Kelly Wraps Up Navy Week

Irish head coach Brian Kelly met with the media Thursday night to discuss his team's preparations for the annual matchup with Navy.

Brian Kelly

Just finished up the bulk of our preparation for Navy. Ofensively you're so concerned with efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Every possession is so important and not turning the football over. That really was the focus this week and making sure that every snap, every play can result in positive plays. That's one part of it.

From a defensive standpoint, making sure that our schedule this week matched up. What I mean by that, Malik Zaire was pretty much our scout team quarterback. I had to change our schedule up a little bit because he's also our backup quarterback. He had to do double duty this week, which was a bit of a management issue for us. Grant Hammann did some of the throwing when we threw the passing game and red zone stuff. But the bulk of the triple option stuff fell on Malik's shoulders. We had a management schedule that was a little bit different this week.

Malik did a great job for us there. That process of getting those young kids taught. We've got some young players there that we're breaking in seeing the option for the first time. Again, a very, very good Navy team that no one's really effectively shut down. We'll have to do a very good job. A lot of our work is done, we'll clean up tomorrow with a little bit of a walkthrough, then head to D.C.

Question: Any (D.C.) sightseeing or anything special with the game at night?

Kelly: No. We won't. New York was the first time we went out, was a Shamrock Series game in a sense for us, so we made that more of a special occasion. This will be a business trip.

Question: Thoughts on being No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings?

Kelly: No. I think there's just way too much talk. I think anybody that's on that committee is entitled to their opinions about how they formulate them. This is a fluid situation. The schedule will continue to unfold. Games will look differently four-to-five weeks than they do right now. I think it's great for college football. I think that there's so much talk about it, but that's all it is, it's really just talk right now. I think it's great. I think it generates a lot of talk about college football and I'm in college football, so that's great. Other than that, it's really just a bunch of talk right now. Our focus is really in taking care of what we can take care of, and that's in winning football games.

Question: What kind of look did Malik give you with the triple option? Did you go to the detail of cut blocks?

Kelly: I think Malik does a very good job. I was over there with him because I wanted to see the detail in it. Because the first day I sent him over there, I wanted to make sure it was worth changing the schedule around to actually put him over there.?If he was gonna go over there and flimflam it around and it not have an effective part of it, then I wasn't gonna do that.

He's my backup quarterback and we've got to win football games if he goes in there?I thought it was extremely effective. His ability to really mesh and when to have a great sense of when to pull it and read it, I thought gave us a really good look at it.

Again, we did not cut. So you don't get the same look there. In terms of demonstrating it, our kids know what it looks like. Now you've gotta get off blocks and you've got to be able to rally to the football and those are the things that are gonna take a little bit of work as we get into the game.

Question: Not to look ahead, but you've had more time for self-scouting this year, did you identify something you absolutely need to improve to reach your goals this season?

Kelly: We have some really good tools. Jack (Swarbrick) invested in a program, an analytic program, Coach By The Numbers, that gives us some analytics that are off the charts in terms of different matrixes and drive tools. We've got so many different percentages. I could give you details on average field position start and percentage of chance of winning. We've got all these numbers, which are very good tools to have. But when you boil it all down for us, and I know you hear this all the time, it's still turnover-takeaway. I know it sounds boring.

The analytics are really good for us and it allows us to do some things and really good at in some instances, targeting, who's getting the football in certain areas and where we need to do a better job. The big picture for us is taking care of the football and that's moving forward where we'll have to continue to improve.

Question: Navy is turning it over more than usual. Has there been a common denominator in those turnovers?

Kelly: In the Ohio State game, it was an opener. It was pretty fast. The game was fast and Ohio State's attacking the line of scrimmage. Some others, Keenan was not playing, the ball got on the ground a few times. We're not preparing on them turning it over.

They did not turn it over or get a penalty against us last year. So we know that for us to be successful, you gotta slow them down. You can't be in second and short. First down is really important for us. Whether that vis-à-vis being really good on first down. We can't just sit back and let it happen. There are gonna have to be some times where we're gonna have to be in position to force the action too.

Question: Did Ohio State give you a blueprint there?

