Brian Kelly talked injuries, big picture with the BCS, the offensive line’s most consistent player and singled out f a few freshmen who have impressed on the scout team. Read the full transcript.
BK: Sorry I was late. I was exercising my right to vote. Remind everybody that today is election day, but it is also Tuesday press conference for Notre Dame. So in case you guys were wondering.
Just a recap on last week. I told the football team that they had the heart of a champion in the way that they battled through triple overtime. But now that we understand that we will fight in battle, we've got to have the head of a champion, too. The head of a champion understand that each and every week you're going to get the opposition's very best. We have to be able to understand that when we play the game on Saturday. As I mentioned, I like the way we prepared all last week. We need to play better.
Moving forward against Boston College, again, a team that has played us very, very well. This past year obviously at home we had to make some big stops late to win the football game.Again, probably most impressed with how they're coached. Extremely well coached, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They play hard; they play physical. If you take a couple of their games, they've got Clemson late in the fourth quarter in a close game, and, you know, same thing with Miami.
So this is a team that, again, our players understand that if they don't play their best they can get beat. A lot of respect for Boston College and the way they run their program and the way their kids play on a day to day basis.
Q: You mentioned getting the kids back to the head of a champion. How do you feel like they came out of the win on Saturday emotionally and mentally given all the kind of noise with the media about how Notre Dame is clearly No. 4 in the BCS?
BK: Oh, I don't think that had anything to do with this it. They should feel good and I know they felt good about the win and finding a way to win down 20‑6 in the fourth quarter. I know they feel really good about that.But they clearly learned, too. This group has not been 9‑0, so they have learned about how difficult it gets as you get down to just a few games left in the season. Everybody can make their season beating Notre Dame.
This is new territory for them and they're learning. I sensed and felt in talking to our guys that they clearly understand that they can't play the game any less than their very best if they want to win.So I think that message resonated.
Q: In your 2009 experience, what did you learn from that in terms of, again, you were outside looking in; there were people almost forcing you to defend your schedule at certain points?
BK: I think I've handled it in the same way. I never went out in the media and tried to defend what we did. All I said was that the schedule was set, here is who we play, and all we can do and all we can control is winning these football games. If a field goal goes awry against Nebraska (versus) Texas, it changes things. It could be the same situation again with Notre Dame three years later. I can't control any of that. What I can control is to make sure that these guys play better against BC.I think I've been consistent in answering the question in the way I've approached being where we are.
Q: Any update on Tate Nichols?
BK: Injured his knee. We think it's a PCL, but we need to get the swelling out before we get any further. He is likely out for the season.
Q: Again, sometimes flu kind of runs its course for a while. Do you feel like it's run through the team yet?
BK: No. We got a couple guys battling it again this week. We got it a little bit sooner, and think we're a little bit ahead of game this week compared to last week.
Q: Theo Riddick was a guy that you moved out to wide receiver out of necessity, getting your best players on the field and so forth. Just having him move back to running back this year, how would you evaluate how that's turned out?
BK: I think that's been a great success. He's run hard, run physical; he's caught ball for us. He's really been productive as a football player for us, so I would say that that was as well as we could have hoped.And we still got a lot of football left. Up to this point it's worked out very, very well.
Q: Last thing from me:You've talked about what you wanted your blueprint to bedefense first and then you would build the offense, I believe, around the talents of the players you have. In a perfect world, what will that offense look like down the road?
BK: Sure. It'll be driven by the quarterback, by his consistent play, by his decision making, by his athleticism. Certainly if you take the last quarter in overtime, I think Everett contributed 75 percent of our offense. So that quarterback will be the one that drives it; he'll have athleticism; he'll have the ability to throw the football. He's a freshman. I'm reminded of it every single day.
Q: In terms of Daniel Smith, what has been his development that's got him on the field as regularly as he is?
BK: Physical blocker. You know, he's a big kid. We wanted to be able to use what we thought to be right now his talents. I think they're going to be more down the road in terms confidence in catching the football, route running, things of that nature. But he's a kid that is not afraid to stick his nose in there and make big blocks for us. The long touchdown run we had against Oklahoma a couple weeks back largely attributed to Daniel Smith getting in there and blocking a Sam linebacker. So we feel really good about getting him on the field when we need the block, but obviously you can't put him on there just when you're going to block. You got to be able to throw the ball to him. I think he's showing you us we can continue to move in that direction and make him a more of a complete receiver.
