Brian Kelly -- April 13For us, 12 practices in, again another step for us to evaluate our players. The spring is that time as I've said from day one that you're still trying to put your team together, and this is only 12 days of working on that process. It's going to continue right through pre-season camp and right up to our first game against Temple. Just another day for us to evaluate and give our kids a chance to compete. We had some scrimmage today. Our focus today was we wanted to make sure that we ran the football today. Again, another step for us in developing the 2013 football team. We've got a lot of things to get done, and from my perspective, we're doing the things necessary to build this team for success in '13.
What's your assessment on Nick Martin?"What we've seen is a steady growth. He's really a guy that is not too high or too low. He's got a great temperament, can handle a lot of things. Just really like the way his maturity has shown itself. For a young guy that hasn't played, he's shown to be a very mature kid. He's got some work to do obviously, but relative to the consistency of snapping, protections, he's been a very solid guy for us for the firs time in."
How much has Everett grown since the Alabama game?"I don't know that you could even put him in the same category with where he started last year to where he is now. Strong command of our offense. I think where we're at with him more than anything else is we can now begin to pull back a little bit. He wants to do a little bit too much. He knows his toolbox very well. He didn't know anything relative to what he had for tools last year in terms of what he could do with the offense. Now he wants to maybe do a little bit too much. We're at a totally different point in his development.
"I think the thing that stands out the most to me though is his command. His communication and his command and his leadership has been evident as we start to evolve."
It looked like two, even three tight ends could again be part of the offense going forward?"Three or four. Again, it's spring ball. We've got guys in the lineup and out of the lineup. We're not gonna play on Saturday, so there's no games on Saturday. So we're very careful with guys. Some guys have been in, some guys have been out. Tight ends have been there every day. It's just been one of those things where we've been able to use three and four tight ends. We're gonna run our offense based on the guys that we have out there. That doesn't mean that we couldn't be five wide receivers come fall, but right now we're utilizing our tight ends because they're all healthy and they're all ready to help our offense.
'I would not leave today going, ‘Oh, they're going to run two and three tight ends.' That's what we have available today. Tomorrow it might be something else."
Ben Koyack was detached quite a bit today. Similar to Eifert?"I would not put him in a category with Tyler Eifert in terms of his ability to push vertically and ball skills. But he's certainly a guy that's very capable of running option routes and a lot of the inside combination routes. We never played Eifert where Ben is right now. Tyler did not play that position. Where we have him, we believe that he can help us in that inside slot position.
'But he's had a really good three weeks. It's good to see him having fun and smiling. He's feeling good about himself. He's a big, strong kid that we always believed was an outstanding pass catcher. He struggled a little bit with his confidence and I think you're seeing that confidence come back."
Is Lo Wood injured? Josh Atkinson was taking the first-team reps today."There's really no depth chart this spring. Some guys were a little bit sore. We may back off their work. Again, it just depends on what day you guys come to practice. Again, guys are in and out of the lineup. If a guy's got a cast on or on crutches, they're hurt. Everybody else, there's no game and we're going to be cautious relative to injuries."
Chris Ault spoke at the Coaches Clinic about the Pistol. Is that something you might do this fall?""That's all we're going to do exclusively. The Pistol." (Sarcasm)
But is it something you like? "It really wasn't for us. We held a clinic here with about a thousand coaches and the Pistol offense is something that the NFL is using, a lot of schools are using it. We just thought (Ault, former Nevada head coach) would be a great clinician for a lot of people that want to learn about the Pistol offense."
C.J. Prosise had a couple drops but had a big touchdown too. Is that just his development right now?"Yeah. He's just learning. I think he ran the out cut that he dropped, that's the first time he's ever run an out cut. He's been inside. We moved him outside today. That's the first time he's had to put his foot in the ground and get his head around at all because he's been working inside out. It's just his development, coming along. I don't think he needs glasses, I think he'll be able to catch the ball. It was pretty evident that he's going to be a really good player, he just needs a lot more work. A lot of that is technique."
