Kelly Q&A: Sunday Teleconference

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly spoke with the media via his weekly Sunday teleconference. Among the topics discussed, his views on the rivalry with Michigan, the need for a pass rush vs. Temple, his grades on the Irish offensive line, running backs, kickers, and the status of DaVaris Daniels for Saturday in the Big House.

Brian in your relatively short time at Notre Dame, what has having Michigan on the schedule meant? What have you grasped of the gravity of this rivalry? What, if anything, might be missing in a couple years when it is off the schedule for awhile?"

"Well, I really haven't seen it as one of those historic traditional Notre Dame rivalries. I've seen it as one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played. For me, I've been in Michigan a long time, so I've always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game, but I think the Notre Dame history books, this game has played itself, but there have obviously been a number of years where it hasn't been played.

"I think if you ask a lot of the traditionalists, the historians, this game has had many years where it hasn't been played. From my perspective, being in Michigan, these have been really hard-fought and a really-high profile games.

"For whatever, I guess animosity, whatever you want to call it, would be there between teams, programs, fans. If it goes away for awhile is ti one of those things in your experience that can be easily brought back 10 years down the road. Is a big hiatus between teams necessarily going to dampen down how these fans and programs feel about each other in a way?

"I would think that the geographical proximity and certainly from a recruiting standpoint in the Midwest, Notre Dame and Michigan are recruiting kids that are very good students, certainly there a lot of similarities. I don't think any time off will affect the great rivalry that these two teams have shared over the years."

You came out of the game healthy other than [receiver] DaVaris Daniels yesterday?

"Yeah, I just met with our doctors and staff. Very, very slight groin, Grade I, he's got full function today. He'll get treatment most of the day. That's really the only one that even measures. Laceration to the chin for [linebacker] Ben Councell. I'm just going through my notes here. [Tight end] Ben Koyack minor sprain. [Offensive lineman] Ronnie Stanley finger. Nothing. That would be the only one would be the Grade I groin with Daniels.

And he'll play Saturday, right?

"He played well. Obviously, featuring him down the field, he's got the ability to get over the top of coverages, and we've got a number of guys who do that. Certainly, a great way for him to open up as another. I think we've talked about this at length, I think we've got a number of receivers that can give us that big play ability down the field. He's certainly one of them."

I'm sorry, I was talking too fast, you still assume he'll play against Michigan, right? "Oh, absolutely. Again, I think this is an injury that is such a low-level, he would have played if I had allowed him to. I told him we're down for the day. We feel real strongly that he'll be full-go on Friday.

With a chance to look at some film and see those 10 freshmen who played yesterday, did anyone really stand out or impress you above any others?

"I like some of the things that our young players at the back end of the defense, I like [defensive back] Cole Luke. He was in on a number of plays. Certainly, when you're talking about overall it's hard to just say one guy, but Jaylon Smith was out there for a lot of football. He could benefit the most because of the number of snaps he took between week one and week two. And he's got a great skill set. There's a lot he's going to have to learn from it.

"I think all those guys who got a lot of snaps are going to benefit. I don't think that one guy stands out in terms of his play, but I think if you look at every one of those freshmen that were out there, I think they benefited a great deal. The freshmen running backs, even though they only got a few snaps, they got an opportunity.

"Isaac Rochell, again, he didn't get a ton of reps but they all benefited. I wouldn't single out one guy as much as all those guys are going to be able to contribute as this season unfolds because it's going to be a long, tough season and we're going to need them all."

I think the guy we probably heard the least from yesterday was [receiver] Will Fuller. What have you seen of him in the last few weeks that got him in yesterday?

"He's got really top-end speed. He's as fast as the guys we've got on the offensive side of the ball. He can run with the Chris Browns, with DaVaris Daniels. He's got that top-end speed. He's a little bit slight in terms of his build, we've got to work on getting him stronger, and developing physically. He runs really good routes. He's got excellent hands. He's going to be a guy we continue to work into the line-up."

Brian, the distribution of carries at the running backs yesterday, was that more situational or should we read into that at all? Do you expect it to be different going forward?

"We think that we can feature all of those backs. They all have a unique talent. I think we saw that on display. Cam (McDaniel) is a guy that can really run down-hill, physical for us. George (Atkinson) is inside-out, a guy who can make big things happen. And we see what (Amir) Carlisle can do on the perimeter. You're going to continue to see a number of backs play for us. We're going to need them all. It's a long and grueling schedule. We're going to need them all to play."

You said before the game that [freshman lineman] Steve Elmer was going to play. Did he get in at all at tackle? "No, we were going to get him in but we decided against it. We were in a pretty good flow there. It's not a situation where we're going to not play him this year. There's going to be a time he gets on the field, it just didn't happen on Saturday."

Have you got an idea yet whether you're going to have Malik Zaire back in the mix for you this week? "We're going to get his lab report on Tuesday, and then we'll know where we stand with him. We're hopeful we'll get him back. The lab report is based upon obviously the spleen, and making sure there is no risk of rupturing the spleen when you're fighting mononucleosis. We'll get a better indication on that on Tuesday."

When you look at your place kickers on Saturday, what did you see in the operation of each of the missed field goals? What are you looking for from the two of them this week in determining what you're going to do up at Michigan?

"Obviously, Nick (Tausch) did a very good job on the extra point. Snaps were good. (Long Snapper) Scott Daly was on time. Luke Massa did a very good job in terms of holding. All the kicks were clean. On the field goal attempt by Nick, just a bad kick, was thick and heavy on it. Just a bad ball. Kyle (Brindza), a clean kick and he just pulled it. It was a 40-plus kick, and he struck it well but he just pulled it. We're going to live with a miss here or there. We can't have a technically bad kick which we had with Nick. We'll make a decision on where we go with that.

"I think Nick obviously has good mechanics generally. He didn't on that kick. We've got a lot going on with Kyle, and I still think that Nick and [punter] Alex [Wulfeck] can still assist in all the jobs that Kyle is asked to do, and I think there are times during the year they can fill in and help him with these jobs, but obviously Kyle is going to be counted on heavily in the kicking game for us."

When you look at the statistics from the first half from yesterday, your defense really was much better in the second half. How about your starting defensive line from beginning to end? What did you see from them?

"I thought in the second half, when we wanted to get pressure, our four-man group was all over the quarterback. We had five hits on the quarterback in the second half, primarily (Prince) Shembo and Ishaq (Williams). When they needed to get pressure we got the pressure that was needed. When you talk about statistics for us defensively in the second half, a lot of it has to do with wearing down Temple in the second half. When we needed a four-man rush, we certainly got that from the group we're going to count on during the year. I thought they settled down nicely, we made a couple of adjustments. I thought that went well for us in the second half defensively."

(Freshman receiver) Torii Hunter, given all the young and deep receivers, is there a chance he won't play for you this year?

"Oh sure, I think he's in a situation now where he would have to show some really incredible things for us, but we always leave the door open. Again, with the long season and so much in front of us, when he's healthy, we'll give him a chance to go down on the demo squad. We never turn the film off, so if he can go down there and impress. I would say that's going to be difficult, but we'll see what happens."

Any thoughts on the comment from Brady Hoke talking to fans saying Notre Dame is chickening out of the series?

"No. Look, everybody knows the challenges we have as an independent when it comes to scheduling. We're a team that a lot of people want to play, including Michigan obviously or Brady wouldn't comment in that regard. We're trying to do the best we can in maintaining the independent status and fulfilling the obligation we have with the ACC. We'd like to play everybody. Unfortunately we can't, and there's going to be a little bit of a hiatus with this game. We'll work hard to get them back on the schedule."

For the players here now, this will be their last trip to Ann Arbor. Do you think that will be more special for the game on Saturday?

"I think the Michigan game and the atmosphere that is created, it's special in itself. I don't think that they need anything more than, when Notre Dame plays Temple it's special for them because they've worked so hard to get there. They don't really need any more motivation. There's going to be over 100,000 people and a very electric atmosphere. They don't need any other motivation than the team they're going to be playing against on Saturday. That'll be enough."

You mentioned the defensive line a few minutes ago. Michigan is a team that has a reputation of a strong offensive line. Is this a match-up the defense, rather than yesterday where they are running all over the field, looks forward to going one-on-one with a team that has a line like Michigan does?

"I think our defense, like anybody else, they're going to watch the film and they're going to look at the things they need to improve on. Our coaches are looking at it. I think there's a lot of things that we're going to do this week that are going to make us a better defense, because we're going to have to be against Michigan. Temple played very well.

"Michigan is a very, very good football team and our kids are motivated not only by wanting to get better from one week to the next, but certainly wanting to play their very best against Michigan. That's going to be the motivator for us, wanting to be better from week one to week two."

When you considered making the change or handing the kicking job over to Tausch instead of Brindza, did you just think it was inconceivable that Brindza could handle all the responsibilities?kickoffs, punting and place-kicks without compromising the effectiveness of one of those areas?

"No, I would not use the word inconceivable. Kyle Brindza is capable of doing all of that. I wanted to lighten the load for him as he settles into doing something that he's never done before, and that is a very technical position in punting. It's generally a position that you have to spend so much time, and I had to take a little bit of that time away from him relative to field goals.

"From that standpoint I leaned a little bit more on Nick early on to lighten the load for Kyle so he could focus squarely on punting duties. We saw on Saturday that Kyle was able to punt effectively, outside of not having really great touch yet with pooch punting. I'm willing to give that up right now with him flipping field position punting. We saw that he can certainly continue to kick off extremely well.

"He missed a field goal but hey it was 40-plus yards and he banged the heck out of it. It's one of those things right now, I still have Nick Tausch who is an accomplished kicker. Yeah, he missed one and it didn't look good, but I'm going to lean on those guys to take some of the load off of Kyle until we get this thing to the point where he feels real comfortable."

Did you go into yesterday with the plan that Brindza would handle the longer field goals? And if so, what is the cut-off mark? What's the distance?

"Yeah, I don't really have a specific. Here is what I would tell you: Tausch was going to take all the extra points, and I kind of wanted to see what Tausch would do with field goals. He got the first shot at it. That's why Kyle got the second one, which was a little bit longer. I don't have a specific mark there. We do have some numbers on it but I don't want to get into the specifics right now. Kyle was a clutch kicker for us last year, and we recognize that."

I spoke with (Kelly's first collegiate quarterback) Jack Hull yesterday, and I was wondering how has your approach and relationship with your quarterbacks changed since him up through Tommy?

"It's different. I was the quarterbacks coach, the offensive coordinator, the offensive coach, the special teams coach, I drove the bus and I packed the lunches. It has evolved from being a Division II head coach to being the Mid-American Conference where you get a lot of those jobs to Cincinnati to Notre Dame. It changes a little bit along the way. I think at the end of the day they still see me as the same guy who is involved with the quarterbacks, involved with the offense, who is an intense competitor. I think those are still there no matter what."

The 200th win, now that you've had a night to think it over, how great did that feel? "I'm a pretty good coach when I recruit good players."

What's your overall assessment of the offensive line? "Solid. We rate the offensive line obviously in a number of different categories. One of the things is efficient runs. I thought we were very efficient in our run game. We gave up one sack. For a first game, we had one procedure penalty, no holding calls, pretty clean game for an offensive line in an opener."


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