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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE


November 23, 2014


Brian Kelly


Q.  I was wondering if you had any injury updates on Jarron Jones or Cody Riggs.
BRIAN KELLY:¬† We got an X‑ray on Cody Riggs.¬† No real change.¬† He probably picked out a little bit of the healing in that stress reaction that he has.¬† We've got him in a walking boot, and we think that if we limit his exposure that hopefully we can get him back on track to giving us the same kind of practice and same kind of contribution this weekend.
Jones, he has his MRI right now, so we'll see.  He's got a sprain.  We think it's a Lisfranc sprain, and we'll just have to see what kind of separation there is in that Lisfranc to determine what his status will be.  So we'll get a little bit better read on his situation within the next couple hours.

Q.  Is it too early to tell whether Cage or Day might be ready for USC?
BRIAN KELLY:  Cage, we're hopeful.  We moved him around today.  He looked good.  We're expecting to practice him on Tuesday, so my best guess here would be that Cage would be available.  Day, we won't know on his status until he gets rechecked on Monday.

Q.  A bit of a maybe simple question but not a simple answer.  What's your process, what's Notre Dame's process for determining a holder on special teams?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† You know, generally speaking, it's somebody that's in that special teams battery.¬† It's been here‑‑ it's been for me, it's usually been either the other kicker, if you have a backup kicker.¬† It's been the punter.¬† I've had quarterbacks, backup quarterbacks.¬† It really just depends on the situation, but generally somebody that handles the ball quite frequently or is in that battery that is building a relationship and a confidence with them on a day‑to‑day basis, and I think that's pretty standard across the board.
You know, when you're looking in the NFL, limited rosters put it on the punter.  He's got to do it, regardless of the situation.  That's generally how that works.
We started the process with the backup long snapper because he was part of that battery, and we felt in assessing the situation that he was the one that had the best hands.  Because Kyle was going to be doing all the duties, we weren't going to burn up a red shirt on our punter Newsome to be the holder, so that's how we started in that process.

Q.  Now that you've had a day to kind of review the film, what do you think you got out of Jay Hayes yesterday?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† We got great energy, we got toughness, and we got a guy that played hard every snap.¬† You know, he obviously needs more work and technique and understanding the defense, but we've got a guy that played really hard, played physical, and never was over‑matched out there.¬† A lot of positive things.

Q.  Did you get him the number of snaps that you wanted and you felt like he needed to get yesterday?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Yeah, he got close to 36‑‑ I think he had 36 snaps, so that was what we were hoping for.

Q.¬† I know you kind of touched on this Thursday, but just what did he show you in the weeks of practice leading up to this‑‑ to allow you to make this decision?
BRIAN KELLY:  He was difficult to block.  You know, every week our guys had a hard time blocking him.  He's got toughness, he's got a great attitude, a very aggressive kid, and physically has been getting stronger all year in the weight room.  The weight training has really helped.  We just liked his demeanor, his toughness, plays real physical football, and that's why we were hoping that he could impact, and he helped out a lot.

Q.¬† I guess lastly, you're 3‑1 against USC in your career here.¬† Just what does beating USC, even in a season where you have four losses, what does that sort of do for the overall outlook of how this season turns out?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Well, I just think it's‑‑ obviously it's USC and it's a rivalry game for us.¬† It's a huge rivalry game.¬† Great tradition in the match‑up.¬† But we just need to find a win, and I think finishing the season with a victory is all we're really focused on.
You know, again, great rivalry, great tradition, great history, but I think in a sense that this week is even more about just finding a way to get a win for these guys.  They've played with such great effort.  I feel for these guys.  They gave everything they had, and they've got three losses now by a total of 10 points, so really the focus is just trying to find a way to get a win.

