July 31, 2017
Press Conference Video
Press Conference Transcript
Brian Kelly: Welcome, everyone. Thanks for being here today. As we transition into 2017, we’ve been at this process since January. A process that, for us, has really been energizing, exciting as we get ready to really work into the next phase of the development of our football team. It just gives us a sense of where we’ve come over the past seven months.
We began with clearly a vision of where we wanted to go, and that vision was a tradition of excellence. One that here at Notre Dame is epitomized with God, country and Notre Dame. We know what the bar is. So it was clear to have that vision in front of our football team in January.
Then from there, a mission, and that mission is really clear to our football team, and that is to graduate all of our players and to win a National Championship. Then embark on that journey with the values necessary to get there, and, you know, through the winter and through the spring and into the summer, we’ve had to have a total preparation of our football team, our staff, everybody associated with Notre Dame football to see that get to the point where we are today. That’s why I’m so excited to be moving our football team into the next step of this development.
Those traits that we’ve been developing on our football team after we established the vision and the mission of this team have come together. It’s pretty exciting to see it. As we start to now get on to the field, there won’t be a huge change in what the expectations are for our football team, other than we start to include football into that narrative. But I can tell you that we are in a different place than we were, and it’s because of our players. It’s because of our strength staff. It’s because of our coaches, our support staff have been unified in that vision, that mission, and the values that are so important to living up to those standards of excellence.
So, as I stand in front of you today, I’ll certainly answer questions of our football team as it relates to more of the Xs and the Os and players, but we haven’t had a practice yet, so it’s difficult. I could talk more in terms of who has made progress in those areas of attention to detail, who has made progress as it relates to attitude? Who has made great progress necessary in terms of doing things right, being smart, having grit, all of the things that are so important to developing the kind of tradition of excellence and as I mentioned, the mission here, and that is to graduate all our players and win a National Championship.
That’s why I’m here. That’s the only reason why I’m here is to fulfill that mission.
So as we get into our first day of pads and begin that tomorrow, we’ll be evaluating our football team in a similar fashion. So with that, let’s begin questions about the 2017 football team.
Q. I noticed on your roster that Daniel Cage wasn’t included, and I wondered if you could clarify his status?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, Daniel will not play for us this year. He’s had a couple of medical conditions that, one, I think we all know publicly that he’s had a couple of concussions, and he has a knee, so he’s going to step away this year. Will not play for us. And reevaluate the situation at the end of the year.
Q. In light of that, I know you haven’t had a practice yet. I know that Jerry Tillery has been working at nose guard. Just in terms of what you’ve been able to glean from the freshmen, I know you have other people, but do you think any of the freshmen might be able to help you at that position?
Brian Kelly: Well, Kurt Hinish is going to have to be evaluated, and Myron is going to have to be evaluated. Both the freshmen will have to be part of the evaluation process. They did some really good things in terms of developing, in terms of strength and power and quickness during the time that they were here.
So they’ll be part of the evaluation process as to whether they can, assist in in fashion in the fall as well.
Q. Is Ewell not in that group?
Brian Kelly: Oh, yeah, he’s part of that evaluation as well.
Q. Any word on where it stands with Alohi Gilman’s appeal to the NCAA to play this year?
Brian Kelly: We were briefed on Friday that we should be getting some kind of word here, but we don’t have any specific information as to a timetable. But generally these cases are cleared up some time in camp.
Q. As you begin camp, knowing that that’s somewhat of an uncertainty and knowing that he’s a pretty quality player, do you rep him as if he’s going to play this season out of the gate, or do you kind of put him on the back burner until you have that status?
Brian Kelly: What we’ll do is probably get him some work in there to keep him part of the installation and understanding of assignments and what we’re doing. Because, again, he didn’t have the luxury of going through spring ball, so he’s going to have to learn. But we’ll also make certain that we have contingency plans.
So the first three, four days, you’ll see a number of guys working at those positions, so we make sure that we cover all the bases?
