Oct. 27, 2015
COACH KELLY: Back to work yesterday and we’ve got a chance to get a bonus practice in, if you will. Normally we practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, walk through on Friday.
With the off-week, we got a couple days in last week, and then guys came back Saturday night. Sunday, we weight trained them, conditioned them. And then Monday, got about a 90-minute practice in with some skill work, skill development and some Temple preparation. Today will be a typical Tuesday for us. But we’re preparing against a very, very well coached football team. Very impressed with what Matt has done. Has done a remarkable job.
If you just look back on our game in 2013 and where he’s taken this program, they are deserving of their ranking. They have earned everything that they have gotten this year as a football team. It’s an outstanding defense. They do everything very well. Phil is a veteran defensive coordinator. He’s seen a little bit of everything in his career, from the NFL to college, and implements a lot of different looks defensively.
And I think they just are solid in everything that they do, fundamentally sound. They can bring pressures. They played very good zone. Two-deep, three-deep, man, combination coverages. Just really well-coached football team.
Offensively, they bring a lot of different personnel groupings at you. Thomas, the running back, certainly, Walker, are the two that obviously are the energy to that offense. But have big-play capabilities with Anderson and Brian at the wide receiver position. So balance, I think, is what they are striving for offensively. They want to run the football, play-action pass. But utilizing a lot of different schemes and personnel groupings.
Solid in special teams. They have been able to make some big plays in special teams. So physical-type offense. They played great second-half football. They won a lot of games late. Just have a really solid football team. Again, one deserving of where they are, a Top-25 football team. It will be a great challenge for our football team, going on the road, and one that we’ll have to play very well.
Q. Curious with Avery, you thought maybe this would be about the time you got him back. What’s his progress?
COACH KELLY: He’s walking around, and you know, probably would be two, three weeks to even get him to the level of play. Just one of those things where bone growth has been slow for him. He’s been on a stimulator for bone growth. It just has not comeback to the level that most do. So if we can’t see progress in the next couple of weeks, then we’ll have to decide.
He’s eligible for a sixth year because of back-to-back years of injuries. So we’ll have to see, you know, what he’s capable of doing for us over the next couple of weeks. But it’s just been a difficult injury in the sense that it usually heals up quickly but that he hasn’t had the bone growth necessary.
Q. With kind of a week to kind of mull that over — Farley — do you want them both to play, do you want there to be separation? What’s your hope from that position?
COACH KELLY: Honestly, what I want and what we have are two different things. Both those kids are committed to being the best players that they can be and we are coaching them every single day — you following my drift. We’re working hard with them every day.
We just feel like I think both of those guys are going to give us what we need at the position and it’s going to be one where both of them are going to have to help us win.
Q. You got a couple Philly kid going home this week, and McGlinchey, I wanted to ask you about. Is he becoming a player that you thought he would with that height and length promise that he came in with?
COACH KELLY: I think so. I think any time that you put somebody out at the tackle position, and somebody that didn’t have a pedigree, particularly, at the position, nor came from a football program that turns out a lot of Division I prospects. You really have to trust in your evaluation and trust that you’re going to get somebody that is committed to that developmental process. And we knew Mike and how hard of a worker he was and we knew what we were getting with a workman-like attitude that he has every day and then hairy has done a great job of developing him.
So you bring those two together and we knew that we were going to have something that was going to give us the kind of play that he has. He’s still scratching the surface, you know. Every day is, I think, for him, he sees things that he has not seen before. But the length, the athleticism, makes up for a lot of things that he had not seen before.
Q. And do you think he’s a guy that could be a pretty good pro some day if he kept on the same arc?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think that there’s much doubt that he’s going to be playing at another level. His athleticism, his length, his toughness, all those things, his IQ, how he carries himself, he’s going to be a great pro.
He just needs more work at the game. He came in with very little knowledge of an offensive line, just even vocabulary, words of an offensive lineman didn’t resonate with him. It’s really developmental for him and he’s made great progress, but I definitely see him playing this game for a long time.
Q. Niles was a guy that had to play a lot of football for you because of circumstance last year and this year those circumstances don’t exist at this point. We’ve seen a little bit of them. I’m wondering what his development is; is he pushing Joe at all and how is he handling not being a contributor?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, Joe has been a clean-up hitter for us, if you will, and we don’t want to take him out of the lineup. We feel very confident, if Niles was asked to go in the football game, and I know talking to Brian about this, in particular, that he’s just handled himself extremely well. He’s been very impactful on special teams for us and he’s ready to go in and play for us.
I think we’re just feeling very comfortable keeping Joe in the lineup, having not had him for so many games last year, we want to get every snap out of him that’s possible. I think it’s really less about Niles and more about keeping Joe on the field.
Q. Last year we were rebuilding —
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think that’s what we saw is the physical team. They are much more athletic as a football team now than they were then, especially on the defensive line and certainly, in the skill positions, who they are recruiting, really changed the look of their football team.
But there certainly was a toughness about them then that there is now. They are a four-quarter team, as evidenced by — their numbers are astonishing in terms of the second half, points scored versus points led. I think 29 points resonates to me as the number that they have given up in the second half — I could be wrong, is that correct? Something like that. Thank you.
Just a great second half football team. That tells you a lot about their mind-set and the kind of football them they have.
Q. They were .500 last year and on that Bowl fringe and I know they didn’t expect to be 7-0; can you see a potential sleeper team in them?
COACH KELLY: A couple of scores jumped out at me, last year, 13-7 against a very good Cincinnati offense, very close games, the Memphis game.
We saw some things there that I think defensively in particular, and we knew that this program was going to be one where they were going to be a physical football team and that they were going to be relying on a very good defense and a very opportunistic, tough offense and you could see that in some of the scores, especially late in the season.
Q. You started so well on the road; is there a change at all in your approach or do you just — execution; is there a change in approach going forward?
COACH KELLY: I think that some of our road games the last couple years, the ACC took it easy on us — Florida State, pretty tough places to play at. I just think we’ve played some tough games. Our kids have been prepared, played hard. But when you go on the road, you have to take care of the football. That’s the most important thing. And you’ve got to have a mind-set when you’re on the road that you’ve got to play from behind at times and you’ve got to overcome the crowd and all those things and officiating, and our guys are tough minded about that.
So we just talk about really taking care of your own business and if you do that, play hard for four quarters and get it to the fourth quarter, you have a chance to win.
Q. Does a month on the road help your routine at all? You’re barely home.
COACH KELLY: I think when you look at the kind of football teams that play late, and I say late, December and January, they have to have these stretches. They have to play well on the road. You can’t just sit at home and play at home. So I think the really good football teams have to prove themselves.
You know, I think for us, it will be October is for pretenders and November will be for contenders, and we’ll show ourselves in that regard because of our schedule in November.
Q. What you deal with day-to-day, what’s the difference between power five and group of five in the way the programs operate and what you battle recruiting-wise?
COACH KELLY: Probably personnel retention, personnel — so that a lot of times salary, dollars, facilities, infrastructure. Those two things probably are the biggest when you talk about the differences between the two, which equals revenue, right.
At the end of the day, TV contract — revenue dollars. I think if you boil it down, it’s really investing back into your program in personnel, in recruiting and infrastructure and that’s probably the biggest difference between the two. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t put together a really good football team if you’re not in the power five.
The question is: Can you do that year-in and year-out and that’s what you have to be able to do when you don’t sometimes have the same resources that you do in the power five.
Q. You’ve been strong historically after bye weeks and I think different teams probably need different teams after the bye week. Besides sort of resting up, what did you feel this team needed out of the bye?
COACH KELLY: They needed just to get off campus. They had been here a long time. A change of routine was all that they needed, and really, more of an academic break than a football break. They like to play football.
If we told them we were going to play football for 45 minutes and it was going to be seven on seven and maybe a little bit of pass rush, they probably would have went out there every day.
But they needed a break from all the other things that they are required to do, and they got that, and I think that that was probably the energy that they needed to get restored.
Q. As much as maybe having midterms and USC coincide a negative, is the bye a bigger positive —
COACH KELLY: If we could get that every year that, would be a huge piece for us. So if we could craft that in scheduling, that would be very helpful to Notre Dame.