Kelly: No, I don't think so. When it comes to this option game, it's a numbers game. If you got enough numbers there. And if you don't have enough numbers there, you gotta get off blocks. It really is that simple in a sense. But it's complex in a sense that what they do, they do it better than how you can defend it. Teams are either trying to get an extra hat in the box or they're trying to play two deep and rotate to it. Everybody's got their own way of trying to defend it and they all come up the same way, they give up a lot of yards.

Question: Lou Holtz said stopping the option starts with stopping the fullback. Does that still apply in the modern game?

Kelly: You know, I think the last few years we've shut down the fullback and last year we shut down the fullback and that didn't do such a good thing for us because the quarterback really hurt us. In the first year the fullback ran crazy on us. If I knew the extra answer for you, I probably wouldn't tell you first, but there isn't a clear-cut answer. And that's why they're still running it and that's why they're so effective.

Question: Does experience against the option factor into who gets into the game on Saturday night on defense?

Kelly: Yes. Absolutely. You're playing against guys that are 260, 270, 255 in some areas and they're athletic. They can move. Sometimes that guy that's 320 pounds is not maybe your best guy because he's gotta get off a block. We like guys that can play physical but get off blocks. Those are the guys that can be most effective against the option. A lot of those guys are young for us. We're gonna have to play with the guys that have experience.

I'll give you an example, Justin Utupo. Here's a guy that is pretty athletic and will probably see some considerable playing time, more than he has in the past.

Question: You mentioned "sit back and let it happen" and how you can't do that. Is Brian VanGorder's defense more wired to not sit back compared to how you defended the option the last four years?

Kelly: No, we've been varied. Against Army we were very aggressive, playing one (safety) high and ran the alley. Really tried to take the action to Army. Against Air Force we were pretty aggressive on the perimeter. Last year against Navy we were two (safety) high, maybe not quite as aggressive. I think we've been a little bit of everything. What we're trying to do here is trying to match our personnel to what we think will be the most effective team. It's really for us, it's going to be about personnel.

Question: Has Jarron Jones' maturation surprised you? About a year ago he was just coming off the scout team.

Kelly: We all know that there's gonna be that time where they begin to mature both on and off the field. That generally translates to being a more productive player if given a chance. He's cleaning it up off the field. And when I say cleaning it up, it's not like he's a kid that's getting in trouble. He's a little bit more disciplined in the classroom. He's a little bit more attentive when it comes to study table and things of that nature. We were seeing a more mature kid.

That has generally translated to a more detailed kid as it relates to football. Now, having said that, you gotta get the chance too. With the graduation of (Louis) Nix and (Stephon) Tuitt leaving, he got the opportunity. I think all those things came together and that's why we are where we are with him. I wouldn't be standing here staying that I'm surprised as much as we were hoping this would be the next step for him.

Question: Austin Collinsworth, what's his status?

Kelly: He will not play. He's made good progress. He's a tough kid. But it's a pain tolerance, there's no structural damage. And I want to be careful, because I'm not a doctor. Our doctors would give you a better kind of overview of this. There's damage, but we're not talking about a torn labrum, we're not talking about ligament damage, we're talking about more of a trauma in that shoulder that really has got to quiet down. We're close. I think maybe next week he may be able to take some quality reps.

Question: Are there any other injuries?

Kelly: I think he's it. Everybody is good to go. (Tyler) Luatua is good. (Ben) Councell is good. Those were really the only other two guys. Amir (Carlisle) has practiced all week without a knee brace, he looks great. He looks to be back to where he was at Michigan, playing fast. I think he was a little bit hindered there with the knee brace. He looks to be back to where he was, so that's a good sign.

Question: Is the team champing at the bit to play again after how the FSU game ended?

Kelly: I think everybody is anxious to go and play again. No question. Our kids take it really serious. They know where they are and what they want to accomplish. Yeah, I would say there's definitely a sense of wanting to go and play and get back on the winning side.

Question: In your years, did you ever think about utilizing the option in your offense?

Kelly: No. But I think that I've always felt that the quarterback being able to run whether it be some zone option or some kind of some belly option has always been something that I've incorporated because he's always hard to defend. Other than that, it's never been a system of offense that I've ever entertained, other than the quarterback being somebody that you'd want to run in your offense.


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