Brian Kelly"Finished up Practice No. 11 today. We wanted to get in the stadium on Monday but the weather was such that we had lightning in the area. We wanted to stay closer to Loftus in case we had to go inside. We practiced today in the stadium, got a lot of work done. Eleven days into it, we’re really working on the guys picking up some of the nuances in the offense. You’re trying to look at variables, such as different pressures, situations.
"Each practice now takes on different parts of the game now that you’ve installed your offense, defense and things of that nature. You’re working on tough territory, coming out from your three-yard line. You’re working on some blitz pickups. You’re working on specifics of your offense and defense. We did a bit of that today.
"But typical camp stuff, right? We’ve got guys into the lineup, out of the lineup. Nothing to report that would cause anybody to miss any time other than Torii Hunter, who we don’t know what his status is gonna be. He’ll have his second PRP on Thursday. He’ll have his third the following Thursday and then obviously we think he’s probably doubtful for Rice. But other than that nothing from an injury standpoint that would have anybody miss any time against Rice. Guys in and out of the lineup with certain ailments, whatever they are from day-to-day campus stuff.
"But pleased with the work ethic, pleased with the learning on defense. We’re obviously getting a lot of young guys work. There’s gonna be a lot of freshmen playing on defense. Offensively, trying to get some continuity on the offensive side of the ball with the offensive line. We’ve got some battles at wide receiver and you guys know the situation, we’ve got three very good running backs."
Question: Brian, do you still have people moving up and down the depth chart or when do you get to the point where you’ve gotta narrow it down to the 1s and 2s and other people don’t get the reps?
"I would say probably through the weekend still. I think at the wide receiver position you’re still gonna go with some 3s just to save the legs of your guys. I’m always cognizant of the fact that you peak your guys at about 16 or 17 days. Even though they might not be getting game reps, you’re still gonna probably use them in the rotation to make sure that you’re keeping your guys fresh. I’m not one for putting up depth charts. Never put up a depth chart. I wanna keep competition within the ranks but I think it’s pretty clear our guys will know what their rotation is here by the end of the weekend."
Question: How did the offensive line come together? I know you said you wanted to kind of stabilize who is playing where. Were you able to accomplish that this week?
"I don’t think fully because we’ve had some guys in and out of the lineup at the offensive line. I think we’re still kind of a work in progress there. Ronnie (Stanley) was out for a day. (Matt) Hegarty was out for a day. (Conor) Hanratty was out for a day. We’ve had guys out for a day so it’s kinda messed up our continuity a little bit. We’re settling into that group but I don’t think we’re ready to announce the starting five yet."
Question: Has Hegarty been able to come back from the concussion, and (Ben) Councell?
"Yes. Yeah, they’re back."
Question: Brian, any close on the quarterback race?
"I think I’m ready to make that decision. Everett Golson will be our starter against Rice. I don’t think, generally when you look at making that decision, I’m using from January through right now as the basis of that decision. Winter workouts, how he handled himself with the team, our workouts, his leadership in the spring, his spring practice, his leadership in the summer and camp here. I think he’s put himself in a position to get that opportunity to be our starter against Rice, so Everett will be our starter."
Question: We’ve been under the assumption that was a competition with Zaire, how has he handled it?
"There was competition up until I made the decision and there will continue to be competition. Everett’s the starter for Rice and we hope he’s the starter for the entire year. But we’re, just like I tell them, we’re all in this in a merit-based kind of situation. We’ve gotta win. Everett knows that. I told Malik first and let him know what his situation was. I got the right answer from Malik. He wasn’t happy. If he gave me a hug, I’d be very disappointed. He went out and practiced well. He wants to be the starter here and he’s gonna keep working to be the starter."
Question: When did you decide? When did you let those guys know?
"I let them know this morning. Both of them. I made the decision last (Tuesday) night. I told our staff last night."
Question: Was there any one thing that Everett showed himself more than Malik or better than he was two years ago?
"Overall understanding of the entire offense. Not singular plays, but the entire offense and how the offense operates. I think it was more of the bigger picture, understanding the bigger picture and his leadership. His ability to lead, those two things."
Question: What do you wanna see Malik other than a competitiveness? Do you want him to be a guy that can come in during the middle of a game when Everett’s not hurt and give you something different?
"There is no package. He can run our entire offense. That’s the difference here. We’re not in the Wildcat package. We’re not a separate package that we’ve had over the last four years. He’s gonna run our entire offense. There’s not a play that he can’t execute and run that Everett runs. We won’t have two call sheets. It’ll be, ‘Here’s what we’re doing. Run our offense’ Everett would play unless he was injured and couldn’t answer the bell. We’re not looking to play two quarterbacks."
"We’ve got one starter. But I think we all know, we run a spread offense and we run the quarterback. That puts the quarterback in position that he could get hit. You better have a quarterback that can go in there. Knock on wood, I hope it doesn’t happen. But if Malik goes in there he can run our offense and we can win with Malik running our offense."
Question: How do you get Malik experience? Is it let’s win big and then he gets in the game?
