April 16, 2016

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Coach Kelly Quotes

Coach Kelly: Well, it was a great day out there. You know, couldn’t ask for better weather. Great crowd, great atmosphere. I was really happy with the game in itself. You know, any time you break up a squad and you feel like there’s some areas where you’re a little bit thin in terms of personnel, you always are concerned about how you’re going to get through the game, but I thought it went extremely smooth.

Just checked with our trainers, nothing serious, no injuries that are going to cause any concerns. A couple of ankles, maybe a hamstring here or there, but nothing from an injury standpoint, so that’s always great in the spring game.

But I think what stood out for me, other than we gave the game ball to Tyler Newsome, our punter, who punted the heck out of the football today. I guess that’s a good thing in the spring game; your punter won the MVP of the game. That says a lot about a spring game.

But I thought it was clean in the sense of, no turnovers. It wasn’t sloppy. We had a couple of penalties here and there, but I thought it was disciplined. It was organized. I thought the team knew what they were doing, both on offense and defense and that was pleasing from a head coach’s perspective, but that’s what I would expect at this time in the development of our football team.

Quarterbacks, both of them did some good things. I thought Kizer managed the game pretty darn good. I thought Malik did some pretty good things, as well. You know, I think Brandon Wimbush continues to do some really good things. You could see his physical ability out there continues to show itself, and those were, indeed, designed runs to get VanGorder in the end zone against his dad. We wanted somebody to have bragging rights tonight and we were going to make sure that Montgomery had them.

I think, you know, a number of kids stand out for me. I thought Dexter ran extremely hard, Dexter Williams. I was pleased with Justin Brent. I don’t know that we have a player on our team in KJ Stepherson that can catch the ball at full speed as he cuts across the field; a very unique trait of his. He still has to work on catching the ball vertically down the field. But he catches the ball out of his break at full speed, and it is a unique trait that he has that I have not seen since I’ve been here at Notre Dame, and we’ll continue to work with him.

Defensively, I thought Cole Luke played very, very well. Played well at the nickel. Forced the ball extremely well. Devin Studstill tackled exceedingly well. I thought Max played well. So there was a number of really good things. Great communication, organization of our fronts, with Nyles, a lot of good things.

So I’ll open it up to questions.

Q. You said yesterday you wanted to give the quarterback an opportunity to lead their own offense. With Malik, did he pick up right where he left off in the Virginia game?

Coach Kelly: I thought he did some really good things. We’ll have to spend a little bit more time on some calls that were made, you know, were the protections flipped in the right side; did he fan the right direction; should we have gotten out of a particular play. We’ll have to look at that in a little bit more beat.

But what we didn’t have today were some communication errors that we had earlier in spring. I thought he really accelerated that end of his game; where I thought he was a little rusty earlier in the spring. Really did a nice job today and clear communication with his offensive line.

And again, you have some guys that haven’t been working together all spring, now trying to work in unison. I thought he did a really nice job with that.

Q. When he planted to his left and cut back to his right, you’ve known he can do that, but just to see it in this atmosphere, was that good?

Coach Kelly: I think it puts him over the hurdle mentally. He felt really good coming back; that he got that run in and through traffic. And again, being live in that situation, obviously it puts him now in a position where that injury now is in the rear-view mirror. He can move forward and now continue to grow and develop.

Q. What does it mean to have Tranquill back out there? What does that do for the team?

Coach Kelly: Strong leadership, strong presence on the field. He’s a physical player, but he also has the ability to play a couple of different positions for us, as well, and we didn’t use some of our different defensive looks.

But he’s a guy that we can count on. He’s very smart, hard worker, and he’s got some great tone and a great leadership tone for us back there, as well.

Q. Can you talk about the depth at linebacker and what some of the new faces of the defense, how they did, some of the red shirts and walk-ons, since this is their first opportunity to be out on the field?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, so today was, really the concern was the linebacker position because two guys that have played quite a bit for us are out with injuries. You know, Te’von, Tony and Greer Martini were out.

So Devyn Spruell who is a walk-on, did a really nice job today. Played quite a bit. Getting him in there and doing some pretty good things helped us out a lot. It was either that or play nickel and we didn’t want to play too much nickel with Shaun Crawford because he was playing with a green jersey. Didn’t seem like he played with a green jersey. Played pretty much live the whole.

Had a lot of pressure on him today. Played a lot of football. I thought he did a nice job as a freshman. And again, I think we continue to look for more guys to step up at that position, but it’s not going to be until the fall where we bring in some linebackers and then Greer and Te’von get healthy.

