Sept. 30, 2014
COACH KELLY: I think we all know a lot about Stanford and Coach Shaw and the consistency that they have played at the national level. We have a great deal of respect for their football team, their program, their coaching staff, their players. It’s a veteran football team.
Statistically I think we all know, best defense right now in the country. Offensively a physical brand ever football. Kevin Hogan is an experienced quarterback led by Ty Montgomery, one of the best skill players and special teams player in the country.
Defensively, you know, just a veteran group, Tarpley inside, Anderson off the edge, Richards, I mean, Lyons I could go on and on. I could probably list ten or 15 guys on their roster. Just a deep and talented veteran team and we’re just going to have to play really, really good football on Saturday. So with that, I’ll open up to questions.
Q. A lot of personnel turnover on defense and new defensive coordinator, what has allowed them to kind of just?
COACH KELLY: Well, they have great continuity. Hired within the staff, same philosophy. David Shaw obviously has maintained that kind of continuity in terms of scheme. They are playing with veteran players that know how to win. It’s a winning program.
So a great deal of continuity within their program, even though there’s new people at the top of the leadership.
Q. Talk about Joe Schmidt. Your success with walk ons is no secret but going back three or four years, could you have imagined he would turn into the kind of defensive leader and starting middle linebacker that he has?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, you always hope for great stories and I think the one thing that I’ve always felt is core to successful coaching is developing your players. Now, you want that to equal wins because if you do that, you get to keep your job. But the core of what we do as coaches and teachers is to develop your players.
So we felt like with player development, that Joe had a chance to be successful here at Notre Dame, or we would not have invited him into the program as a walk on, and a lot of that has to do with Joe, as well. You know, he’s put in his time. He’s developed physically and mentally and we’ve done a really good job of bringing him along, so I think both parties working together have gotten him to this point.
Q. Are you surprised a guy like that didn’t have bigger offers?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, I think there’s a handful of those guys every year. You know, when I recruited J.J. Watt at Central Michigan, you know, why didn’t he have more offers. You know, so everywhere that I’ve been, I’ve recruited somebody along the way that has turned out to be a great player and he didn’t have a lot of offers.
So I think he’s another case where there’s always going to be a couple of those guys every year.
Q. Will you do anything different this week in terms of reinforcing the importance of protecting the football?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think there’s some things specifically. One of the fumbles that we had on the the fire was out at direct snap. We’ll spend a little bit more time out at direct snap, because as you know, we are a shotgun base team.
So I think we can spend a little bit more time taking direct snap. Although we do in pre practice take direct snaps; every day, we’ll take some more. I think we can work after practice a little bit more on ball security with our quarterbacks and trying to rip the ball loose.
So I think there’s some tangible things that we can do to make sure that those errors are eradicated and I think there’s some things that Everett is going to need to do relative to progressions and discipline within his progressions.
So I think on both ends, some coaching things and some player discipline can eradicate all of those errors.
Q. Your receiver group is fairly young, can you assess the way they have played?
COACH KELLY: I think it’s a group that is gaining confidence along the way. They are making some plays, and I think as you make plays, I’ve always felt that that’s how you gain confidence. I think Chris Brown made some plays and you could see he gained some confidence curing the game.
Certainly Will Fuller is gaining confidence each and every week. You know, so I just think it’s a matter of those guys continuing to make plays. I thought that they blocked well opponent the perimeter, which is another important part of the development of our wide receiving core.
So we are four games into it. You know, a third of the way, and I think that they have made pretty good progress. There’s a ways to go but pretty good progress in the first third.
Q. The last time Stanford came here, iconic and exciting game. Curious if you can give your recollections of that game and in particular how it ended, and in perspective, what that win might have meant?
COACH KELLY: What I remember about it is playing two quarterbacks. Everett was hurt in the game and we had to go to Tommy. Tommy made a couple big plays. I remember a great defensive goal line stand. I remember as we were trying to go in to score, the rains came and I figured that that meant we were going to win.
