Kelly, Irish get away before big week

Brian Kelly spoke with the media today following his team's ninth practice session of August camp.

Brian Kelly

Good first week. Like anything else, you're trying to give as many competitive situations as possible without grinding your team into the ground. I thought it went very well this week in mixing in some live situations with some situational.

Again, as you know, the main emphasis here has been to get as much 11-on-11 football as possible to give our quarterbacks ample opportunity to continue to learn and continue to grow. Whether it's a four-minute and closing out the game, two-minute, black zone coming out, red zone, we've tried to give our quarterbacks every scenario possible so we can teach off of it. Good first teaching week. Competitive situations emerging at a number of different positions. First week down.

Next week is a big week, a grind week in a sense with Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week are double sessions. A lot of football ahead of us. We'll give the guys a break, we'll head out to Diamond Lake. We've got the First Annual BK Cup for golf, so we will be invading Diamond Lake golf course with 18 foursomes.

We've got a bunch of guys who've got their fishing licenses and the rest of them will be on those (jet skis). It should be a fun day for the guys. Then Sunday, meetings and weight training and then we get back to it on Monday.

Question: Any update on Danny Spond and Alex Welch?

Kelly: Yeah, we've been able to eliminate some things. First of all, he did not have a concussion. We've exhausted a number of different tests, he's come back clean on all of them. We're going to do a little bit more work before we move any further with him relative to contact and getting him on the field.

Cleared him for a concussion and then we've got some more testing to do and I can probably update you sometime next week.

Question: And Welch?

Kelly: Tore his ACL. We'll lose him for the season. Unfortunate.

Question: Do you anticipate Spond back this pre-season?

Kelly: It's hard to tell. It's hard to tell. We've done a number of tests and it's one of those things where we want to make certain before we put him back out on the field. I couldn't tell you for sure standing here right now.

Question: Does is absence precipitate moving anybody to dog linebacker?

Kelly: As you know, Prince (Shembo) can play there. But we feel comfortable with Prince playing cat, so we're moving Romeo Okwara, he's out at the dog, and C.J. Prosise. Those are the three guys that are in rotation, with we can play Prince out there if we have to.

Question: When you say it's not a concussion, but it's still some kind of head injury with Spond?

Kelly: I'm not trying to be evasive, but they've eliminated head injury as well. We can't give you a specific because they've done so many tests that have come back clean, but yet obviously there's still some symptoms as well. This is one of those that it's probably going to require a little more in-depth testing before we can give you a definitive answer that this is what is was.

Question: A lot of your guys have talked about how much they like the 11-on-11 drills. Why don't teams do more of that in training camp?

Kelly: I think there's always a higher risk of injury when you're in those live situations because you're not live the whole time. But you are in a tag off. Look, those big guys go against each other every day and they're very competitive. You worry sometimes about somebody getting injured. I think we can practice really well in Year Three where we can get that work. We can play faster. We can be competitive. We can get each other better without the risk of injury. But I think you have to be careful with how much you do.

Question: How has Ben Councell looked at the dog getting the majority of the first-team reps?

Kelly: I think we're pleased. Actually, all three of those guys have got a ton of work for us. We went live today with our twos and threes today and those guys were on the field the whole time. Those guys are doing a nice job. Councell didn't get any (scrimmage reps), but Romeo is long, does a great job in coverage. And then C.J. is a very athletic kid, very smart.

Question: We're obligated to ask you about quarterbacks every time. Do you have a better idea of where that's headed?

Kelly: I don't have a better idea of who the starter is, but I can tell you that I would say that Andrew (Hendrix) and Everett (Golson) have begun to display the skills necessary, not just physical skills, but the mental skills, to be the starter. You never know that. You hope that, but you never know that until you go out and practice and get a chance to see them in different situations. But both of them have got now the skills necessary, now it's honing those and building on what we did this past week.

Gunner had a nice scrimmage today, he continues to do really good things. He's gotta catch up with the knowledge base with the other two kids. But physically he has all the skills. So that's where there's a little bit of a separation. I think I said this to one of our coaches, if I didn't have those other two kids, I would not be afraid of playing Gunner Kiel. I really wouldn't. He's got all the intangibles that you're looking for.

Question: What's something that Everett and Andrew have done to impress you in the past week. What's their biggest gain?

Kelly: Everett would be pocket presence. His poise in the pocket has been excellent. You worry about a kid that's athletic that's going to run out of the pocket at the first sight of pressure. If was to grade his highest grade, it would be pocket presence for him.

As it relates to Andrew, I would say his knowledge of how to protect himself. He's a guy that really understands protections and where the ball needs to go and the checks. That's probably his highest grade.

Question: Cierre Wood is back on punts?

Kelly: We're still kind of in a gong show on that. We've got guys out there that we're eliminating daily an adding to it. It's still kind of a fluid situation. We do want as many skill guys back there as possible, but we're not near making a decision at that position.

Question: What are your options at left tackle with Ronnie Stanley over there now?

