Brian KellyWe had two weeks of practice. Essentially six practice days equals two weeks of practice for us, so we got a lot of things done and a lot of things accomplished.
There were things after the Purdue game we needed to get accomplished. One was get some guys back, which we did. Two, we needed to do some things internally with some positions, which I think we’ve already talked about, and within that get some continuity, which we did in the six practices. I feel pretty good about that leading into the game. And I think three, continue to build some continuity with a fairly young football team.
Practicing for two hours -- which is a lot. In my history of being a head football coach, I don’t normally practice two hours but we’ve gone two hours pretty much the last couple weeks when we practice. We’ve got some great work in.
So, accomplished a lot and now we’ve gotta go play. Practicing was one end of that. Now we’ve gotta go execute and play a really good Syracuse team.
Q: What did you decide with the offensive line? Is it as it was listed on Tuesday?
"Yes, so we’ll have on the right side (Christian) Lombard and (Steve) Elmer. On the left side, (Ronnie) Stanley and (Nick) Martin. (Matt) Hegarty will be the center."
Q: Will Hegarty be making the calls?
"He will have assistance from Nick. It’ll allow him to keep his eye on essentially snapping and execution. Nick will assist in making a lot of calls.
Q: You also had that with Nick last year? Using Zack (Martin)?...
"There’s a lot of communication up there. We’ll continue to have a lot of communication. Ronnie does a lot of work on both of the calls from outside in. We really worked hard on communicating this week as well. Matt’s got his hands full taking care of his own position so we’ll give him a little help with Nick."
Q: Does the last trip to MetLife Stadium seem like a long time ago?
"I think you’re referring to the Navy game in 2010?
Q: I am.
"Well, we’re not playing Navy, which was a long afternoon. I knew it would be brought up at some time and I figured it would come from Pete Sampson, but he’s not here. Oh, you moved your chair Pete. I guess you got a new seat. But no, for me it’s Syracuse and getting back to New York more so than the -- horrors of that afternoon."
Q: Through three games, how do you evaluate Jaylon Smith’s move to the inside?
"I think, first of all, he’s suited to the position. There was some, I don’t want to say concern, but we wanted to see how that position would fit with him first. And we believe that was good move for us. There’s a lot of learning for him going on and he has made progress from week to week. There’s a long way to go. There’s a lot of things going on at that inside position compared to what he did last year.
"He was playing outside, he wasn’t asked to do a whole lot but contain the football and go run things down. This has been a real big change for him. I think he’s handled it well and he only wants more. He is an incredible professional as it relates to film study and wanting to be the best he can be at his craft. So he’s made great progress but there’s a long way to go."
Q: How much have his responsibilities changed with film study and preparation?
"It would be a long conversation about how much he has to learn compared to last year. There’s so much. I’ll just give you one quick blip of a conversation. He was given an automatic, which allows him to make an automatic call, which pretty much fires him, allows him to blitz. But the circumstances, the formation, all these things have to line up and he’s not ready to do that. He doesn’t wanna do that yet because he wants to be perfect in everything he does.
"He’s evolving into that position. We’ve got great trust that we can give him that button that he can go take it. He’s not ready to grab that button yet but he’s getting there."
"Collinsworth improved every day, so he’ll be able to help us. I think it’s going to be more of a limited role but he definitely feels good. I think he was surprised even how well he felt. I think he got better each and every day and I would expect him, he’ll probably be in the teens in terms of snaps. Could top out at 20, but somewhere in that range. Torii Hunter really progressed later in the week.
"I think he might’ve broke through yesterday when he went up and had to extend up in the air and he came down on his left side, one-legged, and came up without any ill effects. There has to be that moment where, after a knee, you stick your foot in the ground and it doesn’t give on you and you kinda go through that mentally that you’re ready to go after a knee injury. I think (Wednesday) he went up for a ball and after that catch, it looked like he had kinda broken through that barrier because he looked pretty good."
Q: Is Cole Luke cleared?
"Yes, he is. Yep."
Q: Did Hunter make great strides in the summer?
"Yes. He’s got sure hands, great acceleration and he’s strong. He’s got a strong base. He’s gonna be a really good player. We’ve just gotta get him out there and get him going."
Q: Talking to Cody Riggs, he mentioned he’s taking six graduate classes and he talked about how willing you were to work around his schedule...
"This is the first time that we’ve had somebody in the executive MBA program here at Notre Dame. We wanted to make it work. I wanted to make it work for Cody. He’s an exceptional student-athlete. First of all, any time that we can bring in a kid of this caliber and promote a student-athlete like this, it’s a win-win situation both for the program, both academically and from a football standpoint.
"We wanted to work with him. Then as we got into camp, the faculty embraced the situation and were willing to work with him. It’s a heavy load. He was on my radio show a couple weeks ago and we got a chance to spend a little bit more time. We were just talking about his experience at Florida compared to here and he doesn’t know if he could do it for four years here based on the workload, it’s just academics and football and nothing else for him. But he’s going through a pretty incredible experience right now."
