Brian Kelly talked about Everett Golson's status, Stephon Tuitt's game and defended Mike Golic Jr. during his Sunday teleconference. Read the full transcript and Kelly closes the book on Stanford.
Q: I wondered if you could fill us in on Everett Golson's status the day after he got his bell rung.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, he had a concussion, so he's going through the steps, the protocol that we have. He was still a bit symptomatic today, so he'll go through his cognitive testing tomorrow, and we expect that if all things move in this direction that he should be cleared by Tuesday.
Q: If he's not cleared by Tuesday, I would assume Tommy Rees moves to the top of the line, and that's kind of your plan there?
BK: Yeah, certainly if he's not able to go or is not cleared, then Tommy and Andrew Hendrix would be our quarterback situation. But talking to Dr. Moriarty, who's one of the lead guys in concussions, he felt pretty confident that he'd be cleared by Tuesday.
Q: I wondered if you could talk about Cierre Wood, what you're seeing from him, but also, you've got three guys that are really giving you a lot of different skill sets in that running back picture. Can you talk about that a little bit?
BK: Certainly. We value all of those backs and what they can do to help in the running game, and certainly as you know, Theo (Riddick) had a very, very good game catching the ball for us, made two great catches that helped us win the football game. It's not only running the ball, it's the ability to catch the ball coming out of the backfield, as well, and that's been the change this year from last year in terms of the complete running back. And Cierre is getting better at that each and every week. Again, I think all three of those guys are continuing to work on being the complete back.
Q: You're playing a team this coming week that has the LDS church and so forth affiliated with them. You have a handful of those guys on your team. Can you just talk a little bit about how the local LDS community has kind of made them feel welcome at Notre Dame?
BK: Oh, I can agree with that wholeheartedly in terms of just how they have taken in our players in Manti (Te'o) and Kona (Schwenke) in particular and Chris Badger. All of them have felt very comfortable in the community. I don't know what the dynamic is, but it just seems that there's a reaching out that has taken place in their time here, and it's made it, I think, a great transition for those kids.
Q: And again, Prince Shembo just seems to get a lot of pressure this year, moving back from drop linebacker to cat linebacker. Just talk about where he is right now.
BK: Yeah, he's a relentless player. He's got obviously an ability to get to the edge and really force some pressures. And I think if you really look at last week where it wasn't his kind of game in the sense that they were … he was in a position where he couldn't get the same kind of pressure that he was able to get this week. I know he was very frustrated, and you could tell just in his demeanor in practice that you could tell he was going to make sure his presence was felt. That's just the kind of kid he is. He's a high motor and can play all day.
Q: Just in terms of Everett's preparation, should he be able to play this weekend and get going on Tuesday, I guess what does the concussion get in the way of over the next 36, 48 hours? Not much, a little? What goes on?
BK: We really can't do anything with him physically until all of his symptoms have been cleared, and then there's the cognitive testing that has to take place. So our general protocol is we expect him tomorrow to be able to pass his cog test. If he does that, then we begin light exercise. If there's no recurrence of any headaches then we clear him.
Again, if he doesn't get cleared on Tuesday, then we repeat the process and we continue with it. So the only thing that would be at risk here would be if he's not cleared for Tuesday then he loses a lot of rep work on Tuesday. It doesn't mean, though, that he couldn't still be a starter for us if he practices Wednesday and Thursday.
Q: Is he really missing anything, I guess, this afternoon and Monday?
BK: Oh, no. Yeah, I'm sorry, I misunderstood your question. No, there's nothing today. They checked in, he checked in with the doctors. He's done for the day. And then of course the good thing is they don't have classes this week, so he'll have nothing of an assignment other than at 3 p.m. we'll have a team meeting.
Q: The BCS rankings officially come out tonight. Everybody seems to think you guys are going to be in the top five. Does that resonate at all at this point just being in that position? And I know there's a whole week‑to‑week long way to go thing, but when you're a top five BCS team at this position, how does that resonate do you think?
BK: You know, I really don't know in the sense that I haven't gauged … I don't normally gauge the interest of these things with our football team, so I would never ask the questions. They watch TV. I mean, they see that. There's a sense of pride. There's no question that when you're talked about and you're putting Notre Dame up there in the top five, there's a sense of pride. I just have to make sure that they understand that with that pride comes a greater obligation to do the thing the right way. I think that's how we'll handle it.
Q: And I guess specifically when you talk BCS with these guys before the season, we've asked you about this before, is it on a list literally somewhere? How do you address that as a goal and in what context do you address that as a goal before you guys start?
BK: We talk more in terms of being a championship program and let the rest take care of itself. So it's not written down. It's not something that we specifically talk about. We don't have a tie‑in obviously from a conference standpoint. So if we're talking about postseason, the only thing that we talk about is really the Bowl Championship Series.
Championship football for us at Notre Dame, I think you can make the conclusion that it equals BCS.
Q: I want to clarify one thing you said. You said if Everett can't go that it'll be Rees and Hendrix. Does that mean Hendrix is No. 2 or he could play also in the game if Everett is not ready?