Q: How do you get away from not typecasting him and letting everybody else know that you're going to run him that play?
BK: I think we're pretty good there. We are pretty cognizant of the fact of our personnel groupings that go on the field that it's just not, ‘Hey, it's run when he comes in.’ He's involved in the passing game; he's caught some balls. But I think that that's an evolution for him. When we develop more confidence and trust in him during the week of practice you'll see him more and more in other situations as well.
Q: Louis Nix overcoming the flu last week, could you take us back to when you knew that may have been an issue? And then just kind of after you went back and watched the tape, how did you evaluate what you got out of him?
BK: Yeah, he was not feeling good on Monday, and we weren't certain of his status until Tuesday. We had not got ahold of him until about 30 minutes before practice because he had fallen asleep and wasn't feeling well. So we went over and got him and he was not doing very well. He wanted to try to go through some practice; he wasn't able to. So that's when we sent him to the infirmary. He was in the infirmary on Wednesday, came out on Thursday, and really wasn't able to do much.
We were under the opinion that Saturday was going to be an emergency situation only, and he felt okay in pre‑game. I asked him how he felt, he said, Okay. He said he's not himself is the word that he used. Then we had Kona hurt his shoulder, and he wanted to get in there and help his team. When got in there, he played very well. He played really gutsy he was not feeling well. He would come over to the sideline, you could tell that he was not feeling very well. But it was just a gutsy performance from a kid that was sick all week.
Q: Do you think he's back or close to 100 percent?
BK: Yeah, he feels good. Yesterday he looked good. Upbeat, joking around, the old Louis that we knew. I think if there is no smiling or no laughing you know he's not right. He's been back to what we knew Louis to be.
Q: You mentioned where your offense is going really driven by the quarterback. The way Everett played in fourth quarter, is that about as much as you want from a quarterback at that point in terms of the running, the pass attempts? I don't know, it's something like 23 of 27 plays were him in the fourth quarter. Is that about the maximum there or is that almost even more than you would even want?
BK: We just have a lot of development to do within the intricacies of the offense, the things that might not be seen quite as much. I don't want get into the specific details.
That's what he's capable of. We want it to be a lot cleaner, a lot more efficient, and there are so many little factors in there. But it's the big picture of what we want. Now we really want to start to refine that. That's the next step for us.
Q: Obviously the production of how he played in the fourth quarter is key, but the pace that he played at, you had referenced last week that you were playing more plays in practice. Is that evidence that he can play faster than he has been so far?
BK: Yeah, we think that we can and we've shown that we can with him. Those are the things that he's been able to learn just in terms of his own management, his housekeeping, if you will, of getting up there, getting the play, communicating it. Much more comfortable getting the signaling ‑‑ I think we talked about earlier in the year where we were worried about getting the signals. Now he's a lot more comfortable with the signaling, the communication, and that's really got him to speed up the process.
Q: With somebody like Zack Martin I think sort of taken for granted on the outside ‑ you know you're going to get an all‑American type performance consistently there ‑ how have you seen him improve throughout the course of the season? What's impressed you?
BK: One word:"Consistency." He's lapping the field. He's that good on a consistent basis. I think coach (Harry Hiestand) is grading him out in the 90s where guys are grading in the 60s and 70s. He's just a consistent player for us at a high level, and has been that way all year.
Q: You talked last week about no politics, and then you said might it not be politically correct. Is there a reason why you don't do any talking is because that's big picture stuff, and it if you do it you're afraid the team will get caught up in it?
BK: That might be one reason. The other reason is it doesn't help. If it helped, you know me, I could talk all day. If it really helped I would be on the stump for it, but it doesn't do anything. The only thing that does is winning football games, so I try spend all my time and energy focused on how we can get another win and getting to 10. That's really where we're at right now: How do we get to 10?
Q: And sort of last time this happened you didn't reflect and say, Is there anything I could've done differently?
BK: No, I knew we couldn't control the ultimate goal. We couldn't control it in Cincinnati. The way the BCS is set up right now, if you have more than two undefeated teams you can't control it. Now, in two years when you have four teams that can play, yeah, now you can control things a little bit more. You may be talking more about your teams. But you can't now. Maybe in two years you'll find me talking a lot more about it.
