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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 4, 2015
COACH KELLY:¬† Exciting day around here in our building.¬† I want to begin by thanking some people that had a lot to do with putting this recruiting class together.
I want to begin with our director of player personnel, Dave Peloquin.¬† There's so many pieces that have to come together, in what is now really a two‑year process in the recruiting cycle.¬† I know that a lot of this is kind of brought down to a few months but it's really a two‑year process.
Whether it's admissions or on‑campus recruiting or a junior day, it's a long process, and Dave has done a great job in putting this together.¬† He's responsible for us having a number of highly ranked classes and competitive football team here, so I want to thank Dave.
In our recruiting office, Megan Witt, Luke Pitchard, those two guys, that young lady and gentleman, have both worked hard at making sure that the marketing end has allowed the attention of NotreDame football, our story, to get out to the recruits.
It's very important that they support our staff in being able‑‑ the recruits hear about NotreDame and they have supported our coaches on the road.¬† Luke does a great job with our graphics, in particular and Megan, the organization, on a day to day within the recruiting office, they have done a great job.
Tony Alford, our recruiting coordinator, is tireless in his work going from coast to coast and the work that Tony puts in, we wouldn't be here where we are.
And certainly my nine assistant coaches.¬† At NotreDame, we go coast to coast in the recruiting efforts, and as you know, we don't fly direct into South Bend very often.¬† So there are many times that they are taking connecting flights throughout the country, delayed, cancelled, and they have it probably as difficult as any coaching staff in the country.¬† They are away from their families quite a bit, but they make it work.
So thank yous to those very, very important people in this recruiting process.
Also our players.¬† Our players are instrumental in the recruitment process.¬† Relationships are built on official visits.¬† They are cultivated during those official visits, and in some instances, players make decisions because they connect with the players that you have on your team.¬† And I think sometimes we mistake the fact that sometimes those decisions are not just about one particular thing, and they are put over the top because of a relationship that's been built with a player or two that's on your roster.
So I want to thank all of our current players that are on our roster, as well.¬† They do a great job.
You know, our admissions process, at times, I would like our admissions to admit whoever I want.¬† That's not going to happen here at NotreDame.
But I will tell you this:¬† They are there every weekend.¬† Every time we bring a player up, our admissions office, Bob Mundy, Don Bishop, they are there to meet with every one of our players, student athletes that we bring on campus, giving us an opportunity to bring in the best and the brightest here.¬† And they are fair and they give us an opportunity to compete from coast to coast, and I want to thank them.
And Jack Swarbrick, our athletic director.¬† Jack, he's hands on.¬† He's an athletic director that will take time out of his busy schedule to meet with any of the recruits that we have here.
So this is a team effort.¬† This is truly all of the pieces together, coming together on this one day.¬† And finally, Jennifer Vining‑Smith, who is out there at 6:59 and 59 seconds waiting for that first fax to come in from our compliance office, since she is here every year.¬† And I think she certified every one of them; isn't that right, Jenn?¬† Is this a first?¬† It's close to being a first, okay.¬† Well, that's good to hear.¬† Thank you for your work, as well.
But again a team effort from everybody involved, and again, putting this class together requires all those pieces coming together.
So with that, we'll talk about the 2015 class.¬† And I think we'll start with the four mid‑year enrollees.
And I think, you know, the first thing that I would like to say about the mid‑year enrollees is that they have already begun classes and engaged in our workouts and the reports that we have gotten already back from our strength and conditioning team is that they have really meshed very well with our football team.
Tevon Coney from Palm Beach Gardens, physically looks like a guy that has been in our program for a couple years.¬† Very much has the physical traits necessary to compete early on.¬† He's dealing with the transition from being away from home for the first time very well, and matter of fact was very helpful in the process of recruiting Dexter Williams, another young man from Florida and kind of sharing his experience of making that transition and that move from Florida.¬† So Tevon is doing extremely well.¬† Athletic and somebody is that we think has a chance to compete right away.
