Aug. 2, 2018
University of Notre Dame Football Media Conference
COACH Brian Kelly: Obviously today, first press conference and many times it’s met with how good things are and our football team is going to have the best season ever. Everybody’s full of optimism. I’m certainly full of optimism, as well. But I think we all need to be reminded that it’s been six months, really, going on six months that we’ve begun working for this day. So a lot of work has really taken place in shaping and forming this football team.
Our guys, it’s pretty clear, love to compete. We saw this in our off-season workouts. We saw it in the spring and again this past summer. I’m so really proud of our football team and the way that they have looked at this season and really have focused on excellence in every fashion.
And I know you guys want to talk about positions and who’s going to play where, but I will tell you this: You know, we go eight weeks in the summer without a depth chart. You know, there’s no first team and second team bench press guy or squat guy, and so it’s really about building that competitiveness amongst your group.
Secondly, it’s about how your guys get along, and I could tell you standing here in front of you today, without playing a football game, that our guys love to compete. They love the challenge of being here at Notre Dame, and the kind of schedule that we play and they love the opportunity to be around their teammates.
So if that’s any indication of where we’re going to go, it’s a good start. It’s a good start. Because all the other stuff, who is going to play what position, we’re going to go compete over the next month and we’re going to figure all that out.
So as far as definitives, I want to give you the definitive about this team: They love to compete, they enjoy being around each other and they relish the opportunity for the challenge that’s in front of them, because we know it’s a great challenge, but one that they are looking for.
I think the other one that I know has been prevalent amongst our football team and really was the message moving forward, was accountability. And when we talk about accountability, we’re talking about our guys doing all the little things right and holding each other to a high standard. We’ve seen that built in this football team, and I’m really excited about that, as well. High level of accountability amongst the group and that part of it is what we built over the past years and the culture change for us, as well as great leadership.
So those are some of the certain things that I have for you. I also have a great staff. I have great coaches that are great communicators, great teachers, great mentors. Proud of them, and I’ve got a great support staff. You can’t do this job without a great support staff, as well.
Those are some of the absolutes. Those are the things I absolutely know about this football team. The rest, I might have questions for you guys as it relates to some areas because we’re going to go sort that out over the next month.
So with that, we’ll open it up to questions.
Q. (Off-mic) How is competition, player-wise, different positions —
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah, I don’t think you can have competition unless you build it into your training. So what we did, our team is broken up into eight different teams, led by a team leader, and each and every week, they are competing in the weight room, in conditioning, in running, in the classroom, in the community, and each team accumulates points.
And what I can tell you for certain is that competition is one that they love to be involved in. They want to go against each other. They want to push each other to competitive greatness, both on and off the field.
So if I didn’t see that amongst the group, it would be pretty easy to notice, and talking to our strength staff, Matt Balis, he’s loved the competitive spirit week-in and week-out of these groups going against each other.
Q. Which teams —
COACH Brian Kelly: You know, they draft the teams. So of the eight, what we call squad teams, the leaders draft those that are on their team. And so you could say that some are maybe better suited at drafting than others, looking for balance.
But I could tell you about consistent leadership. Sam Mustipher stood out as a consistent leader, not that the others were inconsistent but he was always at the top of the group. Now, I don’t think if that says to his being a great leader or he’s a future GM, one or the other, but he was pretty apparent.
Q. Did you have questions for me first?
COACH Brian Kelly: I just wanted to know what the injury situation looked like, because I haven’t been around.
Q. Well, they are evaluating that and we’ll probably have some kind of word in a couple of weeks.
COACH Brian Kelly: Mike will get back to you.
Q. Mike will get back to you, exactly. You Tweeted something about wearing Green on September 1, and I know that there has not been a lot of occasions, either attempts or success with color-coordinating the crowd. I’m curious why with this one you wanted to go down that road.
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, we are listening to what our students wanted. It started back in April with our shirt. As you know, the shirt is green. They wanted that to be emblematic of a color that was outside maybe our opponents at home, and so we’ve taken that, we’ve listened to their wants and desires to be unified in that stadium with a color, and obviously the green is the one that they have chosen.
So I’ve simply been 100 percent backing, giving them the backing that we, in fact, will be pushing that on our end, as well. I think some of our coaches, coach in gear, they will have some green in it. We’re pushing some other things within the stadium, through our marketing department, that I think is going to bring that stadium together unified.