BK: Oh, yeah, we keep Andrew ready to go. He could have played this weekend if we needed him in certain situations. Both of them could play. I wouldn't rule it out. But as I said earlier, we're probably putting too much on this. We're really confident that we think Everett is going to be cleared.
Q: On TV they mentioned that they thought he had a turf toe, too. Does he, and is that a problem?
BK: Yeah, he had a little bit of turf toe, fought through it during the week. Didn't affect him at all in the game.
Q: On the fumble on the field, Everett‑to‑Theo handoff, what happened there? They gave the fumble to Everett, but who do you think made the mistake?
BK: Well, there were three people involved in that: The center, the quarterback and the running back. The snap was off and high to his right; the back was not in his proper alignment; and the quarterback, if ever he feels that a handoff is in jeopardy, he's supposed to tuck it. So there wasn't one singular player. There were three people that were not at their best on that play.
Q: I believe Everett is responsible for all the turnovers this year. How concerned are you about his turning the ball over? And he's put the ball on the ground a couple times besides that.
BK: Very concerned. It's something that obviously we cannot continue to have. He's got to take better care of the football, and he's got to do it in practice, and he's got to be smarter. I think if you look at the first turnover, we're talking about mishandling a direct snap, something that we do every day, totally unacceptable.
The other turnover was holding onto the ball. It was the sack fumble against the three‑man rush. Again, maybe we could have put him in better situation there.
And then the third one, it's easy for him to just step out of bounds and avoid contact. So all of them are coachable, all of them are correctable, and we'll continue to work on it with him so we can eliminate these mistakes.
Q: On Everett's turf toe, was that a practice injury? Did he pick that up against Miami?
BK: He picked it up in the second quarter against Miami.
Q: And just on the defensive line you rotated really liberally this year until yesterday, and I was just kind of curious about your thinking going into that playing Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix and Kapron Lewis-Moore so much and then also what those three guys showed you playing so much and being as stout as they were, considering how many snaps they logged?
BK: Well, Sheldon Day played quite a bit. I don't know exact number of snaps, so you've got to include Sheldon. Kona was in there not as much, but obviously in the kind of game that we were in where it was such a physical contest, we obviously felt at that time that those guys were needed to be in the game. But we still had Sheldon in quite a bit. I know Kappy rotated out quite a bit. And again, Kona didn't play as much, but certainly was able to give Louis a blow when he needed it.
Q: I guess maybe that question should have been more about Stephon and the game that he played both in terms of the block and then just kind of how disruptive he was against a very physical smashmouth team in a game that he wasn't able to experience last year.
BK: Exactly. I think if you focus on Stephon particularly, obviously the bigger the stage, the great players step up. And he played as hard as we've seen him play all year, just physically banging in there, putting pressure, never taking a play off on obviously a field goal situation. It says a lot about his growth as a football player.
I think that game is a growth game from him on how you play this game every snap.
Q: And I was just curious, a couple match‑ups Troy Niklas was kind of asked to block one‑on‑one against some of Stanford's outside linebackers. Was that Stanford getting you guys in a good look or was that how you wanted to schematically handle that?
BK: Any time that Troy was asked to block, the ball was supposed to come out a little bit more effectively. I think we lost sight of the fact that on a couple of occasions we could have helped with our tackle, so it's not exactly the way we had it drawn up that we would leave him singular against one of their best pass rushers, and it ended up working that way for them on two occasions, and obviously one of them was the sack fumble, which was a huge play.
Yeah, I think if you go back and look at it, we wouldn't have changed what we had in mind. We probably would have paid a little bit more attention in three‑man rush that we'd get some more help for him.
Q: A guy I think you have a lot of faith in, Mike Golic, seems to have really been playing much better until yesterday when it seems like mentally he took a step back with a few false starts. How do you approach kind of improvement in practice for a fifth‑year guy as opposed to maybe a younger player?
BK: Well, I don't know that Mike Golic had a lot to do with those false starts. You know, there's a lot of other things going on out there that I'm not going to get into right now.
Mike has made progress. He played against a very, very good defense, and they won some, Mike won some. The thing with Mike, he's such a dedicated player. I mean, he comes to practice every day; he's purposeful. He's not going to be first-team All‑American at that position, but here at Notre Dame, he doesn't need to be; he needs to just be Mike Golic. And we're proud of the steps that he's made to help our offense.
Q: And another guy, it seems that Ishaq has received some more playing time in multiple packages. Can you talk about how he's developed here the last couple weeks?
BK: He's long, and in the pass game he covers some ground for us. Believe it or not, his length really does help us in pass coverage. He also has the ability to rush the quarterback. Here's a guy that gives us some really flexible opportunities defensively to either rush them or drop them. That's why you're seeing him in those packages a little bit more, because of his versatility.
Q: Is that just kind of key where you don't even really need a nickel because he can kind of play a little bit of that coverage role?
BK: Well, you know, I wouldn't say we don't need the nickel as much as what we're able to do is disguise some of the things, so we do play with a nickel, too, on the field. He just gives us an opportunity to sloop him into coverage when it looks like he's rushing, and it takes a pretty good player to be able to do that.