Kelly Q&A: Navy Wrap

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talks about his team's preparation this week for -- and as compared to a painful past meeting with -- the Naval Academy.

Brian Kelly

Finished up our preparation for Navy. Really a focused week for our guys, again. Their ability to stay on task and do the jobs necessary to prepare. We talked about it on Tuesday, about how important it is to stay focused on the details, especially when you're playing a service academy in Navy, and the respect that we have for this game and how they run the option.

How they play defense, they're much improved defensively over last year in terms of personnel and the way they're playing, so we had to have a good week of practice. I like the way that we prepared. Now we've got to play.

We've got to take care of the things that we've done the last few games. We're going to have to continue to do them. On offense, that is score points. Defensively, the quarterback is really the guy that makes it happen. Those were the focus pieces of the last practices. Again, I thought we did a pretty good job.

Q: What kind of week did (Tarean) Folston have? I ask that because we see him in the game and he runs so hard, I don't know if in practices if he's that way as well. I'm just curious as he did get an opportunity. Is he still pushing?

"We have to actually slow him down a little bit in terms of he's the classic -- I use the line, be quick but don't hurry -- he has a tendency to hurry things. We have to slow him down on some things because he'll miss some reads because he's a little too fast. I think it's just for him, still learning the offense, the little nuances here and there. But he had a good week of practice, got a lot of work."

Q: Louis Nix's status?"He will not play on Saturday. He's not ready to play."

Q: Was he able to practice at all this week? "Yeah, he moved around a little bit. Much more than last week. He's getting closer, but really didn't get enough work for us to play him against an option team."

Q: He will not dress? "No. He won't dress."

Q: (Chris) Watt, (Sheldon) Day, (Elijah) Shumate? "Day was with the first group. He will play. Shumate was with the second group, and he will play.

Q: How does he look against the option? It seems like that's almost his game.

"He's playing one of our outside-inverted positions. You like to just let him go, there's some thinking there that you don't want to slow down a guy like Elijah sometimes. You want to let him go. We like his athletic ability. He's probably not at 100 percent yet, but he's definitely at a position where he can get on the field and help us this weekend.

Q: I know that you were a defensive guy early in your career. When you started to flip over and do offense, did you ever toy with triple-option?

"The only principles of option that I kept were some goal line, belly-belly option, some read-option stuff on the goal line. Ran some traditional full house for about 10 years. No veer-option principles, but some more triple-option principles with belly, QB and pitch, but no true veer-scheme options."

Q: In the first three games Tommy (Rees) had great numbers. Then they were down. These last few games, they're back up to where they were earlier. What has he done so well in the last few games?

"I think it's been a combination of a number of things. I would say settling in with the offensive structure and how it's moving forward in plays, routes and things of that nature. I think we played some really good defenses. I think we have to take our hat off to some of the defenses that we played. They were outstanding defenses and made it difficult for us and for Tommy.

"Then I think his comfort level in the pocket has just risen over the last month, to where he's really become much more comfortable moving in the pocket, just a lot more confident out there. All three of those factors, playing really good defenses, settling into specific pass plays and schemes, and I think gaining some confidence in the pocket. All those coming together, I think that's why we're seeing some of the things that we are."

Q: You had such a great threat last year with Theo (Riddick) coming out of the backfield. He had 36 catches. In the last five weeks, there's only been five receptions by the running backs. Is that a problem because of the way defenses play you, you have to be more vertical or is it just part of what you have now?

"I think it's a little bit of both. The tight end has picked up some of those receptions. You have to remember, (Tyler) Eifert's receptions were on the perimeter more so than the tight end. Troy (Niklas) is starting to pick up some of those receptions that may have been targeted for the back coming out of the backfield. Then we've really hit a lot of different receivers to make up for those catches, as well.

"I think we had a guy like Theo Riddick where there was a lot of confidence and we knew what he was going to do. The running backs, although they're very capable, there hasn't been one guy who has stepped up and said, hey, I'm the guy. I'm that guy you can count on. "Theo was a receiver for a year or two, and I think that confidence was built in and that's why you saw a lot more receptions."

Q: With Theo gone, is that a role Amir Carlisle could fit into? He strikes me that way. He played a lot at running back the first two weeks, but not as much in the last six weeks. How do you get him involved?