So I think more than anything else, it was listening to what our students wanted, and they wanted that stadium to be unified.
Q. Does that include wearing uniforms for the players?
COACH Brian Kelly: I have not made a decision on that. My sense is, there’s going to be plenty of green in that stadium. Our home jerseys are blue. I love that tradition.
Unless something happens drastically in my thought process, you know, we’ll wear our traditional blue coming into that game.
Q. Obviously other than OTAs, you don’t have a lot of hands-on time with Brandon, but curious from what you’ve heard, what you were able to witness, what kind of summer did Brandon Wimbush have?
COACH Brian Kelly: You know, I love the way he’s been leading. One of the things in developing the quarterback position is you go from a position where he came from, where he wasn’t a starter, to being immersed right into the middle of it and then being able to take a step back and look at his work and what he needs to do, and he attacked it in the off-season.
He attacked his weaknesses, he continued to sharpen his strengths, and what I loved the most about him is that he’s a humble leader. In other words, he took the time to work on any of the things that he felt like he needed to work on, as well as he became much more of a vocal leader for us.
I would say A plus in the off-season for Brandon Wimbush. Now let’s go put the other pieces of our preparation together.
Q. Based on what you saw from the freshman in the OTAs and the feedback from Matt Balis and his staff, is there a group or individuals that based on need, you’re eager to get an eye on tomorrow and moving forward?
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, with the new redshirt rule, where you can play four games, it’s given me pause to look at our schedule in preseason camp to see how we can get them much more involved in what we’re doing.
So I made some changes within our schedule where we are going to get an opportunity during the practice to scrimmage a lot of the young guys and answer some of the questions that we all probably have, and certainly I do, as well.
I can just tell you from Matt Balis’s perspective, he’s the strength and conditioning coach. He does a great job with the mental preparation. Dr. Lattner was with the group all summer, as well. I can tell that you there are some that are physically more prepared and that are some more mentally prepared.
So you have to then put them in football situations and I think that’s what we’ll do, and that’s why I’m eager to kind of give the freshmen much more of an opportunity to compete in preseason camp.
Q. Julian Okwara seems likes a guy that is on the cusp of maybe really breaking through and being a big-time player. I’m curious, I don’t know if the 241 is real recent?
COACH Brian Kelly: It’s wrong. It’s 242.
Q. Okay. But certainly in the spring, I think he was around 230.
COACH Brian Kelly: He was.
Q. The significance of that weight difference and how you see his role evolving?
COACH Brian Kelly: I’m really proud of him. You know, first of all, he’s got a high metabolism, and he’s extremely fit. Even at 230, you know, obviously he was moving at a great rate. He was an impactful player at times for us.
I think what you’ll see now with this new weight, he’s one of our stronger players. Extremely strong in the weight room. He now has added obviously some power behind that, if you will, and again, this was a decision that he made.
You know, certainly, our nutritionists have a lot to do with it and Matt Balis has a lot to do with it.
But at the end of the day, he had to make a choice of putting on this kind of weight, and he did it the right way and I’m really excited about watching him in camp.
Q. Last one from me. I know that developing Ian Book is a big priority for you, as well, and then Phil Jurkovec walks in. How do you feel like reps will be distributed? What do you want to see from Phil in August?
COACH Brian Kelly: I want him to learn — you know, we are not going to rush him into anything, but again, I go back to what I said earlier relative to our practices. There are going to be more opportunities for Phil to get in there and compete during camp with all eyes on him.
And so I’m really — I really think it’s going to be great for him. It allows us to really focus on Brandon and to Ian’s development, because you’re right, there still needs to be some development there, but I think we can do all three.
In other words, I think we can continue to work the developmental phase with Phil and we’re going to do that within our practice sessions, and then our No. 1 and No. 2 quarterback will be able to continue to get the kind of reps necessary to be sharp going into the first week.
Q. What have you seen from Clark Lea was your defensive coordinator here the last six or seven months?
COACH Brian Kelly: I think I go back to very in-tune with the needs of our players. He is I think a great teacher and communicator. He communicates very well with 18- to 21-year-olds that play defense. But he can also, you know, be very consistent on what the expectations are.