Q. Was Stepherson showing the traits that he does, is there a chance that you would look at him at either at W or the slot just to get him on the field?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, I think it’s wide open. I think we’re really going to have to sort out the position for where it’s easier to keep him on the field more so than what’s best for the other players. It’s going to be what’s best for him.

So we’re going to take it slow with him, and find what’s best for him. You know, it’s harder inside, because there’s so many more variables in terms of what he has to do and adjust his routes. He’s probably better suited to be on the outside.

But then if he’s on the outside what do you do with Torii. I think Torii has more experience where we can flop Corey around more so with not swapping KJ around. I don’t want to move him all over the place.

So we’ve got to really figure out what we want to do with him and stick with that and say, this is where you’re going to play next year.

Q. You have the defense, there were some impressive individual pieces. When you put this whole defense together, which we didn’t see today, collectively, do you think this has a chance to be a better defense than last year?

Coach Kelly: I think every year you go into it and believe that last year, I thought if we stayed healthy, we’re going to play for a National Championship. Certainly a couple plays here or there.

I think that this defense is going to play the kind of defense necessary for us to get into that playoff hunt again and there are good enough players out there for us to do that once again.

Now, the other area where I’m very pleased is the progress of some of the young players in the back end of our defense. I thought our corner play was better. I thought our safety play was much improved and those are the areas, as you know, we need better play at, and I thought that those young players out there today made significant progress.

Q. What did you need to see from DeShone from March 16 to today; what is sort of the next step for him?

Coach Kelly: You know, he managed the game very well: Confidence, consistency.

I just think that he continues to show the things that you want a starting quarterback to show. I’m not giving him the starting nod by any means, but I think when you talk about DeShone, where are the areas that we struggled last year. I think it was the red zone, we still need to work there.

There’s a lot of work. We just had that conversation yesterday at great length; that we’ll have to spend a lot of time in the red zone. There were a couple situations today where the ball was in the middle of the field and he decided to roll left and throw, where he could have easily rolled to the right and thrown.

Just little things like that, we’ve got to continue to grow in the red zone with him and come up with some touchdowns instead of field goals. So there are areas of growth that are still out there.

Q. Big picture, just from a program perspective, do you get into the more nitty-gritty of what you need guys to do May, June, July, so when August comes around, you’re not trying to play catch-up in finding who your leaders are?

Coach Kelly: Those are the times when the coaches aren’t around. So they have to be driven by those units, and those units then start to take over. It’s the classic time when Sheldon Day took over. He took over his group. Nick Martin took over his group. Those guys begin to take over their units when the coaches aren’t around.

We need to get the heck out of the way, in a sense, and allow those guys to step up and be leaders within their units. And that naturally happens when the coaches get out of the way. Especially in May. They go home, they recharge, they kind of assess where they are and they hear it from us and they come back in June and they are focused on physical development and then the leadership element and they go to work on it.

Q. You said at the beginning of spring that you felt the quarterback battle is going to go maybe even into the season; in the spring, did you see any separation or did it reaffirm your belief that this is a competition for the long haul?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, I thought what I saw was Malik develop more of an understanding of what we did offensively last year. He kind of had that, you know — look, the offense developed under Kizer during the year, not Malik. So he was at a bit of a disadvantage coming into the spring, and I thought he caught up.

So I think now that he has a better understanding of everything that we’re doing, I think now you’ve got the race and that will obviously be decided through camp.

Q. And then can you remember a time in your coaching tenure that you had a race that maybe was this tight?

Coach Kelly: No. The only time I had that kind of scenario was when I had two quarterbacks at Cincinnati that were both proven winners. But they were so different. These two guys are so very similar in their skill-set.

But I’ve never had in my entire career two quarterbacks that you could run the same system of offense with. Like I said, at Cincinnati, I had two different quarterbacks. I had a 6-6 quarterback that was a pocket passer and then I had a 5-10 quarterback who was more of a perimeter-run player. These two guys can do the same kind of things and run the same offense.

Q. And you said yesterday, both guys want this badly, as we would all expect. How do you manage those personalities, which obviously will be a very difficult task considering how much they both want to be the guy?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, well, I can’t keep them both happy. Somebody’s going to be unhappy. I love them both. They both are committed. They are both great competitors. But somebody’s going to be unhappy.

Q. You talk about getting an identity — do you have an idea what you expect the identity to be on the offense?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, you know, little things happened along the way. And it’s a pretty sound group. They are not a group that gets too far outside of the blueprint, if you will. In other words, we ask them to do things and they do them. They are not wanderers. They kind of stay where we point them. They are hunting dogs.

