TRANSCRIPT: Brian Kelly Pre-New Mexico Press Conference
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media today at a press conference. He touched on the aspects that the team is working to improve upon after the game against Louisville; injury updates for Cole Kmet, Michael Young, Jafar Armstrong and Jahmir Smith; what he expects from New Mexico and more.
Below is a transcript from the press conference.
BRIAN KELLY: "We'll begin by offering our speedy recovery to Coach Davie. Certainly we will miss him here, but certainly, he has bigger things, and that is his health. Again, we're pulling for him and hoping for a speedy recovery. It seems like he's moving in that direction, and we hope for him to be back on the sidelines quickly.
"New Mexico, for us, when you have a week off, you look at certainly this early in the season, at yourself and what you need to do to continue to build on your football team. We spent the last week in working on ourselves in terms of things necessary to continue to build our football team. It was a good week.
"I think if you ask our players, they were challenged this week physically and mentally, and as we go into our preparation for new Mexico, which we got a little bit of work on New Mexico last week, it is about living up to a standard. A standard we have set here at Notre Dame and then playing to that standard against New Mexico.
"Certainly, with an interim coach in Saga Tuitele is now going to be charged with bringing his football team here, they will be excited about the opportunity to play against us. They have got some talented players on the offensive side of the ball, three quarterbacks that we have to prepare for, and all of them are extremely capable.
"I really like the wide receiver corps, they have a transition going on defense with a lot of new faces that we're trying to on film watch in one game, a new defensive coordinator, so there is a lot of things that we have to manage there. More importantly, it is about what we do and how we do it. So that's been the focus for us relative to the standard of play that we have to live up to.
"We're excited about playing at home. It has been a while, obviously, but again for our football team certainly excited to be back at home.
"With that, we'll open it up to questions."
Question: Coach, you had some scans and x-rays and MRIs for some of your players last week. Let's start with Cole Kmet, how did that turn out? What's his prognosis?
KELLY: "Really good. He was involved in practice last week, 7-on 7-drills, some teamwork. We'll make a decision at what level we want to engage him this week, but his x-rays looked really good, significant growth relative to his injury. That's going to be a day-to-day situation as to how we see how far we want to accelerate him. He's been cleared to do quite a bit of the football-related work within the practice."
Question: And when you say that, is there a scenario that would have him on the field Saturday against New Mexico?
KELLY: "Yeah. Is he healed to the point that he could be, yes. That will be a decision that we make within the program as to whether we choose to do that."
Question: If and when he comes back, does Tommy Tremble provide you enough of a different kind of tight end that he would still have a pretty significant role with you?
KELLY: "Oh, yeah. Tommy has shown that his ability to catch the football and stretch the field vertically allows us now with our tight ends and certainly Brock is still part of that, we're high on Brock's ability to block inline. He graded out well to that.
"You add Cole to that, we feel we have great depth at that position. And then some different traits they bring. Tommy still brings that vertical threat, Cole brings both of those things, and then Brock is certainly extremely gifted in those areas. So three tight ends makes us a really deep team at that position."
Question: I know you were optimistic about Jafar maybe not being serious, it sounds like it is, how long will you be without him, and do you feel like four guys are enough to take his role in his absence and so forth?
KELLY: "He's a good player. Certainly we'll be without him for a few weeks. That's an injury that, again I think requires some time, but to put an exact time on it, it's hard to say. Julian Okwara did not have surgery but had some similarities in terms of the injury. He was out about four weeks.
"Again, I'm not going to put an exact timetable on it, but he's a very good player that gives us great versatility, we're very confident in the backs that we have that we can continue to have that same versatility.
"We moved Avery Davis back over to the offensive side of the ball to give us another complement to that piece. Avery again can catch the football for us has the ability to do those things that Jafar did. He gives us another piece at that position that we think can fill in nicely."
Question: Specifically, what did the injury turn out to be? With as it a sports hernia?
KELLY: "It was a rectus abdominis injury. He tore the rectus abdominis. So that was reattached. Dr. Folstein did it locally. He's been outstanding in the work that he's done for us, and we feel very confident that the recovery will be full and we'll get him back as quickly as possible."
Question: Shaun Crawford played a lot of snaps for you. How did he come out of that physically, and what is your evaluation of how he played for you at Louisville?