It’s one to be a great communicator, great teacher and have a great relationship, but if you’re not consistent at what you do every day, well, that’s what we’re looking for for our team. You know, as you know, we need more consistency throughout the season.
So he’s been extremely consistent with the standards he’s set on defense and you’re going to have to fit into that consistency.
Q. As a play caller yourself, what — and I know it’s different offense, defense, but what advice do you have for him with regard to that?
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah, I don’t know that there’s any particular advice relative to play calling, other than making sure that his communication system with his staff is on point. He’ll be in the box: Okay, who is going to take the lead on the field, how is that going to get communicated. It’s great if you know everything, right, but you have to get that out to your assistant coaches and then that’s got to pass on to the players.
I think more about organizational, I’m more interested in, than I am, you know, micromanaging his play selections and play calls.
Now, we’ve made some tweaks along the way in terms of what I think will be effective for us both in front and in coverage, and that’s another great thing about Clark. Clark’s not married to: This is the way we do it, and we can’t get better at doing it in a different fashion.
Q. And then on game day, of course, you’ll communicate with him as far as game situations and some of the adjustments you might want him to make based upon score?
COACH Brian Kelly: Take a guy out of the game. You know, let’s double-cover. Let’s get hands on him. You know, things of that nature. They are much more big picture. They are about time outs and they are about time-in-game situation, what we are doing on offense. So yeah, much more big picture.
Q. What can you tell us about Dexter Williams as you open practice tomorrow?
COACH Brian Kelly: Really, the best summer that he’s had since he’s been here. He’s put on eight to ten pounds. His volume is up in terms of his ability to sustain his cardiovascular at a high level. He can go. He struggled with that at times last year. He’s physically fit, in great shape. He’s in the best position that he’s been and he’s going to help our football team next year.
Q. Do you expect to have him available for the first game this season?
COACH Brian Kelly: He’s going to be, you know, on our roster. We’ll see who — who ends up playing against Michigan, but he’s on our football team and I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished in the summer.
Q. How important is it for your team do you think to open up with teams like Michigan, a rival, big game? Do you think it’s going to help your team in the long run opening up with such a high-profile opponent?
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah, so we already knew who it was, right. That board has been up for quite some time, since January, so they have known their opponent.
Yeah, it certainly gets their attention. There’s no question about it. There’s a sense of urgency in your first opponent. You’d better be really, really at your best when you play Michigan. It’s a really good football team. It’s well-coached. They have got good players, and we are going to have to be at our best.
So there’s no question since January, that’s got our attention in terms of our focus.
Q. How excited are you personally to be going back to this rivalry against Michigan?
COACH Brian Kelly: I think it’s great for college football. I don’t know that I interject myself into this as much as Notre Dame Football and Michigan Football is really a great rivalry. I think everybody wanted to see it happen. I’m glad we were able to get that done.
Q. With Wimbush and book, you said Wimbush had an A plus grade in the off-season. Has that created separation between the two or are they still 1A and 1B as you head into —
COACH Brian Kelly: I think Ian was outstanding, as well. I’m not here to kind of give everybody an A plus, but he had a great summer.
You know, both of them, if there’s one word that we’re looking for, is consistency of performance in both instances. Sometimes Ian is so good in practice that it’s almost hard to beat him, and then we know Brandon had some times last year.
I think those are behind us. So they both had really good summers. I think we’re in a — I feel really good about the situation we are in at quarterback to have two guys of that calibre that we know can play winning football for us.
Q. Obviously you’ve been in the position of having high-calibre quarterbacks and going into the situation where you decide to play multiple in a season, do you see yourself playing both quarterbacks in that first game?
COACH Brian Kelly: No. I don’t want to go into the game having to play more than one quarterback. I think clearly, Brandon comes out into preseason camp as the No. 1, Ian’s No. 2, Phil’s No. 3 and we hope that we have great competition, which we will, and Brandon is going to have to compete. He can’t sleepwalk through this and he knows that, because Ian deserves the opportunity, too, to compete for the position and they will get that opportunity.
Q. You mentioned that you guys have been preparing for the season for the better part of six months in various ways, but even though maybe the process doesn’t start tomorrow, it’s still kind of a tangible mark on the timeline. To what degree do you get excited for the start of training camp?