We probably would like a little bit more personality in some senses, but we tell them where to go and they go. The only thing is, we’ve got to tell them where to go, every day. And so we’ve got to continue to work on that element with this group.

But if you tell them what you want, and you demand it, you’re going to get it from this group.

Q. You indicated certain players, Nyles Morgan, the left side of the line, have pretty much won the starting job. Anyone else out there through the spring that isn’t a returning starter that you think would want a starting job?

Coach Kelly: Well, I think Rochell obviously is a guy that will be a starter for us.

Yeah, I think everybody else becomes — if you look at the safety position, Redfield, Tranquill are going on on the field; whether they are starting, they are going to play significant roles obviously. Cole Luke is going to play a significant role in some fashion. I think you can pencil those guys in in significant roles. Whether we classify them as starters or guys playing other positions as well as the ones they are playing, those guys are going to play significant roles, as well.

Q. In the same vain as leadership over the summer and whatnot, what do you think DeShone and Malik need to do behind the scenes the next couple months to gain whatever kind of advantage they can?

Coach Kelly: Well, we’ll sit down with each one of them. We’ve got a list of things that they have to work on in particular.

Some of it now, as we move forward, is physical. It’s not all mental. There are some physical things that we want to make sure that they attend to and continue to work on. So that will be part of it. What size we want them, what weight we want them; how they are moving in that direction is very, very important in terms of their durability. These are guys that are going to run the football, as well.

And then we’ll work on some of the things — I think we need to continue to work on the management end of things with Malik, continue to manage the offense, clear communication.

And DeShone, scoring opportunities. We talked a little bit about the red zone, things of that nature. So there are some specifics we’ll continue to work on with each one of them.

Q. What did Brandon show you in the spring — and whether you’re going to red-shirt him?

Coach Kelly: He’s an exciting player. I just haven’t — I haven’t figured out how really to get him involved to be quite honest with you.

Q. Do you mean you as a coach or him —

Coach Kelly: Me. I haven’t figured out how I can get him involved in this race for starting quarterback. Somebody would have to give up reps, and I’m not prepared to do that right now. I’m not prepared to give up reps on Kizer or Zaire to fit Brandon in. And so I would have to make that decision on my own to give up reps on those two guys to give more to Brandon to actually give him a fair chance.

So this is on me more than anything else. Brandon’s doing everything that he’s been asked to do. He just doesn’t get enough work. And when he gets in there, he shows — you can see it from the physical talents what they are. Just doesn’t get enough work.

So I have to make that decision as the head coach at Notre Dame; do I get him the opportunity to compete for the starting job, because he’s really not getting that chance.

Q. Can you assess the spring that Torii Hunter, Junior had when you guys had him, and to what sense do you think he’s ready to fill the void that’s there for you guys?

Coach Kelly: I think he’s had a terrific spring. His player load has been as high as anybody on our team. Matter of fact, I think it’s been as high as any receiver that we’ve had here in a couple years. In other words, the work volume that he’s put in while he’s going to school, while he’s playing baseball, has been an incredible commitment.

Look, he could have taken the easy way out here, right. He could have said, hey, I’m playing baseball, I can’t make it this weekend. I’ve got a doubleheader. But no, he would go to practice and then he would go into a phone booth and throw on his Superman cape and head on over to the baseball field.

It’s amazing what he does in terms of the intensity in which he practices and how hard he goes, and then he does the same thing for Mick. He’s a unique young man in that he can focus and give that kind of intensity to both sports.

Q. With the quarterback race being as close as you say it is at this point, how realistic is it that one guy is going to be able to grab that in the fall, or do you think you’re going to have to make a judgment call?

Coach Kelly: I think I’m going to have to make a judgment call.

Q. How early in the fall would you want to do that?

Coach Kelly: Oh, I don’t know when I’ll make it. But there will be a time when I’m going to have to say, that’s our quarterback, let’s go with him, we’re all in, and let’s move forward. They are both that good; I already know that.

But there will be a day, and we’re going to have to say: It’s time to go, he’s our quarterback, everybody’s behind him and we need to go, and that’s who the quarterback is.

Q. If both quarterbacks can run the same system, how does that change the evaluation process if both guys do the same thing?

Coach Kelly: So then what you’re looking for is the efficiency of the entire unit working behind that individual. So it’s efficiency of operation versus system of operation. So that’s really the difference between the two. So look at — we were able to look at it today and so where was there better efficiency with the operation.

Now, I thought one defense was a little stronger than the other defense. That’s my own opinion. I’ll come to my own conclusions on those kinds of things. But efficiency of the operation is what I was looking for.

