Irish Pursuing 6th-year for Slaughter

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly touched on multiple topics in his Thursday night press conference. Among them: weight training in January and February to peak in November, practice time for injured safety Austin Collinsworth, and the possibility that Jamoris Slaughter will return for 2013.

Brian Kelly: Q&A

"It was good to get outdoors today, we were indoors the first couple days of the week. You always like to finish your week of preparation outdoors in the elements, we're going to have to play in them on Saturday. So good day, good week or preparation. I'm really pleased with the focus on the energy of our football.

You always try to gauge your preparation through the energy of your football team. We had good energy. Very good excitement. Our kids are anxious to play again. Continue to get better. We ran 118 plays on Wednesday's perspective, we'd been averaging just north of 80. We've upped our number of plays. I'm pleased with the way we're moving a lot quicker offensively as well."

With George Atkinson III and the flu, did any of that carry into this week?
"Yeah, we had a couple of kids that are fighting through it. I don't think we'll have anybody that will miss the game. We did battle through practice with a couple guys with the flu. We think we've got it under control. It should not affect anybody. Everybody will dress. We'll see what happens on game day. It's not an epidemic. It's not going to knock out four, five six guys. If one guy's affected at all it's about minimizing some of his reps."

Atkinson is good to go? "Yes, he's good to go."

Its been an admittedly small sample size, but how important is it for Everett Golson to play well in a home environment?
"Well, I think he needs to continue to take the next step. We would be disappointed and he would be disappointed if he didn't continue to improve. There's nothing that he's done over the last few days that would suggest that he's not going to play well.

"Look, you go through a game like Oklahoma, on the road against a quality opponent and the environment, there's gonna be a carryover there, we've seen it in practice. Now he's got to go apply it. Certainly that's the next step for him. There's no reason for us not to go see him continue to move upward."

Has he always shown carryover from practice?
"It's been a process, yeah. He's definitely maturing and evolving in the role of a quarterback. If you really look at it, it's 10 weeks. He started to get first-team reps maybe two weeks into camp maybe. This is an evolution of 10 weeks. It's starting to show itself in terms of practice and attention to detail, running our offense, communication all those things. There's no question, practice is a little easier right now."

You mentioned energy and your captains talked yesterday about getting the team to have more energy during home games. How do you accomplish that?
"Well, it's a good question. I think we're looking at a number of different things. We want to make sure that Friday and Saturday is not the Super Bowl. Parents asking for tickets. I was here two weeks ago and we had two or three players giving tours of the Gug. We just have to kind of bring that in a little bit. We've looked at our schedule, for example, we've moved up the pep rally an hour.

"Our team will go in and get to the hotel an hour earlier, just to have some more time and some down time. We're looking at how we condense the 48 hours a little more to have some down time."

Zack Martin and Kapron Lewis-Moore said they've learned to focus better on game day weekends as they've gotten older. Do you see the distractions being more with the younger guys?
"Absolutely. There's no question. It's been educational for me too. I've gone back and forth with different routines. Here's what's not going away: the pep rally's not going away, the mass is not going away, the walk's not going away.

"So how do you manage your day to give them that opportunity to be relaxed so they can be focused strictly on the football game? We're still evolving there. No question, for me and the younger players, we're starting to figure this out where we can come up with a weekend so they're not so distracted."

The answer is probably obvious, but why do you think defensive players like Manti Te'o don't get more mention for the Heisman Trophy?
"I just think people that are voting are looking for game changers. Very rarely does a defensive player dictate the outcome of games as much as that skill player does. I think that's probably been the tendency toward it. I think it's a good year to break that."

Update on a couple of guys not playing: Jamoris Slaughter and Austin Collinsworth?
"Jamoris Slaughter, we are in full process of working for that sixth season. Jen Vining-Smith is leading that. She has been really good at filing those appeals and waivers. She's in the process of that. Nothing will happen on that until after the season because the NCAA will deal with immediate action eligibility stuff. We've got all the paperwork, all the ducks in a row if you will to move that forward.

"As it relates to Collinsworth, we'd like to get him into practice, he will not play under any circumstances because we want to preserve that additional year of eligibility if it surfaces. We'd like to get him back. He's been getting closer. He's been cleared for weight training. We're thinking he may get a couple weeks including bowl preparation where we get him back out there an working."

How is weight training set-up to have your team peak in November?
"We map it out for 365. It's a year-round process. It's not top heavy as it relates to the off-season. We're not killing them in January and February. We have different stages of our weight training. January, February, you're building a lot of that mental toughness in those two months. We're getting after you pretty good. But we're not trying to put too much weight on your back.

"I think the other thing that coach (Paul) Longo does a great job of is understanding having a team ready to play football and a team that needs to add a coat of armor. There's a lot of levels to it. Paul does a great job of managing things out through strength and conditioning so we play our very best in November, December and January."

Does George Atkinson return to kickoffs?
"He does. We're going to use Cam (McDaniel) too. There will be circumstances where Cam may be in the game. If I'm not looking for anything else but the 25-yard line, you might see Cam in the game. We all know George has got the ability to go the distance. Let's say we're up in the game. I want to make sure you grind it out to the 25, Cam's gonna get you there. There's time and place for Cam back there as well."

Did you have any players affected by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast?
"No. We had one recruit whose grandma is in Atlantic City who took a big hit. We've talked to all of our recruits, all of the families that have been affected in some fashion. Nobody to the point where they've been displaced from their home." Top Stories