Q. You said a lot, what you go on the road or when somebody comes here you are always going to get their best shot. But it’s rare you may be playing in that program’s biggest-profile game. What do you expect on Saturday night in that environment that has not had a whole lot —
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it will be an outstanding environment to play in. It won’t take much to get our guys excited about it. It will be a full stadium. It’s a lot easier for our guys to feel the excitement at Clemson than if it’s a half-full stadium and it’s not a raucous crowd.
So we feed off that. Our guys enjoy that. They are used to it. Every week they play in front of 80-something thousand. We hope it’s an exciting atmosphere. We know as football players, as student athletes, as college athletes, they love that environment.
So we will prepare for a loud crowd in terms of our preparation. We will put the music on this week and just like we did when we went down to Clemson, and have to play better than we did down at Clemson.
Q. With Fuller in Philadelphia, I know you have high hopes when you recruited, but was there a moment in the freshman year or maybe in camp where you thought, okay, he could be as good as he’s turned out to be —
COACH KELLY: I think when we played Will as a true freshman, we felt at that time that he had an element that could help us win. So I think any time you play a true freshman, you have high hopes that in a couple years, he’s going to be a potentially game-breaking player for you, or you wouldn’t play him as a true freshman.
Unless you’re just playing him because he — and we had a really good player out there in C.J. Jones. So it was what we saw in true freshman with the ability to get down the field that we thought he could be a really good player in time.
Q. One of the perplexing stats, for me at least, is — three-and-outs, but they also seem to have every game a span where the team scores in bunches. How do you play in that and what do you do to fix that?
COACH KELLY: We had, I think it was six plays against USC for 250 yards. We’re at a point at one time in the game where it’s 24-10 with five minutes and 50 seconds to go in the half and the thing just goes crazy on us. Gadget play, screen pass, and you know, there you go. Come out of the half and we miss the tackle in the backfield. And then nothing again.
And so we clearly as coaches and players know what our deficiencies are, and we know how to fix them. We just got to get that done. In practice, we talked about it last night again as a staff; we are making up gadget plays. We are trying to get our guys to do their job and be disciplined. We’re even enacting some techniques to make sure that guys run through their man and before they cut a guy loose.
You know, we clearly know some of the things that we have to get better at, and if we are more consistent as a defense, we are going to be really good. We just have to get to that point. We clearly, those numbers, they are what they are and we have got to correct those.
Q. You mentioned on the Sunday before the bye week that missed tackles was one of the problems. It seems like in the long run, some of the runners have gone untouched. Is it a thing of just being in space where players can get open or is it a couple of players working in tandem — or one guy makes a mistake and the other guy follows?
COACH KELLY: Well, the play we were concerned about was a long run. We had an unblocked player in the backfield who missed the tackle. And then we took a poor angle by our safety. And so your safeties have got to be that, and they have got to be your safety. They have to be there if there is a missed tackle in your front seven. So we missed the tackle that was an unblocked pass that we should have made a tackle and then it gets to the safety level when we miss another tackle.
So one of it is, certainly continue to work with our guys on a day-to-day basis. We know who we are. We have to go out on the practice field and, would on tackling like we did yesterday and we have to continue to work with the guys. There is no waiver wire. We’re not cutting anybody. We’re not trading anybody.
We just have to work with the guys that we have and get better and they are committed to doing that. They see the film and we see the film. We have to put them in good position to succeed. We have to continue to do that and then we have to be positive with them and get the best out of them every day.
Q. I know Chris Brown is a leader in the group but does Will provide leadership, too, to some of the younger receivers?
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah, they are all very, very good with the young guys. He’s very good with Equanimeous in terms of routes. If you were at practice, and you guys have been, but not for awhile, like Will will stand like with EQ before he goes in and he’s talking to him all the time about the routes and what he should be doing. And they are really good.
I think Chris is the best at it. But Will is very, very responsible when it comes to those young guys, because he feels like he was mentored by TJ Jones and he wants to pass that on. And so it’s a good situation.
Q. You mentioned McGlinchey and Smith, Stanley and Fuller. Who are some guys in the program right now that you could see developing into some future NFL Draft picks?
COACH KELLY: I really — I haven’t really spent much time thinking about that. I’m focused, really — I respect your question, but I just haven’t given it much thought about the NFL. I’ve been worried about this Temple team. They are driving me crazy. It’s a really good football team.
