Q&A with Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly spoke with the media for nearly 20 minutes today at the Champs Sports Bowl Kick-off Luncheon.

Brian Kelly: Opening Statement

"I want to thank the Champs Sports Bowl and the hospitality that we've received here. The University of Notre Dame is grateful for everything that goes along with the bowl experience from our players and their experience in the Orlando area with the theme parks.

"All the kids that are on our staff at Notre Dame, I think we've been able to run them crazy this week in this area. All the things that go with the bowl game is a great experience for our football program and I couldn't be more pleased with the way we've been treated here in Orlando. It's a great destination.

"I've been fortunate to be a part of six consecutive bowl games and if you can't be playing for a BCS game, come to the Champs Sports Bowl, it's an outstanding bowl."

Question and Answer Session

Question: Given the shuffling along the defensive line, going into this bowl game, how do you feel like they've developed at the position?
Brian Kelly: "I feel really good because as you know we've played some freshmen along the defensive line. Stephon Tuitt has been out and he's back, so you've got a guy with fresh legs that gets an opportunity to play. With those vacancies, in other words guys that were injured with Ethan Johnson being out, Chase Hounshell, another true freshman got a lot of work.

"We're going into a bowl game with a freshman in Tuitt, a freshman in (Aaron) Lynch and a freshman in Hounshell that now can feel very comfortable going into this game. I feel very calm and collected when it comes to playing freshmen defensive linemen whereas normally when you're playing those guys you're not feeling too good about it."

Question: From El Paso (the 2010 Sun Bowl) to Orlando, what's been the big development on offense?
Kelly: "This has really been a process of evolving on offense. Certainly we're not at that point. Our numbers are up from last year, but if there's one thing that has held us back it's turning the ball over. I would look at it as we're still evolving. From last year to this time there has been a process of evolution for our entire offense and it's still ongoing. It's ongoing as we speak relative to our offensive players understanding our system and of course in the recruiting area."

Question: Does a bowl game of this stature help the process of getting back to an elite level program?
Kelly: "I think it starts with the ability to keep your football team together for another month. The ability to build more relationships and bonds with your players. You're still evaluating and giving opportunities to freshmen that may not have that chance to go out and prove themselves. I think there's a lot of things that go into having a bowl game.

"The game itself as a win/loss is not going to change the direction of your program. Certainly it's going to make you feel good about yourself going into the off-season, but all of those other things are much more important than actually singularly one game."

Question: What's the message to the team in the locker room tomorrow?
Kelly: "Really the message has been we're not at a point where we can just turn it on and turn it off. We have to practice hard, we have to be prepared, we have to do all the little things necessary in order to be successful because we're not just going to throw the ball out there and beat our opponents unless we are locked in all these areas.

"The message has been about what we need to do to win the football game and I think from my perspective we try to stay consistent with that message."

Question: Can you talk about Michael Floyd playing in his final game?
Kelly: "I think I've said this before, but you're in this business because you really love being around 18-21 year-olds and their development – as football players and as young men, because there is so much time that you invest.

"Michael Floyd is a guy that, in this profession, when you get to see a guy change his life after adversity, that's really what makes it special. He has exhibited all the things necessary that we have asked him to do. He's gotten his degree from Notre Dame, he's lived his life the right way and he's been extraordinary in his preparation and practice. Therefore we are going to name him the game day captain along with (team captain) Harrison Smith for this game. He exhibits all those traits that we feel are important to be a game day captain."

Question: With the BCS system and staggered bowls on different dates, do you feel some other bowls are lost in the shuffle with the BCS emphasis?
Kelly: "I think the big picture can come to that conclusion, the thing is, and we talked about the bowl question relative to what it does to your program" Each one of these teams that are playing in a bowl game all get that opportunity to continue to build their program.

"Even though in the big picture they may have seemed to water down the bowls, you can't say that to any of the other programs that are playing in the games because they get the same benefits of that extra time with their team. It might be just those two weeks that puts them over the top next year. I get the big picture understanding of it but each one of these bowls is really important to the programs that are playing in them."

Question: Florida State has been really good most of the year on special teams, can you talk about those matchups in this game?
Kelly: "If you make a mistake against Florida State in coverage, if you make a mistake in protection, if you don't tackle well Florida State can put points on the board in the special teams. I think they're the first team we will play this year that have that kind of dynamic ability in their special teams.

"It's been a constant point of emphasis for us relative to how we have prepared in our bowl season, but clearly if you have two fairly even-matched teams sometimes special teams makes a big difference. We knew that going in and we are going to have to play well in that area."

Question: Can you talk about Jimbo Fisher's offense and what it does to put pressure on defense?
Kelly: "I think Jimbo (Fisher) is like most good football coaches in that they take advantage of their personnel. Florida State has had to overcome a lot of injuries on the offensive line. I think we all know that lacking continuity on the offensive line is the one way that can stall your offense.

"Even with that they have found ways (to score). They push the ball vertically, they have an outstanding receiving corps and I think they have done a really nice job offensively of adapting and changing to some of the issues that they have had up front. I think that good coaches do that so it doesn't surprise me that Jimbo has been able to adapt under those circumstances."

Question: They're going to start four freshmen on the offensive line. How does that impact what you might do defensively?
Kelly: It won't change what we do. Its not going to matter relative to whether we're playing freshmen or seniors. But certainly in third-down situations and recognition of pressures and things of that nature, it could impact a little bit.

"They'll be well-coached and prepared but its if they've seen enough of those things is the question. But on first and second down it won't impact the game at all."

Note: Part II will be transcribed and published shortly.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories