Brian Kelly: He practiced OK. His shoulder I think is I would say he’s not in a position where it’s going to affect the way he plays. He’s a little sore. I don’t think it’s a situation where he goes into the game and it affects the way he throws or plays the game. We were careful with him. We didn’t have him take every single rep. We gave Malik (Zaire) a little work too. He’s not in a position where I feel he’s going to limited in the game in terms of any we do.
Question: How did Malik practice knowing this is the closest he’s been to action?
Brian Kelly: It was probably his best week. I didn’t have to wake him up after Chipotle today after our Thursday meeting. Usually he falls asleep after his burrito.
Question: How did the safety competition play out?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, (Drue) Tranquill and (Austin) Collinsworth. Those will be your guys.
Question: Is Eilar Hardy in the mix?
Brian Kelly: He is. He definitely is. Those will be the (starters), Hardy and (Max) Redfield (backups). Those will be your four guys.
Question: Ever wonder what Collinsworth would have been like without injuries?
Brian Kelly: He certainly would have been a much more visible player for us this year in our defense. We could have used his knowledge and leadership, no question. Especially when we lost Joe (Schmidt). He could have helped us a lot. I think the story would have been a big senior year in my estimation.
Brian Kelly: Yes. He’ll start.
Question: Isaac Rochell, you’ll rotate him inside?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, and then we’re gonna take the red shirt off of Jay Hayes. Jay Hayes is gonna play. He’ll be part of the rotation as well as (Jacob) Matuska. He’ll play as well.
Question: That had to be an interesting conversation with Hayes?
Brian Kelly: It was a difficult decision for me to make, yeah. We’re gonna play him a minimum of 30 plays. We’ll up him to about 40 (next week or bowl). We’ll get 10 days to two weeks of practices. We want to get him to 100 reps. I feel if we get him to 100 reps (it will be worth pulling the redshirt.
Kolin Hill’s got 94. (Grant) Blankenship’s got 103. (Daniel) Cage has got 113 this year in totality. If we can get him up to 100 reps and a couple weeks of (varsity) practice, we’ll feel as though we did by him. The right thing to get him enough reps and enough work to make it worthwhile. We brought him up (to the varsity) on Tuesday and he made an impact. We’re a better football team by playing him. He’ll play the three (technique). He’ll play inside.
Question: What was the mentality of the team this week?
Brian Kelly: Haven’t been able to see much of a difference. They worked really hard. Obviously they want to win. No let up in terms of work ethic and their want and desire to win. They know they have to play better. There hasn’t been any let up from their part in terms of the way they prepared and the way they practiced. Now, we didn’t get a chance to practice a whole lot outside. We got in about an hour today, but their practice was what I would have expected if we were undefeated at this point.
Question: Is there an injury concern with Elijah Shumate? You didn’t mentioned him.
Brian Kelly: No. No injury. He’s fine. No injuries at all.
Question: What can we except to see from Hayes? What kind of player is he?
Brian Kelly: He is physically able to compete with our first five guys on the offensive line. He can physically go in there toe to toe and has the strength to go with them on a play-by-play basis. Already has the physical ability to do that. Where we lost him a little bit early on was he just got a little lost in terms of packages. He wasn’t in our first and second down packages. He was in a sub package evaluation, in that sub package evaluation we looked more toward edge rusher types. Now with the need for more inside guys, he certainly showed himself that he can come in and help us and upgrade what we have currently.
Question: Did you ever get close with playing Jonathan Bonner or Jhonny Williams?
Brian Kelly: No. Those guys were not. The only guy that has only been … Jay Hayes has been ready every week, we were hoping not to play him. And it was a difficult decision. I’ve had to weigh a lot of factors. A lot of factors from my standpoint. Historically -- look, we think Jay Hayes can play at the next level. We think he’s that good of a player. We haven’t had a lot of NFL defensive linemen hang around here for five years (smile).