Q. And, again, kind of piggy backing off of Daniel’s situation, I know Jerry Tillery is a guy I’m sure you’re anxious to see on the practice field. At the end of last year there was a little bit of a loose end with him because of what happened in the USC game. Is there any chance that he misses game times or has that discipline already taken place during the off-season?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we took that situation extremely serious and took the steps to make sure that he was held accountable for what we felt was behavior unacceptable. He was asked to fulfill counseling and community service, and he did that. And because of that he has covered himself relative to the sanctions we’ve put forth. So there won’t be a suspension of any kind relative to playing time.
Q. Last one for me, I know those green T-shirts mean a lot in terms of what guys are doing and the attention to detail. I think I saw in one of the little video clips that Brandon Wimbush was one of the guys that was wearing a green shirt. What did you hear about him this summer that prompted him to earn that? What do you feel like you’re getting from him from a leadership standpoint?
Brian Kelly: Well, the green jerseys were given out to players who were quote/unquote starving in terms of their work ethic, their desire to be great, and we wanted to give those out as a form of modelling to all the other players that were in our program, to see what you needed to do to wear one of those green jerseys.
We didn’t roll those jerseys out in January because we were all trying to build that base of what it looked like to do all the things necessary to be that kind of football player here at Notre Dame, both on and off the field. Brendon has exhibited those traits. So when we talk about the values and we talk about those traits, he has lived in that trait of excellence in all those areas. So we wanted other players to see Brandon Wimbush in a green shirt and say, that’s what it looks like. The way he handles himself, the way he works, his attention to detail, the way he handles himself on campus, that’s what I want to model myself after. So you can imagine, if we put him in a green shirt, he was doing the things necessary that we want others to do as well.
Q. Throughout your career, you’ve had coaching continuity most of the time. Obviously this year you’ve made significant changes after 16th season. Wondering what the last seven or eight months have been like for you in terms of exchange of ideas with three new coordinators?
Brian Kelly: I don’t know that the Xs and the Os were really the eye-opening moments as much as just really personalities and what drives them, and really getting to know them as human beings. Because when you don’t have a past relationship with them, you’re getting to know them as people.
I don’t know that I’ve walked in and Mike Elko showed me a defense that I haven’t seen before. What he showed me was an incredible attention to detail, a great way to communicate and teach. Chip Long showed me just an incredible veracity to want to be great in everything that he does, and his ability to relay that to the players under his charge.
So it was really about that more than anything else, than it was an eye-opening experience in terms of a scheme that I hadn’t seen before. So it was really getting to know them and where I can help them across the board with my experience of 26 years of being a head coach.
Q. How about Coach Polian? Because obviously when you came in here you had an opportunity to retain him and didn’t. What made you go back to him? I know he was excited about the opportunity to come back here, but what about him and what did he bring to the equation?
Brian Kelly: Well, experience. I think if the positions were different when I came here, I would have definitely kept Coach Polian on it. I had a great deal of respect for him coming in. So I think first and foremost, I wanted somebody with a veteran presence, somebody that had experience at the highest level, special teams experience was crucial, and then coming off his experience as a head coach. He was going to have to get in front of a room, and that room being special teams players and really take charge of a group of guys that are so crucial to our success. When you put that responsibility on somebody, you want to be able to trust that person. And I trust him to have that leadership role. So he brings all that experience to Notre Dame.
Q. I know you said it wasn’t necessarily Xs and Os that led you to the offensive and defensive coordinator, but in terms of Chip Long’s philosophy and approach, we saw in the spring that he used multiple tight ends. Was there any aspect of the Xs and Os there that you felt you needed to maybe transition into a little bit?
Brian Kelly: Well, if the question is posed in that fashion, absolutely, right. In the hiring process, I was certainly focused on somebody that, first and foremost I believed was an outstanding play caller. There had to have been that connection where I believed that I could fully turn over the play calling and focus my attentions where I knew they needed to be focused on. And that was first and foremost with Chip.
Secondly, his ability to utilize the tight ends within the offensive structure. I didn’t want somebody that was going to be four and five wide and just chucking it out over the place. I wanted the utilization of our offensive line, which I knew was going to be a strength and continue to be a strength and the tight end position. And Chip had a great background in that and showed that over the last year. So those were two absolute key points in the hiring process.
