Nov. 2, 2016
University of Notre Dame Football Media Availability – Navy Week
Q. What do you think of the game tonight?
DeShone Kizer: Obviously there’s a bunch of history on both teams. I have to pull for the Ohio side of things.
Q. This is a week where we always talk to defensive players about what they’re going to face from the opposition. How does it impact you? You have to know that possessions are limited. Do you try to push that out of your mind or do you have to keep that at the forefront of what you guys do?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, you respect it and you understand that you have to be patient in what you’re doing, understand that your possessions are going to be limited. If they are, you can’t go out there expecting to score a thousand touchdowns.
But with that you also have to understand when you do touch the ball, your ultimate goal needs to be a touchdown no matter how it comes.
You start playing against Navy, your tendencies might turn to trying to slow the ball down just as much as they are, allow them to control the tempo of the game, respond on offense the way they’re going about their offense.
As a high-tempo offense that we are, we find our success when we’re up and rolling. So we got to make sure when we’re back out there, we’re doing the exact same things we have been doing to be successful.
Q. Speaking of tempo, you were a little bit more high-tempo last week. How did that feel to you?
DeShone Kizer: It was awesome. It was awesome. We had confidence in what we were doing. We kind of put an emphasis on a couple of plays that we knew we could get lined up and roll against whatever defense they’re going to put out there for us.
After watching North Carolina approach Miami’s defense with the speed that they have, we learned quite a bit about the plays that we can get into with tempo. If we find that the defense out there is going to be able to allow us to do the same thing, I’m sure we’re going to go right back at it.
Our offense is spread, it is fast. It may not seem like that when I’m up there checking a play a thousand times. The emphasis is to be fast. So if we have the opportunity to just call and haul, we’re going to do so.
Q. In your postgame interview with NBC, I think you said something about, I’m a lot nicer guy than I’ve been.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah (laughter).
Q. A couple back-to-back losses with a bye week in there impacted your personality a little bit?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, yeah, when you’re out there with the start that we had, it’s really tough to find the fun in football. You come out and you try to represent your team in situations like this in front of the media, you want to be as optimistic as you can. Quite frankly, it’s hard to talk about losing.
Now we’re back in a position where we got a big win under our belt, had a little fun doing so. We’re trying to get our momentum the right way.
With that you got to smile, you got to enjoy it. I’m definitely learning to appreciate the wins now from play to play and also at the game level. As long as we can continue to string them together, hopefully I’ll have a couple more smiles on my face after the games.
Q. Coach Kelly has talked about how he sees the short passing game as an extension of the running game. Do you feel the same way about it? Do you see short passes as run plays?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. Miami was a prime example of that. I mean, we might have thrown the ball 40 times. Out of that, over half were quick game. I think that quick game part of it is an opportunity to get ahead of the chains early. Some great first down calls, second down calls to put us in manageable positions at third down.
When you catch the defense who wants to add an extra hat in the box to stop those early first down runs, the way to combat it is to be able to put the ball in the perimeter. I didn’t do well with that in the beginning of the season. I had more of an emphasis of forcing the run game because I had so much confidence in the offensive line. It’s still there. You also have to remember that if (indiscernible) is going to play 12 yards off the number two receiver, got to give them the ball and let them work.
We have the ability with the skill positions we have to break away on some of those short passes. If I can get the ball in their hands, let them move, it will keep us ahead of the sticks, keep us more in second-and-manageable, and hopefully third-and-short.
Q. What’s the next step or part to make that a little bit better?
DeShone Kizer: Take the first three or four drives of Miami and make them who we are. Our identity is still kind of all over the place in terms of how fast we want to be. Are we a throw the ball 50 times a game team? Are we a 50/50 run-pass? Still trying to figure that out.
In the first half of Stanford, first half of Miami, you saw two different sides of where we can go with things. As long as we’re successful with what we’re doing, we’re taking what the defense is giving us, we’re going to have continued success.
We have yet to put together a full game of great offense. I think that’s kind of our challenge now, is to find a way of staying consistent throughout the whole game and not allowing the two- to three-drive lulls that we have, try to eliminate those and score a lot of points.
Q. I think a lot of people feel if you’re going to be physical, you have to run the ball. That’s the only way you can be physical. Can you be a physical quick pass team?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. It’s a discipline. It’s a determination. Any time you touch the ball, you’re trying to fall forward. Navy has some of the most mentally tough guys out there. We completely understand that. The only way to beat them is to match that intensity, take every ball you get, make sure that that once again falls forward. If you’re allowing the pile to fall backwards, Navy is winning in a sense.
