BlueAndGold - TRANSCRIPT: Brian Kelly Post-New Mexico Teleconference
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TRANSCRIPT: Brian Kelly Post-New Mexico Teleconference

Freshman safety Kyle Hamilton returning his first career interception for a touchdown.
Freshman safety Kyle Hamilton returning his first career interception for a touchdown.

The day after a 66-14 win over New Mexico, Brian Kelly addressed the media in his weekly Sunday teleconference. He touched on the play of wide receiver Javon McKinley, what the team needs to do to prepare for Georgia, how this Notre Dame team compares to two years ago and more.

Transcript:

On Javon McKinley...

Kelly: "Well, he's a really good blocker. He made a couple of really good blocks. He's physical, one of the stronger guys that we have. In terms of what Coach Balis would talk about in the weight room, he's at the top of all the categories. So you know, you get a physical presence, a guy that can go up and get the football. "So he brings all of those intangibles: big physical presence out there that can come down and block a safety. He's earned his opportunity to get significant playing time. So he helps in the running game. He helps in, obviously, the one-on-one matchups and he'll be a significant part of what we do moving forward."

On if he thought the game vs. Georgia two years ago would be a good chance to prove the program had bounced back after a 4-8 season in 2016 and would do well for the rest of 2017...

Kelly: "I don't know that we were thinking about anything but putting our football team in a position to be successful for that season, and it was early in the year. We were certainly feeling as though we had done the things necessary to get our program back to where it needed to be. But we weren't thinking to the future about anything else, but taking it one week at a time and all the little things necessary for us to get back to the pride and tradition of Notre Dame football."So again, looking into where it's taken us is where certainly I'm sure if we were to take the moment to think about it, that's where we would want it to be. But at that moment we were just thinking about, that week, that game and that's about it."

On having so many players score their first career touchdowns yesterday and what that means going forward...

Kelly: "Yeah, it was kind of what I talked about yesterday is that there's a lot of young players that are wanting their opportunity, and we've told them you're going to get your chance here. And when we call your number, you've got to step up and make a play. And we saw a lot of young guys doing it and some older guys. Chase Claypool had an incredible day.

"Javon McKinley, who's been with us a while, had a great day. So we know that we've got some guys that can make plays, and now after this game, it allows us now to kind of put the pieces together as to how we want this offense to continue to move forward, knowing that we've got guys that have the confidence to go out there and make plays."

On what they need to do to prepare for Georgia...

Kelly: "Well, we can't give up big-play runs. Obviously we've got to be better there, certainly. Play the ball in the air better. But we did a lot of good things, eight TFLs, three takeaways, but can't give up the big-play runs. And then offensively, more efficient on third down. Those are the probably the two big takeaways right now."

On freshman Kyle Hamilton's performance...

Kelly: "Yeah, he's done a really nice job for us, especially in the passing situations. He's a presence for us on the back end of the defense. He's tall, rangy. He's got really good instincts, sees things and reacts really quick and he's around the football. He just has a nose for the ball, so he's a big impact as a true freshman, which doesn't happen very often. I'm really excited to see him continue to progress."

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On recruiting Kyle Hamilton and other top players from Georgia and various areas throughout the country...

Kelly: "Well, we've got to battle all over the country, whether it's against Georgia or USC, on the west coast, or Penn State and Pittsburgh, down in Florida against Miami or Florida. It's the nature of it, that we have to go into geographical areas and take the very best players against the top programs in that area. And we have to be able to talk about our distinctions, and there, there's a lot of battles that we don't win, but we do win some of them. We were fortunate to this won this one."

On freshman punter Jay Bramblett...

Kelly: "Yeah. He's really handled himself very well. I think one of the areas where he's come in, probably ahead of the curve, is pinning the opponent down inside the 10-yard line. He's got an art there that not many kickers as freshmen have the ability to really put some spin on the football and back it up. He's done a really good job for us in that regard. But he's handled all the duties, whether it's getting the ball off quickly, rugby kicking, handling the PAT, field goal duties.

"He's been a great asset as a true freshman to come in and after losing a great player in Tyler Newsome, who was a steady influence in the kicking game. Jay's been outstanding for us."

On recruiting Bramblett...