Q: He mentioned that in the summer he didn’t go home or to Chicago but was here with Keivarae Russell working. Were you aware of that?
"I was. Really KeiVarae kinda took him under his wing in a sense. I think, and if you walk to Cody he’ll probably tell you, one of the things that stood out to him was how welcoming everybody was. Taking a transfer in, he just felt really comfortable that the team really embraced him. I think that stood out to him."
Q: Talking about Everett Golson, he’s taken care of the ball so well. Do you have to hammer that in to him during practice, be aggressive but still take care of the ball?
"Oh, absolutely. I think it’s something all coaches spend time on. But the bigger concerns we have for him with the football is not necessarily throwing it. He’s very careful with the football, very conscientious throwing it. We worry sometimes about how he carries the football. He carries it like he’s dribbling a basketball sometimes. It looks a little loose. I think we spend more of our time on carrying the football, holding it in the pocket, because he’s very conscientious.
"He’ll turn down some throws at times that we wish he would fit it in to some tighter windows. I think it’s just in who he is that he’s very conscious about the turnovers and taking care of the football. But we spend a lot more time on him handling the football in the pocket and when he’s out running the football, putting the ball away."
Q: Do you think getting the running game going a little bit will help him to not have to run as much?
"Yeah, but we want him involved in the running game. I think it’s important that he’s part of our running game as well. I think when you look at the running game that’s part of this offense, it’s really not putting him in high collision hits.
"You don’t wanna be running plays where he’s gonna be in a high contact situation. Spread the field, one-on-one tackles, those I have no problem with running him 15 times if we can get those kind of situations. But if it’s a loaded box situation and there’s high contact, I’m less likely to put him in those types of situations. I’d rather have him just throw the football."
Q: Is the time line the same from two days ago with the five suspended guys?
"Yeah, I think in talking with a couple of the players I think they have scheduled hearings next Tuesday and Wednesday."
Q: With that, regardless of the outcome, have you thought about integrating them into meetings and more stuff in case they are cleared to get them ready for Stanford?
"I did. I did think about it but we’re right there now, so we’ll let the process complete itself before we do anything."
Q: Is that all five in terms of hearings?
"I believe it is. I don’t have confirmation on all five. But I know from what I hear first hand I know Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m hearing second hand that they’re trying to get them all wrapped up by Thursday of next week."
Q: Just a follow up on that since you’re the only person that seems to be able to comment on it, is it your understanding that they’re all going in front of the same committee?
"You know, I’m not really certain of that. I’ve heard a committee. I know that committee is comprised of faculty and students. I don’t know the ratio and I don’t know if it is the same committee hearing all five. I don’t know the specifics, nor have I, quite frankly, asked."
Q: Thoughts on the Texas A&M series that was announced today?
"I’ll be sipping a mai-tai on the beach somewhere watching that game."
Q: I know you won’t have time to go there during this trip, but the relationship you have with the Breezy Point folks. Do you hear from them? Do you think about them? Because I know they think about what you’ve done.
"Yeah, we were there when we went to the Pinstripe Bowl. We went back to the Catholic Club and we were there for their ribbon cutting ceremony. We were really moved, my wife and I, when we went to Breezy Point and saw, obviously, the damage that was done in the community. Then where could we help? Certainly, the Catholic Club, which was such a gathering place for everybody in that community, that was where we thought we could help them.
"What brings a community together is where they can gather and come together. To have a spot where they can come together during a very difficult time in their lives and rebuilding, we thought the Catholic Club was a great way to do that. Confirmations are held there. Obviously, wedding receptions. But more importantly that’s the Notre Dame watch party right there too. It all came together for us as something that we wanted to help in that community. Our foundation is, in a sense we feel like we’re first responders. We felt that at that time this would be a great way as a foundation to help. Not that we’re anywhere in the same classification as true first responders, but this was a way we could help."
Q: Did the early bye week help you learn more about your team?
"That’s a good question. I think we found out a little bit more our football strengths and weaknesses. So, I think we addressed some of what we felt were some apparent weaknesses as we move forward and that we’re gonna play to some of our strengths. I think some of that time out, if you will, allowed us to look at our team and say, ‘Alright, here’s where we are and here are some of what we see as our strengths and weaknesses as a football team.’
"Because we are who we are. We’re a fairly young football team, we’re gonna be inexperienced in some areas. That’s not gonna change that much. We’ll play more football. We’re gonna get better. But in the short term here are our strengths and weaknesses and let’s go to work on that. I think that’s what we tried to accomplish in the bye week."
Q: Does having a bye week this early help considering how young the team is?
"In this instance it did. I think if you have a team that, maybe next year where we have 19 seniors or 21 seniors, you maybe start off well you probably wanna just roll. Keep playing. I think each year, this is 24 years for me, every year brings a different group and a different set of personalities and a different group of strengths and weaknesses. I think this year it happened at the right time."