Below is a collection of quotes from Irish head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Mike Elston, senior defensive end Ethan Johnson, and senior right guard Trevor Robinson during the media's last meeting with Notre Dame's players and coaches prior to touching down in Orlando for a date with Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl next week.
Kelly asked about a potential offensive line tweak: "We're going to with where we started, but Andrew (Nuss) is getting a lot of work. He's prepared and ready to go if need be, but no, we're going to start the same five guys up front."
Nuss is presumed to be working at center where senior Mike Golic has started in place of classmate Braxston Cave over the last three-plus contests. The rest of the front wall each started all 12 games during the regular season: LT Zack Martin, LG Chris Watt, RG Trevor Robinson, and RT Taylor Dever.
Kelly on his success following bye weeks/extended time off: "I think time allows you to look at what you're doing and spend more time on the teaching elements that can get away from you during the week, game planning and preparing. Our practice schedule reflects a little more teaching, a little more individual (work), a little more focus on the fundamentals. And maybe that's translated, I don't know."
Kelly regarding the commons foes the teams have faced and their role in preparation: "When you're breaking down film vs. common opponents, you can kind of get a sense and feel for matchups and things like that, but I think that's about it. It's still about how we play and prepare. It gives you a little insight in terms of personnel."
Notre Dame and Florida State each faced Wake Forest, Maryland, and Boston College – ACC Atlantic Division foes – this fall. The Irish defeated the Demon Deacons by 7, the Terrapins by 24, and the Eagles by 2. Conversely, the Seminoles lost to Wake Forest by 5, beat Maryland by 25, and Boston College by 31.
Elston regarding Seminoles QB E.J. Manuel: "He's comparable to (Stanford QB) Andrew Luck in terms of his size. He's big. He's a powerful kid and when Andrew would take off he was a powerful player. He has an electric arm and escape-ability in the pocket though he's been sacked some. He still has great escape-ability and he runs out of tackles. A very physical player and sneaky fast. For 6'5" 250 pounds, he really seems to be a pretty fast player."
Elston on containing Manuel, and other mobile QBs: "There's a balance there in that you're trying to be aggressive to break the protection down of the (offensive) linemen, and then get to the QB. But also you have to be conscious that if you're too aggressive on the linemen he can break contain and step up inside. A lot of our issues have come from the quarterback stepping up inside the (defensive) end, and then getting out because we get too far up the field.
"We just have to show them on film how he gets upfield, how he likes to escape, and then have an emphasis on that."
Robinson on playing the Seminoles: "For me Florida State is one of those teams as a Huskers fan growing up that you don't necessarily like. There's that, and I know Notre Dame and Florida State going back to the early 90s is the same way. I'm a bit more familiar from the Nebraska end (the FSU/Nebraska matchups of the time).
"I didn't know the first thing about Notre Dame before I got here. I didn't know where it was until I came to a camp going into my junior year of high school. But (FSU) is one of those programs in the country that's one of those top tier programs if you're looking at it (nationally). I don't think anyone's sleeping on Florida State."
Robinson on the FSU defensive front: "When you're talented enough you don't have to do (use many stunts). You see the teams that don't maybe have the physical talent that Florida State has try to throw those things at us. Personally I like (the Seminoles approach). I think as an offensive line we're talented enough that we can play with anybody but I think we can handle what they can do.
"Watching them on film, they're a team similar to USC that you can't really pick out one guy (that he'll face all game). Those are the teams that are tough because they move around enough and rotate enough guys that they're deep enough in the D-Line that you're going to be seeing a few guys. I compare them to USC because they're also talented and deep. Through the game you go against 2-3 guys and different guys at the linebacker level, too."
Johnson regarding Manuel: "He's a big, athletic guy. He's fast, we're going to have to contain him. You have to be assignment sound and contain him in the pocket. Some quarterbacks, if you know they can't scramble you can do some different things, but this game we're just going to focus on getting pressure on him and just take him out of the game. Not literally, of course, but make him a non-factor. If you can make the quarterback a non-factor, that's always a good thing."
Kelly on the Seminoles Defense that allowed just over 15 ppg. (#4 in the nation): "Athleticism. They don't stay blocked. You may catch them for a second but they keep their feet. They're a very athletic group. They're well-coached up front, they have a very good scheme in the sense that they don't ask them to do too much, but to get after the football. It reminds you of a Miami defense from last year, and a lot more engaged."