. Can you evaluate them in terms of their consistency over the first nine games?
COACH KELLY: You know, we have started I think it starts with the tackles. We have started two new tackles and any time you’re starting two tackles that have very little playing experience and have held up very well, you’ve got to be pleased from that. I think I’d like some more production inside out, guard and center position, has been good and bad at times. I think we have been more consistent outside in. So I think the good part of it is three new starters. I think the one thing that I would like to see is a little more consistency inside out.
Q. Is it a surprise that you have more consistency outside in than inside out?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I guess if you had asked me coming in, I probably would answer it, you know, we have got two veteran guards, a center who has had some playing time, but the tackles haven’t. I probably would have answered it that way. I don’t know that I ever get surprised. But I think more than anything else, it’s no, D’Antonio surprised me. (Laughter). The inside guys, I would have thought with play a little bit more consistently. Now, they have had some good games, I don’t want to throw them under the bus here, they have played pretty good. But we need a little more consistency over the next four games.
Q. Can you talk about the importance of momentum changing plays, and how do you coach for that? O imagine something you obviously want to see more of.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think momentum is an important element of any competitive game, and obviously taking hold of that momentum and getting it to be a favorable outcome, is very, very important. So I’m a big believer that you can use momentum in a very positive way. I think we see that time in and time out in special teams; if there’s a fake field goal for a fake punt, that’s a huge momentum swing because you’re ready to give the ball up and you get it back. Teams that take advantage of those have generally been successful. I think it’s the same thing offensively when you get that turnover, taking care of the ball and making something happen. So I think we have done a pretty good job defensively with that when we have given up the ball, our defense has played pretty big in those sudden changes. I think that’s just the maturation of the football team that can feed off of that and understand how important it is.
Q. Can you talk about T.J. Jones, when you see him out of pads, you know, he’s just a nice looking kid, but this kid seems to me of all your freshmen has stepped up about as much as anyone this season.
COACH KELLY: I would say so. I think he’s played a prominent role as a true freshman. He’s a mature kid and he’s got a little bit of an edge to him. He’s a very confident kid. I like that about him. He comes from a great family, a pedigree there; his dad played for Notre Dame and has won a National Championship. He has a great family and just has a maturity about him that has allowed him to come in his freshman year and play with some confidence. He plays with confidence out there. He’s not afraid. You know, he’s a special young man.
Q. And finally, have you seen there’s a play on YouTube with Kerry Neal on the goal line
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we have.
Q. Have you dealt with it? Is there anything that needs to be dealt with?
COACH KELLY: We don’t believe so. We don’t believe so.
Q. I was wondering, a lot of coaches talk about how every player may need a little different style of coaching, be it a kick in the pants or a hug; how would you say, what is Dayne Crist respond to the best? What style?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think you know, Dayne Dayne cares, so much, about his performance. He cares so much about his teammates. He cares so much about Notre Dame. So when you start with that premise in terms of coaching a young man that cares so much, I think what my style has always been is to get him to understand the game first, because he cares so much. So a lot of it, for me, has been educational. And so my coaching style with him has been, we are driving points home. We are trying to fill his head with football knowledge. He didn’t have a whole lot of football knowledge, especially the spread offense coming in. And so you take each individual, and you look at them, and you coach and teach to that. I don’t have to get him fired up. I don’t have to get him caring about his performance or the team’s performance. I don’t have to kick him in the butt to get him out to practice and practice with energy. This is strictly about knowledge base, and drilling that home. And sometimes we literally have to drill it home. So I think that’s been my coaching and teaching in a nutshell with Dayne.
Q. When you are talking a first year quarterback, obviously a lot going through his mind, a lot to learn, different things, different styles of opponent. Do you ever worry about pushing him too hard where you could lose a guy like that? Or he seems like a pretty mentally tough guy though to me.
COACH KELLY: If I lose a guy, it’s because of my choice.
Q. Had in what respect?
COACH KELLY: Then he doesn’t care enough. He’s not mentally tough enough to handle the rigors of being a quarterback at the University of Notre Dame.
Q. Sometimes place are overlooked when they play at mid major schools, do you see some BCS caliber athletes
COACH KELLY: Absolutely. That line has dissolved, for me, over the past five years, that line of BCS to non BCS. Just continue to look at Boise and Utah and TCU. It’s just a line that doesn’t exist as people seem to think it does. They have got 85 scholarships. There’s so many good football players out there. No, they are not 6’2 and 205 pounds like maybe some of the kids at Oklahoma, but boy, they are 5’9 and 5’10 and they can fly. And the coaches are smart enough to fit a system to the players they are getting, so that line for me doesn’t exist anymore. You have good players at all programs.
Q. The players on this team have been looking forward to this game, when you play this kind of opponent, do you expect what they are getting, that they are calling a once in a lifetime opportunity?
COACH KELLY: Certainly we get that every week, whether it’s Navy or Western Michigan. The teams that we play each and every week, it’s an incredible atmosphere to play in, 85,000 at Notre Dame stadium. We understand that, each and every week, it’s always going to require a great effort from our part and we are going to get that from a very good team in Tulsa, as well.