Q. Can you talk about how you feel about where you are right now, are you comfortable with Sam over two, Mike on the left side and where do things stand on the right side with the line?

Coach Kelly: Yeah, Sam will be the center. Tristen is doing a great job. He’s learning every day.

Look, you’ve got to understand, with Brian’s defense, he’s drinking through a firehose with the defensive fronts that he sees. He’s got three-down, four-down, fire zones, he’s got bear defense. He’s got all kinds of things. So Tristen is a little bit hesitant right now, because that kid wants to be assignment correct in everything he does, so he’s a little hesitant.

So Sam has really solidified himself, but we can play with Tristen and win with Tristen if we have to. It’s just there’s a lot for him there.

On the right side, it’s competitive with Bivin and Bars. Bars is a little bit more athletic, so he provides us with the footwork and the makeup on a miss with his ability to kind of get back into play with his footwork at the right tackle position instead of the right guard position. That’s why we like him out there.

You know, I will tell you right now, and Harry could disagree with me and that would be fine. I think Kramer is going to come in and compete over there. I think Parker Boudreaux is going to come in and compete. I think there’s going to be some competition from some young guys stepping in there, as well and we’ll see how that plays out.

Maybe I’m ahead of myself but I think those guys are going to get in there and compete with those guys as well.

Q. How did Quenton and Mike develop this spring?

Coach Kelly: Much better than I thought. Now, we knew we had really two solid football players there. I was extremely impressed with how seamless it seemed in that sense; that they worked so well together, and their game is at a very, very high level.

DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire Quotes

DeShone Kizer: I’m really confident in what I’m doing, really confident in what I’m doing and need to get better.

Q. How is your confidence level?

DeShone Kizer: It’s at a high. I feel like I have a great grasp of our offense. I understand a lot of what the defense is trying to do and some of the — indiscernible — other than that, I think I’m better than last year.

Just understanding the game and how to feel it out and read defenses and react in the slot. During the season, it’s easy to game plan and kind of see everyone’s looks. Going into spring with Coach VanGorder, he has a bunch of different blitzes that you have to be able to go on the fly and just use the knowledge that you’ve learned from the past.

I’ve done a pretty good job of just taking the things I’ve learned throughout the season last year to go out and have my own experimentation and getting through some of those wild looks.

Q. Coach Kelly said the two of you guys — how would you handle that?

DeShone Kizer: That’s one thing that’s out of my hands. I know what I can do and I know what I have been doing and I just have to continue to expand at that.

Last year was pretty good. Obviously we were about four points away from being an undefeated regular season team and with that, I’ve just got to make sure that I can develop off that and if I get better — the next National Championship.

As long as I continue to have the confidence in myself and once again continue to develop, hopefully it will be an easier decision.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: KJ was able to take those things in highlights and make them reality today. He brings it over to spring and that’s very impressive and now to be able to bring it into the spring game in front of 40,000 people and you’re still able to go out there and run great routes is awesome.

Defensively, the linebackers out there playing different teams and having the production we had out of them shows we are able to come in and fill some of those spots with Joe and Jalen leaving. I’m excited to see what our defense is going to do and I’m excited to watch the young guys mesh with the rest of their class when they get into town and try to help out this team and accomplish our goal.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: This is awesome. You get so caught up in all the pressure that comes along with this, and obviously this is a huge business and there’s always a lot going on with the final four and all the rankings and all that good stuff.

When you’re out here, you’re able to take in the same vibes that you have and just focus on the good times. Obviously Malik and I have developed to where we’re going to be and everyone kind of understands where we are.

This wasn’t necessarily an audition in one night. I was able to take off that pressure, take off the competition and take off the stuff that comes with the final four. I’m out there laughing and making fun of guys and stuff like that, that’s what this is for. As long as we continue to have fun and keep that mind-set that at the end of the day, it’s about having a good time and playing the game that we love and just a great game, and it’s a great example of where our guys are and how much we love the game.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: You know, it propels you and yeah, it’s cool to have someone that’s great behind you. But at the end of the day we’re two different quarterbacks. I have my own style, he has his own style. It’s hard to compare evenly against someone who is not like you.

So you’re going to have to compete with yourself and come from within and try to figure out how you yourself are going to improve. So with that, yeah, it’s great to have the competition and it’s great to have someone who is great throwing the ball next to you but at the end of the day it’s about you and how you’re going to develop. Same way I was trying to develop during the season is the same way I’m going to try to prepare.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: Overall, it was a great opportunity for me to experiment with some of the things I did last week. Like I said. And with that I was able to have some confidence with what I was doing to really see things and work things out and put some guys in motion and get a sense of the right play.

