Kelly on the Offense

Q&A with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly regarding his offensive personnel heading into the season opener Saturday vs. Temple.

Q.  When you were thinking about implementing "The Pistol, did you go to (Former Nevada coach) Chris Ault at all and ask him about it and get any feedback from him?

"Yeah, we had Coach Ault come here, and he spent a couple of days here.  He was also a clinic speaker for us.

"How much we use the pistol will be determined really for us in terms of game plan week to week.  We just think it's another piece that we can use to get some downhill runs.  I think it's not-- I don't think we've turned into a pistol offense.  We're still a shotgun offense that will operate similar to what we have in the past."

Q.  You mentioned the downhill runs.  Is it something you would have implemented, though, if you had Everett as your quarterback this year?

"Yeah, I think the principles of the shotgun offense still allow you to do some things from the home position.  When you are in the shotgun, you limit some of the runs that you have.  When the back is offset, I think you open up a lot more versatility.  The backers have to obviously play a lot more downhill.  They can't offset one way or the other based upon the back.  It also helps a little bit with your back working coast to coast in protections, as well."

Q.  You mentioned the advantages in the pistol for the running back.  What about the quarterback getting the snap a little bit sooner than he would?  What are the benefits of that?

"I don't know that that's much.  We're talking about four versus five yards, we're about a yard different, four versus five.  I think he still feels very comfortable catching the ball at that depth.  Again, I think most of the benefits there are protection wise and the ability to get the back in a downhill pattern; instead of being east and west he's more north and south."

Q.  How did the pistol all come about?  Did you have an interest so you invited Chris Ault in the spring, or was it something that you had seen that you were curious about, or how did that all come about?

"Well, in year one we ran a little bit of pistol, and I felt like it was something that I wanted to get into a little bit more of, and I think it fits some of the personnel that we have.  You know, George is a guy that I wanted to get downhill.  As you know, he's got great speed and acceleration.  He ran downhill very well in high school, and we felt like the pistol could fit him very well.  Not just him, but we felt like it was something that could benefit us moving forward.

"Again, just another piece to our offense that gives us the versatility that we're looking for.  I think week to week you may see it a little bit more than others, and some you may not see it at all.  I just think it's another piece that helps us complement the players we have."

Q.  If I were to ask you what player has jumped out or made the greatest improvement since the start of camp, who would come to mind right away?

"Well, I think there's a few guys that stand out.  I think in terms of just overall improvement as a football player, I probably would have to put it on two.  The first guy I would probably say Nick Martin.  Where he went from the spring as such an important position at center, right, where you're taking over one of the most important positions on the offensive line, where we were hopeful to where he went against Louis Nix every day, one of the best if not the best nose guard in the country and has done very well, I would say that the progress that he's made in such a very short period of time has been really impressive for me.

"And I think defensively Kona Schwenke has been a different player in the spring than he is right now.  He's going to play a lot of football.  He could play for a lot of teams and make an impact. Now, I think both of those guys impact the game differently, but one is a starter and one right now is not.  But in terms of improvement, if you asked us off-the-chart improvement, both of those guys are different players than they were in the spring."

Q.  George came in and was at No.1 in training camp again.  What did he do that you've seen that kept him there?  How did he hold off everybody?

"Well, first of all, he has experience at the position.  He has done it on the field.  He's going to have to continue to do it.  He's like everybody else; he's going to have to do it against Temple, and he's going to have to continue to show that.

"But he hasn't lost anything in preseason camp.  He's continued to get better.  He's stronger, had a great off-season, he's been a great teammate.  So he hasn't done anything to take that away from him.  But he's going to have to perform.  If George fumbles the football, if George misses assignments, if George doesn't run the right hole, George will be standing next to me on the sideline.

"So it's a very competitive situation, but George has done everything we've asked him to do in the off-season and had a good camp, and we expect him to play well on Saturday."

Q.  First glance at the depth chart has Stanley starting at right tackle, Lombard inside.  Is that how you're going to go, and why is it like that if that's the way you're going to go?

"Yeah, I think right now if you were to ask us today, Ronnie would start there, but that's a very fluid situation.  We have great confidence that Steve Elmer could go in there and start for us if we needed him to, as well, and it's not out of the question that he could be playing there at some time on Saturday, as well.

"I think you should keep an eye on both of those guys playing some right tackle for us."

Q.  The five running backs, is Saturday an audition day for them at all, being able to see what they can do in a game situation?

"I think it's an audition every week for all of our players, right?  I think some guys are put in that position.  Whether all five of them get that opportunity this weekend for that audition, I don't know.  But certainly I think you could characterize it as such.

"They're not all going to get 20 carries, right, so they're going to get their chance and they're going to have to make the best of their opportunity.  But I can tell you this:  That at some point at some time in the season, you're going to get a chance to see all those guys play."

