Kelly, Irish, Wrap-up ASU Prep

Brian Kelly discusses preparation for Arizona State, the ascent of Nyles Morgan, awaiting word on Eilar Hardy, the future of Drue Tranquill, and the lone fan that ever got to him on the road.

Brian Kelly

Just finished up Thursday and the bulk of our preparation for Arizona State. We would have liked to have gotten outside today but the weather just didn’t cooperate. Again, we were able to get a lot of the work necessary against a very good opponent and a lot of that is tempo and pressurem and a very balanced offense where you have to be on it, run, pass, they give you a lot of different conflicts. And then from an offensive standpoint being able to pick up their pressures.

Good week of practice. Guys are locked in. Excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the challenge.

Question: What were you able to do against them last year to slow them down, especially being successful at defending the width of the field?

Kelly: Without giving out too much of what we thought was effective, I think more than anything else is mixing things up where we had been very consistently in one coverage leading up to that game, I think we broke a lot of tendencies.

Question: The players talked about “embracing the hate” on the road. Do you get anything about of that?

Kelly: No. For me it’s just, I just try to really eliminate all of the distractions and be more focused on keeping our guys locked into the moment. For me, just keeping them loose is what I try to do. I want them to see me as being relaxed and confident and try to carry that on into all the big games on the road. That’s kind of been my style throughout my career.

Question: Have you ever heard anything from a fan that got your attention?

Kelly: The only time since I’ve been at Notre Dame, I’ve only heard one fan direct something at me. It was at USC, we were winning the game at USC, again this is our 12-0 season. There was a lady screaming at me the whole game, I mean screaming at me. Just grinding on me. We were winning the game. I finally turned around, she had a Notre Dame sweatshirt on. That kind of diffused the whole thing of me listening to anybody in the stands.

If you’re gonna go 12-0 and there’s a Notre Dame fan grinding you in the fourth quarter at USC when you’re about to go 12-0, you might as well not listen to anybody.

Question: I know this is the second trip after FSU, but on the first one, did you educate the freshmen on how to deal with it?

Kelly: We did a little bit of that already at Florida State and I think we passed that test. We did less of that for Arizona State because we think we’ve kind of been there and done that. I think they know how to handle that. This is really about going out and executing and playing clean football. We have to play well. We have to play better defensively and we have to be more efficient on offense. I think it’s less about the things we had to concern ourselves at Florida state and more about what we do in this game.

Question: What did you say to the freshmen about those environments?

Kelly: We talked a lot about the first time on the road, the very first thing is attention to detail, being on time, don’t be late for meetings. I don’t want to have to sit somebody in the first quarter of a big game. We talked more about those kinds of things and then to expect the crowd to be on you. And to have to stay focused on your job. And if you’re distracted easily, you’re probably not meant to play in these kinds of games.

Question: What was the resolution with Nyles Morgan and communication this week?

Kelly: Nyles handled pretty much all of the communication. He did a great job this week and he’ll be the guy making the calls out there.

Question: How confident are you?

Kelly: I’m confident. He had a really good week and he’s extremely confident. Look, he’s not gonna be perfect. Certainly there’s gonna be a hiccup here or there, but he’s got a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and I think he had an excellent week and we feel, and Brian (VanGorder) and I feel, that he can handle the duties of the middle linebacker position and coordinating what we need to get down out there.

Question: What is Joe Schmidt’s prognosis after surgery?

Kelly: He had great reports in terms of the success. This is a surgery, generally speaking, that it’s a six-month -- at the far end relative to up and ready to go and full contact. That would be if it takes the full six months. I know our trainers feel like they can get them back sooner. We’re saying six months right now.

Question: Did you end up experimenting at middle linebacker or was that not necessary?

Kelly: Nyles took it from the very first practice and there’s no doubt about who’s going to be the guy out there. He’s going to be the starting middle linebacker. He’s going to make the calls for us. Greer (Martini) is going to back him up.

(Editor's Note: I assume Martini is backing up both Morgan and Jaylon Smith)

Question: On a related note, Michael Deeb is one of the few (sophomores) yet to play. I've seen a large elbow brace on him in the past. Is he healthy and an option?

Kelly: He’s involved in the depth in some of our special teams and I think he’s starting on one of them this weekend.

Question: How big of a game is this?

Kelly: How big of a game is this? I expected a little bit more from you, Angelo. How big of a game is this? Throwing a big one out there. They’re all big games, Angelo.

Look, for me the most important thing is our guys play the kind of football they’re capable of playing. I want to win, right? That’s why we’re in this. We want to win the football game. I want us to play to the level we’re capable of playing. If we do that, then I expect us to win the football game. That’s how I go into these. I don’t go into them like, hey, this is a big game or next week is a big game. Because then you would coach differently. I don’t coach any different this week than I did last week. I want our team to play the best that they can play.

I think the implications are out there that everybody knows, that you gotta keep winning if you want a chance to be in the playoffs. So from that perspective, from everybody else’s perspective, that’s a big game. I don’t work in that world. I work in preparation and getting our football team to play their very best. I understand all the other implications, but for me and our coaches we just don’t operate in that world. Do the kids listen to it and do they watch TV? I’m sure they do, they’re not sequestered, they watch TV and see that Arizona State bumped them and they see all that stuff.

They also know that has no bearing on it, that they have to play well. All that’s out there, I understand that totally, but our job this week is to get them to play the best that they can play. And if they do that, we believe that we’ll win this weekend.