Q. Changing gears here, Justin Ewell’s situation, where is he physically?
Brian Kelly: Physically, outstanding summer. Healthy, was able to do all the things that we wanted him to do. If Coach Balis was here right now, he would tell you he was happy with the progress that he made even in the weight room in terms of his strength development. All of the things that we had put markers on him, he exceeded all of those.
Q. In the spring when you decided to sit him out, I mean, what exactly, how would you depict what his situation was at that point?
Brian Kelly: He had a chondral defect, so that required rest. It has since healed. We wanted to be cautious with him. It allowed us, you know, with color, to do that. He was, as you know, a senior that had experience and he came out in the spring and did a really nice job. So it allowed us to really just sit him and allowed him to heal properly. It was the smart thing to do. It was the prudent thing to do. We weren’t playing him in the games and it showed to be an effective thing because he had a really good summer.
Q. What, besides the obvious hiring of coaches, feels differently to you heading into this season?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think the on positive coaching environment that we’ve created for our players, you know, again, it starts with the vision that I had, the feedback that I was able to garner, you know, we’ve asked our players to be intentional in everything that we do. So we’re just doing what we’ve asked our players to do. Be intentional in everything that we do within this process, and by doing so, you know, we’ve been able to build great relationships with our players. Our staff has been able to build great relationships with the players, and we’ve created the kind of environment where our guys are excited to be where they are right now.
But it starts with the right vision. It starts with having a clear mission and really laying down the values that you want in the program. I think being consistent with that and asking our players and coaches alike to be consistent with that has created the atmosphere within the program that puts us where we are.
Now we’re going to have to shift gears and now move into another phase, and this is difficult. This is not easy. It’s a process that’s difficult, and we’re going to ask them to recharge the battery now. They’ve had a tough summer. It’s been difficult. They’ve done a great job. I’m proud of them. But now we go through another difficult phase. But they feel really good about where they are with relationships, with coaches and players and now we go through the next stage. We haven’t played a game yet. But we’re in a good position right now.
Q. Obviously, at this point last year you were coming off a very successful season, and now it’s a different situation. But when you’re saying be intentional with things, how is that maybe different from the message you were giving your team last year at this time?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I mean, you’re in a different place. Like I said, I think for me there was a lot of growth as a head coach after 26 years. Learned a lot, got a great amount of feedback that allowed me to put our football team in the position that they need to be, where we are right now.
We’re not doing anything that we’re not asking our players to do on a day-to-day basis.
Q. Now that the team has had more time with Matt in the weight room, what kind of feedback have you gotten from them about his workout program over the summer?
Brian Kelly: I would say the best way that I would put it is they feel like they want to show everyone their preparation. I think on more than one occasion I’ve heard some of our guys say, welcome to my preparation in the sense that they feel really good about the work they’ve put in. It’s been hard. It’s been really difficult. But I think anything that’s really good is difficult, and it’s been worthwhile for them because they can feel it when they’re running. They know they’re in great shape. They know that they’re physically stronger. They see it. So now they’re anxious to be able to now translate that in the football realm of things. So I would say there is a confidence level in their preparation.
Q. Have you guys had a conversation? Has he been able to kind of quantify the success? I don’t know if that’s pounds lost or inches gained in a vertical or something?
Brian Kelly: Oh, yeah, we’ve had extensive conversations on every single player. I met with Matt and the staff Dave, Jake, David, everybody on the staff has met with me individually, collectively, as well as the offense, defense, and special team coordinator. So we have a clear understanding of the gains that all of our players have met and exceeded in really all areas.
I think that when we look at specific things, I would say that when it comes to the end of the day, I think we’re really pleased with the conditioning level of the football team, and we’re really pleased with the explosiveness. Those two things really stand out.
Q. Have you worked out with Matt yet?
Brian Kelly: Heck, no. Heck, no. I think it’s, for me, I really enjoy the mental preparation part. For me to insert myself in it and be positive in the sense of helping those guys get through the workouts, that’s what I’m good at. I’m sticking to that.
Q. Couple medical updates. Elijah Taylor, Shaun Crawford, where are they in terms of their rehab?
Brian Kelly: Shaun Crawford, fully cleared, doing everything. Coming off an achilles, we’ll be smart. We’ll rely on Shaun, who is extremely locked in on how he feels, and a little bit of science and GPS and probably put some restraints on him, but he’s doing great in everything.