Q: A lot people of have been debating, and the one thing people have said is how can an undefeated Notre Dame team not make it? When you came here, Cincinnati doesn't have the history that Notre Dame does. Did you think this might help if I ever get in a situation like I am 12‑0 again?
BK: If you told me that Alabama and Oregon were also undefeated as well as Notre Dame, I would say, ‘Well, there is a chance.’ Those are teams that have been here and done that. Notre Dame hasn't done it in a while. Those teams are undefeated, too. I would say, ‘Well, there is a chance we may get left out.’
Q: Last one from me. You talked last week about just staying the course. The team ‑ and I am not sure if flat is the right word ‑ but they didn't play or do as well early on as you hoped. I know that some of that was not scoring. Anything different this week, or do you just trust in the fact that it's worked for nine games, it'll work for number ten?
BK: Our guys know. We were here late watching film. They saw the film. They know what they can do better. This is a smart group of guys, and we made certain that we spent a lot of time watching film and making sure that our guys understand what they need to do. They clearly know how they need to play this game.
Q: You commented on Sunday that maybe you're getting a little bit closer to sticking with Everett through some difficult situations based upon what happened Saturday. How much significance do you place on the fact that he led the comeback this time, whereas Tommy Rees was the guy that kind of bailed you out in previous games?
BK: Sure. That spurred my comment, his ability to get back up off the bench. And it never happened before. He hadn't been in that situation where I felt like when I looked at him he was ready to get back in there. He was ready to get back in the game and knew what he needed to do.
So my comments after the game were based upon how he reacted to coming back in the game. Now you've got a little bit of history and said, All right, we got a rough spot here. Let's fight through this. You've done this before. So my comments were based upon that.
Q: Is it really a game-by-game thing with him as far as him having an emotional letdown every time he gets taken out of the game?
BK: No, I don't think so. I think he's just a fierce, competitive kid with so much pride that he's never experienced it before. He's walked through every game he's played. He's been the best player on the field. He's dealing with this is the first time I've ever been taken out of a game. But he's such a competitive kid. He wants to do so well. He's growing and he's maturing as we move along.
Q: This should've been asked of you Sunday, but the penalty that was termed delay of game in which they said...
Q: You got pretty upset about the call.
BK: Yeah, we got a clarification from Terry McCauley that that should not have been called. We have taken great pains to move our front, which we move the entire game from three down to four down. The rule is specific: If you are trying and attempting to mimic the snap count, then you can be called defensively for delay of game. If you have a guy up there going, Go, go, go, we say move. We move. Last year we walked up and gave the move call. Now we stay back and give a move call. So we've gone through it. Shouldn't have been called. But we have clarified that. We will continue to move our front.
Q: Last week I asked you about walk‑ons on special teams, and it kind of veered off in a different direction. I was asked about guys like Joe Schmidt and Tyler Plantz and Connor Cavalaris as to what they've done. I mean, what does a walk‑on have to do in order to impress the coaching staff?
BK: Assignment correct, first of all. Second of all, he still has to have the athletic ability and the skill to get the job done at the end of the day. Can't be just because he's so smart and he knows exactly how to fit a play. He still has to physically be able to do it, and at the end of all that, do it consistently. Or we could take maybe someone else that maybe has a higher athletic ability and live with some mistakes. Because guys that are on there have earned their right to be on there through those three things.
Q: Out of the group of freshman that haven't or won't play this year, has anybody jumped out or shown drastic improvement?
BK: I would say guys that really catch my eye, C.J. Prosise. He's a young man that is fun to watch. Gunner Kiel is whipping the ball around there. Big, physical kid on scout team. Really like watching him play. Jarron Jones is doing a great job on our scout team. Hard to block, big, long, physical kid. I would say those kids jump out at me right now. Will Mahone is doing a very good job for us as well. I'm sure I'm missing some of those guys, but those guys have jumped out at me.
Q: When you get late in the year and they see they're probably not going to play and you're having the season that you're having, what are their emotions like when they're not out there on Saturday?
BK: I would say they're probably feeling a little bit, ‘I wish I was part of it, but can't wait to contribute.’ Because we're going to be pretty good next year and the year after and the year after.So I think there is a little bit of both of those things running through their mind. Boy, it would be neat to be part of this, but I'm really excited about the future.
