Notre Dame Assistants On Offense: They Said It
Here were some top comments from each of Notre Dame’s five assistant coaches on offense this week:
Offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Chip Long
On needing to stay healthy after collarbone breaks to starters Cole Kmet at tight and receiver Michael Young:
“You can get pretty young pretty quickly in a matter of a week here, especially in one-on-one periods. We don't really get injured playing football. We do when we get into one-on-one for whatever crazy reason….
“We have three captains on the offensive side of the ball, but the one guy here every single day is Jafar Armstrong. So I tell him, 'you don't need a ‘C’ on your chest to be a captain. You keep doing what you're doing.' ...Playing well is leadership to me.”
On what helped get sophomore No. 2 quarterback Phil Jurkovec “right” this August:
“I think Phil got himself right. He's out there just so much more confident throwing the ball. That's not an issue. Now we can really work on what it takes to play quarterback here and the nuances. He's a different guy than he was in the spring, and that just comes with growing, having bad days and keep working.
“But now it's just really helped elevate his game where I'm comfortable if he has to come in there and take over a game — which was probably my No. 1 priority going into fall camp — …he's put himself in position to help his team win when he's called upon. “
Quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees
On the next step for Ian Book:
“I think the biggest change for Ian is you go from being the kid that probably wasn’t supposed to play and then you come in and play so well that everyone loves you — to now you’re the guy, and your expectation level is through the roof. So how are you that steady guy every day, how do you continue to make big plays, how do you continue to get better?
“For me the advancement for him was we needed to push the ball down the field and be more consistent there. The next step for him is to try to get through progressions without trying to get out of the pocket all the time. You don’t want to take that game away from him, but you also want him to see, ‘hey, if you get through mentally quicker, there are some good things happening where we can get the ball to.' He’s improved in those areas.
“I think he’s learned what it’s like to be a returning starter here and what the expectation level is and what his commitment level needs to be. He handles himself extremely well in all (aspects) of what’s expected of him. He’s done some things with our wideouts and running backs and tight ends in meeting with them separate and being a leader that way, which has really helped him and those guys all be on the same page.”
Running backs coach Lance Taylor
On freshman Kyren Williams possibly helping in a niche role as a receiver while power runners Jafar Armstrong, Tony Jones Jr. and Jahmir Smith take most of the snaps:
“Kyren is very conscientious. Football is important to him. He’s constantly asking the right questions, he wants to be good at it and he works at it. Everything I say he writes down on the field. You’ll tell him once and he makes the correction. He’s not what I call a repeat offender … It helped him being here as an early enrollee. I think that put him miles ahead of the game in terms of where he is right now as opposed to where he would have been if he just started.
“I found with him the bigger the moment the more he rises to the occasion. You want guys to practice like they’re going to play on Saturday, and that’s the way that he practices. Every time we’ve gone into a scrimmage type of situation, good on good, we’ve asked him to do something in a scrimmage situation where, ‘hey, you’re going to be highlighted on this play,’ he’s stepped up and made a play.
“His background as a receiver early on in high school, I really believe that time helped him. He really has a natural feel as a pass catcher.”
Receivers coach Del Alexander
On what has enabled sophomore Lawrence Keys III (5-10, 173) to be the ‘next man in’ among more than a half-dozen other candidates, after Young’s injury.
“Last year at fall camp he was the one that got the playbook first. He was the one that came to camp and studied during the summer and took some of the information and applied it right away. Because of where he was physically, we needed to develop him a little bit there. He got hurt, and then he hit a wall. So I saw pretty early that he was a person that could handle what we're doing mentally. It was just physically bringing him along.
“He hasn't been in the games yet, but in terms of what we've thrown at him and what we've seen, he's able to play fast, he's able to run and understand the concepts, he's able to compete against the seniors and the older guys, and he's able to make plays. So those combination of things have really made us feel great about him.”
Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn
On placing importance on the run game with four returning starters along the line:
“The most important thing is that our guys are blocking the plays that are called — regardless whether it's a run play or a pass play or screen play. Those are the three components of our offense.
“That's a priority for all of us to be able to move people off the ball, especially not only in the first quarter, second quarter, but how you establish that run game and the mentality in the third and fourth quarter so you can finish games off in those four-minute segments of the game. You have to rely on your ability to move people with eight or nine-man boxes trying to stop the run. We feel strongly we have the ability to do that."