Kelly on the Irish

Brian Kelly spoke with the media following the team's 12th practice of the spring yesterday. Included in the conversation were updates on the team's growing injury list, the quarterback competition, player development in the secondary and the offensive line, and a lack of consistency from season to season at the program prior to his arrival.

Injury Updates

"(John) Goodman, ankle sprain. We put him in a boot. I think if he needed to play he could've played today. But he's been great all spring. We're going to make sure he's right so we can get him in the spring game. (Troy) Niklas, just he had, I don't know what the exact medical term for it is, like a GI flu, like an intestinal flu. He hasn't felt so good. He'll be back. (Luke) Massa's got an ACL injury and it looks like it's going to require surgery. I think they're certain it's an ACL, whether it's an ACL repair, I think (team physician) Brian Ratigan is in there now doing another evaluation.

(Regarding George Atkinson, who took a shot in a kick coverage drill): "I think he was just feeling the affects of some hard hitting."

Prince Shembo: "He had surgery on (his toe). They had to repair it, so he's in a cast right now. I think his prognosis is probably six weeks. They had to put a screw in there. I think, generally speaking, when you get into the bone it's a six-week procedure."

Cam Roberson: He's working as hard as he can. It's been slow, slow progress. It was as difficult of an injury as you're going to get. It's been a slow go for him. I feel so bad for the young man because he loves Notre Dame, he loves football. It's just been a slow go for him."

(Roberson tore his ACL and partially tore his LCL last March. A 2010 running back recruit, he's yet to see the field for the Irish after earning 2010 Scout Team Player of the Year honors).

Bennett Jackson: "It's a shoulder (injury). He's got a labrum (issue) that's been there. We're not going to do anything with it. It's just one of those things where he'll put a shoulder harness on."
(Note: -- Jackson left the field early in the scrimmage after what was apparently a re-injuring of his shoulder.

Player Development

Regarding the right side of the offensive line: "We're going back and forth on that. We've got Nick (Martin), we've got Mike Golic and you've got Christian Lombard. You've got three for two (spots) there and how that plays out.

"What do you have with Golic? You have some experience. A little stronger physically, maybe not as athletic as Nick Martin. Christian gives you a little bit of both. I'd say right now you're probably looking at Lombard at right tackle and Martin and Golic fighting it out for right guard right now. It could change."

Can John Goodman's absence allow for more reps to the younger receivers? "We're trying to get DaVaris (Daniels) to move his game up. He's a good talent. He doesn't know how to practice yet. He's learning. He just has learn how to play the game. The way we play the game here is you've got to go through the echo of the whistle. But he'll learn. He wants to be a good player and I'm sure his dad wants him to be a good player too. I wouldn't want to get Philip Daniels mad. I'm sure he's going to get it. It's just taking a little time.

Can Kona Schwenke's role be similar to Sean Cwynar's as a "swing" defensive lineman, playing both NG and DE?: "I think that's probably a good assessment in terms of the role that we'll expect of him. Right now he's the starter. I think we all know about that situation in terms of what he can do and Louis (Nix). We feel really good at that position.

"Here's what happened. Kona had to grow into his body. He came here at 220 pounds. Now he's 294 pounds. He's a big young man and it took time to grow into his body. Now he's leaned down a little bit and he's handling himself. Physically, he's a strong kid. You're just seeing the maturity.

"The shame of it is he played as a true freshman. We had to play him as a true freshman. He really should be a guy with three years of eligibility left. He's really come on from that physical standpoint and I think he'll be similar to a Sean Cwynar, if not better."

(Note: Schwenke made his debut in Game Nine of his freshman season, a loss to Tulsa).

On the field CB competition between Lo Wood and Josh Atkinson: "They're competing. I think both of them are going to play. Both of them are certainly going to get an opportunity to show themselves in the spring game. They're going to play quite a bit because of our depth numbers there. But that's all we've got on campus, so both those guys are going to play. I think they both have different skill sets. Josh has got great speed. Lo is a pretty technique-oriented player. If you could get Lo's technique on Josh and put some speed on Lo you'd have the right guy there."

Regarding converted RB Cam McDaniel's development in the secondary: "We made a decision that he needed to get more reps. He's a tough, physical player. If you watched our hard hat drill he's a guy that can run and hit and tackle as well. He's a pretty athletic kid. He got a lot of film today so we'll get some good evaluations."

