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December 8, 2013

Kelly Q&A: Dec. 8

BRIAN KELLY: Had our first bowl practice. Liked the energy out there. Got some good work in today, about an hour and a half worth. We're off and running. We'll take some time off. We'll go back out Friday and Saturday, which is also our awards banquet. We'll have a number of recruits up. We'll have a pretty good weekend for our recruits here where we'll have our awards banquet, practice, get a couple of days -- Friday and Saturday -- with our team as well.

Good day today. Good to get them back out there. Got some good work, 11‑on‑11, good action today. I was pleased with today's practice.

QUESTION: Pinstripe Bowl, initial reaction?

BK: It's been a great place for us. I remember us being at Yankee Stadium, the way we were treated there. New York is certainly a great place for Notre Dame. We have great support in that area, subway alums. It's a home away from home. Chicago, New York, the West Coast has been great.

We'll be well‑received there. The Pinstripe Bowl has been terrific to work with. They've done everything to make it a great event for our players. So I'm really pleased with how they have really initiated and have followed up with making this a great event for our players.

Excited about the opportunity for our team.

Q: What do you hope to get out of this bowl experience? Sometimes it's getting a jump on 2014. Sometimes it's a reward.

BK: Well, we want to win the football game first. I want to send out our football team and build momentum into 2014 with a win. In particular, our seniors going out with a win, I think that's very important. They've meant so much to the program. I think that's first and foremost, getting a win for our seniors, and the momentum it builds going into 2014.

It's not a catapult into an undefeated season by any means. I don't want to overstate that. But it does leave a good feeling going into the off‑season when you win that football game.

Secondly, like today, I was able to work I think in the 11‑on‑11 today, which is our ones and twos working. I was able to get 20 reps of really good work with (freshman quarterback) Malik Zaire today. The young guys get a lot of work. (Freshman receiver) Torii Hunter and Malik working together today. (Freshman safety) Max Redfield played virtually all of 7‑on‑7. Those kind of guys getting out there today. That would probably be equally as important.

Q: How would you respond to those who say you have everything to lose and nothing to gain in this matchup?

BK: I don't see how that's the case. They're a BCS team. They beat Arkansas this year. They played Louisville, Fresno tough. They're going in the Big Ten. This team is going to be in the Big Ten this year. If we don't play well, they'll beat us. We have everything to lose. We want to win the football game.

I don't know what goes into that kind of thinking. I'm a football coach, so I don't think in those terms. We have to prepare our football team. We want to win for our program to get to nine wins. We want to win for our seniors.

In that preparation, if we can get some of our younger players some work during this bowl practice, this is a worthwhile time for us and very helpful for our program.

Q: I don't know if you were joking about a warm‑weather site initially, then some of the players talked about that. How did you get to a consensus on New York?

BK: There were three or four bowls that were certainly vying for Notre Dame as we were going through this process. The Poinsettia Bowl was certainly one those we were interested in. One of the things is we were going to be tied into some of these bowls, particularly the Pinstripe, once we entered into our new agreement. We were trying to look to getting into a bowl that we wouldn't have any alliances moving forward. San Diego, being in the west, let's take a shot at that one. Once Northern Illinois lost that football game, that kind of evaporated any opportunity for us in that game.

The other one was the Hawaii Bowl. But because of our exam schedule, which took us through the 20th, we would have had to have gone out there on 21, 22, 23. It would have been practice, practice, practice, play the game. Then they don't hold the hotel rooms after the game for you. You have to leave or find other accommodations.

It would have been the guys go for three days, practice, play the game, then, all right, you got to go home. It just didn't make a lot of sense to go there three days, practice, play the game. If we could have stayed for two, three days after, have some things organized, maybe we could have done something with the Hawaii Bowl. It just didn't make a whole lot of sense for us to do that.

Q: When will you meet as a team in New York City?

BK: I think we're planning on Monday, the 23rd.

Q: Players go on break after the bowl or will you send them home?

BK: They'll stay here. We'll all go down together. They'll stay here. They'll finish up on the 20th with their exams. We'll stay here right through, then head out together, be in New York beginning on the 23rd.

Q: Will they have a chance to go home after the bowl?

BK: Oh, certainly. What we do is we fly them home, then it's on them to get back to Notre Dame.

Q: With kind of a condensed schedule, with finals and everything, how many practices can you get in?

BK: Total practices, we'll get 10 total practices in.

Q: Almost the allotment you were looking for?

BK: Yeah. It's not too bad. Works out okay.

Q: Will (senior defensive tackle) Louis (Nix) be going?
BK: No. Louis has signed with an agent, so he's not allowed to be part of the bowl in terms of bowl gifts, bowl travel, all of those things.

Q: Was there a conversation there about possibly delaying that so he could join you?

BK: I was not involved in that conversation.

Q: Any update with (junior defensive end) Stephon Tuitt?

BK: He’s going to class, doing the deal. All we've done is put in his paperwork to get an evaluation from the NFL. I've had some preliminary conversations about his academic work. He still has some work to do academically. We haven't really delved into the depth of that yet.