I’m the type of guy where I’m not going to just allow us to be in a right play and make it right. I want to be in the right play at all times, and I think this is a great opportunity for me to learn from that.

That was kind of one of my biggest goals and I feel like a accomplished it. Even today I was able to go out there and make the protections I wanted to make and truly communicate well with Coach VanGorder on the sideline, along with Coach Sanford.

Mechanically, there’s some things that you have to get better at. Even the best have a lot that they have to work from in the off-season. I think I made some strides in some things but also threw another ball in the dirt. That’s something that eats me up. That was one of my big things I did last year and absolutely destroyed me, and I thought that was gone. And all of a sudden, I get comfortable out there and I’m thinking about things that are not related to mechanics. So now I have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: Continue to learn how to lead this team. Obviously this is going to be a fun competition with him and we’re going to have to figure out who is going to be the guy.

But there’s a lot that’s going to happen within the next couple months in term of new guys coming in, in terms of Malik trying to go out and do his own personal work outs. I’m just going to try to learn as much about everyone on the team to make myself a better leader.

In the spring I took an approach to my leadership to be a guy and lead from the outside but now it’s time to show some initiative and kind of put myself in a position that’s maybe even captain-like. If I can do that, it would be a better opportunity for me to be a starting quarterback because you have the ability to lead.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: It’s a great football — it’s impressive to see what he does — what he did today — indiscernible — my mouth dropped. I don’t wish anything bad upon him. I’m enjoying it just like you guys are enjoying he’s an amazing athlete.

And with that, we talk a little, we have a little fun, we laugh. Any time we do something good, we pull for each other. Our quarterback’s meeting room has one initiative and that is to be a championship quarterback to represent everyone else in the room.

When I’m out there I’m trying to represent everyone else in the room, and when he’s out there he’s trying to represent me and everyone else in the room. We’re trying to get to a National Championship. We’ve been pretty close the last couple years and we want to take some of those good seasons and turn them into one great season.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: He’s a great leader and he’s had an opportunity to finally show what he can do. Obviously last year was an opportunity for him to truly take over and be the guy and to be one of the better running backs in the country and — he had an injury.

Today he’s back out there, he’s giving his all, was around 95 percent, wasn’t able to be at full go and in the next couple months he’ll be a full-go guy. I’m excited to see what he can do. He has all the experience. He has the smooth running and the patience to be a great running back. So I’m just excited to see what he does and obviously he’s going to play a big part in our success.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: Oh, yeah. Bad weather, we had, what, four, five inches on the ground last week of snow. Just happened to be the perfect weather, great crowd, families are out, people are having a good time. You can smell the barbeque in the air. It’s a great time here in South Bend.

Q. A year ago in the spring game — now you’re comfortable and making plays —

DeShone Kizer: Last year was really rough for me. I definitely said it was one of the lowest points in my life, and I was thinking whether I even wanted to play football. I thought maybe I should switch sports or find another path to become successful.

But obviously a lot has changed since then. I was able to clear my plate off through the development at quarterback, and got an opportunity and tried to make the best of it. Now this is just another step in the road for me to take that low moment and continue to develop off of it.

I’m really happy to be here. I think it’s one of the best decisions I made was to stay around and also to even come to this school. Notre Dame is a special place and I’m looking forward to being able to represent it and become a great quarterback.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: Yeah, I concentrated on my decisions. There was a lot of opportunities. There’s two great quarterbacks in front of me at the time. I wasn’t throwing the ball well. The spring game wasn’t the best for me. I was having some issues off the field and I had to make a decision whether or not football was the way to go, or any wanted to to play another sport or I wanted change schools — obviously you’re — indiscernible — never once did I ever reach out to see a guy who wanted to transfer — inaudible — in the back of your mind when you’re not having the success that you had in high school. So with that, obviously I made the right decision and we’re here now.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: The personal issues back home were cleared up, a successful surgery with my girlfriend at the time — Everett decided to leave — indiscernible — business school. There were some things that were restarting for me and I kind of used the opportunity to take all the stuff that I had my freshman year, my red shirt year and use the summer to gauge where I was and started throwing the ball well.

I got to work — inaudible — and obviously to be in a good position — inaudible — I thought that was a good position to be a starting quarterback, but when he did slowdown — indiscernible — I was able to go out there and do pretty well.