As long as we match that intensity when we go down to Jacksonville, come with the same physicality that they come with, I think we’ll be able to move forward and be successful.
Q. In five of the eight games your opponent has had 17 straight points, 36 straight points, 21, et cetera. There were so many game-winning touchdown tries that you led last year. Up until your past game, it was the first of the year. How frustrating has that been? When you did self-scouting during the off week, what can you put your finger on to avoid those long lulls in between scoring?
DeShone Kizer: I think that’s a mindset we have to have when we go out drive to drive. In the beginning of the game, you come out with this enthusiasm, you come out with this energy, coming out of the locker room, get the fans on your side. That kind of propels into the game where you can get the first three drives with great energy and great focus.
When you get to the end of the half or maybe the beginning of the second half, that energy can sometimes fade away. I think the biggest way for us to eliminate those lulls is to be able to come off the field, sit down with each other, make sure we focus back up, get ourselves back excited to go back out there and play, lock in, focus in on what we have to do, execute, and make sure that same energy we have in the beginning with these strong starts that we have continues throughout the whole game.
Q. You look at it more as a mental, emotional thing. You always have your set of openers that you come out with. How far do you veer away from those after you’ve gone ahead through your openers?
DeShone Kizer: It’s game to game. Depends where the game is. You have to ride with the rhythms, the highs and lows of the game. Maybe at second half, you can go back to your whole opener’s list, ride back through it. Maybe there’s things they’re showing, adjustments that are made that you have to come back and combat with things you talk about at halftime.
I think more on our part of it, no matter what play is called, we’re going to be in the right play against the right defense. So it has to be a mindset on our part to make sure we’re doing our job so we can, once again, get that first down, get things rolling, maintain the same energy we have in the beginning.
Q. To start the year, I think the first four games you were great in goal-to-goal situations, nine touchdowns in your first ten. Last four, gone the other way. What is the challenge in those situations for a quarterback? Windows are tighter. What is the challenge mentally and physically when you’re inside the 10?
DeShone Kizer: I think in those situations, the best way to go about it is to pretend as if you are back at the 50 yard line with a lot of room. We do very well from our own 40 to the opponent’s 40. I think that comes with the idea that there’s a lot of space to work, there’s a lot of space to work over your guy, a lot of time.
If we can have that same mentality that it’s you and the guy in front of you, if you can make a move on him, free yourself up, the ball is the only thing that has to travel fast. You’re going to do the exact same routes, have the exact same timing on things.
Also when you get down there, right now the idea is for us to make sure that every drive ends in a kick. Obviously we want to score down there, we want to get a touchdown. At the same time, you have to have the aggressiveness to get that touchdown, but not to be overaggressive and allow that to turn into a turnover or allow that to be a deflected ball that gets tipped up. You’re reaching out for a touchdown, the ball gets knocked out or something along those lines. As long as we’re down there scoring, that’s the ultimate goal.
Like you said, the defense has tightened up. There’s not a lot of space. The mindset has to be the same. As long as you’re beating the guy in front of you, the only guy that has to change the style of play is myself. That’s fitting balls tighter, putting a little more velocity on the ball, making sure the ball gets there on time.
Q. Navy has had some rough moments this year on defense. When they’re going well, what do you see on film?
DeShone Kizer: They know exactly what they do. They know exactly who they are. They’re very disciplined with that. When they’re playing well, it’s because they’re locked into their four or five calls. They ride with them.
When they have the experience and the smarts to lock into their keys, it’s hard to get the ball past them. They like to keep things in front of them. They like to tackle hard and make big plays.
I think the best way to combat that is to, once again, take what the defense is giving you. If they want to play off, keep things in front of you, we’re going to take the five yards every time. As soon as they want to come up and get aggressive, maybe it’s time to take the shot.
You have to be able to ride with the game, make sure the ups and downs happen when they’re supposed to. Make sure, once again, you’re taking what they’re giving you. There’s going to be opportunities to get the ball into these skilled position’s hands, like K.J. on the slant that turns into 50 something yards.
Q. When you first faced Navy as a defensive player in 2014, what were some of the challenges you faced? How much could you actually prepare in the week leading up versus your experience playing against them?