I think we have a lot of guys — look, every guy that comes to the Notre Dame, if they don’t want to play in the NFL, I’m not recruiting them. They all want to play in the NFL. They want to get their degree first, that’s No. 1. No. 2, they better want to help Notre Dame win a National Championship. And No. 3, I want you to go to the NFL if that’s what you want to do.
So I think we have got a boatload of guys that have that ability. I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about who those guys are.
Q. I think on Show time last week we saw C.J. Prosise wearing a red jersey in practice. What went into that?
COACH KELLY: Was that on Showtime?
Q. I think it was.
COACH KELLY: That darned Showtime. I tell you what, they are a pain in my butt. All right, they are off, no more Showtime. We are going to HBO.
You know what, that’s the first time I’ve done that in 25 years and I’m sorry that that got out. I guess you couldn’t help it if you showed any of it. I just don’t like teams getting a lot of series — and we were at that point where I didn’t want him — we’re thudding the back in practice.
We’re trying to really do our defense as much justice as possible and helping them in tackling and not being able to tag off situations. We have to get better at tackling and thudding the back. I didn’t want him to get in there and get hurt during practice, so I broke all my rules and I put a red jersey on a back for the first time in 25 years. It’s out there.
Q. With the bye week, was he one of the guys who could really benefit —
COACH KELLY: He did. He didn’t have a red jersey on yesterday, I can tell you that.
Q. When you look at his success and the offensive line, do you have a stat to gauge — whether it’s C.J. having success or the offensive line — how do you differentiate that?
COACH KELLY: Generally speaking, we keep just a couple of stats and that is yards after contact. So a lot of that would fall on C.J.’s shoulders. And the rest of it, we just put it on the offensive line and work — the receivers block.
The only stat we carry is yards after, which is attributed to the running back specifically. Other than that, it’s about having a great offensive line and getting guys up the field blocking for you.
Q. Where is Josh Adams on his freshman year?
COACH KELLY: I would say that foremost freshmen, he is in the probably 80 percentile, 90 percentile. He’s way up there. He’s done a terrific job of picking up the offense and he’s a really smart football player. I’m really impressed with what he’s been able to do his freshman year.
Q. With the off-week, was there a temptation with a young quarterback who has not had a whole lot of time, game after game after game, or was it important for him to clear his head like everybody else?
COACH KELLY: He was running on fumes and not just the academics. There’s a lot thrown on him: Being the quarterback at Notre Dame; this was all new to him, having a camera, being the center of it. He needed a break. There’s a lot more pep in his step, and energy and confidence, and it was a welcome break for him.
Q. And the momentum that you got after the USC win that, could have gone either way, but coming at a time when you had a break, how important was that to the team for recruiting, just the overall picture to get that win?
COACH KELLY: Oh, it’s very important to beat your rival. Beat him, certainly going to a bye week. Had a big recruiting weekend. I don’t know that it ever hinges on winning and losing in recruiting, but it sure doesn’t hurt it.
So I think more than anything else, our guys wanted to eradicate last year’s game against USC more than anything else. That’s really the only thing in their mind and they needed some time off.
We were on the road recruiting, and you could hear, there’s a buzz about it.
Q. Can you remember a time when there’s been big game after big game for you guys? I know a lot of the games are huge, but Virginia was talking about that being their biggest game at home in history; Clemson, biggest game in years and now Temple is talking about this being the game.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think you can look at it two ways. One, I think that Notre Dame’s football program is regarded as a quality football team. That’s a good thing.
I think the other thing is, there’s a lot of anticipation in college football today when teams that have not been in it before are now vying for an opportunity, so it creates a lot of energy and it creates a lot of anticipation. You’re seeing both of those things come together.
Q. Just a couple years ago, relevant —
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think we’ve eliminated that word from the vocabulary of Notre Dame football.
Q. Going back to C.J. with the red Jersey, you have a combination coming up where you are playing four road games in the next five weeks, but also, you’re going up against teams that are known for their physicality, Temple, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Stanford. Is there a point where you maybe want to taper off heading into November, maybe some of the physical work or because of the depth you’ve been able to build, do you maintain —
COACH KELLY: You have to be very careful in practice that you don’t turn practice into just a tempo walk-through. I’ve been down this before — playing 15 games and 14 games and playoffs where you’re playing really good football teams; that you don’t turn it into a walk to. You have to pick your spots. You still have to play fast and physical. You just can’t do it the entire length of the practice that you are used to doing maybe earlier in the year.