Q.  Obviously fewer turnovers yesterday.  Do you feel like the team overall played better than it had been in recent weeks?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, I mean, they played with great effort.  We would have liked to have made a play here or there and blocked a little bit better, tackled a little bit better, but we got everything out of these guys.  Like I said to them after, I mean, we asked them to control two things, and that was their effort and to play with a great attitude, and they certainly did that.
You know, we've got a lot of inexperienced guys that are trying to get the job done the best they can, and I'm really proud of what they did.  They played a lot cleaner.  You know, we obviously had one interception, but we could have done a better job coaching Everett on that play, too.
Yeah, I would say that we played cleaner, but what I really was proud of is their effort and their attitude.

Q.¬† Seeing the way the season has unfolded, do you think this team overachieved in going 6‑0?
BRIAN KELLY:  No.  I mean, look, we're 10 points from being three more wins, right?  Florida State we lose in overtime and then we miss a field goal here to go to overtime.  Very easily this team could be in a totally different position.  That's college football.  You know, they're very close.  We needed to make a play here or there, a kick here or there, and it's a totally different look on it.  But it doesn't change the fact that the effort that these kids have been giving has been outstanding with the loss of five players and a ton of freshmen having to play.  I'm proud of what they are doing for me, and that is playing with great effort.

Q.  When a team is struggling, does facing a rival help just in the psyche?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Oh, they're going to‑‑ they're excited to play USC, but I think they're just‑‑ they want to win a football game, so I think if it was Alabama A & T, they'd be excited just with the opportunity to get a win.¬† That's really important to them is finishing with a win.¬† It's sweeter because it's USC, too.¬† Playing that last game against USC is going to be memorable for all these guys, but I think that they'll carry the most is to try to get a win in their last game.¬† That's the most important thing.

Q.  Just to follow up on Jay Hayes, has he been impressive since the beginning of the year, but it was just a matter of Day and Utupo taking up a large portion of the reps?
BRIAN KELLY:  I've been impressed with him all year.  I thought he showed the things necessary for us, but we wanted to obviously not play him if we did not have to, and we just got so depleted that it almost became a necessity, and then obviously losing Jarron Jones on the first play of the game made it look like we knew something.
We're glad we activated him.  We had to activate him.  We didn't want to, but he's ready to play, and he contributed nicely for us on Saturday.

Q.  And I take it that he got a bunch of work against the first offensive line along the way?
BRIAN KELLY:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah, he got a ton of work.  He was very, very good in giving us the kind of looks.  He played fast, he played physical, he wasn't a favorite over there, I'll tell you what.  There were a number of times that there was some pushing and shoving on the offensive line because he went hard all the time.
That's why I knew he was going to be a guy that could come in and help us right away.

Q.  And what about Jonathan Bonner?  Is he in that category or near that level of play that Hayes has showed you?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† No, he's not.¬† He's learning.¬† He's not as‑‑ he's going to be.¬† He has some unique physical traits that are really extraordinary.¬† He can do some things that some of our other guys can't do, but he's still in the learning process of understanding how to play the game.¬† Jay has a natural understanding of how to play the game.

Q.  And in terms of Day, Hayes and Bonner, are those all three techniques, or do they have some position flexibility?
BRIAN KELLY:  Jay has got some flexibility.  Jay can play some five technique.  There's no question that he's got probably some flexibility.  Bonner has got some flexibility, as well.  Those two.  Cage does not.  Did you say Cage?

Q.¬† No, I'm looking at Day‑‑
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Oh, Day.¬† Yes, all three of those guys‑‑ absolutely, all three of those guys have some flexibility.

Q.  Would Bonner be a nose tackle candidate?
BRIAN KELLY:  No.  No.  He's got some really quick feet and some acceleration.  I mean, he's a guy that could really impact us in some nickel situations inside as a pass rusher, a bigger guy.  But it's still a learning process.  He's putting on weight, he's developing, he's just, again, a little bit more behind in terms of understanding the position.