"I think it's the same question I try to answer each and every week. How do you get Folston involved? How do you get George Atkinson more involved? I don't know. How do you get them more involved? We're trying to get as many of these guys involved. We have a lot of skill players that we're trying to get involved. Sometimes it's just a matter of how the game goes.

"How do you get (wide receiver) C.J. Prosise more touches? We were just talking about C.J. He doesn't have enough touches. I don't think it's necessarily what they haven't done. It's more about the product. If they get into the flow of the game, we try to get them the ball. It's nothing that they haven't done, it's just difficult to get all these guys touches."

Q: When you played Navy in 2010, obviously it's a day that you would probably rather forget --"No. We did not forget 2010."

Q: After that, it was kind of where you guys became a really good run defense. It's been one of the trademarks of your time here. Why did it shift after that game? What happened from that game that changed things? Why don't you want to forget that game?

"I just think that we felt like there's only been a couple of times since we've been here where we felt like we let the players down, and as coaches you never want to feel that way. I take full responsibility for that. You want your team prepared. That's why we're in this profession, to prepare our kids. We weren't prepared properly. We redoubled our efforts based off that game to make sure that never happens again.

"I think that's true, in terms of our focus and preparation, but I don't know if that game was an event that caused us to be a better run defense. I think it just really focused us on our preparation and attention every single day to the smallest detail."

Q: Two weeks in a row playing an option-based team, obviously that's an advantage for you guys in terms of preparation and staying in that same style, but you know that their offense is predicated on coming up with something that counters that. Do you spend the whole week working toward and anticipating what they're going to counter with?

"Yes. More answers. We're trying to prepare for this week with more answers to the quarterback, some more answers to lead-option. Some of their basic bread-and-butter plays, and how they're going to get them whether they're in unbalanced or snug or different formations. Being prepared to stop those plays, because they're still going to come to the same plays, they're just going to be in different looks. Having answers or stoppers to those is really the things that we're looking at."

Q: So no matter how many weeks in a row you play an option-based team you're still going to have to be prepared to make decisions on the fly like you would even if you were playing them the first time?

"Absolutely correct. I gave you an example of Western Kentucky lined up in a nose and? two 3-techniques, and did a great job against them. Then Toledo sees it on film and says we'll do the same thing. Well, Navy comes out and takes the guards and they're in three-foot splits. They can't get to the dive.

"How many times did Toledo have to handle the dive? I think Navy ran the fullback 44 times. They have answers. As I've said, they've been running the triple-option way longer than we've been defending it, so we have to be prepared, because nobody runs the triple and the details of it better than Navy. That's what we have to prepare for."

Q: I know you're focused on Navy, but do you have any thoughts on Everett (Golson) talking to Sports Illustrated? Did you advise him on that decision?

"I did not advise him. I know he did talk to them. (Sports Information Director) Mike (Bertsch) talked to me about that because I talked to Andy Staples who wrote the article and I believe -- I haven't read the story -- I was quoted in the story because I talked to him about it.

"If he's here on campus and he's in our program and he's under my charge, I'm really good at giving advice. But he's not in the program right now, so I'm not giving him. Those are his decisions that he is free to make."

Q: When do you expect him to be back? "From what I'm hearing, is that he is trying to make his way back here sometime in the next few weeks."

Q: Then will he be able to jump in on any practices before the bowl game?

"He can, but again a lot of this is theoretical. Let's say he's admitted back into school on December 15. He would be eligible to practice. If that's the case, then we would practice him, but he would not, of course, be eligible to compete. Provided of course he gets readmitted. I'm just answering the question as it relates to his eligibility."

Q: In those terms, since the dismissal was an academic thing, did he have to do anything academically to redeem himself, so to speak?

"He would be eligible in terms of academics when he gets back here and would be on track because of the one-time missed semester rule, he would be eligible, provided he does all the normal 12 hours and GPA and things of that nature in the spring."

Q: Some Missouri players were dealing with negative things on social media. I know you've touched on it, but how do you keep your guys away from that? How do you coach them to shut that out?

"Well, it's hard. We try to avoid the noise. We have a big sign right as you leave this building that talks about all of those things. We constantly talk to our players about here at Notre Dame you have to be able to avoid getting involved in that because it will distract you from what you need to do, and that is go to school, take care of your academics, and be focused on football. I don't know Missouri's situation, but here at Notre Dame it's a regular occurrence, so our guys are schooled on it. We bring in professionals to talk about all of that information that's out there in the summer. We educate our kids on it." Top Stories