Kelly wraps up Oklahoma Preparations

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly spoke with the media Thursday night after his team's final practice in preparation for Oklahoma.

Brian Kelly

Good week. Guys recognize the challenge that's ahead of them with Oklahoma. Again, we know our opponent. We know their strengths, and we know the things that we have to improve on. I think our guys are very aware of our weaknesses and what we have to improve on to win this football game. But I will say this, they're confident.

They know that they can beat Oklahoma, but they're going to have to play mistake-free. We're going to have to be in great position. We're going to have be fundamentally-sound defensively and all the basic tenets that go with playing championship football will have to be on display on Saturday. But I'm very confident in our football team, that they understand what is necessary and what will have to happen on Saturday for us to win.

QUESTION: Any update on Sheldon (Day)? Any other injuries this week? "He practiced all week, and so he'll play on Saturday."

Q: He looked good? "Yeah. Anytime you're coming back from an injury in the timeframe that he has, you got to feel good that he's been able to respond."

Q: How do you feel that position held up last week? In particular with (sophomore defensive lineman) Jarron (Jones) got some real meaningful snaps at the end of the fourth quarter.

"Yeah, a lot of guys. We played Jarron. Obviously Kona (Schwenke) played a great deal. We were pleased with his play. Tyler Stockton played.(Isaac) Rochell played Ishaq (Williams) played. A lot of those guys got in the rotation and played a lot of reps. I see that happening again more this weekend as well. You're going to continue to see that kind of rotation."

Q: Last week, after the game, you guys talked about tightening the grip you have on your defense, with tackling, crisp and clean. Did you loosen that this week or did you kind of maintain that?

"No, I don't think so. I think that coach (Bob) Diaco and the defensive staff have really made it clear what the expectations are. If you want to be on the field, this is the level of play that we have to see from you. I think it's more than just tackling. I think it's production too across the board. I like those frank one-on-one conversations.

"We don't embarrass our players. We talk with them one-on-one, and tell them here are the expectations of what we have for you. I think all of our players know what is expected of them."

Q: You don't need to have those one-on-one conversation anymore? One time was enough in advance of Michigan State, as the message has been delivered?

"Yeah, but I think we'll continuously have those conversations if we feel individual play has slipped in any one particular player's area. We'll continue to do that. I remember last year a conversation we had with Manti (Te'o) where we felt like he was not giving us the kind of production. He was thankful, and appreciated this kind of candid discussion about my play. He took it to heart and came back and was a better player. So we'll continue to do that.

Q: The offense has had a couple different guys, be it (Troy) Niklas or Chris Brown or Corey Robinson step up and take some of that pressure off (DaVaris) Daniels and (TJ) Jones. Do you need a consistent third person, or can it be where a different third guy is showing up

"No, I don't think so. I think from an offensive standpoint, we've got enough balance. We haven't run the ball effectively enough throughout four quarters. There are times where we've been effective -- we won some football games late, Purdue in particular -- where we've been able to run the ball to finish out a game. But we're not where we want to be in terms of running the ball effectively throughout the game, which is going to allow us to have a run-pass balance, the ability to keep people off balance that we need to. That's more the focus than finding that third guy or that fourth guy."

Q: Across the country, there have been some headlines this week about a player movement called All Players United where they are talking about players' rights, with regards to concussions and stipends and things like that. Have you talked to your players at all about any of that kind of stuff?

"I have not. I don't know that I've been, maybe I've been negligent in it, but I really have been focused on my normal tasks on a day-to-day basis with our players. Maybe on the bye week, I mean this sincerely, I'll educate myself a little bit more on it. I really wasn't aware of it. I usually take my feed from the American Football Coaches Association and Grant Teaff, who generally makes us coaches aware of issues such that we saw this past weekend. I was not aware of that, so that kind of hit me as a bit of a surprise, so I'll do a little bit more research on it."? 

Q: You haven't been in Cincinnati for awhile. There were years where the Catholic Cincinnati schools just dominate the state, and then Kerry Coombs at Colerain, who I know you hired, brings this public school to the forefront. Can you talk a little bit about the culture of Colerain and, if you can, a guy like (junior linebacker) Jarrett Grace coming out of the culture, what kind of kid you get?

"I think there's similarities to that model that you're mentioning relative to the strong Catholic schools and the really good public schools. I would use an analogy with St. Joe's and Marian here and Mishawaka Penn High School. That's a very kind of similar kind of scenario, where you have a large public school like Colerain that does such a great job coaching and developing a program from the Pop Warner program, whatever it's called -- the sixth graders, the fifth graders -- and keeping them in the program and developing them through all those years, and running a tight program and developing high school and college players.

"Then obviously a strong high school programs that have great feeder programs, that's Colerain with the St. X's and the Moeller's. I think you have a similar thing here locally with Penn and St. Joe's and Marian. It's a very similar program. You can get great kids out Penn. You can get great kids out of Marian. You can get great out of St. Joe's. I think there's a lot of similarities there."

Q: Where does (freshman quarterback) Malik Zaire stand, in terms of training? "He's the third quarterback."

Q: Did he lose a lot of time or a lot of opportunities while he was sick?

"I wouldn't say that. He's still in that learning curve as a freshman quarterback, seeing, learning. We kept traveling him even though he wasn't playing. I think he's still in that learning curve. If two guys got injured, he'd be starting for us. He's just the third quarterback."

Q: What's the biggest key at the start of a game to build as a team, in a game that has so much more hype like this one seems to have, to be successful? What do you tell your guys before a game like this?

"Well, our tenets haven't changed. We've always talked about starting fast. It really hasn't been part of this group yet consistently, but what they do is they finish really well, so I'd stick around if I were you, because they know how to finish games. We just need to make plays down the stretch, and we have to do a better job of being consistent through four quarters.

"We haven't really put together those four quarters of really good football. We're going to need to do that against Oklahoma. If we get off to a poor start and don't play well for a few quarters, we're going to find ourselves in a very difficult situation against a very good team in Oklahoma."


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