April 21, 2012
COACH KELLY: It’s nice to finish up a spring game with a nice atmosphere. There was a nice feel around campus today. I think it really, for all of our players, you could sense an excitement around campus.
That’s what makes Notre Dame unique in that the spring game you get that kind of energy. You guys may poo poo that and not understand it, but when you play this game and you have that kind of loyalty and support from your fans, it’s a really nice feeling. So our guys got the opportunity to play before a nice crowd today, and I think it really excited them getting out there and seeing the support that we had out there. So as it relates to the format of the game, I thought it allowed us to do a lot of things today.
I think there is no question in my mind that we’ve got enough players out there to compete. I’m not worried about not having enough players. We need to continue to build the players that we have, and we have a long way to go. I was pleased with that. I think if there is one thing that stands out from the game itself, it’s the attention to detail. The little things that we need to do better. What I like positively is our team plays together. They like playing with each other this is a group that’s come a long way in a very short period of time, relative to understanding that it’s a team sport. I like that. We’ve got a team, and you need a team to play the kind of schedule we play at Notre Dame. So that’s a real positive.
I saw that energy. The guys liked to play. There are enough pieces out there for us. It’s really the attention to detail. The little things that matter the most. Our guys are going to have to work at that over the summer. If they do that, when we get into preseason camp, we should be in a pretty good position. So that’s what I saw today. Open it up to questions.
Q. Did you see anything in the quarterbacks today that you hadn’t seen all spring, either plus or minuses?
COACH KELLY: I think we saw some things that we haven’t seen before in terms of ball placement.
Then we saw some errors that, unfortunately, are all too familiar. So, I think there were some strides made, but clearly we’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot of work to do with all the quarterbacks to get them to the level that we want. And we have a high bar set for them. So, yeah, I saw some things out there that they hadn’t done in the past. But yet two interceptions in particular where we’ve seen that movie before. So we’ve got to move past that.
Q. What was your thinking in bringing Gunner in just for the second half?
COACH KELLY: Well, we knew he was going to get all the reps in the second half. We wanted to make sure that we got a good rotation. Then, obviously, we can’t run everything with Gunner at this point. He just doesn’t have the knowledge base. So from that standpoint, we gave him all the reps in the second half, and got him an opportunity to really feel like he was part of the game.
Q. Could you comment specifically on Golson’s game? He had two touchdowns, and I think the most yardage. Was that something you expected or was it kind of a surprise for you?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we come at it from different perspectives. The stats really don’t mean anything to me. What I didn’t like was that he’s got to get the plays in quicker. He’s got to recognize the signaling.
If I’m not out there getting guys set and making sure he knows what to play, we’re going to have flags thrown all over the place. So those things don’t mean as much to me as they do managing the offense. We’re making progress there, but we’re nowhere where we need to be.
Q. Coach, Tyler had a good game here today. Could you talk about moving him around, not just in the tight end position, but it looks like he was out wide a couple times?
COACH KELLY: He’s a guy that has to replace the production loss of Michael Floyd. To do that, we have to be able to get him into some favorable positions. Obviously, he’s not going to lock down just at the tight end position. He’s a guy that can play at both a wide receiver. Heck, he could play running back if we need him to. He’s an incredible athlete and a versatile player, so we’ll take advantage of that skill.
Q. Getting back to Golson. You’ve mentioned throughout the spring that up and down you’re trying to string good days together. Was today indicative of his spring performance? Was it a little bit of a departure from what you’ve seen?
COACH KELLY: The quarterback position, as I mentioned to you before, is the art and science. In Putting both the art and the science together, he’s very creative. The art part he’s got down.
It’s the science and the consistency, all of those things to be a championship quarterback.
You can put him in the same category as George Atkinson. Both of those guys are exciting, electric players, but they are a heart attack for me. We’ve got to get them there, because I think we all see that they’ve got great skill. But they are guys that are a work in progress. You’re seeing a work in progress.
You’re seeing something very exciting, but I think we all could sit here and agree, we’ve got to get them to manage the game, take care of the football. If they do that, they can really help our football team.
