TRANSCRIPT: Irish Head Coach Brian Kelly Talks USC At Weekly Teleconference
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly spoke during his weekly teleconference the day after a 30-27 win over USC. He touched on running back Jafar Armstrong, quarterback Ian Book, why he was on the field during the onside kick and more.
On the impact Kelly had on the development of Special Teams Coordinator Brian Polian:
Kelly: "I think everything is an evolution to being part of the program. This is Brian's last year was his first year in the program, and I just think he was settling into what I wanted him doing within the program. I think there was a bit of a transition last year, and I think he feels comfortable with now the direction that I wanted to see the special team group go.
"I just think it was that natural evolution of coming into the program and becoming a lot more comfortable over the last couple of years here. Obviously we spend a lot of time together and we've had a number of conversations in terms of the way I wanted to see that group come together and he's done a great job with that."
On if running back Jafar Armstrong was able to get enough work in practice to have a role last night:
Kelly: "He did. He got quite a bit of work. We wanted to be very specific in terms of what he was going to do for us and the way the game kind of unfolded, it never really materialized. We thought that we would get him involved in more of the passing game, but because of the way they played us, we didn't get those kinds of opportunities.
"It was just the structure of the way USC played us more than any issues relative to his preparedness. He was prepared to play kind of what we had talked about earlier, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 plays. But the way, again, they defended us didn't allow him to get as many opportunities as we had thought."
On Kelly being on the field of the onside kick at the end of the game:
Kelly: "Oh, you're talking about me? I was trying to get a timeout, and I couldn't get their attention. We were trying to get Lawrence Keys to move up, and so generally speaking, if you're on the field, they're going to throw a flag or give you the timeout and they didn't do either. So the play went on and subsequently ended up the way it did."
On if Kelly would have fallen on the ball had it been kicked to him:
Kelly: "We teach our guys if it's clean, you could advance it and score. If not, you should fall on it. So I would always take my own advice."
On how tight end Brock Wright handled on the onside kick:
Kelly: "Absolutely. And that's why he's there. He's a guy that makes good decisions. He's the lead on our punt team, so he's in a very trusted position. So clearly we did that for a reason."
On how the maturity the team is handling itself with:
Kelly: "I just think it's a mature team in the way that they handle themselves. They know that they have to work. They know that they have to do the little things the right way, embrace some of the difficulties of preparing whether it be the weight room or the extra film time, practicing for two hours and putting in the time. I just think that they handle it with a mindset that we're embracing this and it's part of what you have to do to be successful.
"And then on game day, they flip that practice mentality to a competitive mindset. They just love to compete and they don't get ahead of themselves. They stay one play at a time and stay pretty locked in. I think that's what we've seen in terms of how they've competed all year so far."
On Ian Book's performance against USC:
Kelly: "The quarterback is always going to be scrutinized to a level that is fair, unfair — you can always do that. He led our football team to a victory against USC, we put 30 points on the board, didn't turn the football over and he used his legs to really spur us on late in the game. If you really want to talk about what you want from your quarterback is you want him to be a guy that helps you win games and he is helping us win games.
"Can he be better in certain areas? Absolutely. And I think he would tell you that. But he's making good decisions. He's taking care of the football. He's using all of his assets to his ability, meaning running and throwing and he's working on the things he needs to work at it each and every week. So I'm proud of what he's doing."
On if they thought about going away from a three-man front in the second half:
Kelly: "No, not really. We stuck with our game plan. We probably would like a couple of calls back here or there. We probably could have used... It's great to second guess after you watch the film, but the plan was excellent. I think talking to Clark, we would like to make a call here or there differently. We missed fit a couple of ways here and there, but no, there was no, 'Hey, we're going to scrap this.'
"We had a plan, we stuck with the plan. It was the right plan. We needed to coach it a little better and execute it a little bit better in the second half, other than the last touchdown, which we were really, playing the numbers there in terms of keeping it in front of us and giving up yardage to take time off the clock. Other than that, it was, the second half we needed to execute a little bit better."