Regarding the Quarterbacks

On recently adding checks (audibles) to the quarterback competition this spring: "We've moved to our checking, which is a new system for us, because we want to be able to provide our quarterbacks not only the protection but the routes necessary if teams want to bring pressure against us that we can really hurt them. We don't want to be in a position where we have to throw hot and dump it out there. We want them to be patient. To answer you question without getting too much coach speak in it, we're laying that level down now. Today was the first day they got an opportunity to check plays."

Did that change what he saw from the QBs? "Oh sure. It's like anything else. If you're confident and you walk up there and you know what you want to do and you're making the check, you're commanding your presence, that obviously goes a long way to the unit. That was the thing that we wanted to see today -- who commands that respect. As I told them, even if you're wrong, go out there with a certainty that you know what you're doing."

How has Gunner Kiel responded after a family tragedy? (Kiel's uncle, Blair, a former Notre Dame quarterback from 1980-83, passed away on Easter Sunday)

"He went home, obviously, to be with his family and came back locked in as usual. He's great in the classroom; he's great on the field. He's got a great temperament and demeanor. I just like the fact that he's very, very coachable.

"We had a play out there today, and this is why you love to coach kids like this, and he froze. He forgot what the play was. Consequently he threw it into traffic and made it into a situation where (tight end) Ben Koyack almost lost his life, you know (joking). He comes up and he goes, 'I just blew it. I blew it. I blanked. I can't believe it.' I go, 'Well, next time you blank let's try doing something else like running outside and throwing the ball away.' He goes, 'That's a great idea.' It's fun to coach a kid like that. He can engage and have that conversation with you. He's somebody that's going pick it up really quickly."

Regarding Tommy Rees' status and approach: (At the beginning of spring ball, Chuck Martin noted that Rees should approach the competition as if he was the main man, and someone would have to take the job from him.)

"Not at the start because we didn't give him the opportunity to do that because we really started all over again in a sense. But as we go longer into this our expectations are, 'Listen, you've got more experience than anybody else here, go out and act like that.' I think he did today (Saturday). He still has some work to do. And you know this from last year, once he gets into a little bit of trouble, trouble starts for us. They brought some pressure; he didn't see it and threw the ball into the wrong side of coverage. I think the thing we need to get from Tom, he's confident in himself but we've got to make sure he's making good decisions under duress. That's the next step for him."

On Everett Golson's development to date: "I think I've used this before. When Everett got here it was the unconscious incompetence. He didn't know he didn't know. He's grown to a conscience competence. But it's so hard for him every day to be that guy. He's trying so hard. He wants to do it. He will do it. We just wish it was sooner but it's going to come. He had a good day (Saturday). It's almost like we're taking it one day at a time with Everett. He was on time, he was wide-eyed, he was engaging and he was learning on the field. I love him. I just want to string those days together with him."

On removing the standard protective red jerseys from the QBs this spring: "Every time we've scrimmaged they've been live. We ran Tommy today because we feel like he can run the ball. He picked up eight yards on a designed run. He has to be able to run the ball and have some effectiveness for us. We showed him he can do that. He didn't have any confidence in his ability to run the ball. We're going to keep live jerseys on those guys in the (Blue Gold game)."

(Kelly was not asked about junior Andrew Hendrix in yesterday's Q&A)


Regarding his role as mentor/coach/psychologist: "I think you're doing it every day. I think in some fashion coaching is, you have to be able to talk to kids and find out what those buttons are that are going to get them to open up and talk about what their issues are. I try to find myself doing a lot of that on a day-to-day basis. It's just some days you need it a little bit more. But they're 18 to 21-year olds. They're going to have good days and bad days. I think I'm constantly trying to be in touch with it. I know our coaches try really hard. But that social worker, that psychologist, I think that all goes into being a good coach and a good teacher."

On reports that Kelly told a Chicago radio station 8 wins is the goal for 2012: "No, that's not accurate. What I said was Notre Dame had not strung together three years in a row of eight wins or more, so if we win eight games next year or more it will be the first time in 16 years. Thank you for getting that accurate.

"You shoot for eight wins around here you won't be around very long. Trust me, my boss is up there. He already told me that. Now, we can build towards that. That's part of what we're doing. There are building blocks in putting together our football program. You want consistency. The point of that whole statement was you need consistency, you need stability. Consistency is you can't have a 10-win season then a three-win season. You've got to build consistency and that's what we're all shooting for."

(Note: Notre Dame hasn't won at least eight games in three straight seasons since 1991-92-93 when it finished with 10, 10, and 11 wins, respectively. The 1994 Irish won 6 games; the 1995 squad 9, and the 1996 squad 8. The '97 team won just 7 games, so I'm not sure where the notation of "16 years" came from.) Top Stories