So again, I just don’t know there’s anything really we can take from that game other than it was another step for us during a long season of close victories. I don’t know what the significance was in the program other than, you know, we beat a good Stanford team. But we beat a good Oklahoma team that year, too. So again, I think it was just a good, solid football game, and I think we continue to work on getting better and both teams have obviously shown that they are pretty good teams.
Q. Curious what Everett’s practices, what his reactions have been like in the couple days since that game now?
COACH KELLY: Well, we’ll practice today. But we had meetings yesterday, and one of the things we do is we announced special teams Player of the Week and we have our own, you know, awards that we give out, and one of them is we announce whether there are any national awards and Everett was I think the FBS offensive Player of the Week.
I announce them just because those are things that those kids should hear, and he wasn’t too fired up about that.
So I think he feels like from his perspective that maybe he didn’t deserve it, I don’t know. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but you could tell, if he sits right there in front of me, his body language would suggest that that award should have went to somebody else.
So my guess is, and we’ll go to practice today, so I can probably answer your question a little bit better. Body language, film study, all suggested that he’s eager to go out and improve as a quarterback.
Q. Ben Councell is a guy we’ve been talking to you about for a while, and you seemed to suggest that maybe this was the kind of game that would fit; is that in alignment with what you said earlier, and is he healthy and unrusty and ready to go?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think he’s definitely somebody that we count on and Coach VanGorder is clearly going to employ some different defensive schemes this week.
You know, Ben will be part of the rotation there. We’ll see how it plays out. But Ben’s healthy and again I think he only got one rep on Saturday, but he’s somebody that is definitely in the rotation for us.
Q. Amir, Collinsworth and Jarrett Grace, what are their statuses?
COACH KELLY: Amir will practice today. Collinsworth, Austin, is so much further along. I would expect that he would help us this weekend. And Jarrett Grace, it’s a day to day situation for him. And I don’t think there’s really I don’t think our trainers could tell you when that day is that he breaks through, but he’s made progress every day.
Q. With the offensive line, you talked a little bit Sunday about, you know, kind of investing in this new alignment and so forth. It’s a group that comes early, stays late and you’ve got talent and you’ve got depth there and you microwave the chemistry a little bit, or does that come into play in games and experience in those situations?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it’s just simply going to be you know, in this past game, communication was probably the one thing that we’ll have to do a better job of communicating with each other and just being comfortable with some new roles.
So I thought there were some good things that occurred out there. You know, we saw look, we’re not going to establish, you know, after one game, hey, we’ve got a left side. That’s going to take time.
It’s really a work in progress, but there were signs there that we saw that we really liked. I mean, given the defense that we saw on Saturday, there was a lot going on. We sorted out a lot of things. That was not the kind of first game you’d want for five guys coming together for the first time. They sorted a lot of things out and did some pretty good things.
Q. You moved into this week where we’re finally going to have hearings for players is your understanding that all the hearings will take place and then you’ll find out what’s happened?
Will it be piecemeal to find each one out as they happen?
COACH KELLY: Somebody who asked me, I think my wife asked me she did. I really don’t know. I have no idea what the process is, other than what a couple of the players have informed me of relative to the hearings taking place this week. But I have no knowledge of when a decision will be levied, how that will take place, whether the players are informed through an e mail or a letter. I just don’t have any of that information.
Q. The team has done a very good job of not being distracted by this this announcement could kind of stir that all up again.
COACH KELLY: I mean, they have been pretty resilient up to this point. I think that their focus is they are all pretty excited about playing Stanford, and they know that they are going to have to be at their very, very best to beat Stanford, and any distraction at all will take away from playing a very good football team.
So my sense is that I’ve got a pretty good feel for this group, and they are really excited about the game. And I’m not saying that they don’t care about what happens to their teammates. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But they know that they have to be looked in on this game.
Q. Defensively, Stanford has been known as a strong run defense for the past few years and now they are the No. 1 pass defense. What the have you seen from them that’s allowed them to be so successful?
COACH KELLY: Well, they have two outstanding corners. It starts at the cornerback position, and I only have three so play a lot of man coverage. You know, do a very good job mixing things up with their scheme, play some zone, play some man. You know, good pass rush obviously helps when you’re talking about limiting your opponent in the passing game.
So fairly comprehensive in that I think you start on the perimeter with the cornerback play. Their nickel can match up. I think we have all learned that, as well, that you get really good nickel play, as well. That’s going to enhance your coverage ability.
So just a really good defense across the board, and I think it starts with the corners.
Q. They seem to be up front a little small ir, more athletic and more aggressive. Is that more of a scheme change or adjustment to the personnel that happens to be there at this time?
COACH KELLY: Well, Anderson is 287 Murphy (ph) is 284
Q. Compared to what they were last year
COACH KELLY: Well, I think Murphy was a high draft pick. Maybe they lost an NFL player or two, but these are still really fine college football players, and so I haven’t seen much of a different size.
You know, 34 is probably one of the more athletic players that we have seen, and I say 34 because I can’t pronounce Peter’s last name very well. I keep butchering it in the staff meeting, so I’ll stay away from it. We recruited him along with he’s good friends with Doug Randolph. But he’s really athletic and causes some problems in pass rush. He’s a little bit different from the prototypical, big, physical Stanford rush player. But he causes all kinds of problems. Other than that, they look the part. They look like a Stanford defense.
Q. And on the other side, they seem to be kind of going through what you guys have been going through, trying to establish their running game, not quite what it’s been from a statistical standpoint, talented players. Do you see them going through the same thing you guys have so far, trying to get those guys on the same page?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, I think both of us are trying to find that consistency on both sides of the ball. They have had some turnovers. We have been pretty good in the red zone. They haven’t probably felt like they have been as effective in the red zone as they would like, and I know David feels like they are ready to play that kind of offense.
But they are very similar to what they have done. They are in profile from what they have shown in the past. You know, Owusu is a great size kid and Montgomery is a dynamic player. Veach (ph) at the offensive line is one of the best one in the country. They have got the physical offensive line and an experienced quarterback. They have got a match up problem guy with Devon and then great skill with Ty.
So they have got all the pieces there. You know, it’s just a matter of time. We just hope it’s not this Saturday.
Q. You talked about the team being young and inexperienced, and some people are questioning whether Notre Dame is a Top 10 team. Do you feel a third of the way through the season that you have a Top 10 team?
COACH KELLY: I really don’t know. I mean, I don’t spend much time, quite honestly, thinking about those things. And I mean, I have to rank us based upon preseason rankings and then if we win, I keep us ranked.
But I don’t really think about, hey, have we got a Top 10 team. I really think more about developing our football team, our entire team. And that’s really what takes up my time. I’d like to give you a better answer, but I just don’t spend much time thinking about it in those terms.
Q. The teams you’ve played have not been as strong as expected. Stanford is probably the best test you’ve seen so far. Will you have a better idea after this game, do you think, where exactly your team is?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, I think every week we’re presented with that and we go in there with a great amount of respect for Stanford.
But, you know, maybe in three weeks we’ll find out that, you know, Stanford wasn’t the kind of team, or, you know, Notre Dame wasn’t.
Again, we just don’t spend much time thinking in those terms. I get where you’re coming from from your perspective, but we really focus on what we need to do to get better. We turned the ball over; we gave up some big plays on the perimeter. We focus a lot more on that stuff than the bigger picture issues that I know you have to focus on.
So I think for us, we are so single minded in our focus about developing our players because of what you said originally. We are not an experienced group and if we sway too far from working on getting out of our break, and taking a direct snap because we fumble, you know what I mean, we’re going to be in trouble. And so that’s where I really have to stay as a task master when it comes to those details.
Q. One of the question marks was the defensive line. How do you think it’s performed so far and do I feel how do you think Sheldon Day has done?
