Kelly Q&A: First Spring Practice

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly discusses the offensive line, inside linebackers, running backs, tight ends, and quarterback Everett Golson, following his team's first of 15 spring practices sessions.

Brian Kelly

"Well good first day. In my observations relative to a good first day, is we got a lot of work done. Two hours of practice. A lot of the things that I try to evaluate in a first day is what's the carryover from last year to this year? Does it look like a whole new teaching progression that has to be laid down or is there a lot of carryover?

"A great amount of carryover offensively. (Senior quarterback) Everett (Golson) stepped in there and the tempo of the offense was outstanding. For a first day, it was really exciting for me to watch him be back in there and look as though he was with us last year. Really didn't feel like there was a big gap relative to his lack of being here last year. Certainly we would have loved to have him on the team, but I was really pleased with that from an offensive standpoint.

"The receivers, just picking up everything -- Their ability to pick up all the signaling. We didn't have a bunch of guys jumping offside and sloppiness with the ball on the ground. Those are the things you're looking to evaluate the first day, and I'm very pleased with that.

"Defensively, you can sense the expectations are not going to be within the grasp of any player on the defensive side of the ball with (defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder. High expectations. He's coaching. You love that, because there's a lot going on defensively, and high expectations for everybody on the defensive side of the ball. His interaction with everything that is going on, you can feel it while you're out there.

"Really positive first day. Got a lot of work done. Got a lot of evaluation. But, again, from my perspective, when you look at your 15 days, this one goes into the bank as one that we got better today."

QUESTION: How did Everett look throwing to receivers he hasn't really spent much time with before?

"I think that's the one thing that's going to take some time. There are some new things offensively that some of these young receivers haven't run. With me being involved in the offense, some routes that they hadn't run. (Junior) Chris Brown is not familiar with, (sophomore) Will Fuller is not familiar with. Those guys are not familiar with some of those things, so that's going to take a little bit of time.

"They're going to have all summer working with each other, and that'll happen. We're a little bit off on some of those things. The quarterback's accuracy was a little off today, because that's really the first time they've been together. In terms of understanding what we want, in terms of the way they competed today, really feel good about all that. The rest will take some time, granted, but that will be had."


Golson has a host of unfamiliar targets for 2014

QUESTION: I don't want to overstate the (George) Whitfield experience, but overall are you glad that (Golson) did that and what do you think he got out of that?

"I think, and I think I kind of alluded to this in some of the film study that I had with Everett, there was definitely a conceptual awareness that he had lacked at some times in the passing game. He clearly has that. It's an easier conversation for him.

"The best way to explain it would be when he would explain his progression, it might take him 10 seconds, but he has 2.6 seconds to throw the ball. Now, he's precise in his communication as to what his progression is. That tells me a lot. He's definitely made some strides and I think there must have been some real good teaching there that has allowed him to have that opportunity to come in here and have a better sense of everything."

QUESTION:I don't know if this is oversimplifying it too, but for your quarterback to be really good, does that change the direction of the whole team?

"Absolutely. Look your offensive line has to play well, it has to protect the quarterback. We've got to run effectively, take care of it. But I think we all know, with college football and where it is, the quarterback is really going to be the centerpiece of this offense and the way we run it. It's going to fall on him. Today was a very good day for him for a first day.

"Again, we have all lived in the same world when it comes to the Notre Dame quarterback. We're going to heap a lot on this kid's shoulders, and he knows that. That's why he came back to Notre Dame, because he wants that opportunity. Clearly, he's going to be the guy that drives us."

QUESTION: Early impressions of him working with (newly-hired quarterbacks coach) Matt LaFleur?

"A lot of smiles. I think there's good communication, a good connection. Early on, you can sense that there's going to be a strong relationship there."

QUESTION: Are there other position battles that you're keeping an eye on in spring practice? "Relative to the battles, there's a lot of work to be done on the offensive line. There's probably six or seven guys that are lumped together. We have to sort through that. It was alluded to in my press conference on Friday, what's the tackle situation going to look like? What's the two-deep situation looking like? This year, we really had to dig deep into the depth on the offensive line. We've got to sort that out. That's a big piece on the offense.

"From the defensive standpoint, there's a number of things going on there. Who are the inside linebackers? Who are the corners? Who is the right corner, left corner? We know about (junior cornerback) Keivarae Russell. What's the safety? There are a lot of things going on. Today is just one day, but I think there's a lot going to be happening, even at the safety position, as we move through the spring.

"A lot of things, a lot of dynamics. What I got out of today wasn't necessarily that, as much as it didn't feel like we had to take a step back today. That was good for me."

QUESTION: In 2012, (senior cornerback) Matthias Farley was making plays that he didn't make in 2013. What was your evaluation of that? How will he fit in at cornerback?

"I think he's going to play more than corner. He's going to have a chance to play some nickel for us, some corner. I think he's going to be involved in what we do defensively. I think the role is to be determined.

"He's a really good athlete. He's got a lot of snaps. He has played a lot of football. He played on an undefeated defense in the regular season two years ago. I think we all recognize that. I think he was put into a very difficult situation. We were trying to get him to replace Zeke Motta and Harrison Smith, two pretty good players and two physical players. He's not that kind of player. So he kind of got that tag of he's not as physical as them. Well, that's not his best trait.

"He's really smart. He's got some tools that I think if we play him in the right position, he could really help our defense. I'm going to say he was unfairly evaluated in a sense. He was put in a very difficult position last year. We really think he can help our defense in a role that doesn't focus on him being a hard-hit safety."

QUESTION: What have you seen in (sophomore) Mike McGlinchey on the offensive line?

"He's a tough, physical kid, first of all. Toughness, mental toughness, physical toughness. Long, athletic. He's got all the tools. He just needs experience and time. We spike, we get on the field. It's a very competitive situation. He's got all the tools necessary for him to be a star for us. It's going to be time and place. When is that time and when does he get that opportunity I guess is what I'm saying.

"What I've seen is he's a tough, physical kid, mentally tough. He plays physical and he's got all the tools to handle the position at tackle. It's going to be time and place."


Kelly has high expectations for senior Ben Koyack

QUESTION: You've been blessed here having an in-line blocking tight end. Who takes that role?

"I think (senior) Ben Koyack is somebody that, probably the last six games of the season, really was an effective blocker for us. I think he can be more than that. I think he can be a very good blocker for us. People do their job for us. (Sophomore) Durham Smythe will be involved in there. If we have to use an offensive lineman that we put another jersey on, we certainly could do that, too, because we have some depth on the offensive line.

"I fully expect Ben Koyack to be able to do the job for us, first and foremost. And then we get young at the position after that."

QUESTION: Could McGlinchey be that offensive lineman?

"Sure. Absolutely. We've got a great situation where we have some flexibility there. He's a guy that running around is as athletic as some of the tight ends in the country. He's a guy that easily could throw a 70 jersey on and line up at tight end."

QUESTION: It may be hard to tell when they're not in pads, but what have you seen from (sophomore) Greg Bryant?

"Again, I think he's probably what we've always thought about him. Just his workouts, top of the line in everything that he does. I know our guys don't like to tackle him. He's physical. He's got all the tools to be a premier running back.

"You add him to the mix and with (senior) Cam (McDaniel) and (sophomore) Tarean (Folston), we feel really fortunate to have three great running backs."

QUESTION: As far as Folston goes, what would you like to see from him this spring?

"At running back, everybody talks about a No. 1 guy. You're going to have two or three guys that play for you. You're never going to have really just one guy. You're always going to have a couple of guys.

"I think he's going to continue to develop, continue to get stronger, continue to learn the offense. Look, it's our job to get our players to develop to be better players year-in and year-out, and I expect Tarean Folston to be a better player than he was last year."

QUESTION: With so few inside linebackers right now, do you lump the Mike in with the Will for now?

"No. The Mike will be separated from the Will. There will be a difference between the two. Their jobs definitely have a distinct difference. I think what you're looking at in both of those positions right now are guys that are similar in body type, but they will have different jobs. We're going to have to sort out their traits and what their skills are to discern the Mike from the Will.

"They look the same. A lot of our personnel are first- and second-down personnel. As you can see in our recruiting last year and this year, we're recruiting more third-down personnel, guys that can be on the field more on third down, rushing the passer, third-down linebackers, safeties. We're in that process now of trying to sort that out as to who the Mike and who the Will is."


Day (pictured registering a sack in 2012) will be asked to lead by example

QUESTION: Looking at (rising junior defensive lineman) Sheldon Day, what do you expect out of him as far as leading the defensive line?

"Sheldon's not a guy that is ready to stand in front and demand, but he can give us consistency in performance, he can give us consistency in work ethic, he can give us the accountability necessary to be somebody we can put out front. He's not going to stand in front. He's not Kap Lewis in his senior year, a guy who when he stands in front you're going to listen. He's not there yet, but he certainly is showing us the consistency.

"What we're asking for from Sheldon is to give us Sheldon Day and the same Sheldon Day every single day. That's the first step."

QUESTION: Do you think eventually you'll flip to where you're more of a 4-3 team?

"I think it just really depends on who we're playing, the schedule, the teams that you're playing. It's so easy now to get in and out of the three-down and the four-down defense, that the way we're going to construct it, it's really going to be week-to-week. It's going to be similar to what New England is doing. One week they might be all four-down the entire game and the next week they're three-down.

"The way we're going to play it, it's going to be easy for us to be in-and-out of three-down. It's really going to be more game plan structured than it has been in the past. Then say, we're a three-down team that morphs into four-down. We're going to be situationally three-down, four-down. We just need to continue to recruit some more of those guys that can get after the quarterback."

QUESTION: Terminology question, you're not using the Cat and Dog phrases anymore, are you? "We're not."

QUESTION: So what do you call the former Cat linebacker? Just Rush backer? "Yes, we're calling him the Rush right now."


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