Q: What do you think about Stephon? If he asked your opinion, what would you tell him?

BK: I think you have to measure out a lot of things in this process. My personal opinion is one that he’ll have to ask for.

I think you come to Notre Dame to get a degree. I think getting your degree is very important in this whole process. But I think you look at Michael Floyd, Manti Te'o, Tyler Eifert, all those guys came back, got their degrees, went on and are having great careers in the NFL.

Louis has his degree, so I think his situation is a little bit different.

I personally think you come to Notre Dame, you want to get your degree. That wouldn't just be for Stephon Tuitt. That would be for anybody, coming to Notre Dame.

Q: Do you think Louis made the right choice?

BK: There's a lot of factors that are involved there. I think the most important choice he made was coming to Notre Dame and getting his degree. The rest of those, you know what I mean, they're splitting hairs.

We'll find out, right? You're taking a gamble no matter what.

But the most important decisions he had to make, I thought he got them right. That was coming to Notre Dame, getting his degree. I think he hit a home run on those.

Q: Even if Louis delayed the decision, would he have been able to be on the sidelines, given his knee?

BK: Oh, absolutely. He's at the point now where he can move around. He's able to do that.

Q: Were you expecting to have conversations with him about the NFL?

BK: We've had conversations about it. I didn't know about the signing with the agent until it was too late to inform him that by doing so, you know, you don't get your bowl hat, and you can't fly with us to New York.

Louis in New York would be cool, especially around Christmastime, so that was unfortunate. I'm sure he'll be fine.

Q: Where are you with (senior offensive lineman Chris) Watt and (senior defensive lineman) Kona (Schwenke), some of the other guys?

BK: Well, those guys have got opportunities that will present themselves --

Q: I meant injury‑wise.

BK: Watt is out. He's not going to need surgery, but he's not going to be able to play in the bowl game with the MCL. It's a two, three on a grade. It's going to require immobilization. He's immobilized right now. He won't be able to play.

Kona practiced today.

Q: Everybody else in pretty good shape?

BK: Quiz me on guys and I can help you.

Q: (Junior linebacker) Ishaq (Williams)?

BK: He practiced today. He looked pretty good.

In terms of the game itself, we had an ankle with (freshman receiver) Corey Robinson. He was a little ginger today. I think he's going to be fine.

I think guys that won't play that are significant would be Chris Watt was significant, and I think that's it from the game.

Q: How about (sophomore safety Elijah) Shumate and (junior safety Eilar) Hardy? Are they fully reinstated?

BK: Yes, they’re reinstated.

Q: How is the mechanics of play‑calling going to work in the bowl game? Does that revert back to you? Do you want Mike to take the reins there?

BK: I'm going to coach the quarterbacks. Mike will coordinate the offense. He'll take lead in terms of the organization of our practices. But I'll be very involved in things. Haven't really made a decision on how the plays will come in yet. Still kind of thinking about that.

Q: You're going to put off hiring another coach, whether it be a coordinator --

BK: Yeah. It will be after the bowl game, but I don't know what direction I'm going to go yet. I could elevate somebody from within certainly or hire somebody as a coordinator, hire a quarterback coach, hire a position coach. All those are on the table for me right now.

Q: Were you surprised that Chuck (Martin) left? Did you expect that decision?

BK: No. I think the opportunity was a great opportunity at Miami of Ohio. I think it's a great program that can be quickly elevated back to its tradition‑rich successes that it's had. 0-12 last year.

I just think the timing was really right. I don't think Chuck was walking around here looking for a job. Our guys don't do that. But if presented with an opportunity like that, to run a program that has such great tradition like Miami of Ohio, I thought it was the right decision and I endorsed it.

Q: Chuck said he was out of a job when you hired him at Grand Valley. What do you remember initially hiring him in that process?

BK: He just had gotten fired at Eastern Michigan. He was on the staff at Eastern. I knew his football acumen. He's a very smart football coach. Just remember having a conversation with him, very short conversation, and knowing that he was going to be somebody that I wanted to hire. It didn't take me very long to know that he was a very good fit for me and what I was looking for. He'll do a great job at Miami. I think they made a great hire.

Q: Any advice you gave him when you were outgoing at Grand Valley?

BK: No. He was pretty sharp. You saw what he did. He kind of just continued to do a lot of the things that were in place. His personality came out. But ran the same systems. Really didn't try to reinvent the wheel. But his personality came out. He's a pretty sharp guy. He didn't need a lot of advice from me.

Q: Do you think beyond him, the rest of your staff will remain intact?

BK: You never know. I know that my coaches won't leave for lateral moves. They'll have to be leadership positions. So I'm certain of that. But if there's a head job out there that makes sense for one of the assistant coaches, I'd look at them. I have really good football coaches.

You never know. But, as I said, my guys aren't out sending résumés looking for jobs. If the right situation comes along, all these guys, especially the ones that have been with me a long time, they know what it looks like. They'd be great at running programs.

Q: The Pinstripe was great about making this event great for your players. What are some of the specific things they're willing to do?