James Onwualu: Yeah, I think preparation is huge, just to get a look at it. It’s really tough, almost impossible, to replicate how well Navy does it. So once you get into the game, it does take a little bit to settle in, get a feel for how fast it really is.
Other than that, I really think it comes down to preparation.
Q. What was the single biggest challenge your first time facing a triple-option offense?
James Onwualu: Probably just eye discipline and the speed of everything. Like I said, it’s hard to replicate how fast everything is, how all the options come to you. So being able to settle in after a series or two is important.
Q. I think last year might have been the first year you really focused in August with the swag team and everything. How much did that help versus the prior year?
James Onwualu: Yeah, any look or any little taste you can get of this offense is beneficial, so… The more you do it, the better you’re going to be at it.
Q. We talked to Coach Kelly pretty extensively yesterday about some of the things you guys do in preparation for playing Navy. He mentioned film study being really, really significant. Can you give us an idea what this week is like for you and the defensive players in terms of film study?
James Onwualu: Yeah, so any extra time we’re going to have, we’ll be focused on trying to continue to study this offense. The coaches have done a great job so far of being able to pull their main runs and their main objectives and give us examples of that from previous years, comparing the reps we’ve done in practice to actual reps of them running it.
You can see how it’s done and what corrections to make. So film study is going to be huge. Continuing to look at that, it’s going to be big.
Q. I brought up Coach Elliott, the work he’s put in in giving you a base defense to work out of. Don’t give away what you do, but talk about that basis you work out of.
James Onwualu: Yeah, so how we defended them last year. We thought we did a pretty good job. Again, it’s an offense that is tough to stop, especially when you get them to third down. They’re working for every single yard, especially with the style they play, how tough they are, like I said, working for every single yard. We thought we did a pretty good job last year. Learned a lot from that game, as well.
Like I said, we’re going back to last year’s film and making adjustments on what we think we can do a little bit better this year and trying to make those changes.
Q. What weren’t you doing? What have you learned since then?
James Onwualu: Their fullback was, like, 280 pounds. He got the best of me on a play or two and the coaches didn’t really like it.
Jarrett is a big boy. He took care of business.
Q. What do you enjoy about playing against Navy and what do you hate about playing against Navy?
James Onwualu: I like the fact that you can really zone in on what they’re going to do. Depending on how much you really study and put time into this offense this week, it can kind of align you for the amount of success you’ll have in the game.
The tough part about it is you don’t see this all year and all of a sudden it’s on you. You just came from playing a great offense in Miami to a totally different offense in Navy. That’s the challenge of it, just trying to flip your mind, be very assignment-oriented.
Q. This is probably more of a question for next week, but when you look at the schedule and see Navy, Army back-to-back, not the same offense, but there’s enough of a core offense for you to benefit from that in two straight weeks?
James Onwualu: Uh-huh, yeah, definitely. Like I said, having that mindset and being focused in on this style of play will be beneficial going back-to-back.
Q. Coach Kelly talked a little bit about sort of the short passing game as an extension of the run game. Does it feel that way for an offensive lineman? Can a team be physical and still run a short passing game?
Mike McGlinchey: I think it can. I think we already have that established in our offense. We have different reads coming out of our run games of whatever DeShone sees back there. If they have too many guys in the box, we’re still going to go after our guys the same way.
It’s just sometimes they have one more than we can account for up front. That’s where we’ve come into some success there with the short passing game, reading out of the run game, and letting our guys on the perimeter make plays.
Absolutely, it wouldn’t change the style of play that we have up front. Just got to stick to your job and do it to the best of your ability with a physical mindset.
Q. I’m not asking for an exact percentage. Roughly, how many of your run plays are locked-in runs versus the stuff that DeShone can pick and choose?
Mike McGlinchey: I would say a lot of our runs. It’s not even a switch to the pass because I think it’s a part of our play call. It’s just determining what he sees in the box or what he sees on the outside.
I think a lot of our scheme is based off of letting DeShone read the defense and do some things with what he sees.
Q. I meant run-pass option that ends up being runs versus runs that are locked runs?
Mike McGlinchey: Like I said, I think it’s a good portion. We have a little bit of both. A lot of it just depends on the defensive look. It’s not really a run-pass option because whatever we see is what we’re going to choose to do with the ball. So it’s whatever they give us is locked in on what DeShone’s read is.