Q.  Can you talk about the kind of fall camp that Chris Brown had?

"I thought it was just okay.  We expect a little bit more consistency from Chris.  He's got great talent.  He really worked hard this summer.  I was really pleased with his summer work.  He put on weight.  He got to the level that we wanted him physically.  Now we want to see a consistency out of him.

"I don't want to compare him to anybody, but we went through this a little bit with other players in our program, where we demanded that consistency, and that's where we are with Chris.  We want more consistency.  We think he's got such a high ceiling.  I mean, we think he can be a terrific football player.

"But if you rewind, this is pretty much my critique of most of the players in the program.  We're looking for consistency across the board, because he has flashes where you go, wow, and then you go, what was that.  So he's at that point now going into year two with us that we're looking for that consistent performance week in and week out.

Q.  Any update on Ronnie Stanley? "Yeah, Ronnie practiced full yesterday and had a good practice, and we expect him to continue to progress."

Q.  Is Will Mahone playing this weekend? "No, he is out this weekend."

Q.  What do you think T.J. Jones can bring to the punt return game that's been missing the past couple years?

"Well, I think I first said at the press conference that he really wants to do this job.  I think you have to have that want and desire and belief that you can be really good at it.  I think second, we've really looked at a number of areas within our special teams where we can help him in returns.  We did an extensive off-season study.

"I'll just give you one example.  We had seven safe punts against Purdue, seven safe punts where our defense was on the field, and it was just the circumstances of the game.  They punted four times inside our 50-yard line.  Very rarely are you going to bring your punt return team on there.

"We hope that we're able to get into situations where we can get our punt return team on the field.  I think we've put some guys in there that we think that we can force punt returns more often where we don't have to have safe punt on the field.  We've looked at a lot of different situations where we believe that we can get our punt return team on the field and a guy back there that really wants to get that job done.

"Now, take both of those together, that punt return team now knows they've got a guy back there who's a senior captain that wants to do their job.  There's a big motivation factor for those guys to want to get that job done for him, as well."

Q.  You mentioned several times that one of the priorities this season is scoring more. "Everybody wants to score more."

Q.  But the challenge for you is you have a quarterback that doesn't have quite the same running ability.  You lost a first-round draft pick at receiver.  What gives you confidence that this group can score more, that you will be able to do it?

"Just what I've seen.  You know, I mean, I've been doing it a long time.  I mean, I don't throw bouquets out unless I've got a pretty good idea of what I know.  Tommy Rees is going to help us score more points than we did last year, and our offensive line and our running backs and our balance at the wide receiver position is going to allow us.  He's making good decisions.  He's showing some escapability.

"But it's not just going to be him.  We can threaten you over the top.  We can push the ball over your head.  If you want to drop down on us, we've got some weapons that can beat you one-on-one, and we've got a quarterback that can see that and throw the ball to you.  We struggled with doing that at times last year.  We won't struggle doing that this year."

Q.  I think on Thursday you mentioned that you want to be better at 1st and 2nd down passing.  What numbers are you aiming for?

"Well, what we're aiming for is on 1st and 2nd down we'd have to run into some bad looks.  We want to be able to control those 1st and 2nd down looks a lot better.  I'll give you an example:  Early in the year, we were plussed out a lot in the run game, meaning the defense had more players in the box, and we should have been throwing the ball more effectively in 1st and 2nd down situations.  We need to throw the ball better in those kinds of situations when we get plussed out."

Q.  You mentioned that you want to play a lot of people, you're going to play a lot of people.  If the situation dictates, how important is it to get your other quarterbacks on the field and get them some experience?

"Well, I might say that any time that you can get your second and third quarterback in, that's a good thing if it's not an injury, right?  So obviously we'd love to get in that mindset. Our mindset is we really want to get off to a good start with Tommy Rees.  He wasn't a starter for us last year, so I think everything that we're thinking about is to really have a solid game, a great start for Tommy Rees and getting off to a good start in 2013.

"Playing a lot of players is not just weather related.  We're going to play a lot of players, it's just going to be the nature of this football team.  So I think our game plan, everything that we do will not be necessarily weather related as well as we're going to play a lot of players, and Tommy Rees needs to really have a good first game, and I think we're focused more about Tommy playing start to finish than we are getting other quarterbacks in the game."

Q.  There was a lot of talk in some of the other conferences, a debate about whether fast tempo offenses created some injury problems on defense or injury situations made it riskier for defenses instead of going back and forth.  Do you buy into that?  Do you think that it's creating more of an injury risk having fast tempo offenses?

"I really haven't been in tune to that conversation.  When I've had conversations about fast tempo, it's trying to neutralize really good defensive coordinators.  It's trying to take away sub packages.  It's trying to take away the pen last from the defensive coordinator as it relates to running tempo. It hasn't been much about injuries and things of that nature, from my conversations."


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