Elijah straight line, I think he’s probably ten days to two weeks, and I think he’ll be able to do everything for us. Fully linear, excellent, great strength, side-to-side, probably not there yet. But moving towards that. I think it’s probably going to require him some camp work to get that side-to-side movement.
Q. I’m curious how you change your approach this off-season in building leadership and putting guys in position to do that? I know you try that every year, how is this year a little bit different? What did you see this summer in that aspect from your roster?
Brian Kelly: Well, again, I go back to the same words, much more intentional in terms of focusing on that in particular with our group of senior leaders and underclassmen. We put them in roles to lead.
First of all, we had swat teams which were our spring, summer workout accountability teams, which we continued through the summer. So that put eight players in leadership accountability roles all summer, everything from academics to locker room to-campus, and those things helped through the summer. Losing teams were required to come in at 7:00 a.m. and run.
So that accountability and responsibility continued. Our captain’s took over cleaning. No longer did janitors come in and clean the locker rooms. They did it themselves. We bought them vacuums, they cleaned the lockers room they feels. They cleaned up after themselves. So that accountability to them was passed on to some other guys within the locker room. So it kept building some and drilling down deeper to get more leaders to step up outside of those eight because they’re going to graduate. We needed them to be in these roles prior to being elected as captains.
So that happened all summer, continued to happen. We had meetings all summer, every night we had swat meetings at 6:00 o’clock at dinner. That continued through the entire summer. So every night one of the teams met. We actually were able to meet twice with them throughout the entire summer, something that I’ve never done before. I thought it was extremely beneficial to their development.
Q. In terms of that next wave of leaders, who are some of those guys that you marked? I mean, we talked about Julian Love last year as maybe a guy. Who else falls in that group?
Brian Kelly: Nick Watkins, I thought was outstanding this summer. Really did a great job in terms of coming up and leading in a number of different phases. I think if you looked at Sam Mustipher, he was beyond reproach in everything that he did both as an engineering student, excelling in the classroom. His summer was outstanding in terms of the way he transformed himself physically, but as a leader as well.
I think, you know, we talked about Brendon Wimbush, certainly, Josh Adams. I think Dexter Williams was outstanding. I think Nick Coleman really emerged this summer. Had a terrific summer. Really proud of him. Daelin Hayes was outstanding. I could go on and on.
I don’t know if I stood in front of you with the same kind of immediacy in terms of naming guys, but we have a lot of them that have really taken off and taken ahold of that. Because they feel this is their team, you know?
I think the way that we put the vision and the mission in front of them that because it’s their team, they changed the way they looked at it.
Q. You talked about looking back at last season and what you learned. What do you think is the biggest thing you learned from, and how has that changed what you’re doing this year?
Brian Kelly: Certainly process over production. Focused way too much on production and not the process itself and how important it is to have that attention to detail, that laser focus, being smart both on and off the field, grit, that attitude, those traits. I let our football team down not focusing on those very important values and that process and went right to production. Just looked to replace production.
That was the feedback that I got that allowed me to put the vision together for this football team and the mission, and really the values that allowed us to make the kind of transition necessary for us to be where we are.
Look, we haven’t played a game. We have a lot of work to do. It’s going to be hard, but we’re in a different place.
Q. Can you give an example of what one process you’re focused more on or how that’s come about?
Brian Kelly: Well, habits. Habits are probably one of the things that we’ve spent most of the time. Creating good habits on a day-to-day basis are going to certainly show themselves in the classroom, in the community and on the football field. Good habits, obviously, are going to show themselves in life in everything that we do.
So really working on good habits on a day-to-day basis is probably the one thing that shows itself in fundamentals, which are going to be so core and essential to what we do with Coach Elko’s defense. That total preparation on offense of staying above the line in terms of everything we do on offense and not jumping off side and making that key turnover on and making good decisions. So I think habits probably show themselves more than anything else.