Where are you with Jarrett Grace? Have you found what you're looking for at inside linebacker?"We're very pleased with Jarrett Grace. We've got what we consider two veterans in (Dan) Fox and (Carlo) Calabrese and Jarrett Grace. We've got two really good players that have proven themselves to us last year and Jarrett Grace has proven himself to us this year. Kendall Moore will continue to get work. Joe Schmidt will continue to get work. There's five guys right there that we believe can help our football team. But we really like Jarrett Grace, there's no question. But we also really like those senior linebackers as well. I would not put one guy and say he's your starter. I think we've got a group of guys there that can help us."
How would you evaluate Elijah Shumate right now as an athlete and hitter, and then how would you evaluate him in understanding the defense?"I would say that the first comment that I would make is that he is what we thought he was in terms of a tackler. He's a very good tackler, a sure tackler. He's physical. He can play the safety position. I think coach (Bob) Elliott has done a nice job of the learning curve. That's certainly what this is all going to be about, picking up the nuances. Matthias (Farley) has done a very good job in helping him. But I think the entire defense is helping as well. He's our guy back there. He's got to continue to learn. The spring has been really good for him. He's going to have to continue to take steps forward in the summer."
What do you lose with a guy like Tim McDonnell (former personnel director in recruiting)? How do you replace that position?"Well, we just rely on reading the Internet for all of our evaluations. I think that's the best way to do it. Or the newspaper. Tim was obviously a very important part of our staff and our success. Certainly we wish him the best being with the Giants. Obviously being a family decision there, we're so happy for him. But I think it's like anything else, at the University of Notre Dame there's going to be some very, very good candidates that we'll have an opportunity to bring on board. We're excited for Tim, we'll rely on the Internet until we get that person in place."
Do you see your team take it up a level coming off the Alabama game when you said they were the blueprint?"I don't remember what I said after the game. I think any of my comments were based upon the way they competed, the way they had competed consistently. It's more about being here more than just one year. If there's a blueprint, it's that we want to be back here year-in and year-out. I think Nick (Saban) has proven that in the way he's put his program together. That's the track that we're on. Build the consistency within the ranks. And you have to do it during this period of time. Those similarities … it would have been based upon looking for those similarities in consistency of performance year-in and year-out."
With Chuck Martin in his second year as offensive coordinator, how much more responsibility does he get in game planning or play calling?"He's called all the plays in the spring. My sense is that will continue. Look, the head coach is always responsible for the football. Those decisions will still be mine. But relative to play calling, Chuck knows what I'm looking for. I have full confidence in his ability to play call and my expectations are that that's the way it will go in the fall. He had a lot of impact on our offense last year as well. I have the utmost confidence that we'll continue to grow offensively because we've got a similar philosophy."
How has the kicking game gone, specifically with Kyle Brindza at punter?"That's a good question. We've been indoors so much so we've had coach (Bob) Diaco work with him specifically. Not that coach Diaco is going to turn him into the best punter in the country, but my point is that we're coaching the specifics and the details of the position that we want from him. We're not just, ‘We're in punt, you just go over there and keep kicking them into the rafters.' We're focused on his development just like we would be for all of our players.
"But it's really hard to get an evaluation because we've only been out one time. We've spent a lot of time on punt, our punt coverage, protection, our punt returns, all the areas that are a concern to me. This summer is going to be huge for him. He'll probably go out and work with some coaches that are in that profession, that specialty profession. I would consider that most of the evaluation will take in pre-season camp."
How has George Atkinson III improved?"I think George has done outstanding. He really turned himself into a guy that we can throw the football to. We were a little concerned when he was in there, what kind of ball skills? Now, we had a guy like Theo Riddick who we thought was outstanding at that position. I think the biggest jump we've seen from George is the passing game. We still need to consider some other things in the passing game that I think he can do. We're going to do that on Monday.
'Then continue to run the ball with lower pads. He has a tendency to rise up a little bit. I think we had a goal line play where I talked to him about getting down. He gets that. All in all I think it's been a very good spring for George."
Would you like to get outside more?"I would like to get outside just because of the elements and throwing the football with the consistency there. It really doesn't affect what you do. We can push long balls in Loftus. Sometimes you concern yourself with not being able to vertically push the ball down the field. We've been able to cover that, that's not a concern of mine. I just like to get out in the elements more with the quarterbacks in the passing game. Not to a point where it concerns me."