Q. Where do you think you’ve developed the most after stepping up last season?

DeShone Kizer: I have my own repertoire of different plays that I can go out there and do. A lot of what we do here is based upon Coach making (indiscernible) for us. I think that it would go a lot smoother if I was able to have the same mind-set and be parallel with some of those — (indiscernible).

It’s a great time for me to learn about myself and how I want to go about our offense and how I can take the knowledge that I have and the experience that I have to go out there and make my own — today was a great opportunity and I made some plays I wanted to get to and now I can take those different things that I did throughout the spring and mix them with the game plans we put together for the year and hopefully make sure that we’re in the right place.

Q. Do you work out with Malik?

DeShone Kizer: Yeah, we have plays around practices where we’ll all be together and other times you’re better on your own. Malik is a guy that he likes to get up and do one-on-one work outs with certain guys and I’ll do that. But for the most part, we’re here with the opportunity to practice as a team at all times.

So we’ll be going out six times a week doing seven-on-sevens. That’s more than enough to put yourself in good position. The extra stuff, you can get a little bit of that, but for the most part, we kind of plan that as a team.

Q. Inaudible.

DeShone Kizer: He’s a great quarterback. Obviously he can win. We saw his performances. He came out of the spring game — inaudible. I’m just going to make sure that I’m in a position that when my name is called that I’m in a position to help win the game — all I can do is go out and better myself. I’ll try to figure out a way — I didn’t come here for personal goals or Heisman. I came here to win a National Championship for Notre Dame.

Malik Zaire: I think the main goal is being the best player on the field so you can help the team win a National Championship and that’s my goal and that’s the goal of the rest of the guys so. Whatever it takes.

Q. Will you be ready —

Malik Zaire: I’ll be ready.

Q. How confident are you in your ability to lead this team?

Malik Zaire: I’ve always had confidence. If you don’t have confidence in yourself to get the job done, then you might as well not even be out there. I always feel I can help this team.

Q. Coach mentioned that the offense developed last year — do you feel that way, that you did catch up?

Malik Zaire: I think we’ve got a new team. Last year’s team is different than this year’s team, so getting acclimated and adjusting to those guys, building chemistry not only with the tight ends and receivers and running backs, but also the o-line. We mixed up the teams a little bit today, but I think the chemistry is only going to continue to get stronger.

And we don’t want to be there now. I mean, we’ve got a lot of time before our first game. I think getting closer to that chemistry is something we worked on in the spring and is something we accomplished.

Q. Inaudible.

Malik Zaire: Getting ready for the first game. Getting ready for the season. There’s a lot of things that I want to clean up and a lot of things that I want to work on heading into the summer. That’s something that we can accomplish. I think those are goals that we have and we’ll get that done and be ready for the season.

Q. On the touchdown run, how good was it to be able to do that in a live situation —

Malik Zaire: Playing football.

Q. Do you think you’ll be able to have that TD and kind of put that behind?

Malik Zaire: If I didn’t feel good, I probably wouldn’t have been out there. I’m glad with the help of the training staff we got a lot of work done and got me to this point where I can be out there and play. There’s a lot of work to continue to do, not only with health but field position wise.

Q. Do you enjoy having another quarterback on the roster to push you like this?

Malik Zaire: Well, we are two guys in the best place — competition is the best place to be as a quarterback in my opinion, and on a national stage like this. I think at the end of the day, it’s all about staying competitive and whatever it takes for the team.

Q. You guys had a little talk on the side, the second drive, and the third drive you came out with a 50-yard pass. Do you feel like you got your confidence back on that third drive and went from there?

Malik Zaire: I don’t know about my confidence. But I think that it’s the game. Everything is going to work out. I’m glad we figured it out and we were able to score points and do it in a good fashion. I wish we had more drives.

Q. Inaudible.

Malik Zaire: Since I’ve been at school — to be able to go two sports and school at the same time. That man is very talented.

Q. Inaudible.

Malik Zaire: Yeah, KJ, we’ve been doing a lot of work ever since he touched down and getting to see it pay off, it’s going to see it getting better moving from here now. We consider him a semi-pro. I think he’s a semi-vet, now heading into the summer, has a lot more responsibilities to get on the right track and we look for a lot of big things from him this year.

Q. What’s your relationship with DeShone, competing for the starting job?

Malik Zaire: The good thing is that we had a relationship before all of this even transpired. So I think that the starting position — I’m glad he’s on the roster and I’m glad that we are in a position that we can both be better and I think it’s going to help the team in the end.