Question: What did C.J. Prosise get out of the last couple weeks with Amir Carlisle out, then slowed by injury?

Kelly: I think they’re a tandem. So when one’s playing well, like early in the year (Carlisle) was playing well and then he got the injury and C.J. has stepped up a little bit But we need them both and I think we’re a better football team with both of them in there. They both do things well and can contribute in fashion. I think if you look at the strength of our team, I think having both of those guys together, we’re a better team than just having (one starter).

Question: Did you have to simplify the defense for Nyles or is the defense built to be complicated and can’t be simplified as much?

Kelly: We have not simplified what we’re doing. I don’t think you can go into a game like this against that offense and play vanilla. If you do, it’s gonna be a long day. They’re just too good. They have a ton of answers. No, we have to be who we are. We would not have gone down this road unless we thought Nyles was capable of doing the job. We have great confidence.

Look, he’s extremely confident in his ability. That’s the game-changer here, he believes in himself. And if we’ve got a young man that is that confident in his ability? Now, he’s gonna make some mistakes, but he does not look back. He’s ready for the next play. We

Question: Did you know you had that confident a player in recruiting? When did you see that confidence show?

Kelly: We knew it in camp when the linebacker room is next to the quarterback room (smiling). And I could hear coach VanGorder go through a number of the mistakes that Nyles was making. And that was a regular occurrence day-in and day-out. It would make most young men weep. But Nyles would come back the next day with a smile wanting more. You just knew that this was one of those special kids that he just wanted to learn more football. That’s the way he’s been since Day One. Just teach me. We’re gonna get a chance to see him run around on Saturday.

Question: How did Nyles handle not playing?

Kelly: He stayed engaged in terms of the education process and that’s what’s put him in (this position).

Question: Is that the hard part of recruiting? Trying to gauge confidence and understanding football when you're recruiting a player?

Kelly: Oh sure, that’s a definite part of the whole process of what’s their football IQ? How do you test their football IQ? You really have to do a good job in their individual meetings with them. You have to do a good job when you’re questioning about them. That’s the whole thing in the NFL. The individual meetings. I’ve gotten pretty close to Bill Belichick and their whole meetings are about football IQ. After they pass some standardized background checks, it’s football IQ. So that’s a huge piece in their recruiting process.

Question: Everett said he likes going against the blitz. How far has he come in that department?

Kelly: He’s much better. The ball can come out on time. I think one of the things with Everett different from Tommy (Rees), last year (vs. ASU) we got into a check, you check, check, you check game with them. We ate up the whole clock trying to get into the right check. (Todd) Graham would do something and then (I) would do something and then Tommy would do something. That won’t happen in this game. Everett’s gonna call the play and that’s what we’re running. And if they bring one more guy, Everett can get out of some trouble. He’s definitely confident in his ability that he can get the ball out of his hands or make you miss.

Question: Any update on Eilar Hardy? Any clarification on when he might be available?

Kelly: The clarification is we’re in dialogue with the NCAA, trying to get a final clarification or a final declaration from them relative to his immediate eligibility. That is a fluid situation. We’re hoping to get a final answer from them very, very soon. Hopefully within the next few hours. Hopefully before Saturday. That has been handled by our compliance department and our associate athletic director. They’ve been working on that diligently with the NCAA. It’s been something that we’ve been working on during the week.

There’s not a University hold-up, this is a NCAA matter right now.

Question: Greg Bryant didn't play last week (ankle)?

Kelly: He’s been good this week. He’s practiced all week.

Question: Special teams miscues in the fourth quarterback last week with Kyle Brindza's misses and...Is that a concern?

Kelly: Get Brindza in here. What else? (reporter offered that Riggs muffed a punt). Then get Riggs in here.

I think the wind was swirling and I think Kyle maybe read a little bit too much into the wind. I think he learned a lot playing in that stadium. Look just hit it. I think he psyched himself out a little bit about the wind. I think he learned a very good lesson. As far as the muffed punt, Cody had a hard time with that wind in there, there was no question about that. Other than that, we won the average field position and that’s a big thing for us.

Question: Tim asked this question a few weeks ago about your offensive line, where is that going? Is there a higher level? Also, Mike McGlinchey making a move. Is that still happening?

Kelly: Oh yeah, absolutely. Every day he’s getting reps with the first team. He’s ready. Again, it’s a matter of supplanting a senior in there. The one thing with Christian (Lombard) is he may not be spectacular in anything but he’s pretty solid. He doesn’t give up the big sack. He’s in good position. He’s kinda steady. He’s a steady guy out there. Mike sometimes, he’s just so powerful and he can be dominating and then he’ll swing and miss. We gotta clean up a couple of his swing and misses because he’s so long, sometimes it gets him in trouble. That’s what we’re working through and that’s the process we’re going through.

With the O-line, we think there’s a higher level there that we’re not at yet.

Question: Drue Tranquill has played so many roles for you. What’s his future? Safety? Linebacker? Hybrid?

Kelly: We think that as he continues to develop that he could be a linebacker, but right now he’s a box safety. He’s a guy we feel like plays better closer to the ball than being a half (field) safety with him. Where that ends up will be determined by situational substitution. He could possibly even morph into that kind of nickel position, right now we didn’t want to put him at two or three different positions other than the one we trained him at for option. Again, I think after the season we’ll kind of figure out the position that we want him at and really train him there. He’s been an unsung hero for us.


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