Q. What is the difference you expect to see this year in the defense?
Brian Kelly: Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Fundamentally sound, how we tackle the football and taking it away. I think it starts with the fundamentals. It starts with just building that programming from the very beginning. When we touch the field, we’re going to be talking about technique and assignment, and tackling, and how to take the football away. We’ll get to third down and nickel and dime. We’ll get to that. But it’s not a priority in day one, two, three, four, and five. It’s about the fundamentals, and we will be much, much improved in those areas.
Q. Most seasons you’ve entered not knowing, having quarterback competition. This is the second time you’ve known who the quarterback is going to be. What is the good part of that? Are there any negatives that there isn’t a competition going on?
Brian Kelly: I think there’s still competition. We know the No. 1 quarterback is Brandon Wimbush. But he’s competitive. Ian Book’s competitive. I think there is going to be competition there. I know how you mean it that there is not 1A and 1B like there was last year. But those kids are so competitive that we don’t have to create competition. They are so competitive in the way that they go to work every day, I’m not worried about that.
So I really don’t have any worries other than that we continue to build on the process that we talked about with Brendon. Being smart, attention to detail, and coaching them accordingly in a very positive atmosphere.
Q. Coach, you’ve talked a lot in the past about how important leadership was, having playmakers in positions of leadership. How important it is to have guys that are not just leaders but also can go out on Saturdays and play. Do you feel like going into the season that you are going in right now that you have players in position, and also guys that can be dynamic players for you on the field?
Brian Kelly: I do. I think we have enough players. I think the difference between last year and this year will be about the atmosphere that I’ve created within our football team. Last year we wanted guys to make plays, and I clearly see this year is that our players are going to make us look good. I think they’re going to make plays. I think they’re going to exceed the expectations that we all have for them on a day-to-day basis. They want to play for Notre Dame. They want to make Notre Dame great. So I think that they’ll exceed all expectations, and any feelings that we have for them, they’ll exceed those feelings.
Q. The captain’s you have for the most part are experienced guys through play. To a certain degree we’ve seen what they can do. Every year there are always some guys you’ve seen as a staff that can take their game to another level. Who are some of the guys on the defensive side of the ball that you feel are on the verge of really taking their game to the next level depending on how the next month goes for you?
Brian Kelly: Nick Coleman, Nick Watkins, Shaun Crawford, Devin Studstill, Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, Jerry Tillery, Jonathan Bonner, Daelin Hayes, Jay Hayes, Andrew Trumbetti Te’von Coney, Donte Vaughn. Have I covered enough?
Q. I get the point. Yeah, I’ve got you?
Brian Kelly: And I don’t mean that sarcastically. Every single one of them have had really incredible off-seasons, and I truly believe that they’re going to have great seasons. We’re counting on that, and they’re counting on having the best seasons that they’ve ever had.
Q. Julian Love, too, by the way. I’ll add a couple guys.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, could you.
Q. Coaches always talk about wanting to develop a rotation on both sides of the rotation, and there is always that need that you want to keep guys fresher in 12 games. The component of that is guys have to earn playing time. But how during camp do you go about trying to establish just the flow of playing with a rotation at different spots?
Brian Kelly: Well, first of all, finding some of the guys, I think Eric asked the question about some of the freshmen, so we have to expose them to some reps to find out are those guys that we’re going to really push in the second week after we get through some of the install and assignments and technique when we start to play real football and practice five, six, seven and eight.
We have to expose them to 11 on 11 team reps and scrimmaging. So we have to expose them to that, to find out whether they become parts of rotations. So that’s important to do, and we’ll do that. We’ll do that at defensive line. We’ll do that at safety. We’ll do that at corner, and we’ll do that at linebacker and at the rover position. So we have to be able to crack that and do that as we move through camp.
Q. Last thing, you talked about the traits of your football team, and you’ve been doing this since January. Every portion of your off-season builds on those things in different ways, how do you build on those traits now that the pads are on and the emphasis is a little different as opposed to off the field now that you’re on the field?
Brian Kelly: It’s really simple in that you’re either above the line on those traits or you’re below the line. If you’re getting the ball thrown over your head, there is no attention to detail. If you’re jumping off side, what is your focus? If we’re in a non-contact drill and you’re trying to drive somebody to the ground and you can get somebody hurt, are you really being smart? Right?