"That would be my ideal circumstance, right? Win big then get him in. We think just by his experience and situationally against our defense is gonna have to be enough. Spring ball, he’s had two of them. We’re gonna hope that all of that, the accumulation of that, is gonna do the trick for him. Then any time we can get him in the game, hopefully we’ll get a couple of those opportunities. But other than that he’s gonna get his first true start, or first true opportunity, if it doesn’t actualize, will be under circumstances that I hope we want. That’s we’re up big."
Question: You said Malik was disappointed but what was Everett’s reaction?
"He didn’t, just a matter of fact, ‘OK, coach.’ Not much a reaction from him, frankly. Just kinda was more of an acceptance in his own mind, ‘Alright, let’s go to work. Let’s get out there and practice today."
Question: Tommy (Rees) was a guy that knew the offense really well. How would you say Everett compares to Tommy in understanding what he needs to do out there?
"I think he’s made up a lot of ground . There was a lot of ground to make up there. Tommy had a superior knowledge base. But now he’s at a point where he is now an area where he can run our offense and run it effectively. Tommy Rees has an incredible knack for understanding football from a different level. You don’t need that to be a great quarterback. Everett possesses some of the other skill sets but he’s got a very good understanding of what we’re doing offensively. He just needs to see more reps to get into that level. He’s just gotta continue to get more reps."
Question: Would you say you feel comfortable with him now to look over the field and check in and out of plays?
"Oh, no no. Very comfortable. Again, some of it will be controlled. We’re just gonna run the offense a little bit differently than we have in the past. Tommy needed to check a lot of plays. But like I said, we don’t need to block that end for Everett every play. We had to for Tommy. He wasn’t gonna make the end miss. Everett doesn’t have to check every play and every pressure. It’s a little bit of a different offense with Everett out there."
Question: You were cautiously optimistic on him in the spring. How has Ishaq Williams performed in camp?
"Solid. He's been solid. Right now, he's our starting strong side end. He's had a good camp and he deserves a starting role right now."
Question: Staying on the strong side, how's the competition at sam linebacker?
"I think right now, James Onwualu is playing the sam with (John) Turner and (Ben) Councell. That's your three-man grouping right there, right now. (Joe) Schmidt obviously and Nyles Morgan at mike linebacker. And somebody that's really emerged for us at the will is Greer Martini, who's done a great job for us. He's in the two-deep right now. Just really smart -- he's a Joe Schmidt with really good size. A really smart football player. Jaylon (Smith) can't play the entire game. We have some young guys in there."
Question: And Jarrett Grace?
"He was running today, going through bags. Looking at him today, he's still a couple weeks away. Still a little bit of a limp there you can see but he's making fast progress."
Question: You thought Bonner would eventually play with his hand down. We've seen him at linebacker periodically…
"He's playing three-technique (DT). Excellent camp. He's in our two-deep. Explosive, explosive off the ball. He's got toughness, plays physical. Plays like a big boy, not a freshman. He's got maturity."
Question: Two backup safeties -- Elijah Shumate and Nicky Baratti?
"Nicky's solid. He's definitely going to be a two-deep player for us, a solid player for us. Shumate is getting a little more comfortable in some of the things we're asking him to do. We're cautious with Elijah, we like him as more of a box safety where we can keep him closer to the ball. He's doing some good things for us. We want to go slowly there. We know his athleticism and what he can do. He's a good tackler. So we're making progress there there's no question."
Question: How much more do you plan to practice in the stadium?
"We're going to practice there we hope four times, and then one time during game week. You have to get that surface knocked down a little bit. It's a little bit soft right now. The in-fill has to work itself in. Every foot imprint is pretty noticeable.
"Our kids love it. The track is outstanding, the field is outstanding. We want to get comfortable in the Stadium, too."
Question: Does the pass rush remain a concern?
"We're not going to have one guy who has 14 sacks. We're not going to have one singular (star) player. But we're going to have a number of personnel groupings that are going to allow us to find pressure. Now, those pressures are not always going to come from the edge. We're going to be a big speed to power group. We don't have speed rushers. We don't have Dwight Freeney coming off the edge.
"But we have some guys that can go speed to power, maybe knock a (offensive) tackle back, and then maybe get a looper coming inside to get a sack. You're going to see them from a number of different players. It could be an inside player. It could be a safety, a linebacker. You're going to see it from a number of different players that are going to be able to get to the quarterback.
Our third-down packages, you'll see from Jhonny Williams to Anthony Rabasa, to (Andrew) Trumbetti, you'll see a lot of different guys that are going to be rushing the quarterback. All of them have a skill set that Brian will utilize with coach (Mike) Elston to analyze their strengths to get to the quarterback."
Question: Talk about what you've seen from Andrew Trumbetti:
"He's really separated himself, sometimes I don't talk about him enough because sometimes I forget he's a freshman. He's almost separated himself from the freshmen class. He's a starter right now for us -- he's the starting defensive end for us. He'll start as a true freshman for us. He's just that kind of player. We think that he's got a huge upside for us in so many areas, that sometimes I don't talk about him enough. Great motor, physical, smart, does all the things we ask him to do.
"But again, you have to keep in mind, we're talking about first and second down players. We have third down players, we have nickel players, dime players, 30-front (3-4) players. It's going to drive you crazy. To really peg him as "starters or non-starters" we're going to play so many different groups defensively, you're going to need a scorecard."
Question: Is that true of the back end of your defense, too?
"That's more of a front seven. Our two young corners had two really good days, in Cole (Luke) and (Devin) Butler. Cody Riggs is in our accelerated business program. He had an exam the other day. Cody right now is the starting corner along with KeiVarae (Russell) but with his absence we were able to see a little more of Butler and Cole, and they did a terrific job. And Josh Atkinson has had a really good camp as well. Nick Watkins has done well. We feel like there's some depth there.
Question: How close are you to having your base (offensive) installation in?
"We're pretty close. We have a lot of stuff, but we're pretty close.
"We've been methodical in our preparation in how we laid it in, we just have a lot of different packages. We're trying to roll in so much personnel. We have a different look every snap. We're in three-down a lot now where early in camp we saw a lot of four-down. It's a lot of work in camp, changing your protections from fan to man. Kids were getting used to a certain comfort level, now we're (facing) three-down. So there's a lot of work (for the offense). We do a lot defensively."
Question: Have you had an opportunity to work on your coverage and return units?
"We have done a lot of work on the break down and individual pieces of it. We've done less unit work than any time since I've been a head coach and more specific work on the fundamentals and identifying those guys that we want on those teams. Through drill work. Through competitive drill work. We're making really good progress in identifying those guys we want on those teams. Then we'll do a little bit of the skeleton of that group.
"The focus work these first two weeks has been to really develop the technique of that group, and then those players that you want instead of just picking them out of a hat. Seeing real competition, drill work competition. Then identifying guys from that compeitino and putting them on teams. Next week will be a lot more of the unit work."
Question: Bob Elliott once offered that when you had true depth in the secondary, your coverage groups would improve...
"Yeah, we think so. Now when you have guys like Cole Luke and Devin Butler, for example, that are really good corners that are not starting, and they can be your gunners, you can put some really good football players on the field."
Question: Are you concerned to have so many freshmen set to contribute on your front seven?
"I think in year's past, I probably would be, but then my eyes tell me something different when I watch them. They have an edge to them. Nyles Morgan and Jonathan Bonner and Jhonny Williams, and Trumbetti, and Kolin Hill. I watch these guys play. (Sophomore) Isaac Rochell is a beast. These guys are physical football players. They have an edge to them. (Daniel) Cage is a load. I go against them every day. I know when you have holes. I've been around long enough. I know when you look and go, 'Whoah, that's not very good.'
"Now they're young. We might cut a gap loose. We may be in the wrong gap. But it's not because we're not rip-and-roaring up the field. It'll be fun, but they're going to cause a few moments of coach VanGorder throwing his hat on the ground. I'm sure of that. The thing is it's a physical group. It's a physical group."
Question: And what role do you see for Kolin Hill?
"Both Hill and (Jhonny) Williams are third-down pass rushers. They're situational players. We're not talking about guys that are going to be on the field for 70 plays. We're talking about 15 plays. If they can give us 12-15 plays a game, really good games, fresh coming off the edge in third-down situations. Go get the quarterback-kind-of-deal -- these guys can do that."
Question: In past years, a true freshman has emerged to play on all four run teams. Who might that be this fall?
"Probably (Drue) Tranquill would be the guy I would pay attention to. He's staying at safety. He's more of a downhill guy, but he's staying at safety."
Question: What impresses you about James Onwualu on the move to linebacker?
"Tough and smart. Tough first, and smart. He's a very, very, very good athlete. Now, we're lining up against Stanford, and they want to pound it, then we're going to get bigger. We'll put Ben Councell on the field. But (Onwualu) is smart and he's tough."
Question: How did the naming of your starting quarterback change Golson's approach in practice?
Question: Has Nyles Morgan progressed since last time we talked?
"What did I say last time?"
That he was overwhelmed.
"Oh, he's totally overwhelmed. But it doesn't matter. He runs all over the place. He runs, and makes plays. He's an athletic kid. He gets in more scuffles than anyone I've coached in a long time. He's just a tough, athletic, hard-nosed kid and he runs all over the place and he's fun to watch. "Does he know the ins and outs of our defense? Absolutely not. He's trying. He's in way over his head. He's so athletic and so instinctive, that he runs sideline to sideline and he can make plays. "Oh yeah, he's playing."
Question: Is this defense easier for the freshmen to grasp than was Bob Diaco's?
"Here's what it is: They can go. There's a lot more going on, there's a lot more pieces to this, but Brian lets them run and lets them go. That's what -- in the places he's putting them, and the fronts that he's calling with Nyles Morgan, he's not asking him to two-gap anybody. He's saying listen, we're going to cover everyone (opposing linemen and blockers), just go run. Some of the freshmen are getting similar kind of front calls where they can just pin their ears back and go."