Micah Dew‑Treadway from Bolingbrook, Illinois, defensive lineman that we think‑‑ you know, what really attracted us early on was his pass rush ability for his size.¬† Even though he projects as somebody that may play inside, he has the ability to pass rush even from an inside position and that's a unique quality for a guy 6‑5, 280 pounds.¬† And we really liked his feet and his ability to play upfield.¬† So an athletic, big body player on the inside for us.
Tristen Hoge, out of Pocatella, Idaho.¬† A young man we've been recruiting for some time.¬† What separates Tristen for us is a true center.¬† In other words, many times in this recruiting process on the offensive line, you're projecting and moving offensive linemen to centers, to the center position, especially in college, from high school to college.
Because in the college game, you're going a lot more of reading fronts, shotgun snapping, having to really take on much more of the identification of fronts, coverages, and it requires somebody that maybe didn't play that position in high school.
Well, Tristen's already done that.¬† He's already been coached to do that, and he's done it for his entire high school career.¬† So this is a unique player in the sense that he's already been groomed for this position at the offensive center position.¬† Shotgun snapped his entire high school career and really feel like we've got a guy that has got a great upside coming in at the center position.
Jerry Tillery out of Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana.¬† Here is a young man that early on in the process we looked at as an offensive line prospect, and certainly can play there.
But you know, as we have moved along in the process, and really started to drill down a little bit deeper, and talking to some people in particular, he's been coached by some very good coaches, in particular, Pete Jenkins, the legendary defensive line coach who has had a stellar career in the NFL and college most recently with USC.
He's coached Jerry and because of that, Jerry possesses some skill sets that most defensive tackles don't have, and that is the ability to use his hands.¬† And I think that what we saw when we got a chance to talk to more people about Jerry was a unique ability to take that size of 6‑6, he's actually 318 pounds now and use his hands and separate and run, that we could have a dominating defensive lineman.
So we decided to make the move and play him on the defensive line, and we think that we've got a potentially dominating defensive lineman.¬† And he'll get a chance with Jarron Jones out in the spring, he'll get a chance now to step right in there and get a great look this spring.
Those four guys are our mid‑year guys.¬† Really excited about them being on campus and we'll get a chance to get them into spring ball and get them active right away.
Running back, Josh Adams out of Central Bucks South High School, just had an unbelievable senior year after not playing in his junior year.¬† You know, what we loved about Josh, first of all, character, his unselfishness, humble, team approach.¬† Just all those things really stood out for us and then a guy that in a.
Lot of degrees has not even tapped what he can do at the position.¬† He has not played a lot of football, and at 6‑2, 210 pounds, we think he can be with the speed that he possesses, we think he can be whatever he wants to be.¬† We can't wait to develop him.¬† Great speed, great size, and has the ability with our weight training to be that kind of big, physical back that we are looking for.
Josh Barajas out of Andrean High School here in Merrillville, Indiana, we are really proud that we are able to find three players in the State of Indiana that fit the profile for NotreDame; and we believe that Indiana is playing great high school football and if they are here in Indiana, we are going to recruit them.
Josh is certainly that.¬† Very active athletic linebacker, a winner.¬† He's been part of I think four teams that have played in the state championship.¬† I think he's won three out of four of them.¬† Came up a little short this season but again, an extremely athletic player at his position.
So we were looking for a guy that could potentially play on the outside and run and give us length and size, and Josh certainly can do that for us.
Add that to another player from in‑state out of Ben Davis, state champion out of Indianapolis, Asmar Bilal.¬† Another long player at 6‑3, 210 pounds.¬† Actually in the State Championship Game he played free safety.¬† Just, again, another guy that we are excited about developing physically and watching him grow.¬† Range; and just a super young man, comes from a great family.
Miles Boykin out of Providence Catholic, another team that played for a state championship.¬† Loved Miles as a character, is outstanding, great family, but he's got great range, 6‑3, 220.¬† Can use his body extremely well.¬† Great catching radius.¬† Can go up with the football.¬† He can separate.
We just think that he gives you a great match‑up on the perimeter.¬† The ball needs to get outside a lot today with the quarterback situation.¬† Sometimes when you don't have that 6‑4 quarterback and you can't see those drives and digs, you've got to get the ball outside and he gives us a great target and we are looking forward to working with miles.