Q.  I saw Everett got hit a few times.  I wonder how his shoulder held up, how he's feeling today, and kind of his prognosis going into the week and how much you'll practice him.
BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, nothing with the shoulder.  He got stepped on.  On the injury report he was fine, no issues, got treatment for getting stepped on, but no treatment necessary for his shoulder.  Came out of that really well.

Q.  And how would you assess his overall play?
BRIAN KELLY:  I'm just finishing grading it right now.  We're grading some other things on defense.  You know, I think he did some really good things, and then there's some things that we want him to get better at.  I think it's probably a couple of throws that we would have liked to see him pick up a little bit sooner.  I think he's got to continue to work on keeping his eyes downfield.
But he did some really good things.  Missed a couple of throws here and there.  You know, I thought he probably threw a great ball at the end there that would have required a great catch by CJ, but it was the only place he could have put it.  He did some really good things.
He played well enough for us to win, let's put it that way.

Q.  Eventually how good do you think Everett could be?  Could he be a top five or ten quarterback in the country?  Could he be the best quarterback in the country?  Does he have that in him?
BRIAN KELLY:  I think there's got to be more growth there, absolutely.  There's a higher ceiling for him.  He has not been tapped out in the sense that it's as good as he can play.  I think there's a lot of room for development, and we hope that this experience that he got this year and going into USC and a bowl game that we continue to see that development.
In answering your question, yeah, I believe that he could be one of the top quarterbacks in the country, no question.

Q.¬† I'm curious how Brian VanGorder has‑‑ I don't know if dealt with is the right word, but maybe processed, playing with so much youth and so forth.¬† Is he frustrated?¬† Is he encouraged with what he sees?¬† What's kind of been his reaction to having to play with a depleted defense?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† I think as a competitor, we're all frustrated that we have to play with so many guys that have depleted in ranks, but I think if you had to use one word, he's very encouraged, and I'm very encouraged, as well, because we know what these guys‑‑ I looked out there, at one time we're playing against a lot of seniors and juniors for Louisville, and I've got five freshmen and four sophomores out there, and they're battling their butts off.
I don't think you can go away from it any other way but being very encouraged.

Q.  And in terms of when you say we're real young, is it physical maturity?  Is it mental maturity?  Is it both?  And then how quickly can you really effect change there when you're playing every week?
BRIAN KELLY:  Oh, I think the thing that's really made this encouraging is that playing freshmen that physically can hang in there and hold their own with veteran players.  That obviously is the most encouraging.
Where we have to grow is in the football intelligence department, and we've got to make time for it.¬† As you know, there's a lot of rigors for these guys, and a lot of work that has to go into the classroom, and we've got to carve out more time in the off‑season for these guys to continue to learn football and understand the game.¬† That's going to be the next point of development for especially our defensive players and some players on offense, is understanding the game, and that development has to take place in the off‑season.

Q.  Is it a foregone conclusion that Greer would start against USC at middle linebacker?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, I mean, I'd want to talk to Brian about it, but I would probably say right now I think you would probably be safe with that assumption.

Q.  And then with Nyles, I know that we focus a lot on what he's not doing right.  He has had 20 tackles the past two weeks.  Is he outrunning some of his mistakes?  Do you still see promise in this guy that he could help you a lot next year?
BRIAN KELLY:  Oh, he's going to be a terrific player.  He just shouldn't be on the field right now.  Yeah, I mean, we had one play that we repped all week and we ran up the back of Justin Utupo.  It's just things like that.  We're running cover two and he's got to close the middle of the field and he knows; he doesn't get deep enough.  He's a great kid, we love him.  He'll learn, because the kid does everything we ask him to do.  He's going to get an opportunity to be a complete player.  It's just going to take a little bit more time.

Q.  I know last night you felt like you wanted to kind of watch the film before you kind of figured out what happened on the missed kick.  Did Kyle have some thoughts on that?  Do you have some thoughts on what exactly happened with that?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, I do.  I think we needed a little bit better hold, and we needed a little bit better kick.  I don't think it's all on the holder, and I don't think it's all on the kicker.  I think it was a combination of both.