Q. A position is more consistent at the offensive line could you just talk about that group overall this spring, and in particular, the influence of Coach Hiestand on that group?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it’s the cohesion. It’s the group that really, if you look at all the details, they probably have that down as well as any unit. They do the little things right. It’s a very solid unit. It’s a cohesive unit. Coach Hiestand demands that kind of unit cohesiveness. It’s starting to show iself in the running game and pass protection. When you go into a game and you know you’ve got all the answers up front on the offensive and defensive line, it gives you a pretty good feeling as a coach.
Q. You’ve said a couple of times you’re nowhere close to where you need to be with the quarterback situation. If you continue with a three or four man rotation when we get to the fall, is there enough time for them to be ready by September 1st?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, we’re hoping that this summer is an opportunity for them to move past some of the areas of concern and now come into camp where we really can start to narrow down who those guys are going to be competing for the starting position.
No, I don’t think he can share reps right up until the first game. There will be a time and a place for that. But it’s still a ways away.
Q. You mentioned a movie you’ve seen before.Tommy’s interception on his first possession. What are things you want to see from him now that he’s more of an experienced guy on the roster? What do you want to see more from him?
COACH KELLY: Zero is okay on first down. We’ll punt the ball. It’s a drop eight situation, and he’s trying to fit his seam route in. We’ve got a drive coming in underneath. Drop the ball down, move, punt the ball. Stay out of 3rd and 15. You can’t make those mistakes.
You saw Hendrix can’t make that mistake trying to throw an overroute with a level one ball. That’s just the thing that I’m talking about. They can’t make those mistakes and be the starter. They just can’t.
Eifert can’t not manage the game in the manner that he needs to. Gunner’s got to be up on the game more. So you can see, all of them need work, and we’re excited to keep bringing them on.
Now this summer, they’ve got to help themselves. The guy that really commits to the details this summer is probably one of the guys that’s going to start it. So if you can go to any of those voluntary workouts, then let me know. I’d be happy to field that when I’m on the golf course. Just text me if you have that opportunity. The point is all of them have a lot of work to do. We’ll see who does a great job this summer.
Q. Wood had a lot of tackles today. Tell me about his development, Brian?
COACH KELLY: Did you say Lo Wood?
COACH KELLY: We want the ball. If the ball gets funneled out to him, we feel like we’ve got a really good tackler out there. He tackles very well. He’s an aggressive kid, and he’s not afraid to put his helmet on.
You know, he’s not a four three. He’s not blazing speed. We don’t need him to do that. We need him to defend the post, stay above the cut and be a good tackler. He showed a lot of that today.
Q. I’m sure you weren’t thrilled with the six turnovers, but was that something that you kind of I mean, how do you handle six turnovers?
COACH KELLY: Well, again, it’s all part of what we’re talking about. I think Gunner had a couple of turnovers, inexperience in throwing the football. That’s the learning curve for him. But if you’re turning the football over, it’s going to be hard for to you get on the field. The fumbles, obviously, George is sloppy with the ball. Those are the things that we got through. You saw what I saw. There is nothing different. Those are the kids we’ve got, can’t trade them, but we’ve got to get them better. So they know that, we know that, and it’s a matter of attention to detail for all of those kids.
There are enough players. There are enough good things out there as a team. I love the way our team has come together. That’s probably, more than anything, we’ve moved the team forward, now attention to detail.
Q. Not a lot of Kap or Tuitt or Manti out there, but what were you able to glean from what you saw in your defense today?
COACH KELLY: Couple guys that stood out, Anthony Rabasa, he plays really strong at the point of attack and did a really nice job. Jarrett Grace is all over the field. So I think we saw Ishaq Williams and his ability to drop in coverage. He’s athletic. He’s really come on for us.
So even with those guys that you mentioned not in the game, we saw a lot of nice things out there. I’d add Kona Schwenke to the mix as well. Kona took the coin toss, our game day cap where Kona Schwenke and John Goodman because our staff voted both of those players the most improved players in the spring. So that’s why they’re out there. Cone as well.