Nick Coleman out of Archbishop Alter, another team that played in Ohio for a state championship.¬† Nick played running back.¬† We see him as an inside and outside corner for us.¬† I think we have three of them that we recruited in Coleman and Crawford and Ashton White, all three of those guys can play both inside and outside for us.¬† Meaning they can play that nickel or that corner position on the outside.¬† And they will all compete for that in and out corner position, which is very vital to us in situational defense, and in particular, our sub‑packages.¬† We believe the three of those guys will compete for playing time early on.¬†
Nick is a very good athlete, basketball player, played running back.¬† I really like his skill set and again, will get a chance to compete on the defensive side of the ball.
Shaun Crawford as I mentioned, state champion at Lakewood High School.¬† Again, a dynamic player as a return man.¬† A dynamic player on offense, defense.
What really sold me on Shaun Crawford, he's a football player.¬† In particular, he was playing a number of snaps during a game this year on both sides of the ball, and it was late in the game, and they were up and he blocked an extra point.¬† And that just told me something about the way he plays.¬† He never takes a play off.¬† They were up big; they were playing somebody; he's playing both ways and special teams, and he comes off the edge and he blocks an extra point.¬† That's the kind of player he is.¬† That's the kind of effort that a guy like Shaun Crawford gives you.
Nicco Fertitta out of Bishop Gorman High School, Las Vegas.¬† What I love about Nicco is the toughness that he brings every single play, every single snap.¬† I was looking for somebody in this class to bring that kind of dominant competitor spirit to our defense, and Nicco brings that.
You know, he got a chance to play in the All‑Star Game and showed that he can play with anybody.¬† Again, what he brings to your locker room, what he brings to your playing field, is a toughness that you can't duplicate.
He's going to make an impact right away.¬† You'll see him on every special teams.¬† You'll see him with the energy that he brings, he's pretty infectious to a football team.¬† Look forward to coaching him this year.
Jalen Guyton out of Allen, Texas.¬† Again, Bishop Gorman won the state championship in Las Vegas, and Jalen Guyton won the state championship in Allen Texas.¬† You can see by just the last few players:¬† Barajas played for the state championship; Bilal won it; Boykin played for it; Coleman played for it; Crawford won it; Fertitta won it; Guyton.¬† These are all guys that have played for championships.¬† These are winners, and it's no coincidence in the recruiting process in who we are looking for.
Jalen had an incredible season in terms of numbers, off the charts.¬† He was the go‑to guy, playing at the highest competition in the State of Texas.¬† Just a break out year.¬† We see him as a versatile player that can play the X, the Z or the W.¬† We can move him around.
He's got that kind of versatility, and that's what Allen did to them, as well.¬† They moved him around.¬† In his senior year, he played mostly the W position.¬† But we love his versatility.¬† We love his ability to catch the football in traffic and his toughness, great size at 6‑1, 185 and he's got the frame to get stronger.
Aliz'e Jones out of Bishop Gorman, as well.¬† We think he's‑‑ in our evaluations, we've been recruiting him since his sophomore year.¬† We think he's the finest tight end in the country and we think that we've had some great tight ends here and we think he's going to be another one of the great tight ends that have played here at NotreDame.
That's not to put any pressure on Aliz'e.¬† That's why he came here.¬† He wants that.¬† He's looking for that challenge, and you know, he's a guy that certainly everybody is going to talk about his ability to catch but he understands the tight end position and knows that he's going to continue to get bigger and stronger and he'll stick his nose in there and he'll be an in‑line blocker if you need him.
But he will be a threat catching the football.¬† You will not be able to put a linebacker on him.¬† You're going to have to use a safety to cover Jones.
Trevor Ruhland out of Cary‑Grove, another state championship team.¬† What really we loved about Trevor is his toughness.¬† Two‑way player, never came off the field, and we were looking for an interior guy that really fit our style of play and somebody that was going to play every play and never takes a play off, goes to the echo of the whistle and maybe past the whistle.¬† We loved his toughness, loved the way he plays the game, the demeanor that he brings.