COACH Brian Kelly: Getting back with the kids. You know, I mean, you don’t get the contact. This is the only sport, in football, that you lose contact for six to eight weeks, and it’s difficult, because that’s why we do this because we love the interactions and the day-to-day teaching and learning and relationships that you get with your players.
So, look, all coaches got to live with the time off. We’re all fired up. We’re excited. These guys have been busting their butt for the last eight weeks.
So we’ve got to temper that excitement with, you know, let’s understand how hard these guys have worked, and let’s insert ourselves back into the process of building our traits. You know, total preparation, and continue to sharpen our mindset, and that’s really the job of the coaches.
Q. The new rule that allows you to play a guy a couple games without burning a redshirt, how much do you think that gives you an opportunity to perhaps work a guy into the mix that maybe otherwise you wouldn’t have been planning on doing this year?
COACH Brian Kelly: I’m going into camp with the mindset of playing those that are physically and mentally prepared to help our football team win. And if they are, we don’t have to worry about it.
We’ll get them on the field and we’ll compete right away and then maybe we’ve got to make some decisions. Maybe some are better suited as they move through the season to pull back on and maybe some are, let’s keep rolling, let’s keep playing.
So I want to get them ready. I want to get them ready. When they sat here in front of me and they got here in June, I told every one of them, “Get ready to play this fall.” We’ll see how that plays out.
Q. Clark has been your defensive coordinator for a couple of months now, but how will things be different for him the next several weeks than they have been in the past?
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, there’s a big difference between making decisions and making suggestions as a coach, right. He’s got to make the decisions now.
I think organizationally it’s different for him. He’s concerned with not only the corner but the three-technique. He was worried about the buck and the Mike, and maybe the rover a little bit. So that’s a big difference for him.
But he’s so organized and he’s so detailed and he’s such a football guy in a sense that he’s got knowledge at all three levels and he’s got a great staff around him. He’s got a great staff that he’s going to lean on and he understands the way to put together that entire group for the first time.
Q. And lastly, a year ago, you kind of switched your mentality from being hands-on offensively to taking more of a team approach. How do you feel like that worked for you in hindsight and will you take a similar approach this year?
COACH Brian Kelly: You know, I thought we prepared our football team very well except for the exception of the Miami game, which I have publically taken the responsibility for, and I should.
But I love the fact that I’m able to be with our players both on and off the field in a variety of different roles. That was difficult to do when I was so immersed in the play calling. I enjoy it, and I enjoy our players enjoy having me around much more on a regular basis in meetings, in the training room, in the locker room, and we’ll continue to do that.
Q. Of the incoming freshmen, ho has impressed you and your staff the most?
COACH Brian Kelly: You know, we don’t really see it from a football standpoint. So it’s hard to really give you a sense of that, other than the guys that came in at midyear.
Bo Bauer at midyear, I mean, here is a guy that, you know, physically has transformed himself, his mentality, his work ethic, the way he attacks things both in the classroom. He’s been extremely impressive and I think all those mid-years have.
But if you’re referring to the guys that got on campus in June, it’s really hard to give the full evaluation. I know this: That looking at our summer grades, it’s pretty clear that this is a group that recognizes excellence both in the classroom and on the football field and that usually tends to show itself in a positive way.
Q. You’ve talked about consistency. Your wide receiving core has been trying to develop that. Didn’t necessarily come to fruition in 2017. What strides have they made in the off-season to become more consistent?
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, I just think we’re a year older. You know, Miles Boykin, obviously was a guy that we didn’t see much of during the year but you know, had a break out game and he carried that into the off-season into spring ball and then into the summer workouts. He’s been outstanding.
I think you look at Chase Claypool as he continues to grow as a young man, is taking on much more of an approach that he’s got to be thinking about his traits instead of his talent on a day-to-day basis. I think you see great growth there.
Chris Finke, again, has had a great off-season, and a guy that, you know, has the ability to do a lot of things for us.
We’re just a year older, and I think just much more comfortable, what they are doing on a day-to-day basis at the wide receiver position compared to last year.
Q. Did baseball affect Cole Kmet in his preparation at all?
COACH Brian Kelly: No, not at all. He had a 3.4, 3.5 GPA. Was able to help the baseball team, which was awesome, and still did all the things necessary to be the kind of impact player we believe he’s going to be as a tight end.