Q. Golson got 31 snaps today, Rees got 26, Hendrix gets only 15. Did that affect his evaluation?
COACH KELLY: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s just the way the game went. It wasn’t nothing was prescribed. We stayed in rotation, as you know. If you followed it, we just stayed in the seniority rotation through. Just the luck of the draw. It won’t affect him, because, again, it’s not about the number of reps, it’s about the quality reps. He’ll be evaluated as such.
An interview with: Tommy Rees
Q. Tommy, what did you do today that you hadn’t done last season? What is different about your game?
Tommy Rees: I think just having another year in the offense, and knowing a couple of times we got out of some wrong plays and we could run some looks. There is obviously one ball, one back, but other than that, I feel like things went all right.
Obviously that interception put a damper on things. But I’m happy with how spring ended. If I got that one throw back, I still feel good coming out of the game.
Q. It seemed like you had some plays in the end zone that wasn’t completed, but the ball was there each time, the touch was there?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, that’s something we worked on a lot in the spring. And we’re trying to give our receivers a chance to go out and make some plays. We some opportunities today, but the defense did a pretty good job getting the ball out of their hands at the last minute. It was a 50 50 ball, but as long as we put it there, we have enough skill receivers.
Q. How do you feel about this spring overall?
Tommy Rees: Good. We have a long way to go as an offense, but we took a definite positive step this spring. I think the way the offense has kind of come together under Coach Martin’s leadership, things are definitely positive.
Q. How do you look at yourself through the summer?
Tommy Rees: I think you’ve got to approach it as a starter. You have to have that mentality, and you have to be a leader out there. Just take it one day at a time and do everything
you can to get better. Summer’s a big time for individual development. It’s been a big time for me in the past, so I’m going to continue to try to grow throughout that period.
Q. Coach talked about the importance of the summer. What can you do in the summer to be better?
Tommy Rees: A lot of it falls on your shoulders because the coaches aren’t with you. We do a lot of stuff all week, and I think you have opportunities to grow and become a leader on the team. It’s a lot of weight training and a lot of time to get better and physically get better. I think that’s something that everyone’s got to focus on.
Q. (No microphone)?
Tommy Rees: It happened. Obviously, I wanted that one back today. But 3rd and long, I’ve got to learn to take the ball down and get out of the series. So, yeah, it’s something I’ve got focus on getting rid of it.
Q. Is it hard to focus on that as a quarterback?
Tommy Rees: No, it’s something we’ve done all spring all four of us. Lot of times we get a ball in a play makers hands and a check down can turn into a first down completion. We’ve got to be patient and take what the defense gives us.
Q. Can you talk a little about the versatility that Kiel brings?
Tommy Rees: A lot. We take him out of the back field and split out the receiver. Once the ball’s in his hands, he can do a lot with it. Today he did a great job of making plays and getting up field, especially yardage after the catch.
Q. (No microphone)?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, he can be a special player. He’s a guy with a lot of speed, a lot of shiftiness. He’s still got to focus in on paying attention to some of the details and the ball security stuff. When he puts it all together he can be a good player.
Q. (Indiscernible) obviously, we don’t see you very much. It’s a big deal for us.
Tommy Rees: Yeah, I think it’s a bigger deal to the outside than it is internally. It’s an opportunity to go out there with a love atmosphere. But the spring game is still part of the spring ball learning process. It’s a way to get better. It’s another step of the process.
Q. Is that interception more a here we go again or what was your perspective?
Tommy Rees: It’s not a here we go again. It’s a 3rd and long, a drop 8, I’ve got to check it down. I thought I could hit it Goodie up the seam and not I let the ball go a little high. It was down a couple of inches and it’s a big first down completion, and we’re not even having that conversation. It’s definitely something to learn from.
Q. (No microphone). Talk about this revolution. Some guys grow into their bodies. Talk about that?
Tommy Rees: I think it’s come a long way. Coming in really helped me gain some confidence in this offense and being around Notre Dame. I think all the plays we have and all the experience I had kind of shaped me to where I am now. I think physically I’ve come a long way and I’ve got to get better.