On how he prepared to use Jafar Armstrong during the week:
Kelly: "Getting him some opportunities that he's closer to where we need him to be involved in the offense a little bit more. Getting Lawrence Keys back, getting Joe Wilkins back, getting these guys involved more offensively. From a defensive standpoint, we continue to work in pass coverage situations.
"I think those are the little things that we'll look at. We'll do some self-scouting here over the next 24 hours and look at some things and then clean those up over the next couple of days. It was a late night, so we're trying to get with our players today and clean up the USC game. Then we'll start to kind of answer your question and do some self-study."
On given how well Donte Vaughn played against USC, will he still be able to redshirt with Shaun Crawford coming back:
Kelly: "It's a really good question, and I'm not trying to avoid the answer, but it's still one that is being discussed here in the building because it's not an easy answer right now for us because you saw what I saw. But we want to be able to do what's right for the program and for the young man, too.
"I don't have an answer for you yet, but the question is fair. I just don't have an answer for you at this time."
On if the Jafar Armstrong injury allowed him to learn more about the other running backs:
Kelly: "It definitely gave us a better glimpse at where they are right now and where, quite frankly, they can be. Over the course of time when we saw Jahmir Smith run really hard, really physically. He did a really good job in pass protection. You've seen C'bo in different situations. Avery has been a guy that has filled in on passing situations for us. So it definitely gave us a glimpse at the other pieces that will continue to really play roles for us as the season evolves."
On the running back position group as a whole:
Kelly: "I think Jahmir is a physical runner. He has got a little bit of an explosive step to him. But a big back, similar to Tony. C'bo we saw, he's got some elusiveness to him, hard to bring down, and then obviously, what we've seen from Avery Davis is a guy that can be very effective as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. That's really where it is now until we get Jafar, which he's a little bit of all those things when you put them all together. He's got some explosiveness, he's got some size, he's got the ability to catch the football.
"So Jafar has been that guy that has a little bit of all those together, but obviously the injury has put him in a position where we haven't been able to see that and hopefully moving forward we will."
On what has surprised him about his team the most so far this season:
Kelly: "Just the way we've had to win each game. It's been a little bit different. Each week has required our team to find different ways to win. This week was a team that was very difficult to defend in the passing game. Georgia was a team that obviously beat us, but we had to defend a great running game. Virginia, they had a quarterback that we had to contain. So it just seems like each week it's been a different challenge for us and finding different ways to win.
"So I just liked the fact that our guys, regardless of what the situation is, can adapt and adjust during the game, late in the game, to whatever the situation is and find ways to win games. That's a mark... Really, at the end of the day, what you're looking for is a team that believes and knows how to win, regardless of the circumstances finds ways to win games."
On the Notre Dame offensive line against USC and how they've grown since Louisville:
Kelly: "Well in terms of how they graded out, I think what we saw, which we really liked was, inside physically Kraemer, Bank's doing a really good job on their two big guys inside. Those two have been very difficult with offensive lines. So the physicality and the size of Banks and Kraemer really paid off for us and we were able to get some combinations going because they were able to hold their point. I thought the tackles were okay. We were able to reach sometimes. We were able to pull sometimes. We missed some.
"I would say that a lot of the really good things that we were able to do started inside out with the guards and the center. The tackles did a really good job in pass protection. That would be kind of the overview. Where we want to go I think is consistency. We'll cut a guy loose here or there. We'll make a poor decision here or there. I think consistency and performance for four quarters is the next thing for this group."
On if this team has met his expectations this season:
Kelly: "I wasn't really sure what we had. I knew we had a group that really enjoyed being around each other, but that doesn't necessarily translate into success. But they stick together. They work hard. They're going to do exactly what you ask them to do. They have a high care factor is the way that I would talk about the 2019 [team]. This group cares a lot about each other and cares about what they do as a unit: offense, defense, special teams.
"When you have that group, they're not perfect. There's plenty of imperfections, but they don't look at it that way. They look at it as 'we're just going to plow through it and we're going to keep working hard, and we're going to do it all the entire game. At the end of the day, we'll look up and I think it's going to work out for us.' That's kind of how they've set themselves up during this year."