Q. I assume you guys are reading the same stuff.
Mike McGlinchey: Yeah, we see it. But we’re always doing our job for the run play. They just throw it out and we’re just trying to finish our guy the best way possible.
Q. You couldn’t change a play? It’s all on DeShone when it comes to that kind of decision making?
Mike McGlinchey: Yeah. They don’t give the left tackle the opportunity to change the play (laughter).
Q. I thought maybe you see something and relay it.
Mike McGlinchey: It’s more so we don’t change play calls, but we have our hand in protections and stuff like that. We obviously help DeShone see what’s in front of him. We have certain calls that we give that would allow him to change the protection to a certain side or change the play to whatever we need to do, yeah.
Q. This is a week where we are normally focused on talking to the defensive players because of what Navy does offensively. Is there a different feel offensively because possessions are so precious and how Navy controls the football offensively?
Mike McGlinchey: Exactly. We know we have to be close to perfect with this one because they’re going to take a lot of time to eat up the clock because of the way that they run their offense. We have to be able to do what we can to keep putting points on the board every time we get the ball in our hands.
That’s the way we’ve always beaten Navy and the way we’ve always had success against Navy, is by having the most efficient offense possible and letting the defense do their job all day.
It’s a big task for them, going up against a team that runs that offense as disciplined as Navy does. We understand our role on offense is to put points on the board as many times as we can because we know our possessions are going to be limited.
Q. What is the biggest advantage you have playing against Navy, and what’s the biggest disadvantage?
Mike McGlinchey: Well, I think it’s not as much of a disadvantage as it is a challenge. But Navy plays probably harder than anybody in the country. They are an extremely disciplined football team. Obviously the character of guys on their team are a little bit different than the ones across the nation. They play extremely hard, and they are fighting more so than anybody to the whistle that we have.
In terms of advantages, I think we understand who they are personnel-wise. I think our advantage is that we are a little bit bigger across the board. I think that’s always how it is with Navy. That’s never limited them before.
At the same time, we understand that, and we’re going to play to those strengths and hopefully we can come out on the winning side of this one.
Q. Their offensive line obviously plays low. Does their defensive line play the same way because of some of the size and strength they give away?
Mike McGlinchey: I think so. They definitely do. But it’s not as much playing low as it is their technique that they have. They’re very good at using the technique that is taught to them because they understand if they don’t do that, they’re going to be at a disadvantage across the board.
Like I said, they’re so disciplined with their scheme, with their technique. It’s a challenge, especially up front, when guys are trying to get inside you as fast as possible, and that’s what your job is. It’s a good job up front. It’s an exciting fight. We’re excited for the opportunity to play and match how hard they’re going to play.
Q. When you play a team like Navy that’s so disciplined, fights to the whistle, what’s the point of emphasis maybe not just for you but for the offensive line going into this game?
Mike McGlinchey: Just to make sure you finish. I think that’s always what it is for us, but it’s even more an emphasis this week because we understand who they are and what they do. You have to finish your block, sometimes go through the whistle. That’s the way this game is going to be. It’s always a point of emphasis when we play a military academy. They’re going to bring it. That’s what we’ve got to do as well.
Q. How much of it is the mental side? It can get frustrating when these guys won’t stop.
Mike McGlinchey: That’s exactly what you’re preparing for because you know they’re not going to stop. That’s who they’ve been their entire existence of their program, especially in the last four years that I’ve known them.
It’s going to be a battle. That’s what we come into. We get excited for this one every year because they’re a rival of ours. We know what kind of energy and passion they play with. We got to match it.
Q. If you are allowed to change a play, what are you going to change it to, if the left tackle gets that right?
Mike McGlinchey: Maybe a tackle-eligible pass or something like that (laughter).
Torii Hunter, Jr.
Q. We were talking to Coach Kelly about this, the lapses where opponents have scored 17, 21, 36 straight points. From an offensive standpoint, what do you guys have to do to kind of break that trend?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: I think it’s a number of things. I can’t really put one point on it ’cause it seems like it’s something different every week.
But I think mainly we just have to continue to stay laser focused. No matter how long we’re off the field or whatever it may be, we just got to make sure we stay focused so we can keep our rhythm whenever we get back on the field.
I think that’s probably one of the biggest things.
Q. That was along the lines of what DeShone said, as well. Why is it difficult to maintain that focus, especially after you’ve gotten off to a good start and have an opportunity to build upon that success?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: I just think that, you know, sometimes you go up and you kind of, I mean, have mental lapses.