COACH KELLY: Sheldon Day has been outstanding. There’s probably one part in the game where you can really point to where you separates himself from everybody and that’s late in the game, you can arguably say the game is probably over, and he is I mean, he is the pass rusher. I mean, he is by himself, getting after the quarterback. So I thought that singularly was a moment where he separated himself from everybody in terms of his effort, intensity, late in the fourth quarter, we are up a couple of scores and he’s out there just playing at 110 percent. That’s the mark of a potentially great player.
Q. You saw that Brady Hoke (ph) came under scrutiny leaving the quarterback in after he got hit. Do you have somebody, maybe you don’t feel like that inaudible. How do you try to safeguard against something like that happening?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we have a protocol within our athletic training program that oversees all the players on the field. We have a spotter within our athletic training program. Rob Hunt has spotters that are watching the players on the field. So there’s somebody that’s responsible for spotting any injuries that are on the field. That’s their job. Then there is protocol for how those injuries are assessed. And of course, we have a protocol for, you know, whether there’s head injuries or, you know, any other kind of injuries and then they have to go through a battery of test.
So feel very comfortable with our procedures. I’m sure we’ll like everybody else in the country, review ours again. But I feel very comfortable that there’s really good communication and that we’re clearly looking out for all of our student athletes in this game.
Q. With so many moving parts, I’m sure you have a hard time keeping track of who is where during the game. If somebody has a concussion, how do you safeguard that person going in without your knowledge or you’re not sure what their condition is?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, our trainers and our doctors control who goes back in the game. So it’s out of the hands of assistant coaches and the head coach as to who goes back in the game.
So if somebody is out of the game, Rob Hunt will communicate that with me. He’ll say, so and so is out. We’re working to see if we can get him back in, or he’s out for the game. And we’ve had that here and that communication since he’s from here and it’s been very good communication as far as I’m concerned.
Q. Do you think the helmets there could be confusion, does anybody make sure that somebody who is out can’t slip on the field?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think within his group, and again, we’re talking about doctors and trainers, there’s a very cohesive group there. They know what their marching orders are. This isn’t one where a kid is going to suffer some form of an injury to their head and kind of slide back out on the field.
I haven’t even seen an indication that that could possibly occur. If I thought there was a way that it could occur, we probably would have had that conversation already. I feel very comfortable that our training staff and Rob Hunt and our team doctors handle that matter.
Sometimes I even get frustrated. I want to get the guys in if they are capable but they have a protocol they have to go through and sometimes that requires them to leave the field, and they have to take them into the locker room, because they have to be in a place where there’s not so much stimulus. That just takes a while. That’s just the way it is. We understand that.
Q. I think Stanford has only given up four plays of 20 yards or more, and I don’t think any 30 yards or more but they have not played a dynamic offense like yours. You’ve said in the past about the importance of big chunk plays. Is this one of those games, or is that just not realistic?
COACH KELLY: Oh, no, we won’t win if we don’t get big chunk plays. But we are not going to go five, seven, ten yards and score enough points to win. No, we’ll have to find our chances. We’ll have to create opportunities and we’ll have to make some plays down the field, there’s no question.
So creating those opportunities during the game, is part of what we have to prep during the week.
Q. With regard to the attempted spike of the football, what do you teach the players in terms of when they hear a whistle?
Imagine you’d like them to keep playing, but it may be their instinct to stop. Last year there was an incident in Pittsburgh where Joe Schmidt didn’t chase a fumble. What do you see in regard to that?
COACH KELLY: I think in that instance right there, particularly, the Joe Schmidt situation is a little bit different. We’ve already talked about that to our team.
With Everett’s situation, he heard the Whittle and he just backed off and we talked about it. We felt like he did what he should have done in that particular instance. We want him to make sure that he doesn’t leave it up to the officials to decide that play again.
But I think with that whistle situation, I think he handled it the right way. It’s something that is not scripted. I don’t think he didn’t do the right thing. If he doesn’t hear the whistle, he’s got to go get the ball. So what we talked about, you don’t hear a whistle, you’ve got to get on that football. He hears a whistle and he backs off.
