Kelly Q&A March 27

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had an impromptu meeting with the media Wednesday morning. Among the topics discussed: two transfers, two surgeries, the importance of early enrollees, and the program's overall reaction to defections.

Brian Kelly

"We have a couple of roster moves: Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson are no longer part of the football program and they won't be in the future. We wish them the very best in their future endeavors.

A couple of injury updates. Amir Carlisle had surgery yesterday to repair a broken collarbone, similar to the (DaVaris) Daniels injury. Probably about as close as we've had. He's about four weeks until we get him cleared for full activities. A minor setback. Amir has had a great spring. We've seen what we need to see out of him. He'll be a very important player for us in the spring.

Chase Hounshell re-injured his shoulder. He'll have to have surgery again. Certainly feel terrible for Chase because he's worked so hard. After his second injury, you can imagine how disappointing it is for him and for us that he's put so much time and effort into getting back from that.

Relative to practice, the roster is gonna shift and move. We're going to have additions, we're going to have some deletions. But when it's time to kick off against Temple, we'll have the football team that we need to go out and play for a championship. As we go through these months, there will be changes to the roster moving forward.

What I do like about our group, again, is they really compete, work hard, do the things that I need them to do. We've taken a step forward every practice. This hasn't been one step forward, two steps back. They've come every day and done a great job.

We had some live contact today. Got a chance to get obviously the backs and receivers, get into some tackling positions. That was lively. Got some good work in that.? ?

Question: What explanation did you get from Davonte' and Justin about why they decided to leave? "I'm not going to get into the specifics of it other than they are no longer with us."

Question: Are they staying on campus for the semester? "I don't know. All I can tell you is that when we break to start stretch and they're not out there, they're no longer on the roster."

Question: What happens at the slot? "Next guy steps up. You know me, 'Next Man In. We just fill it in."

Question: Who's the next man in? "It will be a number of guys. When Amir comes back he'll get a chance. C.J. Prosise is doing a great job. Really excited about CJ. You'll see a lot of him in the spring, you'll see what I mean. He's been a very pleasant surprise … that's probably the wrong word. He's been what we thought he could be, he's just done it a lot quicker than we thought. Again, you're talking about a slot receiver that's 210 pounds. Nice hands. Got deceptive speed, can pull away. Then in terms of the run game, we've got a big guy that can do some nice things."

Question: Is Prosise's cross-training over? Is he just an offensive player now? "As definitive as I can be at this point. It looks like that's where he's gonna be. We're still going to have some shifting and moving of slots on the roster, but I would say if I was to venture a guess right now, that's probably where he's going to stay."

Question: Who's the punt return? "We want to take a look at CJ (Prosise). T.J. Jones is back there taking some. We'll probably continue that show until we find somebody that we really feel comfortable with back there. We're not doing a ton of it right now. Obviously we're doing more of our punt, punt return skill work more so than we are catching punts."

Question: What's the timetable on Chase? Is it the exact same injury? "Exact same injury. He got into a position where he got outside, we were in a live situation. He got into this position (extends right arm out) and just one of those crazy things. The thing is, he had done such a great job. He was at 225, doing it 20 times. He had great strength. Just really disappointed for him because he worked so hard to get back there. Now a third shoulder surgery. He'll be out for the year."

Question: Do you find it odd that neither transfer wanted to wait until the end of spring before deciding to leave? "Nothing surprises me. I just deal with strictly with, when I meet at 7 a.m., who are the guys that are here, who are the guys who are out there? The information will get where it needs to get to, but I focus strictly on the program and the guys that I coach. I know they're no longer in the program, nor will they be in the future."

Question: How's the middle linebacker shaping up? "Pretty excited about that. Jarrett Grace has obviously done an incredibly job or I wouldn't feel that about it. He's a really, really good football player. He's going to be all over the field. Will he have seven interceptions? I'm not going in that direction. In terms of run fits, sideline to sideline, communication, he's shown himself to be a really good player for us."

Question: How did Amir get hurt? "It was a contact drill and just went down on the shoulder, had somebody land on top of him and just the compression. He finished the drills and then complained for soreness after. We didn't know at the time. Did an X-ray, found out that he had a clavicle."

Question: Are you hitting more in the spring this year? "Well, we're hitting more in the spring than we would during the fall, which is pretty typical. You can only do certain percentages of practice at full contact. We're probably a little bit below the average. It's just one of those drills that somebody landed on him. Very similar to Daniels in the sense that he compressed it, landed on it and that's what happened."

Question: Does this take the buzz out of the momentum that you had? "Oh no, there will be more. There will be more guys leaving, there will be more guys coming. This is a process that every year you go through that you're going to have some additions, you're going to have some deletions. But we didn't miss a step. Our guys are going to go out and compete. They know. They're prepared for the next man in. They didn't blink, nor do I, nor the staff."

