Kelly: No Definitive News

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly confirmed none of his five suspended players returned to practice Thursday. He did not confirm or deny the final decision regarding any in the ongoing saga of academic dishonesty at the university. Read the full Question and Answer session below.

Question: You thought that you might know something Tuesday or Wednesday. What do you know today, on Thursday, about the five?

Kelly: Here's what I know: None of our five guys practiced, so they will obviously not be able to play this weekend. I do not have any specific information to share with you. If I did, I would probably let them share it with you. If I know something specific, which I don't have a specific verdict or announcement -- I'm hearing some things, but I'm gonna let them share the information they have with you. As it stands right now, I do not have any of those players back in practice.

Question: Do you expect any of them back with the football team this season?

Kelly: I'm not certain on all of them right now. I couldn't comment on all five. Again, I don't have anything specific to tell you one way or the other. Some of the things that I'm getting are not first-hand information so it's hard to really answer the question with 100 percent certainty.

Question: Have you been in touch with any of those players?

Kelly: Oh yeah. All of them.

Question: Have you had any advice for them?

Kelly: We're past the point of advice as much as we're really preparing them for what the next step is, whether it's reinstatement or what the sanctions may be. Most of my conversations have been in preparation for that.

Question: Is the delay because there an appeals process?

Kelly: There is an appeals process. That's one of the things. The other may be that they know and are not prepared to share the information yet. They have, let's assume somebody or one of the five has been dismissed from school. They may want to talk to their families and figure out what their game plan is. That could be a reason too.

Question: To be clear, you're not sure on finality with any of them? Is there finality with any of them?

Kelly: I don't know that for certain. I guess the best way for me to say it to you, to be clear, I don't have any concrete finality on any of the five because the process for them, there's an appeals process for them. They may want to exhaust all of that that is in front of them relative to an appeal. It's really up to the player, the student-athlete, to really discuss it, not me.

I think it's my role to inform you as to whether they're practicing, whether they're on the team. I don't believe it's my role to come before you and tell you where they are in the process because they do have their own privacy rights. If they're going through an appeals process, if they're doing that, I don't think it's my place to get into that. I think that's up to them.

Question: Is there to your knowledge a range of possibilities that the five could have different outcomes?

Kelly: Yes.

Question: Do you believe that's going to happen?

Kelly: Yes.

Question: Are any of them still in the building, eating with the team like they were in previous weeks?

Kelly: Eating? Yes, yes. And going to class.

Question: So they're still welcome in the building?

Kelly: Absolutely.

Question: Tarean Folston's availability for this week?

Kelly: Excellent, had a great week. We took four CCs of fluid out of his quad and it made a huge difference this week.

Question: I'm sorry, I've got to jump back to this. Do you find it a little bit unfair that you have to come up here every day and answer these kind of questions? That you're responsible for answering these questions without being given what you need to answer these questions properly?

Kelly: I don't know that there's really anything that I could be given because it's a student-athlete, right? It's awkward. But I'm trying to do the best job I can. I respect the fact that questions are asked and I don't blame you for it. I just don't believe it's my place to interfere with the individual student if they have, in fact, been told what their fate is and haven't told me, then I'm getting involved in kind of surmising what might happen because they're not at practice.

I don't think it's fair to them. I think that's the place I'm in right now, where I think we all know we're at that point where decisions are being made, or have been made and I don't have all the answers at this point. All I know is as the football coach, they're not practicing.

Question: Speaking to a lot of the defenders about Brian VanGorder, you get the impression that part of what motivates them is they don't want to let him down. Do you get a sense for that?

Kelly: It's kind of like if you're a defensive player and you finally get to do all the things you've wanted to do, blitz from jump street and do the things you've always dreamed that you wanted to do as a defensive player, you certainly wanna get it right. We have some really conscientious guys in Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt that are just so focused on wanting to be perfect that they kinda set the tone for everybody else. That's kinda fostered an environment on that defensive side of the ball with so many young players that they wanna get it right and they don't wanna let him down.

Question: Following up on that question, Elijah Shumate seemed to be surprised they safety blitz was called on the last play of the game. He kind of looked at VanGorder like, "Are you serious?" Do you ever hear a defensive call and wonder (about it)?