You have to find out what the players really need to work on and what are the things that you have to have that case for; then you’d better bang in that period and not bang when you’re running your opener, for example, or third-and-long.
So I think you really have to start when you get into November, pick your spots in practice where you really have to focus on those things, because I don’t believe you can use the whole program and go two hours and bang your football team, or you’re going to lose a lot of the guys necessary to get you over the hump.
Q. Is there more of a fatigue factor that can take over when you have to travel as much as you will the next month?
COACH KELLY: I don’t think so. I mean, we’re not going very far. I think if we were going to the West Coast and back, I’d be — we’re an hour, an hour and 15 minutes flight. I don’t think it’s too much of a factor for us. So I’m not really that concerned. We’ll play this game, we’ll get back late but after a break and then we’ll play Pittsburgh and then we’re at home.
So I think it worked out pretty good for us. And then the light at the end of the tunnel, then adrenaline and all those things kind of take over. So I think the real stretch for us is these back-to-back weeks are really important starting with this Temple team that’s a really good football team and getting through this week.
Q. You’re ranked 15th in rushing right now nationally and in the past, a big part of you running the ball well was you had a lot of double tight end situations and they were very effective with their blocking and all. How have you assessed the tight ends overall and aiding their running attack?
COACH KELLY: They are a bit inconsistent, and most of it is, we put them in some very pronounced positions on the edge of our offense, and so they have to make big-time plays for us. You know, they are not inside cut-off players for us.
So we are trying to get to the perimeter. They have got to capture the perimeter for us. So it’s a little bit different in our offense. They are high-profile position players for us. And they are getting better each and every week but there’s some inexperience in that group, as you know. You look at Nic Weishar and Tyler and AlizÃƒÆ’Â© and Chase, those are not experienced players across the board.
But we are doing pretty good with them. So I think each and every week, it’s a lot of developmental work and Scott Booker is doing a good job and Larry has done a lot of work with them off the field and Jeff Quinn is working helping them, as well.
So we have a lot of hands-on it and a lot of people are spending time there, and they are getting better each and every week but there’s some inexperience with that group, too.
Q. Where do you feel you’ve been able to best compensate to have an effective rushing attack without maybe having that same type of —
COACH KELLY: Oh, a breakaway back, C.J. Prosise. He’s been the difference in that he’s turned eight, ten yard runs into 50- or 60-yard runs.
Q. Going into this week, what’s your message or theme with the team?
COACH KELLY: Well, we’re kind of just got back here and when we got back here on Sunday, we just talked about where we are and what we need to do. So I kind of really set the table for them. Talked about Temple, what kind of challenge they are going to be. We are still evolving into what the theme is this week. Yesterday was, as you can imagine, we were getting the rust off a little bit.
So there was a little bit of a different message yesterday: We didn’t clean up the room. We didn’t put away all of our clothes, so we had a little bit of a different message. Today we’ll talk about what it takes to win on the road, what kind of mentality you need and what you have to do and what we didn’t do to win on the road in particular.
So those messages will get out today. Yesterday was a transition day, if you will. We were transitioning from guys that were coming in from different parts of the country and so we shook them up yesterday. Today we’ll talk about what it takes to win on the road.
Q. Are there any freshmen who have not played yet who are really catching your eye in practice, maybe guys who were not as visible in August?
COACH KELLY: You know, I think there’s probably — Miles Boykin is a guy that is going to be a really good player for us, that doesn’t have to play for us but if we have to put in a position, certainly could do some good things for us.
I think that Ashton White is going to be a really good player for us, healthy, working with our varsity guy. Probably don’t have to play him this year. He’s going to be a really good player for us.
I think that we know about some of the defensive linemen. I’d say all of those defensive linemen are all going to be really good players for us. They are just developmental guys right now. It’s going to take a little time. I’d say those are the guys that jump out at me right now.
Q. Chris Brown has been overshadowed, but what’s jumped out at me is very steady progress and improvement. What has gone into that?