Q.  I'm working on a story on James Onwualu, and I've got a couple questions on him.  First of all, can you talk about how you think he's made the transition this year from wide receiver to linebacker for you guys?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Well, it's probably one of the most astounding transitions.¬† You don't normally‑‑ you can probably go across the country, tell me the last time somebody has gone from wide receiver to linebacker.¬† That probably is the start of your story.
And then he's ascending right now.  In other words, he's getting better as a football player.  He's starting to learn the position, understand how to play the position.  He's a tough kid.  He plays hard.  We really like the direction that he's going in.

Q.¬† A lot of the story is going to focus, also, on the pipeline from St.Paul's Cretin‑Derham high school to Notre Dame, obviously Michael Floyd and Ryan Harris and a couple of other guys have done that.¬† What has been your thoughts on that pipeline over the years?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Well, just obviously Cretin‑Derham's academic mission parallels to what we're doing here at Notre Dame, so they're so well prepared academically when we recruit a young man there, and obviously they've done a great job in their football program.¬† There's so many parallels.¬† They're a profile school, if you will, for us in terms of recruiting.

Q.  Certainly been a boon for you with those guys I mentioned, Michael Floyd, Ryan Harris coming before James, right?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yes, sir.

Q.¬† I know some things get lost when teams are not winning games, but you've had some young kids really emerge over the last few weeks.¬† Will Fuller and Tarean Folston have been really producing a lot for you guys.¬† Can you talk about how they've played the last few weeks and Will's development into becoming more of a complete receiver as opposed to just a big‑play guy?
BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, starting with Will, he's a factor in every game we've played.  Louisville had probably two of the better corners in the country, and he ran by them at will.  They certainly were aware of Will coming into the game.
Yeah, he has obviously put himself in a position to be considered one of Notre Dame's finest receivers.  I mean, and he's done it in very short order.  Obviously he didn't play very much at all last year, and he's made a statement this year.
I think what it is is the mental toughness, the ability to make the tough catches, and he's only going to get better.  I think when you're looking at Tarean Folston, what I'm most impressed with is that when we challenged him as a complete running back, he took that challenge and he stepped up.  As you saw, he was in the game late, and he did an outstanding job in pass protection, and that was the piece that was missing for him.  He did a great job.  And then tough yard running.  He's just, again, a guy that's developed as a sophomore to the point where he's put himself in a position to get the primetime carries and be in the game late.

Q.  And then also, Coach, on Everett, I know it's been obviously a tough year with turnovers and things like that.  He came into the season, in high school he had over 100 more touchdowns than he did interceptions.  He hasn't failed a lot.  Is a season like this where he's learning maybe I can't do some of those things, has this maybe helped build a foundation for next year if he handles it right?  Is that a way he can maybe tap into that ultimate ceiling you talked about with him moving forward?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Oh, there's no question that this is really his first full year of seeing everything.¬† Again, you've got to go back to his first year where it was really‑‑ we controlled a lot of the looks, we controlled a lot of the situations.¬† Now he's seeing everything, and he's only going to be a better quarterback because of everything that he's gone through this year.¬† And again, like I said, yeah, he's probably turned it over more than he's wanted or I've wanted, but he's going to have over 30 touchdown passes and 3,500 yards and throw it somewhere in the 60 percent completion range.¬† That's a pretty good year for a quarterback.¬† I think he's going to be able to build off of that.

Q.  This is another young kid that's been developing over the course of the year.  Can you talk about where Steve Elmer is right now compared to where he was and what he needs to do to move forward and reach his potential as a player?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Well, he was‑‑ of all of our guys out there, he was probably the most physical run blocker for us.¬† He was the one guy that was able to make a dent and move guys up front, so his physical presence is really in the run game apparent.¬† Where he has to grow is in pass protection, moving his feet, getting himself in better body position.¬† I think if he does that, he can be a really, really good football player.