If I’m asking you to be gritty and you can’t continue to fight through hot conditions and with the proper rest, you can’t fight through the entire practice, do you have the grit necessary? So all of those things come to the forefront as to are you above that line or below that line on a day-to-day basis. So they all translate into the evaluation of what we need from our football team on a day-to-day basis.
Q. Kind of on the line that Tom was asking you questions, let me play devil’s advocate for just a moment. We were 4-8 last year and lost all those games in the fourth quarter late. If most of those games had become wins and Notre Dame ends up 8-4 or 9-3, and you go to a bowl game, are we sitting here today talking about all these changes that you’ve talked about and everything that’s happened since January? I mean, we’re all creatures of habit. So not that 8-4, 9-3 is acceptable, but if that was the standard last year and they go to a bowl game, you go to a bowl game, are we here talking about all this stuff again?
Brian Kelly: Yes.
Q. We are?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we are. I think that when I would have realized that, I had realized that we had some issues going into the season. Clearly, we had some off-the-field issues leading into the season. We had some things that I had done a poor job in developing our leadership and the message was not clear within the program. So, yeah, we’d be at this same place regardless of whether we would have had a monsoon or kicked a field goal or went for a first down instead of kicking a field goal. All of those things. So, yeah, we would have been in the same place.
Q. You guys have had a tremendous week in recruiting. I know you can’t name the names there. But I’m wondering what do you think it is about this program and the direction of this program that’s exciting the next generation despite last season?
Brian Kelly: I think kids look at more than just one season. They look at Notre Dame, the tradition at Notre Dame. They look at more than just one season they look at the university and what this university can do for them. A lot of these guys see that it’s more than just a four-year decision. It’s what Notre Dame can do for them for the rest of their lives. Still have had a great deal of success regardless of last year in getting players to play at the next level. We’ve developed our players, obviously, from that standpoint. And, you know, we’ve played for a National Championship. We’re in the Fiesta Bowl, so those aren’t distant memories.
Yes, it was a poor season last year and we certainly recognize that. But it has not put us in a position where players don’t recognize the great tradition of Notre Dame.
Q. Just wondering, what do you feel your biggest strength is as a team heading into the year, and what your biggest weakness or question mark is?
Brian Kelly: I think the relationships that our players have developed over the past seven months is probably the strength of this football team, with players to players, coaches. There is a closeness with this group. I think it’s a bigger, faster, stronger group as well. So from an inside-out perspective, I would say relationships. Then outside-in, a confidence perspective. Relationships and confidence.
Q. What about weakness?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think always it’s the ability to overcome adversity. Everybody’s going to see at some point in the season a rough time and how you overcome that, and certainly our guys are going to be faced with it. We can talk about relationships and confidence right now as our strengths. Will those stick together when we face some adversity? If we do that, we’ll be in pretty good shape.
Q. You’ve talked about all the changes with yourself, with the team, the way you’re operating. Do you feel like a different coach today than you have for the past 26 years?
Brian Kelly: I think I’ve made some changes that I think from my perspective have strengthened me as a football coach. But I think every football coach has to evaluate themselves after every year. And I think, I don’t feel different. I feel like I’ve made the appropriate changes that I needed to make to be a better football coach, and that’s the most important thing.
Q. Will fans see a different coach on the field in terms of maybe your demeanor, the way you act with your players, or are you sticking with how you coach on game day?
Brian Kelly: I don’t know how to answer that question other than I’m going to have my football team prepared. My players are going to be in the kind of environment that they’re used to with me, and they’re going to know who I am. If you catch me in a five-second or three-second video clip on TV, then it looks like I’m in a moment with a player, it’s not what happens on a day-to-day basis, and I can’t control that. TV does what TV does.
But I’m going to be who I am. My players know who I am. I can’t control the rest of that.
Q. You talk about your players being eager to show what they’ve accomplished this off-season as it pertains to their strength and training. I’m curious, do you notice, there is always an eagerness at the start of camp. Do you notice the guys are more eager this year because of some of the changes they’ve seen them go through?