Q. This isn’t a compare and contrast question, but wondering what Mike Denbrock as your coordinator this year, how you two have worked together and what has he allowed you to do now back in the role of play calling?
COACH KELLY: He does a legally good job of pulling out of the library. We really took a great amount of time of really setting the things in motion that I wanted to achieve offensively. And if you walked into our offensive staff room, you would see volumes of information on the walls, and most of that is philosophy in terms of, here are the things we want to do.
Mike is really good about, you know, pulling the things that he knows that I like to accomplish, you know, in our offensive game plan.
So I think that’s what we’ve accomplished, where he can start to pull things off that wall and I don’t have to be in that room and then he can start presenting, hey, what do you think about this, and by and large, we’re on the same page as it comes to putting together the game plan.
Q. Was there a moment during the game with Everett making some of the mistakes that he did that you gave consideration to putting Malik Zaire in?
COACH KELLY: No.
Q. And lastly from me, at home, you’ve won the last six is it the ability to practice in your stadium to what do you attribute the 15 1 mark in the last 16 games?
COACH KELLY: Probably a little bit of all of those things. I think part of it is probably me, too, and getting comfortable with all that goes on during the week. At Notre Dame, there’s a lot that goes on and probably just setting what I feel like is a really good schedule for our guys that doesn’t overload them and then really, getting them to feel comfortable and relaxed at home. I felt like early in my time here, we were a little uptight and maybe trying to do too much. I think we have relaxed and played a lot more comfortable and really look at it as a home field advantage.
Q. Inaudible has that number improved to where you’re a little more comfortable with it?
COACH KELLY: We’ve been within a few percentage points. We haven’t seen a huge drop. And we’ve seen that our technique is getting better. Our assignments are still in a position that needs to continue to get better. Technique is better. That has moved up. We’ve got to continue to get better in the assignment area.
Q. In terms of Max, how much does that fall on his plate?
COACH KELLY: Well, Max had a pretty good game relative to assignment. There were some other players that dipped a little bit there. Max is learning the game more so than a particular scheme. And so every game for him out there, as you know, he didn’t play the second half of the Purdue game.
So every game out there, he’s getting more comfortable and seeing things. It’s not that he blows an assignment because he doesn’t follow it. It’s because the game, he’s still learning the game and he’s getting better at it every single day.
Q. Is it an issue like having a bad plan is better than having no plan at all?
COACH KELLY: No, no. Again, I want to let’s be clear about Max Redfield. Max Redfield is an outstanding athlete, and he knows everything in our playbook.
But when the game starts and your vision requires you to vision something the game is fast right now in some instances and when the game slows down a little bit for him, he is a really smart kid. He understands hour defensive systems. He understands the calls. He is the young and inexperienced that I’m talking about, but there’s nobody that’s working as hard as him. I mean, he’s in here every day learning it. It’s just going to take a little time for him. And we’re fine, because he’s working hard at it.
Q. Going back to the game two years ago, I know you mentioned there are not a ton of takeaways you can take into this year, but in terms of winning those close games and just having that mentality to be able to pull through the a three point win, a seven point win, how important was that development to the point where you could go to Oklahoma and have a tide game in the fourth quarter and then win?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, is that was clearly part of that team, you know, in 2012, they felt like they could win any game they played. You know, Pittsburgh in overtime, that was that group. Each year is a different group.
So we have not been in that situation yet here. So it’s hard to tell. This is a different group. And not saying that they couldn’t be that same group. They just haven’t been challenged in that respect.
But you knew in 2012, that was the leadership in that group that they refused to believe that they could lose a game.
Q. Like your team, Stanford has three guys that are carrying the ball for them offensively. My first question is: Are they different styles of runners?
And my second question is: Their leading rusher in a couple categories, what are you seeing from Wright?
COACH KELLY: Well, Wright is an outstanding back, first of all. But they have some similar traits. They are all about 5 9, 5 10, 190 pounds, physical kids. They are hard runners.