Just a tough, tough player and again, love the way he plays the game and the way he approaches it every day.
C.J. Sanders out of Sherman Oaks, California; NotreDame, an exciting player.¬† Slot receiver, can return punts and kickoffs, a guy that can certainly go the distance.¬† I think Will Fuller we saw him catch a lot of passes this year and turn some screens into touchdowns.¬† C.J. Sanders is a guy that can do that, as well and he can do that from the slot receiver position.
He's a guy that can open up the game for you with one missed tackle, because you won't be able to catch him.¬† Elite speed and as I said, a true slot receiver, one that we haven't had, really, since Robby Toma.¬† He's got really good instincts and a guy that we're looking forward to really developing.
Elijah Taylor out of Moeller High School, an inside player who at times was unblockable.¬† In that very good football in that Cincinnati area, talking to rival coaches, they said that when he was healthy, that he was not blockable.¬† You could not block him up front and we were looking for an inside guy, that he is so physically strong at this time as a senior in high school, we are bringing in a guy that not only is strong physically but his get‑off is outstanding.
Brandon Tiassum out of Park Tudor.¬† Again, here is a guy that for many, Park Tudor, you think about basketball; and Indianapolis, not many of them have come out of there to play football.
We were really intrigued with Brandon.¬† You know, 6‑4, maybe a touch taller, 296 to 300 pounds and really light on his feet.¬† We were just really impressed with his personality, the way he played the game, and his‑‑ he jumped in every drill that we had.¬† I mean, it didn't matter what drill we were running, he was involved in it.
We loved his want to, his desire and for a big guy at that size, we love the fact that we could develop this guy into being a really, really good football player.
So you know, Brandon showed us all the things that we were looking for when we had him up here in camp and really feel in love with him.
Bo Wallace out of John Curtis High School, another team that played for a state championship and our second player out of Louisiana.¬† You know, we were looking for a flat‑out pass rusher, and we found one in Bo Wallace.¬† He can come off the edge and pass rush.¬† He's going to have to put on some weight right now but we'll get him in here in June.
And Coach Longo and his staff will get to work with him.¬† We'll get him ready.¬† But he can get to the quarterback.¬† He can bend.¬† He can get to the edge and feel like we've got a guy that's going to be able to get off the quarterback in very short order.¬† Love his intensity and the way he comes to play every day.
Ashton White, as I mentioned earlier, out of Bishop McNamara High School‑‑ him and Nick and Shaun, all three of them, corners that can play inside and outside.¬† Toughness; love the way Ashton is a very confident player.¬† Plays with a lot of confidence, and believes that he's going to be the starter for us, and I love that kind of attitude.¬† Those are the kind of guys that we are looking for here at NotreDame.
But great skill set.¬† You know, we had him up here and got a chance to see him in our camp and we loved everything about him.
Dexter Williams out of Winter Garden, Florida, another outstanding back.¬† We were looking to get a second back in this class, and we felt like Dexter gave us that break away back that we wanted, and his second‑level speed.
But his quickness into the hole and then acceleration, one of the things that separated him from the other backs that we recruited; and we love his family, his mom and dad were extremely supportive of him leaving Florida and coming up here.¬† He knows that his experience at NotreDame is going to benefit him greatly, not only in the short term but in the long term.¬† So we look forward to having Dexter here and developing him as both a student and an athlete.
Mykelti Williams, again out of Indianapolis, Warren Central, another player here from Indianapolis.¬† Again, finding the players in Indiana, if they are here, we are going to find them.¬† That's our fourth player.¬† And to get this safety was key for us.
We think that we found a young man that has all the tools.¬† He's a guy that can play the ball off the hash.¬† He can run the alley.¬† He can play man‑to‑man.¬† He's smart.¬† He's got a high football IQ.¬† He loves to play the game.¬† And you know, checks all the boxes.¬† A good student, great character, couldn't be more pleased to have Mykelti with us, and a guy that's going to have a chance to compete right away.¬† He's got that kind of skill set.