Brian Kelly: Oh, yeah. Look, we’re coming off a very disappointing year. Everybody is fueled by what happened last year. So the eagerness is part of the confidence that they’ve gained in the off-season. But it’s also fueled by what transpired last year as well, for those that were here. So it’s a combination of the confidence they’ve gained in the off-season, as well as obviously not living up to the tradition of excellence here at Notre Dame, all of us. Me included.
Q. Last year you were forced to play quite a few freshmen, more than you would have liked to, and more than many teams do. Are you noticing now some of those guys as sophomores might have been ahead of the curve compared to what you otherwise thought they would be?
Brian Kelly: We think that certainly the experience that they went through last year is going to certainly benefit them this year. Look, we had four freshmen defensive backs that have never been through weight training. And the gains that they made in the summer were extraordinary. So that in itself is pretty exciting.
So, yeah, clearly there are a number of players that have benefited from the off-season, the spring ball, and we’re going to see that translate itself.
Q. What is your primary goal at training camp over the next week and change?
Brian Kelly: Well, first of all, you’re transitioning from, as I mentioned earlier, the summer is really about building those relationships with your team and getting bigger, faster stronger. We’re not going to be having campfires and lifting every day.
So now we transition into pre-season camp, which is really about building those habits that we talked about, right? Great run support, out loud standing technique as a pass blocker. Great progression reads by the quarterback. So building that programming that you need when you kick it off against Temple.
We’re not going to be ready to beat Temple in the first couple of weeks, okay, because we need to build that in camp, and that starts with attention to detail on day one on understanding the first day of installation, and coming back on day two and not making a number of mistakes. So laying that down in camp. Then as we put the pads on, great tackling, right? Great form and fit, coming off the ball, great rerouting, breaking arm tackles all of that next stage when physicality starts to show itself. Then 11 guys playing together and communicating as a unit.
So there are different stages along the way. The first couple days, I won’t know anything about tackling. I won’t know much about really whether a guy can do this or that other than is he retaining information? Is he running the routes the right way? Is he getting in and out of his break? Those technique issues.
So it’s laying that programming down in camp and then progressing through the next stages of football as we work through it.
Q. Let me build on that. The process you described earlier and how you will focus on the process over production. At what point do you kind of switch your gear to production?
Brian Kelly: When the game starts. Yeah, yeah, and it will be one game at a time about the production of that game, you know? So we lay all of that down during the week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday is all about the process, and Saturday is about production. If you do a good job of that, then the production should take care of itself on Saturday.
Q. Cameron Smith and Freddy Canteen, you’ve added two fifth-year wide receivers. How have they fit in with the rest of the team, how do they fit at the table, and how do they exhibit some of these traits of excellence?
Brian Kelly: Great question. First of all, Freddy has two years of eligibility remaining, but Cam is a fifth. Maturity. Cam is physically fit, can do the things within the offensive structure, knows the offense very well. So I think immediately he goes out there and is able to compete at a high level right away because he knows the offense.
Freddy has a high level of skill in which he’s learning right away. But immediately both of those guys bring a maturity and a focus and attention to detail that I was looking for. A maturity, I think, if you will, to that group that I think we needed. Both of them will certainly have an impact in what we do this fall.
Q. You mentioned the feedback that you got coming out of last season into this season. What was the toughest piece of feedback for you to accept but still implement?
Brian Kelly: The changes of personnel that I made. Those were probably the most difficult.
Q. You’ve also added; correct me if I’m wrong in terminology, but a sports psychologist?
Brian Kelly: No, mental skills. Mental skills.
Q. What impact have you seen from yourself on this person?
Brian Kelly: Outstanding. I think it adds a clarity on a day-to-day basis as to when you have a path that you want to go down, you know, working with the team Dr. Selking works with the entire team on an individual basis, a unit basis, and a physician basis. When I’m able to craft my message and we’re all able to get on the same page, mental skills coordination gets everybody rolling in the right direction.
When you’re able to do that, everybody’s speaking the same language when it comes to terms that sometimes are — sometimes hard to translate, and I think that’s where it comes in and really becomes really, really important.
So our players can really understand what total preparation is now when we talk about the physical, we talk about the technical, the tactical, they understand the mental now is part of that total preparation.
