THE KISS PRINCIPLE:
As Notre Dame’s defense prepares for the up-tempo attack of Dino Babers’ Syracuse Orange, it’s worth noting that the head coach on the opposite sideline, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, earned his current post due in part for his affinity for such an attack.
“Call and Ball” as Kelly referred to the “tempo” offense he preached at Cincinnati as well as through the first nine games of his Fighting Irish tenure. (A 4-5 start, a bye week, and the Tommy Rees era necessitated change, you see.)
“Call and Ball” or “Call and Haul” (Baylor under Robert Griffin III) is based on the premise that a play-call comes in from the sideline – perhaps it includes a check – the play begins, and if the quarterback doesn’t find what he’s looking for from the defense, well, it’s time to make a play.
It’s a difficult approach to embrace for a coach that has a vast offensive inventory from which to choose.
“You can see that our running game has been not as consistent as I want it to be,” said Kelly when asked if eliminating myriad checks could aid his offense as much as it potentially could his defense. “We’ve added a little bit too much ‘Check this, Check that.’
“Run the damn play. Let’s go,” he said.
“We want to get out of bad looks. I don’t want negative plays,” Kelly continued of the need for a handful of pre-snap reads/checks. “But I want to be ‘relatively correct,’ I don’t want to be ‘absolutely correct.’ Sometimes relatively correct with good players is better than being absolutely correct and really slowing down your team. That might have been the case a little bit.”
It appears to be the case defensively; it’s unlikely to repeat this weekend.
“You can’t stop everything (defensively),” Kelly offered. “You have to rely on toughness and heart and determination. And that has to win out against ‘They’ve got better leverage.’
“I think when we try to have a check and an answer to everything. It might slow down the operation and just playing the game.”
Could Kelly embrace his former self in the wake of Notre Dame’s 1-3 start?
“When I’m forced to go back to what I believe are the tenets of our offense and defense, I kind of revert back to those basics,” he said. “We need to get to those, so maybe we’ll see those.”
PUT ME IN COACH
One quarterback guided Notre Dame to a Fiesta Bowl berth last season.
The other might have.
One quarterback has been at the helm during the team’s two-game losing streak this month. The other? He might or might not have made a difference.
Regardless, backup Malik Zaire has been forced into the role of good soldier since losing his battle for the starting job by a wide margin to DeShone Kizer in Austin.
Unhappy, but settled in. That perhaps best describes Zaire’s state of mind as the 1-3 Irish head to the New Meadowlands to take on Syracuse.
“He’s done a nice job. I’m proud of him,” said Kelly of Zaire’s approach to practice this week. “Because DeShone’s not perfect and (Malik) is a really good quarterback. So you have to think of the dynamic there. DeShone is our starting quarterback but he’s still evolving. He still has some things he has to work on and Malik is a really good quarterback.
“You can understand, he’s probably gnashing his teeth saying ‘Hey, give me a shot here. What’s the deal, we’re 1-3?’ But he’s being a team player and he’s out there working hard. I’m proud of the way he’s handled himself.”
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Interim Irish defensive coordinator Greg Hudson has a test to take on Saturday. He then has another in the near future, at least if he entertains the notion of speaking to prospective Irish recruits over his next two-plus months as the program’s defensive leader.
“He’s got to pass the test so we have him studying late at night – I’m facetious in saying that,” said Kelly of a compliance test for college coaches preparing to speak to prospects. “But he has to pass the test. We have to go through that process. But certainly there’ll be a role there for him in the recruiting process and he’ll have that opportunity.”
Not that it would have presented this week or next with the Irish still on the road. Besides, Hudson has bigger fish to fry.
“You can imagine it has not been a priority this week for him,” Kelly continued. “It’ll be something that is and has been addressed relative to him taking the exam next week and getting him going in recruiting.”
Hudson won’t have to deal with a recruiting crunch until at least the weekend of October 15 when five official visitors and an undetermined number of prep underclassmen hit campus for Notre Dame’s matchup against Stanford.