Brandon Wimbush out of St. Peter's Prep.¬† There again, another team that won the state championship.¬† You know, Brandon has‑‑ as a quarterback you have to have a presence about him and he has an incredible presence and a leadership presence about him where he makes others around him better.¬† He lights up the room.¬† He's a thermometer guy.¬† The temperature in the room rises when he's in it because he has such a great presence about him.
He's got a great skill set.¬† I love his footwork.¬† What we liked early on when we watched him, it changed in his senior year.¬† He became more disciplined at everything he did.¬† His coaching staff did a great job of really working on his footwork.¬† He's got a strong arm. ¬†He's a great one runner he's a duel threat, he possesses all the tools to run the offense at its highest level, so just a special player.
Somebody that will impact us probably more than maybe any one player on this roster is Justin Yoon.¬† Justin out of Milton Academy is going to be our kicker and he'll come in and start right away.¬† We think he's the best kicker in the country.¬† We've got a chance to evaluate all the kickers that are out there.
The thing that stood out was his strength and accuracy.¬† He's a hockey player, as well, and gave up hockey to concentrate this year strictly on his kicking, and I think he proved himself pretty good in the All‑Star games this year.¬† But I think you'll see him as being one of the real stars in this class in terms of impacting right away.
And Equanimeous St. Brown out of Servite, Anaheim, California.¬† Again, what a great young man.¬† I think he committed on national television today and spoke to his mom in German and then thanked a lot of his friends in French.¬† Then I'll have to figure out what language to talk to him in.¬† But he's just a great kid and he's got great range, 6‑5.
So another very rangy wide receiver who can run.¬† He can get in and out of his break, another match‑up guy that I think you're going to have problems with now.¬† You've got Miles Boykin and Equanimeous with great size, and then a very dynamic player in C.J. Sanders, and then Jalen Guyton, probably one of the most productive receivers at the highest level.¬† So pretty talented wide receiving core to add to what we already have as a pretty talented wide receiving core, as well.
So that's the run down on the entire class.¬† Again, you can't put this class together without a great support staff and everybody pulling together to help you get it to this level.¬† We are really excited.
And there's some more work to be done.¬† There will be some more tweaking of this roster.¬† There's a little bit more work to be done at a couple of positions that we will work on post‑signing day.¬† We had to do that last year, as well and we will do that with this, so we are not done.¬† We've got a little bit more work to do.¬† We've got a couple of things in the works right now that are very promising that we will get done over the next two to three weeks that will strengthen our roster even more.
So with that, open it up to questions.
Q.¬† In the past, you've had kids that flipped to other schools, you guys flipped kids.¬† This year was unique for you.¬† You didn't lose anybody you were expecting, and you flipped five kids.¬† Was it the kids that you had in the class or a unique strategy you tried to employ this year, or a combination of both?¬† What was it?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, the class was very close.¬† You know, you could tell that, because they were all on a Twitter string together.¬† They were all talking back and forth.¬† So they had built a strong relationship together, so we knew early on that it was really going to be hard to lose any of these guys to NotreDame.
And then I think it became a situation where as we went along, one, some of our needs changed, so we've refocused on a particular position.¬† So when you talk about flipping, we changed our needs in a sense, and then I think we have re‑allocated into a particular position.
So I think the strength of the class was that they were really close early on and we had a number of guys that were committed through the summer months and into the fall season, and they really kind of communicated with each other and they stayed together.
And then as you talk about flipping, we kind of re‑valuated as we went on some other positions and offered, you know, a little bit later into the game on some other guys and that's how we kind of finished out the class.
Q.¬† In your five years here, you had Manti for all but one of his careers in college, and you have Jalen on his way to an outstanding career; Niles was a big recruit for you.¬† Where does Josh as far as projection and upside fit into that mix?
COACH KELLY:¬† Josh Barajas?
Q.¬† Yes, sir.
COACH KELLY:¬† I think he possesses a lot of the same physical traits:¬† Speed, the ability to arrive with a violent collision.¬† He's just a physical player and that size and power is a unique trait.¬† It's very similar to what you mentioned in Niles and Jalen.