Q. Finally, from a sports science aspect, you have all kinds of telemetry that was never available back when you were playing or started coaching, what have you found to be the most valuable of that?
Brian Kelly: Correct. Probably our elite forms right now have been invaluable. Our ability to track the neuromuscular movement of our players. It’s an incredible tool. Not to bore you with the details, but when you have players like Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson who have reached incredible peaks in terms of weight.
One of the hardest things in strength and conditioning is do you really want to put 600 pounds on Quenton Nelson’s back and see him squat three more times? Probably not. So you begin to reach a plateau, right? But when you get into neuromuscular movement, moving the bar faster with less weight, and having the ability through our elite forms to track that, you can now see power and track power. Quenton Nelson, for example, was off the charts now in terms of improving his power from January to today.
Mike McGlinchey was off the charts in terms of improving his power, his quickness, his ability to shoot his hands. All of those things. When you get big guys moving faster, that’s a pretty impressive thing. So that piece that Dave Ballou had brought with him, has been a very, very important piece to the science of what we’re doing in the weight room.
Q. Piggybacking off of that with Nelson and McGlinchey. Your two best teams here, ’12 and ’15, you put a lot on the offensive line and that’s considered maybe your top strength going into this season. You alluded to how with Chip Long you were looking for that particular emphasis on the line and the tight ends. You’ve also been most successful when you have less experience at quarterback with Everett and DeShone a couple years ago. You kind of have a combination of both. Do you see this team taking on the identity and personality of those type of teams?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think those are all true, if that was the case and we could write that in and book it, I’ll take it. But that’s who we are.
We’re going to rely on an outstanding offensive line. We think five tight ends that are all capable and ready to play this year. Depth at running back, and a quarterback who is multi-dimensional, but we’ll see his really first full start against Temple. So I think you’ve kind of said what we already know. That’s who we’ll be.
Q. Do you want to take some of the onus off of Brandon and put it more on the lines, the backs and the tight ends?
Brian Kelly: I’m not going to take — I don’t know that we’ll take it away from him as much as that’s how we’ll run our offense. I don’t know that we’ll ever put it on Brandon to just sit back there and, you know, pick the defense apart.
That’s not what we want him to do. That’s not what we’re going to ask him to do. We’re going to play the game to our strengths.
But I don’t know that I would go into the season and say, hey, the narrative is let’s take pressure off Brandon Wimbush. No, we want Brandon Wimbush would be one of the 11 guys and contribute with his strengths on the offensive side of the ball, and know that we’ll be able to contribute effectively.
Q. I guess a different way to mention it like with Everett in 2012, he didn’t have to drive the bus, but he had to be on it.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I did use that phrase. I did use that phrase. I would say that Brandon possesses a great understanding of what we’re doing, and I’m not here to stand in front of you and say that we have to protect Brandon in any fashion.
Q. Also in 2012 you had the benefit of an outstanding, dominant defense to help carry it. How much of that helps play into the role? Because unlike the offensive line, that is maybe the bigger question mark of just where your team could go with this. Do you put more pressure on the offense?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, again, I — we have a lot of questions that will be answered as we move forward. I think there are a lot of guys that are going to meet and exceed everybody’s expectations. I can’t wait to watch Andrew Trumbetti; he’s up to 262 pounds. The physical — and everyone’s going to write this down, and I go, no, way, he’s not 262. He’s never been 262. He’s 262 pounds. Okay? Wait till you see him play. I just think there are a lot more guys that are going to be meeting and exceeding the expectations, so we’ll see.
I mean, we haven’t played a down. We haven’t played anybody. So let’s let them go out there and see what they can do. But we’ve got enough guys.
Q. Will you be flipping Andrew to both sides?
Brian Kelly: He needs to know both sides. He needs to know both, absolutely.
Q. He’ll be like the third guy in the rotation then?
Brian Kelly: He’s got to be able to play the strong side and the drop, yes. Yes, no question. And we’ll have a few of those guys, and there are going to be some guys that have multi positional, whether it’s in the back end of the defense or linebacker, or defensive end. So when we get six, seven days into this and somebody is over here, you know, we’re just, we’ve got to — you know, it’s not etched in stone. We’re going to be moving some guys around.