BK: When you're dealing with our guys, it's bowl packages, right? It's just been a very attractive bowl package for our guys. I don't want to get into the details because I think we'd like to probably keep that amongst ourselves.

But when I was standing here in front of this big screen, I put up the powerpoint, I went from talking about the Pinstripe Bowl, had my guys' attention to they came out of their chairs when I showed them the bowl package. I didn't get that popular in a very short period of time. I can tell you they were very excited about the things they were going to get from the bowl package.

And it's New York. It's New York at Christmastime. Just the ability to do a lot of things. A lot of these guys haven't been to New York at that time. They were pretty excited about it.

Q: Did the bowl actively recruit Notre Dame? Would you characterize it that way?

BK: I would say that. John Mosley would not leave me alone. Quite honestly, I think I told him to get out of my office a couple of times. He was here for the weekend against BYU. I know John very well. My relationship goes back to Culver Academy with him. John is a great guy. They were here, and he wouldn't leave. He wouldn't take no for an answer.

We're excited about it. It's fresh in our memory about how we were treated by the Yankees, and they're going to make sure that happens again.

Q: You’ve talked previously about Everett (Golson) practicing before a bowl. Will he practice?

BK: No. We're not going to practice on the 21st. He won't get here. He's going up to New York to see his girlfriend. We're just not going to have the time and place to get him in to practice.

He may join us in New York for a few days, but we're not going to have a chance to get him in here to practice, assuming he's readmitted into school.

Q: He can’t go with the team, but he can go to New York on his own, right?

BK: Yeah, we'll make sure we get that vetted through our compliance before I'm quoted as saying without question. We're assuming that he's readmitted. He can't do anything until the semester ends, which it ends on the 20th. So once exams end, now he's free to be part of what we do.

Q: So it would be the 21st?

BK: Exactly, but we’re gone so soon, it didn't make any sense to do anything. He's heading up to New York. He had plans. I'm going to go down and see him on Monday. I'll have a lot more information in terms of his plans. I'm going to shoot down to Myrtle Beach on Monday.

Q: How do you feel he's handled that whole process from start to finish being away from the team?

BK: Well, I thought he initially handled it very well. His comments were right on, in my estimation. I think he took full responsibility for his actions, didn't back away from them.
I think his follow‑up -- which I had no idea he was going to be doing an interview with Sports Illustrated, I think that's who it was with -- I thought his comments were forthright. Quite frankly, I thought maybe a little bit too revealing. He talked about some things that I probably wouldn't have talked about.

But I think he took it straight on and never backed away from coming back to Notre Dame, wanting to be back here. I think he's been a stand‑up guy in this whole process.

Q: Do you feel like you will get a better quarterback than when he left, given his time with George Whitfield, or do you not know what you're getting?

BK: No, I think we're going to get a young man that is going to be a better quarterback, not because of necessarily what George did, though certainly George is very accomplished. I don't want to diminish what he can do, how he can help. I think we're going to get a better person and somebody that's even more committed. He's going to be so much more committed to being a better student, more committed to everything that he does.

I think that's going to be a better quarterback at Notre Dame. I can't see a scenario for him not being better at the quarterback position because of that.

Q: Have you been able to have more conversations on the fifth‑year status of some guys, especially with (cornerback) Lo (Wood) and (tight end) Alex (Welch)?

BK: Yeah. You guys know the situation quicker than I do most of the time. Lo, we gave him a release. Now, these guys will practice and play for me through the bowl game. That's their responsibility. They have to do that. So they'll be here through the bowl game. That's Lo and Alex right now.

Q: Anybody else who has looked for options fifth‑year?

BK: There's some other guys that I'll have to sit down with, but I don't want to get into that right now.

Q: Quarterback‑wise, would you have a preference of having four on scholarship for next season or do you think you can get by with three? I'm specifically asking, do you bring back an Andrew Hendirx or Luke Massa for that emergency option, or does somebody like (freshman) Rashad (Kinlaw) serve in that capacity?

BK: I think four quarterbacks on scholarship is heavy. But circumstances sometimes put you in that position, and the circumstances might be that you've inherited quarterbacks that have scholarships already. But if you're working through a natural progression, three and a preferred walk‑on would suit me just fine.

Q: Do you plan on keeping Rashad at quarterback or is he going to be a cornerback?

BK: No, he's going to play defense.

Q: (Interim offensive coordinator) Mike Denbrock was your offensive coordinator at Grand Valley at one point, right?

BK: Defensive coordinator.

Q: He hasn't coordinated the offense?

BK: Not that I remember. Could have. It's been a long time ago.

Q: Does his longevity with you help his ability to call plays and jump right into that role and perhaps hold onto that role?

BK: In terms of play calling itself? No, it doesn't cause me a concern relative to the game itself because he's called plays before, whether you're calling on offense or defense. I'm not that concerned about it. You have to have a feel and flow for the game. You have to be organized. You have to know down-and-distance on situations. He's been on offense long enough with this system, I wouldn't be that concerned.

He's got a long period of being in this offense and he's got a great deal of experience being around it. I would not hesitate to have him call plays in it at all.

 






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