Kelly Wraps Up Rice

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly wraps up his team's Week One win over Rice with a Sunday Q&A.

Question: First of all, any clarity today on the players that were held out of participation?

"No. No, I haven’t talked to anybody regarding those five."

Question: You indicated (Saturday) some communication problems on the back end of the defense with the safeties, any additional thoughts on the safety play after seeing the film?

"Yeah, I think Austin (Collinsworth) had been obviously a great communicator back there and then with Elijah (Shumate) and Max (Redfield) back there we needed somebody to pick it up and neither one of those guys picked up the slack. It needs to be better. We’ll get at it right away. Whatever we have to do, we’ll get it better back there between those guys and making sure they communicate better. Even if we’ve gotta get them in film study and signaling everything during watching film we’ve gotta get these guys communicating better back there."

Question: I know it’s a hypothetical, but if you were to get Keivarae Russell back this week would Cody Riggs possibly be an option at safety?

"No. No, he would not. He’d still play corner. It would give us a lot more flexibility with our nickel package."

Question: Is Matthias Farley too important to your nickel package to move him to safety on a full time basis?

"No, not necessarily. We just think with Shumate and Max we’ve just gotta get them communicating. We like their skill set. We think they’re the two best players back there. Again, we just got into a very unique situation where we had 24 hours really to get them communicating more effectively. We gave up five explosive plays, four passes. Three of them were directly related to poor communication. We can get that corrected. Both those guys are the kind of skill players we want back there. We have to address that issue, which we will this week."

Question: Noticed former Yale and Notre Dame player Pat Eilers on the sideline. How did that all come about?

"It’s great to have Pat. We were granted a special exemption from the NCAA when Kyle McCarthy was fallen ill with his battle. Pat reached out and has been able to take a sabbatical from his work. He’s got great knowledge of the game. Obviously, playing here and playing on a championship team. Played in the NFL. It’s been great to have him around. He provides a lot. He’ll be helping us a lot this week with those young safeties too."

Question: So he reached out to you? Were you even familiar with Pat Eilers?

"Oh no, we know Pat very well. Have a good relationship with Pat. What we didn’t wanna do was, Kyle still wants to be on the field. As he goes through his treatments we didn’t wanna pull him off the field and Pat say, ‘Hey, if we can make this work, I’d be happy to stay off the field. When Kyle can’t go I’ll fill in for him.’ It was just a great gesture on his part to make the situation work and allow Kyle to stay on the field when he can."

Question: Pat has no coaching background or does he

"I don’t know that he has a long resume in terms of coaching but, as you know, he’s bright. He’s great with the kids. He’s already shown himself to be pretty effective."

Question: Your interior offensive line arguably had the hardest matchup going into that game. Can you evaluate the efforts of Christian Lombard, Conor Hanratty and Nick Martin?

"It was OK. It wasn’t as consistent as we would like. I thought at times we did some pretty good things. But I think we would tell you in our first game we would like to say Game 2 needs to be more consistent across the board. We’ve gotta protect our quarterback a little better at the tackle position. We have to be a little bit more consistent inside. But all in all, again, when you have the balance we had offensively, we did enough good things. But I know talking to Harry (Hiestand) and my observation is I think what we’re looking for is a little bit more consistency out of the five."

Question: Flipping sides, Cole Luke made his first start and actually Matthias Farley somewhat at new position. Could you talk about their efforts?

"I liked Cole’s presence. He didn’t seem to be affected by his first start. I thought he played with a confidence. Really like just his demeanor. I think that’s really big at that position. That stood out to me. Matthias is a guy that can do a lot of jobs for us and he’s a valuable player for us. He continues to do that. Had the interception in the two-minute right before the half. It was a big pick. He’s a guy that does a lot of jobs for us. He was outstanding on special teams as well."

Question: Did Farley need a boost of confidence?

"I think everybody needs a little bit of boost but he’s a guy that’s got a lot of pride in his work and his craft. I would say for him it’s more about whatever he can do for the team than him needing a boost of confidence."

Question: How important was it to get Malik Zaire in at the end of the game and have him get that big play?

"You love getting your backup quarterback in the game. You can’t duplicate that kind of situation. I don’t know if you heard the ovation he got when he got in the game. We can’t duplicate that in practice. That goes a long way, certainly, when a kid knows that he’s seen as an important part of your team. And then just getting those live reps I think is so important. His development is still gonna have to be during the week and getting his reps but any time that he can get some work in a game it’s just gonna benefit him so if he has to go in he’s got a confidence level that he can do it."

Question: What was your evaluation of Joe Schmidt?

"He was pretty good yesterday. He probably was our best player defensively. He’s got some things that he’s gotta get better at but I thought his true first time start, he was the best player for us. He made a lot of tackles, got us in the right fronts and was a great communicator for us. I think Joe did a lot of great things out there for us. But we still have to evolved at that position as well. There’s a lot of things coach (Brian) VanGorder will continue to coach him on. The great thing about Joe is he’s gonna get better at that position. What you saw Saturday is for all those guys just a starting point. They’re gonna get better. That’s the good part about it."

Question: I’m curious how Jaylon Smith graded out in his first game inside.

"He played with great effort. Had some mental mistakes. I think he’s still learning the position. But he plays with great effort and great enthusiasm. I think he’s probably one of those guys that’s just gonna benefit from having more and more time learning and developing in this system. When it comes to Jaylon, he takes his work very seriously. I would expect that you’re gonna see significant improvement from Jaylon from Week 1 to Week 2."

Question: I wondered if you could evaluate the offensive tempo. Was it what you wanted an did it accomplish what you wanted?