KELLY: "Physically he came out outstanding. I think mentally is where he feels really good. He did a lot of really good things for us at corner and at safety. Moving forward, he continues to, obviously get back to where he was after a year of fighting through the injuries. So an important piece to what we're doing in the back end of our defense."
Question: You mentioned the practice last week, I'm getting a sense that probably physical, I don't know if you went full contact. What do you sort of want to get out of ramping up the physicality for that week of practice?
KELLY: "Well, I think everybody had their opinions of the game and wrote their stories. We had our opinions of the things that we needed to do better. We also need to do it fast and needed to do aggressive work as well.
"I didn't want to go a full week without contact and tackling. We tackled. We scrimmaged. We didn't have a 50-play scrimmage, we got some live tackling in there with our ones, our key backups. We worked on special situations that I didn't think that we were quite up to snuff in, and really spent a lot of time on those in particular. You could probably all figure out which those situations were, and then added some New Mexico into that as well.
"And they were long practices, they were two practices. It was a physically demanding and mentally demanding week for our team."
Question: Maybe you sort of answered that there, but the style of practices last week, is it a reaction to Louisville or more you have this bye week in week 2?
KELLY: "Well, I think there's first of all, you know if putting together a practice plan, with a bye week too, it is important to maintain a level of conditioning that you have set yourself up for at the beginning of the season. And to back off, you won't have your football team playing its best football.
"So we needed to have a similar week as if it was a normal game, and then on Saturday, we scrimmaged. We didn't have a full-game scrimmage, but we needed to stay in the groove relative to the way we set up our preseason and the way we set up our preseason camp. That, plus we needed to clean up some things from the Louisville game, and third, it gave us an opportunity to do a little bit of advance work on New Mexico."
Question: How much of that work went to Jahmir Smith? What did you make of his first series action?
KELLY: "Solid. I mean, there's a lot of growth there, but he's a solid player. I mean, I think the one thing that he does well for us is he's got vision and he's got patience. Two things that are very difficult to teach. Everybody seems to have an opinion about vision and patience, other than the guy that has to do it.
"So I think that's a trait that he has that we can build on.
"The other things are protection and catching the football, the backfield, that will come. But we have complementary pieces that can pick up for him in those areas. He showed patience and great vision, and those are things that we can build off of."
Question: When you're talking about sort of playing to your standard, so much of this sounds like it could have been a Tuesday press conference before Ball state last year and the preparation right after the game, we were like we didn't prepare very well or not as much as well as we should. Is that an easy reminder for the guys this week? Do you spend time on that?
KELLY: "I was referring to myself. I didn't prepare our team very well. I thought our team prepared the way I laid it out to them. I learned from that. It didn't happen this [past] week and it won't happen this week, so."
Question: Coach, Notre Dame has won 11-straight games at Notre Dame Stadium. Just how much of a home-field advantage do you feel like your team has?
KELLY: "Well, it's always great playing at home. I mean, sleeping in your own bed, we have got a great routine, the home-field advantage is real with our fans. It has gotten better and better in my time here in terms of, you know, just the support that we have s our students are great at the games, a part of it. Certainly the video graphics, the jumbotron, just all of those things add to the gameday experience that we're feeling.
"At the end of the day, you have to play exciting football and you've got to play good football to get everybody enthusiastic. So it is our job to put a great product on the field, one that's exciting, one that people want to see and our players recognize that. It's important for them to play well at home. They talk about we talk about protecting our house and quite frankly, it is part of the things we do in our summer work that they want to be in our stadium and they want to play their very best in front of the crowd."
Question: I know everyone's talking about the Georgia game in two weeks, how do you not overlook New Mexico this week and really focus on this week and not get ahead to next week?
KELLY: "Again, we play to our standards, we talk about day-to-day, and that's how we've done it here at Notre Dame. So we have so many big games on our schedule, if that's the way we operated here we wouldn't be able to win games. So it is just business as usual for us. The most important day for us will be how we handle ourselves today and our preparation. We just stay one day at a time."
Question: How has Chase Claypool really progressed on and off the field these last four years?
KELLY: "How? Well, in many facets. Our program's mission here is to develop you intellectually, spiritually, socially. He's just developed as a young man would in our program. I think the mark of a strong program is that you're better at the end of your career than at the start of your career. Chase is tapping into that. A lot of hard work on his part, a lot of dedication, commitment from him. He's sacrificed a lot to be where he is today."
