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November 11, 2012

Kelly Q&A: Nov. 11

In addition to talking injuries, Brian Kelly talked about the progress of Ishaq Williams, if Everett Golson took another step and what triggered the personal foul on Louis Nix late in the game. Read the full transcript.

Q: Brian, do you have any injury updates from last night with DaVaris Daniels and KeiVarae Russell and where they're at moving forward?

Brian Kelly: Yeah, KeiVarae had a head injury, cleared up nicely, and he looks to be on track for practice on Tuesday. Daniels has had surgery this morning on a broken clavicle. He was be lost for the rest of the season. We will have him back for Bowl game, however.

Q: The way he was trending, is that a particularly tough loss given the way things have gone the last couple weeks for him?

BK: Well, certainly we think he was making really good progress, learning how to play the position, learning how to practice. He's made really good progress. This will be a temporary setback for him, and we'll have him out probably three, three and a half weeks where he'll start running and non‑contact and he'll be ready to impact our team in the postseason. 

Q: I am just wondering how did your coaching ballot shake out this morning?

BK: I voted Notre Dame first. I had them second last week to Alabama. Of course Alabama lost. I'll typically move up the next lot. 

Q: For obvious reasons you have Notre Dame first, but are there things that you like about your team and how it's trending here towards the end of the year, and are there areas that are also concerning you as you go to the real stretch the last two weeks?

BK: Well, never ask a coach what concerns him about his team, because this could be a 40‑minute conversation. But here's what I do like: We've played a tough schedule. Obviously wins on the road against Oklahoma and Michigan State and certainly showing how to beat a tough team in Stanford, those wins are big wins for us. I think we're tested, and I like the way our quarterback is developing, and he's getting better and better each and every week. Those are all positive things. 

Q: Do you feel as strongly about your defense now as you did earlier in the year? The yards are a little bit up. I know you're mostly concerned with points, but where do you think your defense is at here in the last couple weeks? 

BK: No, I like where we are. I think you have to play great defense to be No.1 in scoring defense in the country over the long haul, and against BC that's the first time they hadn't scored a touchdown this year. We felt like (Chase) Rettig was an outstanding quarterback.

No, I'm really pleased with what we're continuing to build on defensively, and again, I think there's some young players that are playing even better at this point. Again, I think Bennett Jackson probably had his best game, and Prince Shembo was outstanding. 

Q: I was curious when you were a D‑coordinator, were you a 3‑4 guy, or was that something that you came to like later in your career?


BK: I started as a four‑down coach, and three‑down became something that I was more interested in because of what we did offensively, spreading the field. I thought three‑down would be something that needed to be part of your package. But started as a four‑down and kind of exactly where we are right now, and that is blending both four‑down and three‑down together.

Q: I wanted to ask you about that blend. I have not seen a 3‑4 that flips so seamlessly to 4‑3 where all the pieces kind of fit together. Is Shembo a big key to that, and have you ever had a defense that could move back and forth so seamlessly?

BK: No, I think we have the pieces because we recruited to it early on that allow us to do it, and I think it's going to get better. I think the personnel will continue to allow us to do what we want to do in moving both three‑ and four‑down. But clearly the ability to put Prince Shembo's hand down on the ground and then back him up, and Danny Spond, his ability to play in space, play No. 2 receiver and then line up over at tight end, it starts with those outside backers, and we've got two guys that allow us to do that.

Q: I know you've said you don't like to campaign for your team in terms of the top two spots in the BCS, that you don't feel like it works, but from the standpoint of people talk about style points, I think your style points are on defense. Do you feel compelled to let people know there's beauty in defense? 

BK: Well, I think you take a look at each team. Each team has their own distinctions. The distinction of this football team, it's the No.1 scoring defense in the country. It's proven that against very, very good teams all year. We make it very difficult for you to run the football. 

Again, I think if you look at National Championship caliber football, you've got to look at a defense, and so that's why we feel strongly that our football team has put themselves in the discussion. We'll let others decide, but I think we've played our way into the discussion. 