Q: Kapron Lewis‑Moore hasn't had his best season numbers‑wise, but are there things that he does that don't show up on the stat sheet that are helping on the defensive front?
BK: I wasn't aware of that, that his numbers were down from other years. He's been a better football player for us this year. Now, he's injury‑free. As you know, he got injured last year. He is an extremely productive player, is playing with a lot energy, and has been a great leader for us.
It's night and day in my eyes outside of the statistics as to his impact last year as to this year. Now he was a junior last year and he's a senior this year, too. But he's one of the reasons why we're 9‑0.
Q: Wanted to ask about red zone offense. On both ends for you guys, teams haven't been able to be as productive in the red zone. What is it about not having a full field that kind of limits what you can do offensively?
BK: Well, that backend line. You know, it's harder to stretch vertically, so obviously you have tighter throws; you have to be more accurate; you have to have precision. It's not a word that's thrown around very easily in our room right now. Precision is not what we have yet. You have to be so precise. I've had quarterbacks that were precise, could read things quickly, and then it was easy down there. It was just, you know, shooting fish in a barrel. We're not there yet. Getting to that precision in that area is the progress that we have to make.
Q: DaVaris Daniels is coming off his biggest game. What have you seen from him since the start of the season that has given the quarterbacks trust to go to him in big situations?
BK: Well, he's learning how to play the game. And he's still learning. I'll give you an example. When he goes and runs his routes, he's pretty difficult to defend.Then when he doesn't think he's getting the ball, you know, it's one of those things he is learning every week about how to be that elite receiver in the BCS. It requires practice preparation, it requires the attention to detail, all those things, and he's starting to get there. You're starting to see it. He's only going to get better and better.
Q: Was that happening earlier in the season?
BK: No, I don't think so. I think it's just the maturation of a receiver, whether DaVaris or TJ (Jones), it happens to all of 'em. I think he's starting to understand that if he runs his routes, we're going to find you.When he runs 'em, and I'll give you an example, we threw just a little bit of just a little bubble into the boundary. We have been telling him all year, ‘Just run north and south.’ He got eight, nine yards on a play that he was tackled at two if he just kind of goes out there and tries to shake. So he's picking up all the little things that we're asking him to pick up. I think our quarterbacks are starting to see that, too.
Q: When you're recruiting, are you a guy that puts a lot of stock in football pedigree? Obviously he has the background from his father.
BK: It certainly doesn't hurt, but I don't think I would take somebody just because his dad played. I do like guys that have been around the game. I will say that a coach's son, you know, is something that maybe has a box that I would check. But, no, I don't think that that's high on my list.
Q: Do you have dialog with the kicker during the game?
BK: What do you think?
Q: Do you go to an assistant coach or who is talking to them?
BK: Oh, I go through three or four different coaches before they get to me. No, I go right to 'em. I just want to check 'em out and make sure he's good, because we're going to need 'em later. I know Kyle Brindza. I've seen him kick in high school. I know what he's made of. He's won a state championship.
He's going to move on. For him, consistency of mechanics. But the pressure‑‑ I always look for is the game affecting a player. Are the circumstances affecting a player? That doesn't affect him. It's mechanical, and along I'm going over there saying, Hey, listen, get on the side, kick it again, we're gonna need you. How do you feel. I feel good. That's all I am looking for.
Q: On kickoffs, his kickoffs didn't reach the end zone last week; neither did Pittsburgh's, though. Was there anything about late in the year kicker's legs, mechanics?
BK: I think I it's a little bit of both. Yep, getting a little tired.
Q: There is a lot made in the pre‑season about the 11 on 11 contact work especially. How much do you feel that that physical work maybe has paid off in these games where there is a lot of physical and mental toughness required, especially in the fourth quarter? Is this something you can see continuing in the future, or was it just something out of necessity this year?
BK: We needed to take the next step in terms of how we played the game. I felt like in year one and year two that our guys prepared well. They practiced well. We didn't play consistently. I felt like that consistency was about that mental and physical toughness, and so we ramped it up in the pre‑season camp. Felt like we needed to spend more time going against each other and being more physical. Our practices were longer. We added more periods to our practice all in the hope to develop more physical and mental toughness. As I said, this team has played more consistent on Saturday, but the other teams that I've had here at Notre Dame have all prepared well. They just didn't play as consistent. Now we're getting consistent performance, and I think some of this has to do with what we did in pre‑season.