Q.  On Everett a little bit, as he's gone through adversity that he didn't really go through in high school and certainly different set of encyclopedias than 2012, have you had to find different buttons to push with him?  Do you feel like you have a handle how he bounces back from adversity and the best way to coach him in those instances?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Yes and no.¬† I think every time is a little bit different.¬† I know for the most part that we have a pretty good feel that we can't‑‑ I don't want to press him on everything, but there are big things that he has to continue to work on that I'll press him on.¬† But it's like any other relationship, you're continuing to work on the communication skills of how we can be more effective working together and communicating with each other, and we'll continue to work on that in the off‑season and through the spring and summer.
But I think we've got a pretty good feel for each other.  Where the hot buttons are, what things you can do and what things you can't do.  I think we've got a pretty good space with that right now.

Q.  You like to coach kids a certain way and he probably has a preference for how he likes to be coached.  Or are those always the same?
BRIAN KELLY:  Are they always the same in terms of how I coach kids?

Q.  Yeah, how you coach kids and how he likes to be coached.  Do those always sync up?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† I'll coach kids‑‑ for the most part, I'm going to tell you how I feel regardless of whether you like it or not.¬† That's not going to change.¬† But I can do it with the quarterback position a little bit different because it's generally the one that's most scrutinized, so you've got to be a little bit more careful with the quarterback position.

Q.  With Austin, he talked a little bit about how he can't wrap up exactly how he'd like to, the shoulder.  With the youth everywhere else on your defense, are you basically forced into playing him even if he's not even close to 100 percent just because you need some kind of veteran presence on that side of the ball?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† Yeah, I don't want to bring his play into the spotlight per se, but you know, he helps us because he can get us lined up back there, but he clearly isn't 100 percent, either.¬† We would like to have the two young guys back there, Shumate‑‑ well, not the young guy, but at least Max back there, but we haven't been consistent enough.¬† That's forced Austin into the game, and he's not 100 percent.¬† He's giving us everything he has, though.

Q.  And I guess with Max and Elijah, did they show you much in practice last week, or are you still looking for them to have a response based on the last couple weeks?
BRIAN KELLY:  We haven't given up on them, let's put it that way.  We still believe in them.  But they've got to continue to show more consistency in practice.

Q.  The past couple of games you've had nine red zone opportunities, didn't come out with a score in three of them and had touchdowns in four.  I'm sure you'd like the percentage to be much better than that.  Any one thing you can pinpoint as to where there have been lapses there?
BRIAN KELLY:¬† No.¬† I'd have to probably go back and look at them individually.¬† Obviously some missed field goals in those situations play a part in it.¬† But I'd have to go back and look at each one of them individually to really give you a feel for if there's a match‑up that we missed or a protection or we should have ran it or thrown it in a particular situation.¬† So it's really hard for me to give you a great answer other than we take a lot of time and effort to break down that area of the field and think we come away with the plan that's going to allow us to score touchdowns in that area.¬† But it's still about execution, and I think if you look at it just the last couple of weeks, we've had turnovers in that area, so I think turnovers have something to do with it, as well.

Q.  Just going back to the safeties for a second, I mean, do you feel at times almost that it might be a case that the scheme might be too complex for them?  Remember when Jaylon Smith came in, you had indicated that if he can't get on the field, we have to reassess as to what we're doing that makes it too hard for him to get on the field.  Do you feel the same way about the safety position?
BRIAN KELLY:  No, I don't think so, but it's a dramatic shift from where we were last year to this year in terms of the scheme that we're playing.  And so we're never going to put it all on the players.  It's part coaching, as well.  You're right in the premise of your question in that we've got to get the best players on the field, but they also have to be the most productive players, so it's also about production while they're on the field.  Max and Elijah are not on the field not just because there's mental mistakes, but there's production lapses, as well.  So it's a little bit of both in that sense.  In other words, it's not just simply the scheme, it's also about production, and we've got to keep an eye on both of those things.

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