Q. (No microphone) with all the studies you have to do plus the team?
Tommy Rees: Yeah, it’s a place like none other. Knowing we have a tough curriculum, but that’s the way it is here and that’s the way we want it. Everyone chose this school for a reason. Everyone knew the academic aspect of it.
Q. What do you think the offensive line (no microphone) how they go about their business?
Tommy Rees: He still has tenacity to it. He’s very high tempo, a lot of energy, kind of get in your face kind of coach. He’s got a toughness and tenacity at the offensive line. I think his energy resonates through the whole line.
Q. It seems he’s really pushing it.
Tommy Rees: Yeah, he definitely loves competition. He wants our guys to compete every day in the trenches. There is a lot of tough guy up there, and he’s trying to get those guys going. I think he’s done a great job.
Q. You talked the other day about how you the O line sets the tempo for everybody. People don’t really think about the O line in terms of practices, but have you found that to be the case?
Tommy Rees: I think when you see a physicality up front, it kind of resonates through the offense. If we can win the line of scrimmage battle, that is a big part of our offense and what we try to do. I think if we establish that, it kind of gives the offense a lot of confidence.
Q. Is it frustrating at all when you don’t quite go out and make the most of it?
Tommy Rees: Not really. Obviously, it’s frustrating to throw an interception. You never want that to happen. But we’re battling, so I understand the split time. It would be nice to get a couple series in a row, but playing with these guys and competing with them, we all support one another.
Q. Back in March before spring ball you had a chance to throw at (No microphone) Forest College. What were you doing in that workout? I think Connor was there as well. What kind of stuff were you trying to accomplish in those workouts?
Tommy Rees: Just trying to fine tune some of the fundamentals of playing the position. Trying to get some of the foot work and techniques down. Coming into spring ball, you don’t want to be going in there cold. Just trying to get some work done before the practice starts and getting down some fundamentals.
Q. Does it help going back and being around guys like Connor and guys from Michigan?
Tommy Rees: It’s fun to be around guys you play with. We joke around and have a good time. But it’s good to go home and work on things.
Q. What type of tweet is appropriate?
Tommy Rees: To be honest, I don’t have a Twitter and I don’t pay attention to all of that. Obviously guys know where the line is and they make sure not to cross it.
Q. Coach mentioned attention to detail. You had a couple of interceptions. What do you take away from it?
Tommy Rees: I think it’s just something that I’m going to get better at. It’s something we’ve been up and down with all spring. We’ll remain focused and get to the front where we’ve got a steady stream there. But it’s something we’ll continue to work on and continue to get better at.
Q. Brian mentioned over the summer and your position. What is your chief goal going into voluntary workouts?
Tommy Rees: To establish a leadership role and continue to get better. I think every day is an opportunity to step up, be the guy, and continue to get better as an individual. That is the attitude everyone’s going to have going into summer.
Theo Riddick – Sr. – Running Back
On his play today…
“It felt really good. I had a good amount of carries and did pretty well today.”
On switching back to running back…
“We can use the term Coach Kelly uses, a hybrid. I’ll be playing both (positions), and I’m trying to do well at both.”
On improving his game over the summer…
“You have more time to focus on just football instead of football and school. It’s very hard. With that free time, we can sit down and focus on specific positions instead of learning on the fly.”
On George Atkinson III’s play today…
“He’s a very good, dynamic player. He’s also very explosive. He just needs to hold on to the ball and he’ll be a great player.”
On the offensive line…
“They did pretty well. There were a lot of open holes that we were able to gash through, and we were able to break a lot of tackles.”
On changing his body composition during the offseason…
“It’s a long season, and I have to be able to take a lot of hits. I need to be as healthy as I can. I was not able to do that at 185 – 190 pounds. Being over the 200-pound mark has been extremely helpful. I’m stiff-arming now. I can utilize my arms and I feel so much stronger upper body wise. It has helped me take hits and be more durable on the field.”