And he's right‑‑ he's just 90 minutes away.¬† So he's got similar traits, similar qualities, and we're going to progress him just like we did with those two guys.¬† We'll see how much he can handle, and as much as he can handle is as much as we'll give him.
Q.¬† It didn't seem coming into this class that there was a need for the depth of pass catchers you brought in.¬† Was it a deal where you felt you needed more than maybe we on the outside did, or was it just you had so many talented kids wanting to come that you could not turn down guys with that ability?
COACH KELLY:¬† You know, when you look at your board and where it's at, you're always trying to look at how you run your practices and how we do things offensively.¬† And we are at the number; we are probably plus one in our numbers as the wide receiver board looks.
So, you know, we were at a point now where you look at the guys we have, we think we have a guy in there that's a specialist, too.¬† So we don't feel like we're heavy there as much as we have got one guy in there in particular that can do a lot of jobs for us.
Q.¬† You mentioned earlier how important the players that are already on the roster are to recruiting.¬† How has Greg Bryant's role changed where you can let him talk to kids about his experience here and how he's grown from it and how he helps bring kids in that maybe are from similar backgrounds?
COACH KELLY:¬† He's very important.¬† His real‑life experience here and how he can share it and articulate it, I think takes away a lot of the apprehension of some of our players from the south.¬† In particular, Florida.
So he's matched up with those guys that come up from Florida in particular and have come up from his geographical area.¬† As I mentioned earlier, our players are so crucial in this process.¬† We couldn't do it‑‑ if you brought players up and you didn't have hosts, I'll tell you what, it would be a whole different recruiting process.
So he's absolutely central to what we do in the recruiting process.
Q.¬† Just big picture this class with talent, you see the schedule with the playoffs on it.¬† Do you feel like this is a class that gets you closer to the teams that were in the playoffs last year?¬† Do you feel like it maintains where you are?¬† How do you see the overall talent as it impacts the big picture goals for the program?
COACH KELLY:¬† When we recruit, we don't recruit it through anybody else's lenses but our own, and so I don't know, I hear what they say, this is like what, the 15th‑rated or 18th‑rated class, or I don't know what they are saying about it.
But these are guys that we believe can help us win a championship and that's how we recruit in terms of looking at our guys.¬† And they are guys that fit here at NotreDame.
So that's the lens that we recruit through.¬† I feel like in the areas that we needed to address and building our program, we are doing that to win a National Championship.¬† So every step that we take in the recruiting process is to that end, is that we are taking Josh Adams, because he's going to help us win a National Championship.
We are taking Nick Coleman because he's going to help us win a National Championship, not because we're looking to do anything else.
We're at the point now where every player that we bring in now, is at that point where we're at that level of competing with anybody in the country and beating them with the players that we have.
Q.¬† I think this is the first time we've talked to you since Ronnie and Sheldon decided to come back.¬† Can you talk about that recruiting process and how critical that is to maintaining the off‑season trajectory and the program coming out of the Bowl game?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, for me, I think‑‑ you know, we had great success with keeping a number of our players over the past years, and going back to Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert and Manti and Zack Martin.
So I felt this year, you know, after a couple players leaving early, that I wasn't going to leave it up to a phone call; that I was going to go and visit both of them.¬† You know, I was accompanied with Jack Swarbrick, our athletic director.¬† Dave Peloquin in academic support.¬† So we really wanted to be aggressive and showing them and their families why it was in their best interests to come back to NotreDame.
So we were going to give it our best, because we felt it was in their best interests, and we weren't going to leave it up to one side of the story as to why they should leave.¬† So trajectory of the program wasn't really the primary reason for doing it.¬† It was more about what we felt was in their best interests.¬† If they weren't good locker room guys, if we felt like it was their best interests, I probably wouldn't have got on the plane to be quite honest with you.
But they are good guys that needed to get their degree from NotreDame, and that's why we did it.
Q.¬† Your coaching staff, could you update us on where you are with that, specifically Kerry Cooks?
COACH KELLY:¬† We got nine coaches today.¬† We got nine coaches today.¬† We're going to talk recruiting today.