Question: And a lot of the talk about the defensive line has been about the defensive ends, what's Kurt Hinish bringing to the defensive line?
KELLY: "Energy, hard-nosed, physical. I think of all the terms that you would when you're talking about guys that play in the trenches, if you will. He brings that. He's also brought consistent play for us. Him, Myron, have been a good tandem for us inside. We'll be calling on some of our younger players to step up and play more significant roles, Jacob Lacey, obviously Ja'Mion Franklin. I think you will see [Howard] Cross this weekend.
"They can't do it themselves, but Kirk has been really good, Myron is really good. There's a lot of guys that they're going to have to play in there and continue to contribute."
Question: Coach, after the Louisville game, Ian Book was fairly dissatisfied after he played after watching, I'm curious how you felt he played in the open opener and how has he responded this last week?
KELLY: "I think it is like anything else. In an opener you have a standard of play, and he didn't reach the standard that he had set for himself. I think there are some things that he would have liked to have done better. And most of them were technical things, and he went back to work on them this week to be technically more sound.
"Ian Book is incredibly committed, hard-working, and you can see that come out of him this week and his focus was really on being much more technically sound.
"Sometimes our guys want it so bad that they get caught up with outcomes over the process, you know, a lot of our veterans, you know, got caught up in a little bit too much of wanting to make plays instead of being much more focused on their technique. Consequently, got them into some trouble. They did a great job this past off week getting focus back on their technique, and I'm confident you'll see that this weekend."
Question: A lot of coaches feel like they make some of the biggest improvement between the first and second games. I don't know if you subscribe to that or not. Where do you feel is maybe the area or two where you need to improve the most from game one to game two?
KELLY: "I think it is what I just alluded to, we got a little bit outside of ourselves and put a little bit of... we got to win every game we play instead of worrying about every play we play. That really is the focus of our football team and getting back to what's most important, and that is 6 seconds, trusting our technique, and really that being the focus, not I got to make plays, I've got to do these things that are going to help us win. Don't worry about winning. Focus much more on how you can be the best player you can be through your technique, and trusting it, and I think you'll see that this week."
Question: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had a strong offseason. I think we thought he could be a stable part of the linebacker group. How did your anticipation for how he would play match up to the way he performed against Louisville?
KELLY: "Well, I think it is unmistakable when you watch him, he's an extremely active player. Physical, has all the tools, first-time starter. So you can imagine, there's going to be a lot of things that we need to dial in and fine-tune.
"Love his energy, love his enthusiasm, and I love that he plays for us.
"Now we have to fine-tune some things. He also plays on the edge of our defense, which requires, you know, a heavy dose of responsibility to that. You know, he's going to be a guy that continues to flash, continues to impact what we're doing defensively, but he's still growing and he's still learning and there's going to be some days where there's a learning curve there for him.
"Boy, he's an exciting player to watch. His ceiling is really, really high."
Question: Last Monday, after the Louisville game, you said something to the effect that you expected to see more from some of the veterans in that game. How did those players react, did you sense some accountability from the veterans last week in practice?
KELLY: "Yeah. I'll go back to what I have said, and I have said to them, they care so much, and they're so committed to what we want to accomplish that sometimes it gets in the way of their performance and that performance is focusing on their technique, focusing on the little details of their position. They just, again, want it so bad. There's nothing wrong with that.
"They just have to emotionally get it centered into the right position so they can focus on the little details of their position. They will. They all did a nice job this past week of really refocusing and focusing on the most important things. I think you'll see a big difference in those guys."
Question: When you have the early open day, like you had, you have discussed the process and the teaching, does that help when you have an opening game film and then you're able to immediately go to the practice field and teach and correct without going straight into prep?
KELLY: "Yes. Yeah. I mean, it is a bit unusual in terms of the way things are structured for the first couple of weeks where you're not really in a routine. Again, I think it affords you great teaching opportunities and it allows you to put together a practice schedule that really drills down on the things that you need to improve on. It is kind of a give/take. You don't get the routine that you normally have, but you do, in fact, get to really have focused and detailed work on the things that you didn't get done that you would have liked to have gotten done in the first Dame game."