Everett Golson – Fr. – Quarterback
On what he needs to work on…
“Coach Kelly has made it apparent to me that I have developed the art of (the quarterback position) but the science is still something I have to work on.”
On how he plans to improve his scientific understanding of the game…
“Just working hard in the film room, mainly. Watching everything from cornerback tendencies to O-Line to D-Line. Just being in film study and working hard.”
On the quarterback race….
“I feel that I kind of put myself into the race. If I had to assess the day I would say it was average. I made some good plays, but there are still some things that I have to clean up.”
Tyler Eifert – Sr. – Tight End
On what today showed…
“I think we saw where we stand (as a team and individually). I know it wasn’t another team, but saw where we stand and what we need to work on.”
On playing multiple positions on the field…
“I’ve been doing it all spring, so I’m somewhat familiar with it now. But it was fun to move around a little bit.”
On the potential explosiveness of the offense…
“We have a lot of playmakers and a lot of talent in different positions. We just have to put it all together. We had some big plays. When we’re all on the same page and communicating and know what we’re doing and executing what we know how to do, we can be a good offense.”
Jamoris Slaughter – Sr. – Safety
On the game as a whole…
“We got a lot of work done both defensively and offensively, but we still have more to do. We’ll carry what we did today over to the summer.”
On his versatility…
“When I came in as a freshman, I played both safety and corner. My junior year, I played both the nickel and linebacker. After a while I just got used to playing all over the field. Now, you can put me anywhere and I’ll be ready to play.”
On playing safety…
“You need a safety that knows exactly what he’s doing and what the coaches want done. I think that’s why the coaches like me back there. But if we get in a situation if a cornerback goes down, and the team needs me to play nickel, the coaches have the flexibility to move me there.”
Andrew Hendrix – Jr. – Quarterback
On the game today…
“There were some good things and some bad. I started off strong, obviously threw an interception, which is not what you want. The thing about this spring versus any other time is that I know better (than to make mistakes). I knew what I should be doing and its just attention to detail at this point.”
On the team having multiple quarterbacks in the mix…
“It’s just going to make us better at the end of the day. Whether there’s three or four, everyone’s working against each other and at the same time everyone is working with each other, as long as there’s competition the winners going to be better off in the end.”
On the potential of the offense…
“Our offense has the potential to be extremely potent. The players that we have – the schemes (we use), if we just get this detail down – I think it showed today that when we’re clicking the possibilities are endless for us. I think it’s just the attention to detail that we need to get down and then our offense will be explosive.”
Kona Schwenke – Jr. – Defensive End
On how his game has improved this spring…
“After last season we had a little meeting with our coaches and they told us what we need to work on, and what we need to focus on, coming into this spring. I kind of took that in and focused on all of the little things that they told me I need to work on so I could get a lot better. A lot of those things were with my hands – hand placement and getting stronger in the weight room – so a big focus was on my hand work.”
On being named a gameday captain for today’s Blue & Gold game…
“It’s always a good thing and a good feeling when you get selected by the coaches to represent your team. I thought that was a great blessing to be able to go out and represent my team at the coin toss. They told me I was a captain right before the game today.”
George Atkinson III – So. – Running Back
On what he thought of his performance today…
“Basically all spring what I have been doing has involved high and low points. I have to eliminate mistakes. I plan on getting better over the summer and pay attention to details. It was fun just playing ball and reacting to the defense. I think last year I was thinking too much and now I am actually starting to learn the plays and where to go. Now I am just reacting and playing ball.”
On his vision of the field and the defense in today’s game…
“I have been taking in coaching and really paying attention to what the play is set up to do and reacting instead of thinking too much. I am still not at where I want to be in terms of plays, personnel and other specifics, but I plan on getting better over the summer.”
On his fumbles today…
“I think I was trying to do things before I actually got there. I just have to slow my game down a little bit more and pay attention to detail like Coach Kelly was saying. I plan on eliminating those types of mistakes over the summer and playing more like a sophomore instead of a freshman.”