Kelly: It's kinda like my style when we coached together. We're very similar in that. We watched so many drop eights bleed a slow death. Brian's background is that he's had many of those occurrences in the NFL. We talked about it at great length, where let the quarterback make a big completion. Those conversations really happen before that situation arises. What are we gonna do on fourth down? We're gonna go and put pressure on the quarterback, make him make a play in that situation. It didn't surprise me at all.

Question: What was high on your initial list for bringing VanGorder in as coordinator?

Kelly: I knew that we were gonna have a lot of young players and we were gonna have to play a lot of young players and really probably have a lot of situation substitution packages. Brian's background is in that, bringing in different players on different downs and distances. And we were probably gonna have to be a little bit more aggressive defensively.

We had laid a great foundation of fundamentally sound defense and we needed to take it to the next step and that was playing all of these different packages because we were gonna play some young players and we were gonna have to situationally play them. They couldn't play 60, 70 snaps like we were used to playing. That was his background. That's what he was really good at, so that was the fit. I think what has really helped us was our spring ball, our OTAs, all those things and allowing us to really teach our defense to our young players and allowing them to come in and play early on for us in the first six weeks.

Question: You mentioned Shumate being relied on in a game situation and that was when the light went on. You must have many examples of this in your 25 years. How do you balance that against a reliable practice player?

Kelly: I think that's what we all fight as coaches at every level. When do you play, I think we talked a little bit about this at the running back, the production versus potential. When you turn the film on you immediately see Elijah Shumate's potential and athletic ability. Then you look at Austin Collinsworth, who's in the right place all the time. I think that's the great balance. We were thrust into a position where we had to play him and that experience has really skyrocketed him. I think if we had to do it all over again, there's a number of guys where we didn't play potential and seasoned them. I think that this instance he benefitted greatly by being on the field and now he's a better player for it.

Question: What's your assessment of your team's focus after a week of practice?

Kelly: We have a unique blend on this team of players that have, a large number of these players have been through a 12-0 season where they had to play every week. Oklahoma and then coming back the next week or playing Stanford and coming back the next week. We have a lot of players that understand that and then we have a bunch of freshmen that don't know. They just play. They just wanna get to Saturday. So we've got a great balance in that respect.

Then they're so doggone busy, they don't have time to think about anything else. They get up in the morning, they're over here at 7 a.m. to weight train. Then they go to class all day. Then they come back for dinner and study table. Then they go back. They're so consumed the whole day it's hard to really get distracted. So as long as we keep our routine the same, as long as my message stays the same, it's like any other week. Then we've just gotta play well and execute well. If we do that we'll be fine.

Question: Does Everett Golson and his demeanor play into that?

Kelly: Absolutely. Absolutely. The quarterback is central to this, absolutely central. How he practices on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday is huge to our success and our development as a football team.

Question: Do you feel like you've established a run game identity yet?

Kelly: I think we have. We feel very comfortable with what we've been able to do from an offensive standpoint with our run game. We're not a run first, smash mouth, we're gonna run the ball down your throat but we definitely use it to set up our play action passes. I think we've been very effective with our play action down the field.

Everett has hit two or three big plays down the field in the last couple of weeks. I think it's been an effective tool for us. I think it's been an area that we wanna continue to get better at as we've moved our offensive line around a little bit. I don't look at it saying it's a weakness of our offense at all. Statistics are such that people look at it. Florida State's the No. 1 team in the country and they're below us in terms of stats and rush offense and they're doing just fine. They haven't lost a game in two years. I think it's how you use it, right? We use it to set up some play action pass. We use it in short yardage situations. We think we can run and set up some things. I'm pretty comfortable with it.

Question: When you say there could be varied outcomes for the five, does one of those outcomes include possibly having football taken away but remaining a student?

Kelly: Before we got into this a number of things were thrown out to me and that was one of them but I have not heard directly over the last few days that that would be one of the outcomes. I think the honor code, if you read the honor code, which I'm sure some in this room have read, you're talking about if it is an offense or a flagrant offense, you're talking about separation from the university next semester or immediate separation from the university. I think that that seems to be the conventional wisdom.

Question: If it was positive news they would be back at practice though, right?

Kelly: Again, I think that for me it wouldn't be fair for me to, without knowing, to comment on that kind of logic. It would make sense, but I don't know. I really don't know. What I'm trying to do is provide as much information to you folks but I know really this, they're not practicing. They're not out on the field, so that would tell me one thing and that's how I'm operating. But I really think it's in the hands of the student-athlete now to really reach any further comment on what their status is.


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