Question: When you look at your linebacker rotation, what are the areas that you specifically would like to achieve more consistency in and what are the pluses that you have seen?
KELLY: "I think situationally, I think it played out pretty good. I thought Jack Lamb did a really good job in his time in third-down situations, I thought the rotation with Simon and Asmar looked really good. I think Drew White had a nice first game starting for us. I think you'll probably see, you know, Bo Bauer had a nice couple of weeks here where he's probably earned some playing time.
"I think it is coming together for us. You know, it's starting to kind of settle into a more consistent pattern of what we want from those guys. We're feeling like we're going to get the job done the way it needs to be done at the highest level."
Question: I know Coach Lee talked about having a 2 and 2, a hockey line rotation there at linebacker. You have almost like 3 and 3 competing there. Does that make it a little bit more difficult to get into those type of rotations?
KELLY: "Yeah. You know, I don't know that I haven't talked to Clark specifically. Clark is a big hockey guy. I think he's got his hockey mentality.
"Clearly we have more than two guys that can play there. So he has to figure out time, down and distance, and who are the guys that need to be matched up together as well. That's a big consideration. I don't know that there's a clean kind of over the boards rotation did you notice that for him. He's trying to get to that. I think you'll continue to see you know more than two guys going in and out of the game, and then situationally. I think it is a pretty fluid situation.
"I can tell you this, that we're pleased with the first week's work. There's more work to be done there at a higher level of play that we think we can get. But so far, so good."
Question: To be clear, Avery Davis, is that a permanent move back to running back or will he cross-train?
KELLY: "He is right now just running on the offensive side of the ball.
"Avery is a great teammate. If I was Avery, I would be sick of the head coach too. He just wants to get on the field. We're in a need situation. He wasn't getting a lot of time defensively, so he was anxious about the opportunity and excited about the opportunity of coming on the offensive side of the ball and seeing what he could do to help us."
Question: Regarding the need situation, is Jahmir Smith healthy?
KELLY: "Jahmir has a sprained toe, but we'll see how he goes this week. He's going to practice this week. We'll see what he's like this week."
Question: Was it from the scrimmage?
KELLY: "Yes. Avery is not a complementary piece for Jahmir. He's a complementary piece for Jafar."
Question: Coach, with that said at running back, do you expect to see a lot more of Kyren Williams as well?
KELLY: "I think everybody is called on, you know, to play a role for us. So Kyren, C’Bo, we'll see what Jahmir can give us this week, and then certainly Avery as well."
Question: And then you talk about the veterans wanting it so much. Does this unusual bye week actually is that tough for them? Because would it have been better for them to kind of get right back out there to be able to put all that past them or has it helped in some way? Do you think that kind of has made them even more anxious?
KELLY: "I'm not really sure. I think in some ways it was a good way for them to kind of step back a little bit and really kind of assess where they are and what they needed to do to elevate their play. I didn't ask him, ‘hey, was this good for you?’ I kind of just went back to work and said you be a player, I'll be the coach this week."
Question: With all obviously Jafar and Jahmir and uncertainty there, who important is Tony Jones on a week like this for the offense?
KELLY: "Tony has been really important to us. I really liked the way he scrimmaged on Saturday. He was physical, he was assignment correct. You know, he's really I think if I was to make which I'm going to a public comment on Tony Jones' play, it is that he is comfortably fitting who he is. He's not trying to be somebody else. He's Tony Jones. He's assignment correct. He's physical at the point of attack. He's doing his job, and he's being Tony Jones, and I kind of like that."
Question: Did you come out of the Louisville game and then this past week with the physical practices saying this player or these guys need to play a little bit more than they did against Louisville?
KELLY: "I don't know that that was necessarily at the top of my list, Tim, as much as we need to really focus much more on our technique and some situations then any particular player needs to play more.
"As we kind of drilled down during the week, some guys kind of continued to practice at a higher level and scrimmaged at a higher level where we all said they will play more against New Mexico. I don't know that we came out of the Louisville game saying that this guy needs to get more snaps."
Question: Michael Young update?
KELLY: "Good healing. He's about a week behind Cole.
"We're at that point where you're looking at I don't want to get too technical here but you're looking for problems like non-healing and we don't have that with him which is a good sign.