Kelly: "Yeah, he's a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, so yeah, anytime you can, anytime you can pull somebody out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, you feel really good about that one, as well. But I guess they didn't have a scholarship for him and whatever happened. We were fortunate to win that one, as well."

On how the current Notre Dame team is different than the one Georgia faced two years ago in South Bend...

Kelly: "Yeah, I think the quarterback position is a little different. Obviously, with Brandon Wimbush, we had much more of a running quarterback, though, he certainly played well that night. I think you're, you're looking at an offense that has a little bit more diversity, in terms of what it can do with the tight end position and wide receivers. I just think a little bit more diversity from an offensive standpoint.

"Some similarities on the offensive line. We had some really good offensive lineman, but I think we've got some good offensive linemen this year, but I'd probably say the style is similar. Quarterback is a little bit different and a little bit more diversity in terms of playmakers."

On playing on a national stage every weekend...

Kelly: "Yeah, it's a lot of the reasons why they want to come to Notre Dame. It's like being on Broadway. It's a Broadway show. You're on stage every game you play. It's on national TV. They know that all their games are broadcast either on NBC or CBS or NBC, excuse me, ESPN or ABC. So they know they're on that spotlight and they choose to come to Notre Dame because they want that. They relish that opportunity.

"So obviously in this game, being on national television, it's why they come to Notre Dame and they really enjoy it. So they don't see it as pressure. They see it as a privilege and they really enjoy it."

On his perception of Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm after seeing him against Notre Dame two years ago...

Kelly: "I thought he played with great poise. I thought he was extremely efficient. He took care of the football. I think all the things that you get a glimpse at somebody when they're a freshman and when they exhibit those kinds of traits, you know you're going to have somebody that's going to be a special player. And so it's obviously, put it in that sense, he's come along to being that kind of special player.

"So I kinda got a glimpse of that the first night we saw him when he played with such poise, such confidence. He wasn't afraid of the moment. He stepped up big. So it doesn't surprise me that he's playing at the level he is playing at."

On how Kelly has been able to stabilize the program...

Kelly: "Well I think a couple of things. I think continuity with staff I think is important. I think the recruiting process has absolutely been something that we've been able to rely on. For me, more than anything else, is being consistent on a day-to-day basis with what our mission is, and that is to graduate our players and to play for a national championship. And so our guys know exactly what they're doing on a day-to-day basis. And I think that's really led to the consistency of the program over the past four years."

On injuries to running back Jahmir Smith, tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Michael Young...

Kelly: "The only one that won't be ready to play is Michael Young. He'll be a week behind. We're hopeful that the other young men that you mentioned would be ready to play. We'll get more information on Cole tomorrow. But we're very encouraged that we're going to see the things that we need to see for him to be cleared to play. Jahmir was walking around today, and we'll get him moving, running on Monday. So we're moving in the right direction there. So we're hopeful there.

"Michael would be the only one. He's about a week away. He will be involved in all of our activities this week, but we won't clear him until the following week."

On why it was important for Notre Dame to schedule a team like Georgia...

Kelly: "We were looking for an SEC opponent, one that we felt like shared at least some commonality. We liked the fact that we were going to be in that area, in the state of Georgia recruiting. We liked that piece of it. Again, we have a lot of alumni in that area, so I think that that was a draw for us as well. So it's not only the school itself, but there are some geographical concerns that we look at in terms of putting the schedule together as well. And I think that that's what made this an easy decision for us."

On how the players feel about playing at Georgia...

Kelly: "Oh, they're excited. I mean, they knew that they had to take care of business with New Mexico and that they had to play better from when they played against Louisville. I think they did that. They showed the kind of improvement necessary in week one to week two with a bye-week there. But make no mistake about it, they understand the caliber of play that is going to be needed against Georgia. They're excited about the challenge that's in front of them.

"And I don't think that they can underestimate the fact that this is a game that they've been excited for and they know it. It's been on the schedule and one that they've been waiting for. So, they're ready to go."

On the players having an extra bounce in their step...

"Oh yeah. Certainly. When you have Georgia, the No. 3 ranked team in the country, I think it's national television. It's game day. All the eyes are on you. That's why you play these games. So the guys are pretty excited about it."