Q: Everett Golson seemed to have a really efficient, clean game last night, at least from an outsider's point of view. I wondered if there are things that you saw in his game that you feel like, okay, we're here, we're not going to go backwards with this, this is going to translate into things moving forward. 

BK: Yeah, I think setting his feet, I thought he did a much better job. There are areas that we can do a better job with him. And then I like the way he ran north and south. He stuck his foot in the ground and really picked up some key yardage for us in running the football, and I think what we're going to see here is a guy that can hurt you both at throwing it, escapability and then throwing the football. Ball execution was really good, and if we trend that way and continue, then we've got the makings of a quarterback that's getting to the level we need him to be. 

Q: And how did Manti grade out for you?

BK: You know, it's a good question. There were a number of times where they were trying to attack him specifically, and what I really, really liked about Manti is he was 1/11 of the defense. In other words, he did his job. He didn't try to do more. And that's just the mark of a great player, that he kept his eyes on his work and played really solid football for us. 

Q: Talk a little bit about Ishaq Williams over the last few weeks, what you feel like you're getting out of him and the improvements that he's made. 

BK: You know, he's playing a lot faster. I think that's probably the thing that stands out the most. And he's making progress to the level where he could be a guy that really influences the football game. He made some plays on Saturday where he tracked down some plays from the opposite end. But it's just understanding how to play the game, and he's getting better at that, and we're seeing it tangibly on film each and every week, and he is, as well.

Q: At the end of the game it got a little chippy there. Did you get much of an explanation about what happened with Louis Nix?

BK: I think the big fellas were grinding on each other all game, and it seemed to get a little maybe a little personal in there. But certainly we talked to Louis, and he understands that he's got to control his emotions. 

Q: That's kind of where I was going to go with Louis. Guys get chippy all the time. Do you feel like from what you saw, the ultimate result was warranted, I guess? 

BK: Well, I think any time late in the game like that and it gets a little chippy, I think the officials are going to make certain that it doesn't escalate. So I can't fault them on that. 
Louis was I'll give you the specifics. He felt like one of his teammates, somebody took a cheap shot at him, and he didn't like that. 

Q: I know you kind of keep getting asked about style points at this point. Is the ultimate style just 10‑0 right now regardless? 

BK: Without question. You know, I think if you want style points, look at our defense, look at the schedule that we played, 10 FBS teams. I think it's pretty clear that this football team has been built around its defense, and we're lived up to that each and every week. We'll just keep working on one at a time and let other people figure out where that puts us. 

Q: Seems with every great Notre Dame team, there's one identification on offense, a bread‑and‑butter play or so it seems, like that stretch play especially yesterday in particular to the left side. Seems to be always getting you that six, seven yards or putting in good position, 2nd-and-short, etc. Is that a play that you think has now evolved to a point where it's become a signature play for you? 

BK: Well, there's no question that when we went back to zone principles that the inside zone and the outside zone are going to be the staple plays, the bread and butter, if you will, the things that we I'll give you another analogy, throw your hat on. All those things come to mind.

We feel like those are who we are as an offense in terms of running the ball. Add some power in there, which has been a good play for us, as well. But I think you're right on that the inside‑outside play is who we've evolved to offensively this year. 

Q: It seems he's gotten a lot more confident also with the speed options. I don't know if he ever had in mind to pitch the ball, but he ran with such an aggressiveness off that play even when you had somebody else in the backfield. Is that just developing confidence because earlier in the year it seemed there was perhaps a hesitation or doubt about running the ball. 

BK: Well, there was a hesitation for me calling those plays that obviously require a skill. They require repetition. You know, any time you're putting the ball out there on the perimeter, there's a risk factor. I wasn't comfortable with that risk factor. I am now, the way he's handling the option. He read it right every time. They did not have a hat for him. They wanted to play the pitch. And as I mentioned earlier, put his foot in the ground and got us some really tough yards.

I think when you're executing option with a player like that, it really makes it difficult for a defense now to bring pressures.


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