There’s a lot of factors that went into this evaluation of do we play him? The key for me in playing him is to get him to 100 reps. If we were going to play him five reps, six reps, seven reps, I’m not playing him. He’s gonna play a lot. That’s why I feel like to get him three games against what we feel like are going to be three very good opponents plus a mini spring ball, now he can go compete with (Andrew) Trumbetti, Blankenship, those guys that already have some defense under their belt, and he can go beat them out and compete with them.
Question: I’m guessing Hayes is pretty excited about it? You’re the one that has to balance now against the future.
Brian Kelly: Your first response is, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go.’ Then I’m sure he went back to the dorms and somebody talked to him and said, ‘You crazy? They’re gonna pull your red shirt off with two games to go?’ That’s generally how that goes. I don’t know if that happened or not, but generally what I do, I get them to practice the first day and the first thing I want to hear from is my defensive coaches and say, ‘What do you think? Can he impact the game? Can he make us a better football team? Can he help us win?’
And if I get an affirmative on that, then I gotta make a decision. So then I sat down with him, I said, ‘What do you think?’ Can you wrap your arms around this decision? He was all in. So I went with it. It was not an easy decision. These ones that are that late in the season are never easy ones.
Question: When you envision this game in terms of a victory, how do you see it? Slugfest? Low scoring? High scoring?
Brian Kelly: I think we have to eliminate big plays defensively. We can’t give them big play runs and passes. I think first and foremost, we have to be more effective against the run. We’ve lost a very good player inside with Sheldon Day. We have to be committed to stopping the run. And then offensively we have to run the offense that we’ve run without the mistakes that we’ve made in terms of turning the football over. If that’s the case, we think we can score enough points to win the football game.
Question: Kyle McCarthy got some good news?
Brian Kelly: He got awesome news. He’s cancer free. He was able to tell our football team that and it was probably the best news we got all week. We were pretty excited to hear. Former captain and Notre Dame kid that just has had an unbelievable year. If you can think of what he’s gone through, it’s been absolutely amazing.
Question: What’s his role been the last few weeks?
Brian Kelly: During his chemo, he’d go to chemo and come to practice. He was unbelievable. Nyles Morgan probably had one of the most insightful comments when he said, ‘Geez, I really like your new haircut, coach.’ We’re like, OK, Nyles. We now know why you’re a freshman. He’d come to practice every day after chemo. Did not miss a practice after chemo. This last one was a major surgery and knocked him out for about 10 days. That’s the first time he missed any significant time. He’s back up and he’s back on the field coaching. He was back in the box for Northwestern, he missed the Arizona State game.
Question: Pat Eilers sticks around?
Brian Kelly: Oh yeah, absolutely. He’s been incredible in terms of his ability to come in and help us and do a lot of the work that Kyle wasn’t able to do.
Question: It’s been a rough couple weeks but you still seem very popular in coaching circles.
Brian Kelly: Really, I’m popular?
Question: Your name’s been bandied about for the Florida position.
Brian Kelly: I am going to Florida! In about two weeks to get some sun. I’m getting out of here with this weather. Are you kidding me? You can write that down, I’m going to Florida. Write it down now. Get it out there, get it on the news waves.
Question: Your thoughts on being listed as an odds-on favorite?
Brian Kelly: For what?
Question: For the Florida position.
Brian Kelly: I’ve been listed for the Florida job. What else am I up for? Anything else? Can I be up for the Notre Dame job? Because we’re 7-3 right now. I’m hoping to hold onto this job. That would be good for me.
Question: Any injuries?
Brian Kelly: No, we didn’t have anything. Cody Riggs looks better. He probably will be able to play a little bit more than he did last week. So that’s good news for us. Trying to think of who else. Everett, he didn’t even need any, generally an AC (joint) gets a cortisone shot. They didn’t even feel like he needed a cortisone shot. We were just careful not to over-rep him in 7-on-7 and (skeleton), but didn’t seem to affect him this week.