Kelly: Tate Nichols obviously is a guy we want to continue to get reps and develop and build. He's made some really good progress relative to his technique and the way he practices. He's coming on. Obviously he's an option for us. Nick Martin can scoot out there and play some tackle as well. And of course Ronnie. That's it. There's nobody else on the roster that's playing out there. Those three guys need to continue to develop at that position.

Question: How have Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack performed at tight end, especially with Alex Welch down?

Kelly: Obviously both of them we feel comfortable with. Ben we played last year as a true freshman so we feel pretty good about him. He needs to continue to get better at the point of attack, which he's committed to doing that. he's been really good in space for us. We're lucky. To lose a really good player like Alex and have three tight ends, and Jake Golic is getting a lot more work to, we feel good that we've got depth at that position that we'll get the job done. That's not going to stop us from winning, the tight end position.

Question: Talk about Troy, where is he with in-line blocking?

Kelly: Much better. It was all technique with him. Physically, he can lift a car up. It's not an issue. He's strong physically, it was technique and leverage and all the things that go along with being at the tight end position. He's made great strides. It was a good week for our tight ends.

Losing Alex was difficult, there's a lot of anxiety when you lose a really good player that's shown himself well, but to see those other tight ends really have a couple good days puts your eyes and focus somewhere else.

Question: Have you been able to come up with a timetable for when you might be able to decide on a quarterback?

Kelly: Yeah, I haven't thought about timetables as much as ‘What's the next thing we really need to focus on?' Installation is still going in. I've never felt like you can make a decision on a quarterback until you get your installation taken care of. We just put in quarterback sneak today. So we're still in the minor leagues relative to installation. It will be next week relative to cleaning up and all of our installation, and then you start to look at maybe is there a separation.

I think this is going to require all the 29 practice opportunities that we have. So I wouldn't be holding your breath for an announcement anytime soon.

Question: Do you have more offensive options this year? Do you have more buttons to push offensively?

Kelly: I do. I think we've got a number of players that can play winning football for us. We keep talking about who's going to make up for the loss of a Michael Floyd. Nobody is going to make up for him individually. But collectively I think we've got really good balance. You talk about TJ (Jones) and you talk about (John Goodman) and you talk about (Tyler) Eifert. The running backs are part of the passing game as well. And don't forget we've got some young guys that are exciting to watch too in Davonte Neal and Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson. Robby Toma is a pretty good player too.

Our offense has to get all those guys involved. So I think I had a question last week about tempo. Tempo is important, but also getting all these guys touches is important as well. That's been our focus. We think we've got a lot of weapons.

Question: Do you think about touches when you're calling plays?

Kelly: I don't any more because we've made a commitment to getting those guys on the field regardless and getting them out there. As you know, when you change personnel, you have to slow down a little bit. We've got to go to our strengths and our strength is to get all those guys on the field.

Question: Where has Stephon Tuitt picked up from last year?

Kelly: Really tough to block. Tough physically. Continues to mature and grow as a young man. Had a great summer academically. As a football player that was never going to be our concern. It's great to watch a kid really become fully committed to Notre Dame and what we're about as well as wreak havoc on the football field. Yeah, he's a good one.

Question: How has Carlo Calabrese reacted to the suspension?

Kelly: He shows up to work every day. Busts his butt. Gets a lot of reps. Plays just like Carlo. I haven't asked him how he's reacting, but from a football standpoint, being around the team, he's been great, as has Tommy (Rees). Tommy's been great with our quarterbacks.

Question: How is Everett doing with signals from the sidelines and have you streamlined how you signal in things?

Kelly: I don't have any concerns that we can't play him because he doesn't understand the signals. We had a couple glitches with some motion and things of that nature, but we're always looking to streamline our signals. We look like air traffic controllers sometimes out there.

You're always looking at ways to take the vocabulary down, if you will. But he'll be fine from that standpoint. That won't be a reason why he's not our starting quarterback. It will be because he's turning the ball over and not making good decisions, which he hasn't done. It's all good.

Question: When do you look at getting Tommy Rees more reps with the first unit? Purdue week? Does that happen during the pre-season?

Kelly: No, it will happen Purdue. He'll get enough to stay sharp. He'll get some reps to stay sharp. He hasn't gotten many at all, virtually zero reps. He hasn't gotten 7-on-7 reps or team reps, just all individual, staying sharp, throwing the ball, doing extra, working out. But we'll start to get him more 7-on-7 work, but it won't be first-team as much as keeping him sharp.

Question: Is that more because of the punishment or more because of Everett and Andrew needing reps?

Kelly: The sanctions have already ben levied. So this is strictly about getting three quarterbacks enough work so we're ready to go against Navy.

Question: How close to Mike Golic Jr. to wrapping up right guard?

Kelly: Well, he's taken all the firs-team reps. I hope the message never comes up that everybody's job is wrapped up, but he's done a job for us at right guard. We knew he would. He's a veteran. I'd be surprised if something changed there. If that means he's wrapped it up, you can write it whatever way you want. I think he's still in a very competitive situation, Nick Martin is a very good player. He's going to keep pushing him.

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