I think if we just stay focused on putting opponents completely out of the game, we’ll be able to overcome that, be the offense that we can be for an entire four quarters.
Q. This is usually a week where most of our questions are for the guys on the defensive side of the ball because of the style of offense they’re playing. Possessions are so precious for you guys when you’re playing a team like this. Do you feel a little bit more pressure to score faster or really maximize every time you have an opportunity with the football?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: Yeah, I think we really put an importance on scoring every time we get the ball because it is important. I think if you look at the game last week, USF, they went up by a lot, but it ended up being a 10-point game in the end.
It’s important to always, you know, cherish those possessions when you have them going against a team like Navy.
Q. You started really well in goal-to-goal situations, a lot of field goals in the last four games. What is the challenge down in close for you as a wide receiver? Do you change your approach at all inside the 10, not just in the red zone?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: I think you have to go in there with a different mentality. I mean, we haven’t really I don’t think thrown the ball that much that close. But if we do throw the ball, you have to have of the mentality you have to make the play. They’re going to grab, they’re going to hold, they’re going to do everything they can to keep you from getting that ball.
You have to go in with a different mentality that they can’t stop you, that if the ball is thrown in your direction, you got to make the play.
I think that’s the only thing that’s really different, is the mentality you have to play with when you go down there because it’s just going to be different. Guys are going to be more aggressive on you.
Q. Navy defensively plays a lot of off-coverage. Take what they give you. What is that like as a wide receiver? Is it frustrating or something where you don’t mind catching a lot of hitches and having room afterwards?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: I mean, I don’t mind it at all. If they’re going to give it to us, we might as well take it, see if they can tackle us.
I mean, if they are willing to play that type of coverage, then we’ll take it. We’ll take what they give us.
Q. Are you comfortable back in the slot? You’ve been playing everything the last couple years. Seems like you found your old home again.
TORII HUNTER, JR.: I mean, yeah, I’m comfortable in the slot. But, I mean, wherever they need to play me, they’ve moved me around a lot, especially this year. But I’m definitely comfortable in the slot. I kind of get to feel my way around a lot more, kind of read the defenses.
That’s what I was used to over the last couple years. So, yeah, I guess I’m kind of comfortable there.
Q. When we talk to the nickels here, they say the challenge is a two-way go. Is that what you relish, the ability to take it either direction?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: Yeah, the option routes are pretty good. I like those a lot. You really get to kind of mess with the defender a little bit, show off your ability a little bit. I kind of like the option routes, for sure.
Q. What have you seen from Kevin Stepherson since the spring?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: I’ve seen him grow a lot. He’s been a guy that I’ve been trying to really feed him what he needs to grow and stuff, and mature. He came here, you know, as basically a second semester senior in high school. He had a lot of growing up to do immediately. Just been trying to feed him that.
He’s grown up a lot over the last couple of months. I’m excited to see the player he’s going to become over the next couple years. He’s explosive. He can catch. Not too many people with cover him. I mean, he’s going to be exciting to watch over the next couple years.
Q. We’ve asked Coach Kelly what makes him such a good, young talent. He talks about catching the ball in stride and staying at full speed, which is an asset you have as well. Is that something you have to learn, to be able to be playing at full speed before you actually catch the pass?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: Yeah, so, I mean, it’s just having confidence that you can catch. If you feel like you got to slow down so you can catch the ball, that’s kind of what breaks people’s stride at times.
If you can just run through the ball and, like, attack the ball, I think that’s a skill you have to learn, you have to work at.
Q. As an outfielder when you’re running, the ball is moving around on you, is it the same way in football? Obviously a bigger object to catch, but…
TORII HUNTER, JR.: Yeah, I think it’s kind of similar playing at full speed. Just not having to slow down, I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s a skill that you have to work at and get more comfortable with over time.
He’s definitely ahead of where a lot of guys were at his age.
Q. Not asking you to tell us what your decision is going to be at the end of the season with another year of eligibility. Do you feel like baseball is a legitimate option for you or are you focused on football mainly post Notre Dame?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: It’s definitely an option. But we’ll see at the end of the year where I am. We’ll talk to my family and coaches and see which direction is best for me, so…
Q. Are you a better football player or baseball player?
TORII HUNTER, JR.: I have no idea. We’ll see (laughter).