Video: James Onwualu sees Brian Kelly’s influence on the defense

Since firing his defensive coordinator, Brian Kelly has taken on more in terms of coaching the defense. James Onwualu has been witness to Kelly going more in-depth with all the positions on defense over the last couple weeks.

JAMES ONWUALU: We had a great game plan last week and I know Coach Elston was working very hard last week to make sure everything was on point so we could be successful throughout the weekend, and like I said, the coaching throughout the week and putting that emphasis on a few different things instead of covering a wide variety of things. Just really focusing in I think helped on our strategically last weekend

Q. Looking at NC State a little bit, looks like they've got a few weapons.
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. Couple yeah.

Q. Can you comment on some of those?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. Their back's a powerful back. He'll get downhill once he's in the space, he's a pretty speedy guy as well. So all-around back. Should be a good matchup for our linebackers. Excited to see what Nyles does against him. I'll put my money on Nyles. They have a couple of receivers that they move around quite a bit. Hopefully the rain will help us out with them.

Q. Jaylen Samuels No. 1 --
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. They put him all over the place.

Q. They put him everywhere, don't they?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. So just being ready for that obviously that's a part of our game plan.

Q. James, seems like a very emotional post game for Coach Hudson and the victory march and so forth. I'm curious how does a guy win over a locker room like that when he's only been around for a couple of months and only been in that role for a week?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. I think it's tough to gain trust within a locker room especially after being through some hard times. With coach Hudson all I see is him carrying about this program. His past has been all about Notre Dame. Obviously him still being here he obviously has that love for the school. And he's brought that to practice and the locker room. So when you see a guy, fellow alumnus who has been through it and been in the same seat that you are, you can kind of put everything past you and start to gain that trust.

Q. And it's only the second week now but with Coach Kelly taking a larger hand on your side of the ball, what do you notice, I guess rep to rep, day to day, whether it's hearing his voice a little bit louder or something of that nature? How have things changed for you guys with him taking a heavier hand there?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. I think having him over there, he has an impact. He's coaching up every position and has a better understanding of what we're trying to accomplish on the defensive side of the ball. So him helping out and being an assistant to some of the assistants. Like I said, coaching every position has been beneficial to us.

Q. How cognizant are you guys, particularly linebackers of him being a former college linebacker himself?
JAMES ONWUALU: Not very, I don't know.

Q. He's always known as an offensive guy.
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah, exactly. I mean he obviously knows his defensive stuff, too, and being head coach you try to have a good idea of what's going on all over the place. But like I said, he's been on the linebackers and every other position. So it's not just the linebackers he's been focusing on. He's been helping out with every group.

Q. What do you think is the biggest thing that has changed as far as confidence? Is there anything different he's doing these past two weeks?
JAMES ONWUALU: Conceptually, yeah, I mean there's a couple changes that we've made. I think just getting athletes out in space and having them make some plays and giving them the ability to make plays as well as getting some fresh legs out there and some guys that have something to prove. And you know, spreading that out a little bit.

Q. As a leader what has it been like for you this last week because there were a lot of players that hadn't got a lot of time. I'm sure you had to build up some confidence or let players know that they're ready to take on the challenge. What did you have to do to get those guys ready?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. It's been the same message from me since day one of the season, just for these young guys to do their job and try to execute their job to the best of their ability. So continue to harp on that and making sure to prep these guys and have them find confidence within their preparation is important for me.

Q. And do you find any different mindset this week just because you did have some success last week, especially in the second half, that maybe you have a little more confidence going into this week?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. I think a lot of the guys will find more confidence going into this game. And as they get more PT in actual games, you know, they'll continue to find confidence. And as more guys around them find confidence, they'll find themselves more confident as well.

Q. James, with so many young, inexperienced players on this defense, especially in the secondary, what do you as a leader kind of tell them about being ready on a week-to-week basis for game days?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. Like I just said, I think it really for me comes down to me preparation, making sure these guys don't feel overconfident going into the next game just because they survived the first game and we got a win, making sure that these guys know that each day of preparation is important for success on Saturday.

Q. You personally played a little bit ^ obviously on offense and special teams. What was your mindset coming into that season? Did you expect to play? Did you know you were going to play?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. I came in as a receiver, like you know, in the spring. And didn't match up to some of the guys that were playing. So I wasn't sure I was going to play. Danny Smith and Luke Massa and some guys that had roles on special teams kind of pushed me to excel in those areas and I figured even if I'm playing special teams if it's a way to get on the field, I'll do whatever it takes. So I really pushed the special teams side of it and ended up playing some offense as well which was fun.

Q. Coming into a freshman year as a recruit probably expecting to play, is there a difference between expecting to play and kind of knowing you're going to play, like over the summer is there like a difference maybe there?
JAMES ONWUALU: I think it's tough to really know if you're going to play or not until camp, and you get into situations where you are competing against very good players. So until you're matched up against our best running backs and our best receivers, you don't really have an idea. Like a lot of these guys are great athletes and can do summer training and look good through summer training, but putting it all together in fall camp is I think when you really start to know.

Q. For you on game day, have you ever had any superstitions you do before the game?
JAMES ONWUALU: Yeah. I have a few. One, I eat the same exact thing. We played an early game and I was eating chicken and pasta at like 8 a.m. last weekend. But also, after a mental edge, I always tweet out a little something for my brother and I text him a little something, just to know that I'm out there playing for him and that everything he's done for me is why I'm fighting and playing that day. So make sure to put that out there every Saturday. Top Stories