"It was close. We’re not, obviously there will be different kinds of tempo for us and every game will be a little bit different. I think that by and large what we tried to do against Rice didn’t really lend itself to play 90 plays. They were a man coverage team. You’re gonna get some shots over the top. So when you play a team that plays a lot of soft coverage you’re gonna get more plays. We didn’t really think this was a game that would end up being a 90-plus play game. We thought it was probably gonna be where it ended up being. We kinda got what we thought relative to plays. As it relates to the tempo, we’d like to play a little bit faster. I think we will as Everett becomes a little bit more familiar and comfortable with what we’re trying to achieve."

Question: I think I counted seven freshmen for you on defense. Do you think Jhonny Williams and Jonathan Bonner will get into that group here soon

"I think Jhonny Williams and possibly another defensive linemen could see the field as well. I don’t think that we’re done there. There’s certainly time for these younger defensive linemen to continue to develop. Jay Hayes is in that group as well. To answer your question, I would say both of those guys. Jhonny Williams, Jay Hayes and even possibly Bonner could play this year."

Question: How would you evaluate the pressure that your guys were able to bring on Rice’s quarterback?

"It’s an interesting question because we weren’t really set up for, most of our calls were to take away the quarterback runs. We wanted him to be a quarterback. We were quite OK because we were trying to take away some running lanes from the quarterback. If they were gonna have any success we were gonna make them throw the football. It really wasn’t pin your ears back and speed rush up the field and let this guy kinda run. We were OK with it. The thing we weren’t OK with was the explosive passes that resulted in some miscommunication. We were fine with the pass rush. We could’ve brought some pressure if we felt like we wanted to do that. We were more interested in making that kid drop back and throw the football."

Question: The dreaded injury question, anybody new that got dinged up in the game that you’re concerned about going into this week?

"No. For the first time we’ve got some good medical news. Nobody that would be out of Saturday’s game against Michigan."

Question: Just to follow up on that, it looked like Jaylon might have hurt his hand yesterday in the game. Was that just a minor thing?

"It was a dislocated finger, which was reset in a matter of probably five minutes then (he) went back in the game."

Question: You talked Saturday about avoiding the noise, how do you do that with the game coming up this week?

"Similar to what I’ve done in past years in that we really keep our focus on technique and our own individual work needs to get better at. For example, Shumate and Max Redfield. They can’t be thinking about Michigan because they’ve gotta learn how to communicate better and really focus in on that. Chris Brown’s gotta do a better job of getting in and out of his breaks.

"We’re really, really focused on the individual and what they have to get better at this week. If we really focus on those things and really drill hard on those it keeps their mind at what they need to get better at instead of thinking about big picture items. That’s kinda how we go about it. It keeps the guys so much more focused on what will help them win."

Question: I can’t remember if you commented on this last year or not but any thoughts on them playing the Chicken Dance after the game?

"What were my thoughts? That’s their prerogative. They won the game. They can play whatever they want. We’re gonna play the Alma Mater."

Question: I wanted to asking you something about Midwestern football. You’ve had some success recruiting in the South. Midwestern teams in general seem to have a notorious history of keeping all their recruiting to the Midwest. I wonder if you think it’s more important now for Midwest football teams to recruit around the country?

"Well since I’ve come to Notre Dame, I don’t know that our Midwestern roots have really shown themselves here. We’ve got players, just in last year’s class we were 18 states and I think we signed 23 players. That representation went from New Jersey to California to Texas. Certainly, Florida, Texas and California are three big states for us. If there’s a great player in the Midwest we’re certainly not gonna miss out on them.

"But here at Notre Dame we’re gonna recruit the entire country. There’s some great football in those areas that I just mentioned to you because they’re playing spring football as well. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought since I’ve been at Notre Dame that we’ve been a Midwest recruiting focus. We’ve been a national focus."

Question: Do you think in general there are few kids in the Midwest to recruit?

"Oh, I think the demographics have shown a move to certain areas in the country now that are hotter recruiting. The Carolinas are stronger just because of the shift in demographics. Because of that we’re stronger in that area. Virginia and North Carolina on the East Coast. I think Texas is definitely an area and Florida that the demographics have pointed us to more potential Division I players in that area. So, yeah, I would say there’s definitely because of that change in demographics has pointed us in that direction."

Question: In what way is there a change in demographics? Is there a reason for that?

"I think people are moving out of some of the Midwestern towns that are industrial based. I think it’s more about economics, people moving into areas where they can find a better lifestyle. You just take a look at Pennsylvania and the great high school teams that used to be in that area and now because of the exodus of so many jobs in that area that high school football is not what it once was. I think that’s happened in a lot of these industrial cities throughout the Midwest as well."

Question: What were your thoughts on the volume of snaps a Jarron Jones and others were able to take?

"Yeah, 30-something snaps I think for Jarron is about right. I think, again, Sheldon (Day) started off really well but he got a little tired. We’re gonna have to continue to round ourselves into a rotation that keeps us playing at the highest level. We’re still kinda trying to find what that number is exactly but it’s somewhere in that 30-something range. All those guys that you just mentioned will continue to be part of that rotation."

Question: Does that include Isaac Rochell also?

"Oh yeah. Isaac did some really nice things too and some things he has to improve on. I’d say when we evaluate the defensive line, some good things. We have to continue to get better but look, it’s easier to get better after a win. There’s a lot of things we’ve gotta clean up but we feel like we’ve got some depth there that we can keep rotating some players in and they can keep learning and getting better at that position." Top Stories