Q: There is sometimes a fear that if you do that early in the season the maybe the legs get tired.
Q: Did the enhanced depth perhaps help you take it to that?
BK: We were thinking it would until we lost Lo (Wood) and Jamoris (Slaughter) in the backfield, and then Lo in particular. We had to back off on some things that we were doing in one‑on‑one and seven‑on‑seven because we were low in numbers.I think what we tried to do is really get more unit involvement. As you know, we played more receivers. Got 'em in the games early, and so we feel like we managed that kind of practice so we could be here in November and still not have a beaten and bruised and tired football team.
Q: During the course of regular season now, have you tapered off a little bit or do you find you're also engaging in more contact now than you did in your previous years here?
BK: No, our periods have stayed pretty consistent throughout my coaching career. We're just under two hours now for practice; that will lose ten to fifteen minutes. Once we get to daylight savings time I start to pull it back a little bit.We've played a lot of snaps. A lot of snaps. Two overtime games. We didn't have the luxury of some other programs in the first four games where they had some easy blowouts where they didn't have to play in the second half.
We had to play four quarters against Michigan, Michigan State. You now, we've played a lot of snaps. If you look at our snaps cumulative with out first teams guys versus, say, some of the top teams in the country, or I think we all know Oregon, it's night and day.
Q: Just a question, obviously there was a situation Saturday where you had the same number on there. One of the popular questions is why can't players wear their own jersey number like they used to? Is that a recruiting thing?
BK: I think it's all because of (the media) and recruiting. If we didn't have any of you guys then they wouldn't really care of about it. So if we could get rid of all you guys we wouldn't have any of these number problems.
All right, so I'll give you the straight answer.
You know, I think it's something that's changed over the last few years in recruiting where kids have this identification with a particular number. I think it's still manageable. We just have to do a better job coaching.
It's unacceptable that two guys have the same number in the game, and we've got to be able to manage that. Yeah, I would like it NCAA to come in and say only one guy can have this number. That would make my life a whole lot easier, believe me. So if you guys could all get together and have a write-in campaign, that would help me a lot, seeing as you're the root of the whole problem, right?
Q: Can you talk a little bit about coming home this weekend, and do you expect to have a lot of family, friends, and former teammates in the stands Saturday?
BK: Yeah, it's always great to go back. I remember my first trip back when I was at Grand Valley State. We played Bentley College, and the one thing is there is a lot of the requests for tickets.So I've gotten that out of way. I've taken care of all my friends and relatives. They've got their tickets. Now they're on their own. I've taken care of that, but I'm excited to get back there.
Q: Is it different at all this time coming back just with the team being undefeated and highly ranked?
BK: No. The demands were the same my first time going back. The expectations are always high.So, no. I don't think there is really any difference for me. I think I managed the ticket situation a little bit better.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about the resurgence of Notre Dame program, about it being back. Inside the program, what do you to feel like has to happen for you to say that Notre Dame is sort of back?
BK: I don't know that we have a measuring stick for it. I think it's measured by everybody else in terms wins and losses. Our players want to win as well, but I don't think it's something that we really spend much time thinking about relative to we're back or not back.I think we take care of how we play on Saturdays, and then we kind of let other people decide whether that's the case or not.
Q: How important is, I guess, sort of a successful Notre Dame program to college football in general? Is it important?
BK: Well, I think if you have the football program that has the highest graduation rates and is also a team that is competing for a national championship, I would qualify that as good for NCAA football. You have something that has both ends working towards excellence. So I think that's significant and one of the reasons why I came to Notre Dame, that we wanted to do it in the classroom and on the football field.
Q: What have you gotten in terms of a response from alums, people who follow the program as the wins have mounted this season?
BK: Well, I just think there is an immense amount of pride in our Notre Dame followers and our alums, that they want to see their university well regarded as it relates to intercollegiate athletics, and in particular football. It's part of who we are, and so there is a lot of pride.There are certainly a lot of followers out there that are very proud of their football team and the way they're playing right now.