Q. How much does he push you?

Malik Zaire: I’m motivated by my own sources. I think him being on the roster is good for both of us to be able to learn how to operate in different circumstances and different situations. I’m glad that he’s here and I’m glad he’s part of the team. That’s my brother and we work out every day and we get a lot of things done together. I think just having that as another teammate and another brother on the team is only going to help us get stronger.

Q. Coach Kelly talked about the communication, and how the offense has evolved a little bit. What do you think you really got done?

Malik Zaire: It was just about staying consistent. I think being able to come out every day and execute at the high level that we strive for, we set goals for, is something that — a standard that not a lot of people know about.

So being able to just stay consistent and being able to communicate on a high level is something that is expected from this position, as well as what it’s going to take to win that National Championship. We’ve done a lot of good things and now it’s just continue to build on that.

Q. Inaudible.

Malik Zaire: Yeah, it’s never been a frustration thing for me. I feel like what I’ve done — I feel like I can’t sit there and be disappointed and think, you know — what I could have done better.

For me, it’s continue to take that next step and reaching that level to help this team win the National Championship. I want to do that really bad for this football team and the only way I know I can perform that and do this for that football team is playing my best and being the best in the country. That’s my motivation getting me ready through the summer and looking forward.

Q. How many guys will have starting —

Malik Zaire: It’s good. I think all our linemen — I’ve never been worried about the O-line. I know they are going to go through the things they need to go to get to a high level of offense. They raised the bar of my expectation and also raised the expectation of the offense to keep up with them. We are always facing the O-line and I think you’ll see on the first game, we’ll put it all together.

Q. Was it important to you that Coach let you be live today —

Malik Zaire: We’ll always be —

Q. Why is that important for you?

Malik Zaire: I think it’s playing football. You don’t play football with a lot of handicaps. I don’t like having a red jersey on me but I’ve had a red jersey on for a long time now. So it’s time to move on to more game situations.

Q. Did you miss the feeling, the contact?

Malik Zaire: Nobody likes contact but I like the feeling of knowing that I’ve got — indiscernible.

Q. Did you talk to him at all about the quarterback competition —

Malik Zaire: He’s my guy. We always catch up and talk a lot, actually. We don’t really talk about things that we’re going — but we’re like brothers. We talk about brother stuff, just being able to be close and also know that he’s another great competitor and a guy that I hope down the road — it’s good to have that relationship with another guy. We talk a lot but I think the most important thing is we always push each other to help our team win.

Player Quotes

Drue Tranquill – Junior – Safety

On getting back into the game…

“It feels good getting back out there in the stadium, on the field, with the fans and the families. We had a good performance from all of the guys and we’re looking forward to getting back out there this summer and in the fall.”

On the defense’s potential…

“We have a lot of young guys stepping into new roles and with that you never know what you’re going to get. Guys just keep developing and keep getting better. We always say the sky is the limit and with young guys it’s all about what they want to put into it and their discipline. I think we’ve got a lot of young guys coming and they’ve got a lot of potential.”

On his role as a safety…

“You kind of say you’re the quarterback of the defense back there. You’re the farthest back and you can see everything from back there so you definitely have to get guys lined up and in the right spot.”

On mentoring the younger players…

“There’s a lot of moving in the secondary so there are a lot of details that you need to add in there. That comes with study and developing your mental game. You see all the talent in these guys so it’s not a physical issue. It’s a matter of if they can absorb the material Coach VanGorder is giving them and absorb the material Coach Lyght is giving them and apply it. What that looks like for me is meeting with them outside of our typical meeting times and really investing in them and forming relationships with them.”

Isaac Rochell – Senior – Defensive Line

On the team-vs.-team setup…

“It was cool because it made it more of a game, with having a score and everything. It just made more sense. It was cool going against different guys and having different guys beside me.”

On getting 60 snaps per game…

“It’s tough because it keeps compounding and your body is just very tired at the end of the year. Now we’re at the point where we’ve got more depth and more guys that we can trust and guys that are starting to be more productive, so hopefully that won’t be the case this year. You definitely feel it by the end of the year.”

On the mental challenge of playing different roles…

“I would say at first it takes a toll but now it’s my third year in this package. I’m used to it and I know the ins and outs of it. It’s not as big of a deal now.”

Tori Hunter – Senior – Wide Receiver

On what he’s seen of other receivers…

Kevin Stepherson has made great strides. When he first got here, though, he was out there making plays, great releases off the line, and he’s just been a great player for us this spring. He’s got a lot of development to do as far as knowing the offense and the ins and outs. Whenever it starts to click for him, he’s going to be a dangerous player for sure.”