On how Michael Young's injury has impacted Chris Finke's role in the passing game...

Kelly: "Well, we've moved them around a little bit. He's had to play some X receiver, a little bit. He's had to be a mentor for a lot of young players. So it has impacted him a little bit in terms of moving him around a little bit. I think that's where he's had to do a little bit more than just his normal slot receiver. He's had to get out on the perimeter and do some different things and block, so little bit more pressure on him, but he's handled it well and he's really helped us with some of the young players and bringing them along."

On Finke having trouble matching up at the X-receiver position...

Kelly: "In some instances it is, but I think we've been really good at moving people around now because we've got Javon McKinley who's emerged where we can put Chase out there, and he certainly loves having Chase next to him because he picks up a lot of the dirty work for him. So, what really has helped is the emergence of Javon McKinley because now you can flip Chase back out there, and it gives us great flexibility now with the group of receivers."

On what it's going to take to do better against the run...

Kelly: "There were two runs that we just didn't like the overall team defensive support. It just wasn't one guy. We gave up two big runs. Against Louisville, it was just poor execution and some option things and zone read. We cleaned that up. I think our guys did a much better job of executing the plan. I think what we were disappointed with was just some poor defensive structure where the ball got outside the defense. That can't happen against anybody. Can't happen Georgia because, obviously, those plays are going for touchdowns.

"That's attention to detail stuff that you know you can't have against anybody. So I think our guys will learn from it and know that each and every play against a team like Georgia, if you're not on it, all 11 players playing together, playing great run defense, a guy likes Swift is going to take it to the end zone. So I think we will have their attention this week."

On playing in the atmosphere next week that comes with a top-10 matchup...

Kelly: "I think certainly the guys are excited about playing a national brand in Georgia and we know how good the program is, and they come to Notre Dame wanting to play in these kinds of games, so they're going to be excited, but they've played in a lot of these games. So they're going to love the environment. They look at it as a privilege to play in these kinds of games and have great respect for Georgia. But they want to play in these games. They look forward to this. So I know that they're excited about the opportunity and can't wait to get down there."

On how the current Georgia team compares to the team that played at Notre Dame Stadium two years ago...

Kelly: "Oh, it's structurally very similar defensively. Offensively, I think it has a lot of the similar tenants — great running game, big physical offensive line. There's a lot of similarities structurally. Big players at the running back position, so a lot of similarities. Probably a little bit bigger physically on defense. I thought that they weren't quite the same size. They were extremely athletic couple of years ago and they are just a little bit bigger upfront this year. But just an outstanding football team in all areas."

On Georgia's size on the offensive and defensive lines...

Kelly: "Yeah, I'd say so. But both sides and the defensive line is a bigger defensive line than they've had — than the one that we played a few years ago. So certainly the offensive line and the defensive line, those are the two things that are a little bit different from what we saw a couple of years ago."

On if he thinks the shovel passes to Chris Finke and Avery Davis are extensions of the running game...

Kelly: "Yeah, I mean, effectively we needed to get the ball outside. It was very difficult to run the ball inside. So the ball needed to get out on the perimeters. You could see it was pretty easy once the ball got on the perimeter. Those turned into big plays. So, they were an extension of our running play with misdirection. So whatever way they go into the passing category, they were opportunities for us to get the ball outside. And that's what we needed to do the way this defense was structured."

On Braden Lenzy...

Kelly: "We were pleased with the Braden. I think the things that we liked about him the most were the scripted plays. We wanted a deep post. He went up and got it. We wanted to get a handoff reverse to him. He did a great job finding his way through some traffic and picking up a first down for us. And then we wanted to get a quick, perimeter throw to him and I scored a touchdown. So he graded out, obviously, very well. He's going to be a guy that now we can really get involved in our offense. He's got great confidence in his ability to be able to do that."

On backup quarterbacks Phil Jurkovec and Brendon Clark...

Kelly: "I think both quarterbacks played very well. I think there's a couple of things with Phil that we've got to continue to work on, and some of his zone reads. But he threw the ball well, did some really nice things, showed a good presence and then Brendon Clark does a really good job in all phases and we were really pleased with the way both those guys came in and, and really had a great demeanor and presence while they were in the game."

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Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable

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