Kelly QA: Sept. 12

QUESTIONS: Brian, anybody get nicked up during the week and any update on (freshman quarterback Malik) Zaire?
BK: Nobody. We had some heat in the last couple of days. With the late game on Saturday, followed up with a couple of hot days, we had some guys dehydrated a little bit. We got them back with some IVs, but nothing from an injury standpoint.
Malik got some practice in, but we haven’t gotten officially cleared yet. He’s day-to-day right now. It’ll be a game time decision on him.
Q: So it’s possible he could play?
BK: It’s possible.
Q: Brian, you mentioned the freshmen defensive linemen getting some time this week. Is there any scenario where one or both of the freshmen running backs might see time early in the game?
BK: Yeah, I think that’s a possibility. We like them both. The game really will dictate their playing time. It’s a different kind of game against Michigan. It was protections. It was split out as a receiver. It was a little bit of a different game.
They are going to be factors in the game plan. There’s a place for them. I couldn’t tell you when or where. How the game unfolds really will tell. They’re in the rotation.
Q: (Former Notre Dame quarterback) Frank Tripucka passed away today. I know that you’re pretty busy with your team, but did you ever have a chance to meet with him or interact with him?
BK: I met him a couple of times at different events. Obviously, Id didn’t know of his status, but I got a chance to when I came to Notre Dame, and learned a lot more about him. I knew about (former Notre Dame basketball star) Kelly Tripucka. I didn’t get the connection until I worked here at Notre Dame, and then I thought Kelly Tripucka, and then found out about Frank, being the legend that he was. Obviously a sad time for the Notre Dame football family. He was just a great man and will be missed.
Q: It sounds like (Purdue tight end) Gabe Holmes could be injured for Purdue. Would that affect their game?
BK: Purdue has always had really good tight ends. Their depth there is pretty good. I’m sure they’ll have a next man in. We saw a slew of tight ends played in the last couple of weeks.
Q: What vibe are you getting from your guys? Last night during interviews it was a little bit different. It’s not the same confident group. I don’t want to say confused, but maybe it’s just because they haven’t been on the end of a loss like that in a long time.
BK: I think it’s like any other team. You’re still wanting to get back out there and win some football games. Confidence comes from making plays. We got to make more plays. I wouldn’t say it’s a group that’s not confident. They believe they’re going to win. It’s like anything else. When you lose football games and believe that you should win them, you’re looking for answers to those. The only way to get them is to go back out on the field. We’re all in the same place, and that is work hard during the week and go back out and perform. That’s what they know. They’ve got to go out and perform.
Q: Sometimes it has to be nice to get back out on the field on Monday. This week was it nice to have a few days?
BK: They knew this week was going to be one where they had to really focus and pay attention to the little things. It was pretty clear that they needed to get back out there and really focus on their craft and they did. My expectations are they’ll play better football on Saturday.
Q: Was it nice to have the Blackhawks around to kind of break things up yesterday?
BK: I think anytime you’re around a champion it brings out a lot of energy. They were at practice. John McDonough, the president and CEO, got a chance to speak to the team. Obviously great ties and connection with Stan Bowman, the GM, being a Notre Dame grad. Being around (Blackhawks coach) Joel Quenneville. They’re champions. They’re winners. We like to have winners around us. So it was great to have them at practice.
Q: Even as Bruins fan?
BK: Even as Bruins fan. I enjoy being around winners, and those guys are winners.
Q: Brian, obviously winning the game gives you some measure of improvement, but what are you specifically looking for? How will you measure improvement on Saturday? Is it fundamentals??
BK: Yeah. I think the way you play the game. I want a smarter team and a more-disciplined team. I didn’t think we were smart in certain areas and as disciplined as I would like. I need all 22 guys to play the game the right way, all the time. There were times where we didn’t, as a group, so I’ll be looking for that. We’re demanding that from them. Those are the things that got us here and those are the things that will get us back to winning football games consistently.
Q: Along those lines, smart and disciplined and details the things you mentioned going back to Saturday, was the tone and tempo in practice this week noticeably different than it was in the previous couple weeks??
BK: Well I think we didn’t leave anything up to our players. As coaches, it was incumbent upon us that we demanded all those things. Sometimes when you’re winning, you kind of let the players keep moving in the right direction. You’re still winning. You kind of let things go. You chalk it up to that’s the personality of this team.
The coaches took over this week. We made sure that we did the things that we need to do. I’m sure that the players understand that that’s the way that practice has to go and they embraced that. We didn’t take it over in a sense that when we got here we had to show them how to practice, show them how to play the games the right way. We’re not doing that. It was just a little bit where we had to insert our personalities a little bit, and I think that’s good. That’s healthy. It’s enjoyable when you go out there and stop the play and run it again. Let’s get this right. We made sure we did that this week.
Q: With all the different option you have at running back, and especially with the progress of (junior running back) Amir (Carlisle), what kind of scenario do you envision where the freshmen might be able to play?
BK: It’s hard to say. I want to win games. You guys know me well enough that if we have to run the ball to win, we’ll run the ball. If we have to throw it--Each game is a different opportunity. Those guys are talented players. If we need to use those guys, we’ll use them. If the circumstances allow us to use multiple backs, we have no hesitation in using them. Each and every week is a different team and a different defensive scheme, the way teams want to attack us. We have to obviously figure it out as we go. We have a plan. All of them are scripted into the plan. We go into the game and figure out how the game is going and decide how we want it to go. Had a hot quarterback the other night in Devin Gardner who was making a lot of plays and they were scoring points. It didn’t lend itself to playing four or five running backs. Hopefully this week it does.
Q: Is the main thing holding them back the learning curve of the college game?
BK: No. No, they’re not being held back. The game itself and the way the game is played will determine how many running backs you can get in the game. I’m not just going to shuffle four or five guys in there if we’re in a game where I want to do a specific thing offensively. It really depends on how the game unfolds. I have confidence in all those guys. If you’ve got (freshman Tarean) Folston in, then Carlisle and (junior George) Atkinson are not in. We’ve got to balance it off and decide how we’re playing the game offensively. It’s not easy. I have no problem playing my freshmen running backs. We just have to find the right opportunities and when they need to be in the game.
Q: Any concern with (senior quarterback) Tommy Rees and his knee?
BK: No. It was just a bone bruise. There was nothing in terms of cartilage or ligament or strains. It was nothing. It was just a bone bruise. He was fine all week. He looked good. We’re probably going to try and run him 15 or 20 times.
Q: (Senior receiver) TJ (Jones) looking good?
BK: Yeah, he practiced all week. He looked good. I think it was just TJ that actually was on our injury report. He was the only guy.
Q: Did (sophomore running back Will) Mahone dress last week?
BK: Will did yes. Will’s back in. He took reps this week. He’s playing more the receiver-slot position more than the hybrid, slot-running back position. He’s back in trying to get reps. I told him today, it’s competitive. You can’t make a mistake in practice. If you don’t know what to do on one play, you’re going to find yourself behind, because there’s just so much depth out there. And we like them all. I don’t know how to play them all right now. If you guys send me some email on how to do that. Just send them to (the sports information director) and I’ll be happy to get right back to you this millennium.