Question: How do you weather the '12 class now being so small in terms of balancing the roster? "It's a combination of who gets red-shirted, who can play, who has a medical or who can petition for a fifth year. They generally tend to blend in. It doesn't create a hole in the class. We'll supplant that and look at how maybe some guys don't play in their first year or some guys do and strengthen it as we move forward."

Question: Can James Onwualu help out at slot? "Yeah, I think he's got a chance. He's certainly physical enough. He's a smart kid. Yeah, I'd say he's a guy that's probably going to be playing. If he's a guy that plays a lot on offense, that will kind of take care of itself as we go through preseason camp and the year, but he's definitely a kid that's going to be on the field in all of our special teams, he's got that physical ability.

"While you're on that, Corey Robinson continues to impress. He catches everything in his area code. We've just got to get him stronger. We're going to continue to work with him. He's been very impressive. I just really like the young guys. (Mike) Heuerman has been in there doing very good things for us as well, Steve Elmer. That young group that came in at mid-semester, Malik Zaire, all of them have really adapted well. I could see a few of those guys definitely impacting us this year."

Question: Is the number five a comfortable number or early enrollees? Can you get more? "I don't think that I've had an internal memo that's capped it, but it's still has to be a kid that fits and has the ability to graduate early (from high school). A lot of those things have to come together.

"Having said that, as a rule I would like to continue the mid-year enrollees because it's our way of getting a more mature player. We continue to show that these guys can continue to do the work and are going to continue to be successful, I think we've had a good campaign of that. I think it's going to be one as long as we present good solid candidates to the University, I think we're going to continue have success down that line."

Question: Other than quarterback, any other positions where early enrollment helps most? "I think across the board because not only do they get the football, they get (Paul) Longo. They get the weight room. They get all of that training which is really probably the separator for those guys. Like for Corey Robinson. For us to see what Corey can do right now changes everything in our own minds. Now he's got to move in with coach Longo. I think that helps us getting a glimpse in and know what we need to do physically to get them there too."

Question: At right guard is Connor Hanratty the guy? Open for Christian Lombard? At center did you give any consideration to Chris Watt?

"I think there was a night when we were playing cards when we talking about Chris Watt, you know what I mean? It wasn't a centered staff conversation about Watt. Our eye was toward (Nick) Martin and he's proven in the times that we've had him that, look, it's easier for us to evaluate the center position because Louis Nix lines up over it, you know what I mean? That's a great thing for us in the spring. We think he's the best nose guard in America. If you can handle that kind of competition, then that's a pretty good evaluator of what you can do. (Matt) Hegarty has done a very nice job for us in there as well. We like those two.

"Just to get to your question, that keeps us in a consistent guard rotation. It hasn't totally answered whether it's Lombard in at guard or whether it's Hanratty or guard or whether it's another guy that can step in there and do the job as well."

Question: What did you think about Manti in the Pro Day? Did you think too much was made of his 40-time at the NFL Combine?

"I know this. All those go into the evaluation process. I've always felt, and this goes back to when I was in Division II, we could bring our recruits up and test them. We could run them in the 40, you could work them out. That's why I was such a genius, I had the ability to do that.

"I will say this, I've always used this rule. You can't test out of a scholarship. When we brought the kids up that we liked, when we saw them on film, it would help us. Unless it was just a disaster, he was still gonna get a scholarship. So, as it related to Manti, I've always felt when all was said and done, and they ran 11 guys out there on the first play from scrimmage, he was going to be one of the 11 because he's got leadership ability, he's got skill and he's got character. Those three things I think always trump whether you run 4.7 or 4.8.

"I'm happy he did because it seems the sentiment has turned now and everybody that follows that thinks that's changed his stock.  I was never concerned about where he would fall because he's got the real football ingredients, in my estimation."

Question: So has Jarrett Grace locked up that replacement mike position or does Carlo Calabrese get a look there too? Do you like the Dan Fox/Calabrese balance?

"I like the Fox/Calabrese balance.  Now, Kendall Moore is an interesting guy in that Kendall has really high-end athletic ability. High end. Runs. He hits. We've just got to get him to run and hit the right people on a consistent basis. He's got great energy, great enthusiasm. In an ideal world, it's Grace and it's Kendall at Mike and it's Fox and it's Calabrese (at Will). But we want to leave our options open if we have to slide him off the field because he's banged up. We want to be able to slide Calabrese over there, so he's taking some mike reps as well."

Q: Who's the next man in at defensive end? Jarron Jones? Is (incoming freshman) Eddie Vanderdoes an inside or an outside guy? "I think he's got flexibility. Ishaq Williams is playing some defensive end for us to answer your question. Ishaq is gonna cross train at the end and the cat position. He wants to. We can get him 15-to-20 more reps. He's all for that. He'll still get his cat work and he'll get some defensive end as well. Was really impressed with him. We put him in there on Saturday for the first time without any coaching and he did some really nice things for us. Had another good day today. I promised him a visor if he continues to do that."

Question: His weight is okay for that position? "He's fine. He's got explosive hands. He's long. He's plenty strong enough. He can carry the weight where he is right now.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories