Kelly Q&A: March 19

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly spoke with the media today following his team's third practice of the spring and first in 13 days.

Brian Kelly

Well we came back after a bit of a layoff and got our guys back in pads. It's always a good thing to get back at it, but there's a lot of things going on that you have to clean up as well. A good day to get our guys back with a week off.

Of course, timing and all of those things were important. A lot of good things, a lot to teach off, a lot of installation going on on both sides of the ball. I love our guys' energy. I love the way that they're attending to what we want to teach. Again, it's one of those things where we'll spend most of the day now correcting a lot of the things that were going on out there today.

We're getting exactly what we want from our guys. Got a lot of new roles for players. Again, you've got a lot of guys who have a lot of athletic ability, are talented, but inexperienced. That's the exciting part, and that's probably going to be the one area that we'll have to grow into as well. There's going to be some growing along the way here, but a lot of excitement as well, so hopefully we'll be able to grow both of those together and together we'll really become a football team.

QUESTION: Speaking of different roles, in addition to just moving (Matthias) Farley to corner, it looks like you have some plans for him in your sub-packages. Could you talk about what you're looking for from him?

Kelly: "I think we've talked about finding a position for him. He's a pretty good athlete. He's got some size and some experience playing at the highest level. Quite frankly, I think we're still really early in that process for a lot of guys. I don't think it's just Matthias. You saw today. It's (cornerback) Cole Luke, it's (linebacker) John Turner, it's (safety) Austin Collinsworth. There's probably five, six, seven guys. It's (safety) Eilar Hardy.

"We're trying to find roles in a lot of our sub-packages. Today was a lot of our sub-package work. It was a lot of third down. I've never really gone third down this early. It's usually a migraine headache day for the quarterbacks and the offense, but because we're going to be using a lot of sub-packages, we wanted to be able to start to evaluate some of those players. That was today. That's why we brought you in late today, too. We brought you in late today because we wanted to show you that we've got a lot of those guys we're trying to evaluate that we really don't know yet.

"We usually bring you in for the first four periods and let you watch us stretch in our underwear. Today we brought you in for the last four periods for third-down, where we're trying to get in a lot of personnel to figure out who those guys are."

QUESTION: Following up on that, I saw (James) Onwualu is also working in (sub packages). How is that transition going for him?

Kelly: "I think it's going well and we're trying to find that role too, where that is, whether it is down closer to the ball, whether it is back. I think there's a lot of different moving pieces there as well. I wouldn't, he might be a guy that could probably handle both roles on offense and defense in a limited capacity. He's a really good football player that if we're smart with it, I think he can do some different jobs for us possibly on both sides of the ball."

QUESTION: How do you feel the guys came back from spring break? How did that work out? And what did Everett (Golson) do during spring break?

Kelly: "He was in Chicago with his extended family.

"I think they all did what I asked them to do. I didn't see anybody on social media. I didn't see anybody on Snap-chat putting pictures out there at 2 in the morning talking about their days on South Padre Island, or wherever they may have been. I think they got away, which is what we wanted them to do, and they enjoyed themselves, but they also knew that when they came back here, that we were going to challenge them on Monday.

"I think they got away, they recharged their batteries, they enjoyed themselves, but they were mature enough to know that when they came back, they had some work to do. I didn't feel like we took a step back in any fashion.

"Our timing was off today, clearly, especially offensively where we've had some guys jump in and our quarterback, you know, and receiver. The timing was off a little bit today. I went int here with low expectations in terms of where we would be today in that aspect."

QUESTION: I didn't see (offensive guard) Christian Lombard

Kelly: "He sprained his wrist in the last drill, so we kept him out of the last few things."

QUESTION: There is so much discussion about Everett as a passer, but what about his running? How much of a help can that be?

Kelly: "It helps a lot. I can't tell you how much it allows us to help our running game, but, more importantly, it takes some things that the defense wants to do and really exploits it. It really changes what they can do from week-to-week. We'll get to the point where we'll really want that defensive pressures against us with a quarterback of that nature.

"It changes a lot in the offense and its preparation. It really puts a lot more pressure on what defenses will want to do. It tends to slow defenses down a little bit because you have that running threat for a quarterback."

QUESTION: For lack of a better term, do you have a pitch count for how often you want him to run?

Kelly: "No. I don't think you ever want to put a number on it as much as we'll run him to make sure that the defense knows he's a threat. We're not going to run him to gain three yards. We're going to run to tactically give us an opportunity to make big plays. We feel like we're going to use him to set up big plays. We're not going to run him as a function of a three-, four-yard chain-mover within our offense. Certainly offenses have that capability, but he's going to be a guy who's going to have big plays when he touches the ball."

QUESTION: Previously you've always had a big-play receiver. Where do you see someone emerging in that regard?

Kelly: "I think there's different guys. Each one of them will have a different role. I don't think there's going to be one guy, per se, but who knows how that plays out during the year. And it's all the guys that you know. We have veterans that are not here right now that we hope get settled back in here. We've got some guys that have some experience that are young guys that I think have a chance to accelerate their game.

"I feel pretty good that there's enough guys out there that we don't need to have one big guy and we're going to him. We've got enough balance.

"I think the guy that will settle the offense down when we need to get settled down is (tight end) Ben Koyack right now. He's a guy we can get the football to and a pretty reliable receiver."

QUESTION: In the fall, you wanted (running back) Greg Bryant to just understand what it takes to be a college football player. Where do you think he is in that learning process?

Kelly: "I think he's really handled himself well outside of the realm of football and settled in nicely here at Notre Dame. I think that's probably the biggest thing that we think has allowed him to be an outstanding player for us.

"Now it's just learning the offense. Today he was so super-charged out there, we kind of had to settle him down a little bit. He'll be an outstanding player for us. I think he's really got the whole college experience, in handling the academics, being away from home, and the weather. He couldn't have gotten a worse draw on the weather here as a kid from Florida. I think he's acclimated quite well to all those things and now I think he feels like this is smooth sailing now for him. He can just focus on football."

QUESTION: In the sub-packages, (linebacker) Jaylon Smith moved inside. Is that just because he's been here for a year and now he can handle that?

Kelly: "That's a very good question. We're finding that out right now as to what he can do. We're overloading him, quite frankly, with a number of different looks. We don't want offenses to know where he is. We're going to play him in a number of different positions. He can be inside, outside, we're moving him all over the place."

QUESTION: I think you may have spoken about (offensive tackle) Mike McGlinchey last week. To go from not playing at all, though he traveled, to taking really the lion's share of first-team reps, what has allowed him to make that jump?

Kelly: "I think a good knowledge of our offense by being at every practice with us. Very rarely did he go work with the scout team last year. Traveling to every game, being very intimately involved with every game plan and every meeting. He's got a very good grasp of the offense. Even though he did not play last year, he was so central to every piece of rep he got last year. Every rep he got last year was a real rep, and I think that accelerated his learning curve. Then, of course, he's just got a lot of work here over the last few days and we'll continue with that."

QUESTION: Could you evaluate what you've seen from (rush linebacker/defensive end) Romeo Okwara so far?

Kelly: "I think we're really in that process of developing his skill set as an edge player. That's going to take some more time. He's certainly athletic enough, he's strong enough, he's really a strong kid in the weight room. We're now trying to take that almost innate ability and really transferring it as a football player. He's not there yet, but we're making the progress with him. We'll need all of spring, we'll need preseason camp, but our expectations are that when we line up in the fall we'll get there with Romeo as a player who can really impact the game."

QUESTION: Now less than a month out from the Blue-Gold Game, what do you want to see from your team over the next couple of weeks?

Kelly: "I normally would tell you in our first kind of get-together, it was really working on that leadership piece with our team, but our guys are so focused on their own deal right now, getting their own position work down, their own house in order. They've got a lot of things going on, so that I think really what is most important is we get our handle on our personnel and really develop those guys at their positions right now.

"We'll spend some time in June, now that we have some time with our guys, we'll spend June really as that opportunity to develop that leadership with our guys. This spring is really going to be individually about gaining some consistency at those positions and who those guys are. I think that's how the spring needs to go for us. Then we'll work on leadership and things of that nature in June."

QUESTION: I saw (2014 defensive lineman pledge) Jhonny Williams on the sidelines watching. Is it nice to see that from one of the commits?

Kelly: "It's great to see him. We'll see more of the guys coming up at practices, but obviously being over in Berrien Springs (Michigan), it's easy for him to get over here. He looks great. He's put on some weight. He's back in the weight room. The harsh winters help us in that respect as the track kids have been inside lifting weights."

QUESTION: Another guy who was active in the sub-package today was John Turner. How is he coming along?

Kelly: "John Turner has been an interesting player for us. I'll go back to his recruitment. We got to see him work out for us for 30 minutes, and we loved his skill set. He's long, he's athletic. It wasn't translating very well, for whatever reasons. We think that with the position that we're looking at him right now, it seems to be clicking a little bit for John. (Defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder really likes what he's doing right now.

"For whatever reasons, sometimes a change does a guy good, right? He may be the beneficiary of that change. I think it's more of the benefit is that in the sub-package, it takes advantage of a long kid who is almost a tweener. He's almost a 'backer, he's that big. So some of the positions that we're running him in right now, he can cover a No. 2 receiver and he can also bring some pressure. He's got a unique skill set."

QUESTION: Speaking of No. 2 receivers, it looked like (senior) Amir Carlisle was pretty active. How has his transition gone?

Kelly: "He's doing well. Barring any setbacks there, if he continues to move forward, it would be him and C.J. Prosise in a lot of the inside receiver positions. Torii Hunter will get some work there as well. Those guys have worked a lot and are doing a very nice job of it."

QUESTION: Did Carlisle just lose his confidence catching the football last season?

Kelly: "I never asked him that personally. I really don't know. To look back on some of the things, we never gave him a great opportunity in the passing game, per se. He had a couple tough go routes out of the backfield. I don't know that I would say that he lost his confidence in that sense.

"His role diminished as the season went on as (sophomore running back Tarean) Folston picked his game up. He may have felt like he was less involved in the game plan, but he looks pretty confident right now."

QUESTION: Jumping back to the receivers, what do you think Prosise can do now second time through as a receiver, and how high is Will Fuller's ceiling?

Kelly: "C.J. Prosise is an outstanding athlete. I don't like to call any guys out, but he can give us even more. I think if there's a ceiling there, I think we can get more out of C.J. I think he's an outstanding athlete. He doesn't have a typical body type for that position, he's a big kid. But he's an extraordinary athlete. I think there's more there and we're seeing it. He's got speed. He can catch the football, and we think he can be a really good blocker as an inside guy for us. He's kind of a unique player at that position. You usually don't get them big. I think he's got a high ceiling as well.

"On the outside, Will Fuller, that kid is just a matter of how far he wants to take his talents. Great focus will be huge, getting stronger, attention to detail, all things that great players need to do. He's a pretty good one."

QUESTION: The left side, the (Ronnie) Stanley/ (Steve) Elmer combination, how's that working so far?

Kelly: "I think that's obviously a tandem that is working well together on a day-to-day basis. We like what we see there. Steve is still learning the little -- he knows big picture, the offense really well. I think what (offensive line coach) Harry (Hiestand) is really trying to drill down with Steve is what he wants.

"Screens, for example, remember how lousy you were on screens (said to his former Grand Valley center Sean Mele)? He's worse. Things like that. He's really trying to figure out some of the little nuances in the game. That's the next step for him.

"Ronnie has done very well at that position. I think now for Elmer, picking up the nuances."

QUESTION: With the investment you're making defensively in sub-packages, what happens when you go up against a high-paced offense? Will you be able to get those guys on the field?

Kelly: "Not necessarily that you'll have to play all of those guys, but you'll certainly be able to get one or two of those guys into the game, but we think that with the personnel that we have, that's why we're moving some guys around a lot. That will give us flexibility if they can play more than one position, so if you can't get them into the game, we can play them in more than one position. That's where we think we'll gain the flexibility."

QUESTION: (Safety) Max Redfield was a guy you wanted to grasp more of the game last year. How would you evaluate he has taken that since?

Kelly: "I don't think there's any question in his athletic ability. There's still a learning curve there for him, in terms of what we're doing defensively. He's such an athlete. It's so hard to look past his athletic ability, even though he's chasing the No. 2 in the flat when he's got the deep middle.

"We're still in the learning curve with Max, but he is so gifted, that's why you coach. We've got to get Max Redfield ready, and we're going to get him ready."

QUESTION: How has (sophomore quarterback) Malik (Zaire) looked early on?

Kelly: "Malik, I would say, big picture is Malik is doing well. I like, one of the things with Malik is that, as I said to you, he gives you a 10-second answer for a two-second question. He's getting better at that. He's much more concise in everything that he does. His whole demeanor has to be that way. I like that. We're shaping that to the level that we need to, because that's what you have to be to be the starter here at Notre Dame. I like the track that he's on. He's getting better. He really is."

QUESTION: You've got so many moving parts on offense and defense, have special teams been moved to the back-burner?

Kelly: "We've done special teams every day since we've been here. It's the first time I've done it. We've had special teams in each of our spring practices.

"I don't know if you watched us, but we haven't been very good at special teams, in my opinion. We're practicing special teams."

QUESTION: What have you learned in doing such so far?

Kelly: "To me, where some of our shortcomings have been is the allocation of personnel in specific roles. We're spending time in breaking out specific players in specific roles right away. We're working on those fundamentals so they can carry those fundamentals into the summer and work on those fundamentals, so when we get here in August it's not the first time that they're working on specific fundamentals. We're allocating specific players to those fundamentals." Top Stories