Kelly Q&A: Special Teams

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly discusses his plan of attack on special teams to open 2013...

Q: As far as kick return, punt return, have you made decisions there?

"Kick returner, we'll stay with George Atkinson.  I think, you know, those scenarios are, for us-- again, I think we all saw where's that ball being kicked?  If we have opportunities to return them, we want to get the best personnel on the field to give him opportunities to return them.  So George will be our kick returner.

"Our punt returner will be T.J. Jones.  I think he's done an outstanding job.  He wants to do it.  He's got the passion and the desire to do it, and I think that's a good thing for us."

Q.  Brian, in naming T.J. Jones your punt returner, that part of the game can be a weapon, but it seemed that at times in the past you were more content to just keep it from being a liability.  Is there something that T.J. has shown that will maybe allow you to make that part of a weapon again, if you will?

"One of the cores for wanting to be successful is a burning desire to want to do the job.  I didn't have a guy that had a burning desire to want to do that job.  He wants to do this job badly.  I mean, it's important to him. He wants to return punts.  It's important to him.  Right there, that's, in itself-- now, he's got the skill for it as well.  And he didn't have that passion for it leading up to it, something about being a senior.  Obviously, it's going to build his resume.  That's fine with me.  But he's got that passion for wanting to do it.

"And he's immediately impacted that punt return team.  They block a little different for guys that want to do it and can have some success with it.  We've already seen an uptick in the guys that want to be on that team."

Q.  So is it fair to say that you'll approach that side of the ball from less of a safe perspective and be more aggressive with it?

"Yes, in one sense.  The numbers were pretty clear.  We had 43 percent safe punts last year.  The way we played last year too had a lot to do with it.  We were in a lot of safe punt situations, and the way we played defense, we held people's-- we held people down.  They were at midfield.  They were at the 45.

"We're going to try to set up some punt returns regardless of some of those field positions where we were in safe punt keeping our defense on the field.  We're going to try to set up with some returns.  So we'll be a little bit more aggressive with it."

Q. Kicking and punting: how did that competition end up?

"That's a very good question.  We're going to use all of them.  I think Nick Tausch, Kyle Brindza, (Alex) Wulfeck, all three are going to play against Temple.  At what time and what place, I'm not sure yet how that's all going to play out.

"We've asked Kyle Brindza to be our punter.  Okay.  And we've asked him to spend a lot of time and effort in doing that.  So he's going to get the first shot at punting.  I really think he can be an All-American punter.  He may not be there yet, and we're going to have some growing pains there.

"But we have a guy in Wulfeck that can get us out of some jams.  He's really consistent.  He's going to get us great hang time, and he's going to put us in some good positions.  He's not going to flip the field position, but he's going to keep us in good position.  So he's going to help us as well.

"Nick's had a great camp.  He has.  I mean, if statistically, numbers-wise, he's kicked the ball, and we've charted every kick.  His numbers have been great.  I didn't bring Nick back not to give him a chance to win the job.  It just wouldn't be fair.  We'd just tell him, listen, go find another place.

"Having said that, Kyle's been a bit distracted because we've asked him to put all this time and energy in punting.  So what we're going to do is we're going to go into the first game, I'm going to give Nick an opportunity to kick.  Kyle's going to kickoff, okay, because he's won that clearly.  He's going to punt, and we're going to use the Temple game to get all three of them some action, and then we'll make a decision in game two as to where we are."


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