Q. How has marriage affected Drue Tranquill?
COACH Brian Kelly: You know, he just — Drue is a hard guy to — he doesn’t change much. You know, every day, he’s on top of it. You know, you talk about accountability and responsibility, he takes it all on his shoulders.
I’m sure that he’s very happy. I know that for sure. It was a great wedding, and I think it’s a great relief that now he can just focus strictly on football and what his future is going to be.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your offensive line through the spring and summer and in particular, Liam? Has he continued to improve during the spring?
COACH Brian Kelly: I think he’s had great improvement. We started the spring whether we weren’t certain he can play left tackle and now we know he can play left tackle. I think that that in itself says a lot about Liam seizing the opportunity that he had with the departure of Mike McGlinchey.
And now it’s really development in the football nuances of the position. He’s strong enough. He’s athletic enough. He’s smart enough. But you’ve got to play the game, you know, and I think he’s just learning every single day. I know Coach Quinn is really excited about where he can be through this year.
But I think as we go in, he doesn’t — he doesn’t have to be taking over the offensive line. He’s got Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars, Robert Hainsey, obviously, and Tommy Kraemer played a lot of football for us last year.
So it’s a really good situation where he can kind of slide in there and continue to grow.
Q. What was it in particular in the spring that gave you the comfort zone with him?
COACH Brian Kelly: I think self-confidence. I think his confidence in himself. We were always confident in his ability, but I think his self-confidence really grew, as he grew physically and mentally.
And so I think that that’s probably the biggest thing that occurred in the off-season.
Q. With Brandon, you talked about last year, there’s the mental hurdles for him to get over that maybe he didn’t clear in November. How much do you take that and try to engineer August around building him up mentally, but also sort of challenging him mentally to see how he’s going to hold up when he gets to that next difficult environment?
COACH Brian Kelly: It’s a good question. It’s a fair question. But I think you have to observe what he’s worked on to get a full sense of what you are going to set out for him, so to speak.
So what I was looking for in this off-season was much more vocal, holding players to a high level of accountability. He didn’t have that last year. He was kind of trying to figure out himself in a lot of ways, and not that he’s got all the answers; he wouldn’t tell you that. But I think he — he clearly has a confidence about him that he lacked at times last year.
So we just want to build on that. We want to build on him knowing that we know he’s a great quarterback and can be the best quarterback in the country, so that’s going to happen quite a bit. You’re going to hear us say a lot of great things about him, and we mean it, because he’s taken the time to work on his own weaknesses.
Q. With Chase Claypool, you spent a bunch of time talking about traits with him, over the summer, whether something you saw or feedback you got from players or Matt Balis, were there any specific markers where you felt, maybe a switch has been flipped?
COACH Brian Kelly: Yes. So how does that, that proverbial switch flip, right. I think it’s consistent in messaging that you’re going to get on the field if your attention to these things are better.
And I think just being consistent with him. He made a choice that they mean it, and I’m not going to get the kind of playing time that I want, unless I’m taking care of my business academically and I’m being a great teammate, not that he wasn’t, but just understanding what it means to be a great teammate, attention to detail, all of the traits that we’ve talked about before.
He’s like, well, they are not coming off this; I’d better get on board. I think that’s where the switch has flipped on him is our consistency in approach.
Q. Khalid Kareem seems like a guy who would be close sort to sort of making that jump. Similar question about what you’ve scene or heard from him over the off-season that gives you confidence that he’s made that jump?
COACH Brian Kelly: I think I would go back to, for a lot of these guys, first-year players that we’re talking about, we mentioned Romeo, certainly Khalid. They are confident, they love to compete, and they can’t wait for the opportunity to play this game.
And so I think what I see more than anything else is certainly he’s developed physically but we knew he had some physical traits, but he’s honed those. But I think it’s the mental with him; he believes he can go in there and dominate a football game.
Q. Lastly, I know you’re not one to say this freshman is going to start or be in the depth chart, but Houston Griffith was a guy that clearly ended spring on a high note.
COACH Brian Kelly: No doubt.
Q. What is it about him, whether it’s the DNA or his father playing in the NFL, what is it about the way he’s put together that he’s going to have a chance to at least impact what you can do this year?
COACH Brian Kelly: I would say first of all, at the safety position, he could play corner, right. He has that kind of skill level at a high level, right. So we’re talking about, you know, playing on a really good football team but having the skills to play both, so I think you start there.
And then functional intelligence. Functional intelligence for the position in which he plays. He can diagnose, he can see things, he reacts quickly to things in front of him.
So I would say first of all, the skill-set is high at that safety position for him because he could play corner, and then the functional intelligence in which he plays the position.
So age really doesn’t become a disqualifier for him.
Q. We often talk about quarterback reps in practice. What about running back? Last year Josh got the lion’s share of carries, and now there’s a lot of competition there. Is Avery going to stay there exclusively?
COACH Brian Kelly: Avery and Jafar will be playing in the backfield, as well. That’s correct.
Q. Will he be exclusively there?
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think we’ve kind of settled that the lion’s share of his work will be at that position, so we can really hone in on the things that we want to develop within our offensive package for him.
So he knows, until further notice, you know, he won’t be getting much quarterback play. He’ll be focusing on what we need from him next year.
Q. How do you in practice really decide on the reps? You have six candidates there. Might be by committee more than last year. And you have the two freshmen, also. How are you going to divvy up the reps to see who stands out?
COACH Brian Kelly: You know, I get that question quite a bit and so I wanted to respond in a better fashion other than, oh, we’ll figure it out.
They get — running backs, close to 400 different opportunities to touch the football. And so we should be able to make sure that all players as they continue to develop their skills, we can also get a glimpse at what they are capable of.
And as we kind of sort that out with the number of reps that running backs get in so many different things from inside run to half-line run to our run track period, to 11-on-11, 7-on-7, there are so many opportunities for us to get the work for us to get a really good evaluation.
Q. Last year for the first nine weeks, Brandon was so impressive — then not so much. Was it injury-related or was it hesitation?
COACH Brian Kelly: No I don’t think so. The season wears on a young player, right. Clearly he was physically in a better position earlier than he was late. That’s why it’s been so important for us to physically develop him this second year, you know, and get our guys even better physically, but also mentally.
You know, it was his first year playing. He was fighting through some ups and downs and that breeds a little bit of hesitation as it relates to letting it go.
So probably a little bit of both, but it wasn’t by design that we started to not want to run Brandon. So I think you’ll see a dual threat all season with Brandon.
Q. How do you balance that explosiveness that Brandon has as a runner with what you have the sense of in in the spring of staying of just staying the pocket and making his reads, otherwise you were blowing the whistle in terms of taking off. How do you balance that?
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, I think what you want is somebody that recognizes the entire play and is not — he’s not leaving something on the table as it relates to that particular play and we’re talking about a pass play. Has he gone through his entire progression? If he’s gone that, then he’s going to go make a play.
There were times where he didn’t go through his entire progression, and he wanted to lead. You can’t do that at the quarterback position. Go through your progression. You know, make sure you’re executing at the highest level, trusting your pocket, all those things and then if you’ve got to take off, you’ve got to take off.
So just continue to work on that facet of his game, and I think that’s probably what all coaches are trying to do in preseason camp.
Q. And last year, you had Chip off the field making calls. Do you want to continue with that?
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah, we go back and forth on it. You know, Chip would prefer to be on the field. But he’s open. He’s a young coach. It’s not like he’s done it for 40 years, and we all can learn and change.
So I haven’t made that final decision on where he can be most effective for us. Just being a good play caller, we can figure it out.
Q. Is there a position group or group of players early in camp you really want to spend more time with and foster the progress, whether it’s you like the starters or need depth?
COACH Brian Kelly: No, I don’t think so. I haven’t targeted in my own mind that, hey, I’m going to go stand next to the running backs for three periods, or I’m going to go check out what the safeties are doing or what’s the depth look like at a particular position.
I want to observe the teaching. I want to observe the momentum that we have during practice and making sure that we’re preparing our team the right way. So I think you get into a little bit of trouble if you just kind of are hovering on one piece of grass. I’ll be moving around a little bit. You know, eventually, I come back to the offense because that’s where the ball is, and I’m responsible for the football.
Q. Along those lines, with Tony and Tranquill, of course there’s competition everywhere but they are pretty well set in their positions. How long do you take to look at coming over from spring with some of the young guys and maybe even some of the freshmen? It would seem those two have their positions fairly well set and then there’s a lot of openings behind them.
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah, so we’re really fortunate to have two tackling machines, if you will, with those two guys, a lot of experience and so that’s a great thing. It doesn’t mean that they have arrived. They certainly will be coached.
Having said that, we have to really develop that next group in at that position. At the middle linebacker position, we mentioned Beau and Jonathan. Those guys have got to continue to grow. You know, Jordan Genmark Keith has been moved into the will position, so we need time there.
So those will be crucial development pieces for us, and then sorting out what we want to do at the rover position. There’s some really fine athletes there. They have got to be productive, as well.
So it will be exciting because here is what — here is what’s nice about it from my perspective: We’ve got good players. And we just need to coach them and teach them and develop them along the way and be patient with them. They are all going to be good players.
Q. Two quick questions. One is sort of from an operational standpoint, as you head into camp, you have a lot of guys, you talked about Jafar and Avery that can do a lot of things, positionally, running back, receiver, quarterback, whatever. How long into camp do you go from kind of working on them at a position to starting to kind of work them into different rotational roles as you kind of get ready for matching up?
COACH Brian Kelly: It’s a great question. It changes from last year where, you know, we were — there was some tweaks to the offense, if you will.
So we really had to go with individual installation of plays, whereas this year, we’re going to whole, we want to put the whole thing in, and we want to put the whole thing in because we need to focus and get to guys like Avery and Jafar early. We may not have gotten to that package of what we wanted with them last year to maybe practice six, seven. Does that make sense to you.
So we’ve got to put it all in. They are going to drink through a firehose for the first couple of days, but we need to do that so we can start to work on some of these packages that we want to employ offensively.
Q. Last year, Tony was really the only guy that you guys used to kind of back-field and in the slot, different things like that. He goes down and he’s injured for several weeks and took that out.
COACH Brian Kelly: Certainly did.
Q. What does that package do where you’ve got Jafar, Avery and now Tony, what does that do for a defense and how does that impact your offense to be able to have that on a somewhat consistent basis?
COACH Brian Kelly: Yeah, it’s very difficult to match up to because really what you’re talking about here is we can employ three, four tight ends in some sets, and then we could be still in three tight ends with two backs, and it’s really difficult.
And that’s why we want to get all of this coming together. We have a lot of weapons. We’ve got to sort it out. We want to be able to come out with a comprehensive package that keeps defenses on their toes with personnel groupings and these guys enhance that ability to do that.
Q. In light of the national college football story that broke yesterday and I’m not going to ask you specifically about that, but how do you balance being the CEO of a program from not being over bearing to the people inside this building but also being cognizant of their personal lives and how that could affect the overall program?
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, I think, you know, any — any head of an organization, CEO — and I’m just using CEO as head of an organization, maybe president. I think their job starts with the care of all their employees, and providing a safe environment for them to work.
I want our people to come to the office every day and know that they are in a safe and caring environment on a day-to-day basis, and I think that’s the job of any president or CEO.
Q. You mentioned that Brandon has more confidence, that he lacked last year, and that you want to build on that, but how are you building off of it? Is it just getting more game experience this season?
COACH Brian Kelly: Well, I think it’s been well chronicled in the sense that he’s — we’ve gone outside these walls to continue to work on his technical development. That continues to take place.
He’s just getting back from some of that work today that he had this past week. So he’s really committed himself to improving the fundamentals and the technical approach to the game.
And then the second piece is that we put him in as a leader of one of our S.W.A.T. teams and that’s a leadership position which requires to hold people accountable on a day-to-day basis, and that was the next stage that we wanted Brandon to work at at that quarterback position because he’s got to hold everybody to a high standard.
And when he’s confident, there’s nobody that will stop this offense because everybody believes in Brandon Wimbush. So if he walks out there and he is confident in what he’s doing, he has the Larry Bird effect on everybody where everybody raises their play because if Brandon’s confident, we’ve seen what happens when he’s a confident player. Those are the two things, in particular.
Q. The outside, so with Taylor Kelly, that’s what you’re referring to?
COACH Brian Kelly: That’s correct, yeah.
All right. Thank you.