I mean, you know, all of them have a similar pedigree. They are looking for a similar back. You have a catcher coming out of the backfield and they are very much involved in their protections. These are complete backs. They do all phases of the run they are not specialists, if you will.
So good inside, outside runners. That’s why they are playing three of them because all three of them have very similar skill sets.
Q. Is his skill set hard to come by where he can do both, he doesn’t have one strength one direction or a weakness; he can do both reasonably well?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he’s kind of an interesting player in that, you know, you would say that he’s when you look at him, you say, wow, that looks like a prototypical safety, right, and he started his career there, or maybe even a running back. But he has a really interesting skill set in that he’s got a burst, he can catch the football, and he’s a really good blocker on the perimeter, which they are hard to find. And, willing; you know, he’s willing to do some of the dirty work at that position.
So you’re always looking for that kind of player that is willing to get in there and do some of the tough work that he’s able to do and you’re not afraid to throw him the football because he can make those plays.
Now, he’s still got a ways to go in route running. He’s got a ways to go in tracking the deep ball. But those are the things that he’s got to improve on. But the short, intermediate throws, the blocking, he’s really been able to help our football team in that respect.
Q. With Amir, how much do you expect him to play on Saturday?
COACH KELLY: I think we are all very surprised where he is today. I thought that, you know, we would probably get him back to running and maybe doing a little bit of individual, but he’s cleared for everything today. I’m going to put him in everything but one on one today, just so I don’t get him tangled up with somebody.
But I’m going to put him in team. I’m going to put him in seven on seven and I’ll probably give him 50 percent of the reps that I would normally give him and then I’ll have a good sense after today where we are with him.
Q. Do you feel like they are ready for this kind of
COACH KELLY: Oh, I think so. Yeah, look, our quarterback is capable of being a game changer. I think that we have backs that can impact the game. I think we have wide receivers. I think we have an extremely capable tight end in our offensive line is emerging.
In my opinion, there’s no reason why we can’t go into this game feeling like yeah, we have to play well. We can’t turn the football over five times, but there is no reason why this offense can’t win against the No. 1 defense in the country and feel like it can put points on the board.
Now, I don’t think anybody is going in there thinking we are going to short circuit the scoreboard. But we’re going to play pretty good defense, too. So I think it’s a confidence but they know clearly that mistakes will not be I mean, there’s no way you can overcome the mistakes that we’ve made.
Q. On Saturday the personal foul against Romeo, I think you just answered my question (Laughter). I guess what do you do after that when you see something on tape, where it’s like, I disagree with this call; how do you register the complaint after the fact?
COACH KELLY: If you knew Romeo, Romeo didn’t know what he did. I mean, there’s no malice or intend with Romeo.
We have to sometimes hit him with a wet towel once in awhile to get him fired up. It’s just one of those things where I think they are trying to protect the quarterback and I think he thought he was trying to drive him into the ground, and we said that that would be the first time that Romeo had driven anybody into the ground. So he didn’t see it that way.
Q. As part of the hearing process, players are allowed to bring in members has anyone asked you to appear on their behalf?
COACH KELLY: I’d rather not get into the specifics. I think that’s between me and the players.
Q. Given how much time has passed
COACH KELLY: No, I would still stand with that. How much they could play would be clearly based upon when there is a finality to it, right. If it’s Friday night, that certainly is going to make it very difficult. If it’s tonight, certainly that would increase the odds. But I think I would still stand behind that comment provided that there is at least some time to learn the game plan.
I think today would be about learning the game plan more than anything else. I believe all the guys have tried to stay in a sense a physical conditioning level. Certainly they would not be able to play 40, 50 plays, but I think it would be more about picking up the game plan now.
Q. Given Notre Dame’s commitment going forward with the ACC, has there been any discussion about the future of the Stanford series?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it’s one that we will try to protect at all costs. And I know my athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, has communicated to me that he has worked closely with the Pac 12 to make sure that through scheduling that we can keep this series alive.