On moving positions across the offense…

“Wherever they need to move me, I’ll be able to do that. I played a couple snaps on Z today just because the situation called for it. [I’ll play] where they need me to be, I’ll make sure I know what I have to do, and whatever the situation calls for, I’ll be there.”

On being a two-sport athlete…

“Over the last couple of days, actually, I’ve had a couple guys come up to me and say ‘you had a game yesterday? I don’t know how you do it; that’s awesome. I appreciate that, and you coming out here and giving it your all, especially when you just had a game yesterday.’ It makes me feel good about myself. It really shows that they really look up to me and appreciate the fact that I try to give my all with both teams.”

On his performance today…

“It was ok. I definitely could have done a couple of things better. For the most part, I just tried to go out there and make plays, make the catches that I needed to make. I probably could’ve made one play on the sideline. It will all present itself on the film.”

Cole Luke – Senior – Cornerback

On knowing what to do with the new offense compared to the old…

“I think it’s a matter of time. We definitely have a lot of young guys on the team right now–all around, too. They all have potential. It’s just a matter of them getting comfortable so they can play to their potential. It’s like me when I came in. I was scared to play like I did in high school, but it’s just a matter of time for them to get comfortable so they can understand the system so they’ll be able to play like they usually do.”

On reaching that level of potential…

“It depends on what type of guy you are. Obviously, like Coach Kelly said, it takes some coaches to push [players], sometimes it takes other players. It just depends.”

On leading the team in special teams points…

“I’m just doing what I need to do, really. All of us know that defense is one thing and offense is another, but special teams is going to win us games. I’m just putting forth effort where it needs to be.”

On keeping focus for each team he’s on…

“I’m on three or four teams. It’s hard [to focus], but it’s something I’ve learned from guys who have been here for the past two or three years. It’s something you take after.”

James Onwualu – Junior – Linebacker

On handling the next few months as a senior leader…

“I think this spring has really helped some of us who have had pretty dominant leaders in front of us throughout the previous years. We’ve gotten a feel for how we can really emerge to be leaders throughout these spring practices so just continuing that. It’s a nice time to have here with a couple of weeks off. We need to make sure that we really push some of these younger guys who just went through their first spring … and make sure they know how important these next couple weeks are and that break in the summer is.”

On bonding with the younger defensive players…

“I’m hanging out with a lot of linebackers regardless. I think they’ve realized now that they have been in the system and are playing ball that they need to learn and have a lot to learn. They got better throughout the spring but when you’re on scout team, it’s tough to really realize that I have so much to learn. Now that they’ve gotten the opportunity to play a little bit, they really have realized that they need to step it up a little bit.”

Mike McGlinchey – Senior – Offensive Line

On his approach to leading the offensive line…

“Well, I think you just go about your business the way you always do. If I feel like I’m in a position where I know how to work and I know how to be around the guys, I’m just going to be myself, and I feel like that’ll bring enough of a response to our team to show the guys who will work for us and who will be at the forefront leading our team that it’s not about doing anything different. It’s just about going back to work and bringing everybody else along with you.”

On building his relationship with Quentin Nelson…

“I mean it’s been easy with Q. He is such a good football player and he has a good football brain, so the two of us together, it’s been a seamless transition. We feel like we’re clicking. Obviously we’re not to the point where we want to be, and I’m not sure we’ll never be to the point where we want to be, because that’s the game of football, but we’re going to work towards it, and that’s what we take pride in is the work towards being the best. I feel like Q and I are in a good position for this fall, and I think you’re going to see a lot of good things from our left side of the offensive line, and our offensive line as a whole.”

On transition to the left side of the offensive line…

“Yeah, absolutely. I think the first couple of days it was different, just trying to get some line work, with your body moving opposite as it did for the last two years. But after one or two practices I feel like I settled in there fine. I still have a lot of things to clean up, but I would have if I was on the right side as well. I would like to use my hands a little bit better in pass pro[tection] and in run[ning] game, and just be more consistent as a leader and as a football player, because the more you work, you can’t get complacent in this business. You’ve always got to find a way to improve, and that’s something that we always take pride in.”

On where he needs to improve to the leader he wants to be…

“I think it’s just being more consistent every day. It’s about being able to go through your hard stuff and not show it. It’s being the same guy everyday no matter what your circumstances are whether you’re have a great day or a bad day, and it’s something that I’ve definitely had to work on, and it’s something that I’ve improved. I feel like I’ve done a good job of being that same, steady guy every day and going about my work the right way, and showing everybody else how to do it. I think that’s the biggest key is to just show up, do your job every single day, and bring everybody else along with you, and be that same guy, and everybody else will respect that.”