COACH KELLY: He is an incredibly hard worker. Every single day, we wear a GPS monitor, our wide receivers, that track their output, every single day, and his output is unmatched in terms of how hard he works every single day. We have to actually talk to him about his force production. Sometimes you need a day off, because his work ethic and the way he comes to practice, and how hard he works all day is unmatched.
Q. Do you see him playing at the next level?
COACH KELLY: He’s definitely a guy that will get an opportunity. He’ll block. He’ll be a great special teams guy. He’s got speed. He’ll go up and catch the football. So I definitely think he’ll have an opportunity.
Q. C.J., the position switches and whatnot, a lot has been made about that, but what goes into it? He always makes it look so seamless, especially wide receiver to running back. Is that athleticism, smarts? What went into that?
COACH KELLY: Well, great knowledge of the offense helped him make the transition quickly. So everything relative to the offense, he didn’t have to think about it. All he’s had to think about, really, are the mechanics and the steps in terms of the running game. Everything else has been just naturally running with the football.
He’s just a natural runner with the ball in his hands, and he did enough of it in his first couple years where we would have jet sweeps and things that he was just a natural runner of the ball, and he’s kind of continued that. The only thing that he’s had to think about is really the mechanical pieces of running the football. Other than that, it’s been a natural transition.
Q. You called this a road game and yet here in fill I, everybody is excited about Notre Dame coming here. There are going to be 50,000 Notre Dame fans filling that stadium. Can you talk about that; there’s a great response to Notre Dame — it’s Notre Dame.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think that from our standpoint, we have traveled all over the country and we are met with great support. Whether we’re in — especially on the East Coast. New York has been a great area, certainly metropolitan areas, New Jersey, Philadelphia, have been strong for us in recruiting and following Notre Dame. So I don’t think it’s a huge surprise. I think there will be a lot of Temple fans there, as well. We are preparing for that.
But we know that the East Coast has always been a strong area for Notre Dame in terms of support. So that doesn’t surprise me that much.
Q. How far has Philadelphia turned out to be for Notre Dame?
COACH KELLY: Those are three of our better players. They very easily could be three of the best players that we have on offense if you really squint. Those three guys from that area just tells you about the kind of players — they are national recruits and they come right from that Philadelphia area, so I think that speaks volumes about the football in that area.
Q. Knowing how hyped these guys are going to be coming into this, will you pull them aside? Will you talk to them about, hey, you want to try to treat this as any other game, because for these three guys, they are going to have anywhere between 400 and 500 people there for them.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we have already had a little conversation about it. We are going to practice at Mike McGlinchey’s high school. They will have to settle into the game and they will. They have played in some big venues. They understand that there’s going to be some excitement about it. And I’m sure they will be excited, but they are going to have to settle into the game.
We’ll have a conversation, and I know I’ve already talked to Mike about it, but Will and Josh, they are going to need to settle into the game because they are going to have to play well for us to win.
We’ll come in Friday and practice over at Penn on Saturday morning.
Q. In getting ready for this game, what have you seen from P.J. Walker, Temple’s quarterback?
COACH KELLY: I think from my perspective, somebody that manages their offense extremely well, can run the football, has the ability to push the ball down the field, athleticism, and you know, he doesn’t turn the ball over. Takes care of the football.
I think what Matt and Marcus, their offensive coordinator, they obviously preach to him about taking care of the football. He’s very careful in taking care of the football. Can keep plays alive.
He’s just a really solid quarterback, and he’s got weapons around him and he’s not out there to win the game on his own. He doesn’t go out there with that, I’ve got to take over this game mentality. He goes out there knowing that he’s got some guys and he’s got a really good defense and he’s not going to put them in a bad situation.
Q. How about your thoughts on the defense? They are allowing 14.6 a game and they have obviously played well this year.
COACH KELLY: You know, they do it very well, and some of these defenses that are in the top of the country, do it with exotic looks and a lot of pressure. BC leads the country and they are really, really good but they play a lot of man coverage. This is not a team that plays a ton of man. Doesn’t blitz a lot but plays so fundamentally sound, will give you multiple coverage looks, can play three down and four down.
Just a really solid, well coached defense and they have got good players. They have got veteran players that have played a lot of football, and you can see that.