So any changes that we have on the staff, we will definitely get you up‑to‑date on it, but I'm not going to get into today talking about coaches and who is coming, who's staying.¬† I'm staying‑‑ you guys happy?¬† Yeah, right.¬† Big round of applause.¬† I'll be here.
Q.¬† What you said earlier about doing some things beyond national signing day, are you speaking more preferred walk‑ons?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, we are not talking about preferred walk‑ons‑‑
Q.¬† Cody Riggs‑style transfer?
COACH KELLY:¬† You could look into those kind of situations, yeah.
Q.¬† And you're done with guys signing with you today?
COACH KELLY:¬† We are done with signees.
Q.¬† The safety position last year was in a lot of flux and you were looking at this last week.¬† Was that one of the positions that you mentioned that you kind of need to tweak a little bit?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, we've got some more work to do there.¬† We're not done.
Q.¬† Do you feel some position changes will be forthcoming there?
COACH KELLY:¬† I mean, we are going to look at the potential of moving some guys there, yes, that's definitely in the conversation.¬† But there will be some other conversations.¬† We're in the process of looking at some other options there, too.
Q.¬† Are you able to share some of the people you might be looking at for the safety position?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, because we've been on the road, quite frankly and we haven't gotten a chance to talk to those guys that we may want to consider some position changes with.¬† So in fairness to them, I don't want them to read about their position change before we talk to them first.
Q.¬† The Jerry Tillery move there, was that hastened a little bit by the fact that Ronnie Stanley did come back because maybe you would have been short on offensive tackle, or is it just a situation where he has to get a first down look on the defensive line?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, I was moving him regardless of the Ronnie Stanley.¬† That was a separate situation in itself.¬† I was convinced after talking to enough people about what he was able to do defensively, that I was going to look at him and give him an opportunity to play defense first.
Q.¬† Are you able to share anything as far as fifth‑year status and who would be returning there?
COACH KELLY:¬† You know, I've met with‑‑ here's what I can tell you.¬† It's an extremely fluid situation.¬† And I'm not trying to be coy with anybody.
You know this:¬† The fifth‑years have to be approved by our athletic faculty board.¬† They have got to be approved.¬† So for me to even stand in front you and say, this guy is in, this guy is in, this guy is in, I can't do that, anyway.
Here is what I would tell you.¬† We've got until‑‑ we really have until the first day of classes to get to 85.¬† And we're going to need every one of those days.
Q.¬† Are you able to update anything as far as injury status of any off‑season surgeries, and also specifically guys such as Nike Baratti, Jarrett Grace, Conor Hanratty‑‑
COACH KELLY:¬† So Jarrett Grace, vertical jumped 28 and a half yesterday, had a 4:4:6 short shuttle (ph).¬† So he's really close to being back to where he was, so we are really pleased there.
Nick Baratti is doing well.¬† He'll be cleared for spring, probably no contact in the spring, but he'll be cleared to go through everything but probably we won't let him contact.
Conor Hanratty will not participate.¬† And he's made the decision that he will not participate.¬† So he is not going to play football again.¬† So that's a decision that he has made and his family has made.
Q.¬† And then just injury‑wise, as far as who else might be listed out for the spring?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, you know, Drue Tranquill is coming back from ACL but he's so far ahead right now, I think he's at nine weeks and he's running on the‑‑ I think he hit 315 pounds on his back yesterday, full squatting at two and a half months.¬† So that's crazy.¬† So he's way ahead of schedule.¬† So he'll be doing some drill work in the spring.
Jarron gets his boot off on Monday.
Joe Schmidt has had his boot off now for probably about, oh, almost three or four weeks.¬† So he's starting to move through his rehab pretty good.
So it would be Jones and Schmidt are the two guys that are the most behind.
Q.¬† And just one thing I wanted to clear up a little bit, as far as when you give somebody like Joe Schmidt in his junior year a full scholarship, is that with the understanding that it can be renewed for next year?¬† Is it automatically renewed next year, or do you have the option to say, in case you are running short on scholarships, that, well, you had it for one year but it's not renewable the next.
COACH KELLY:¬† No, those are options.¬† Those are one‑year commitments.¬† Four years would just sign‑‑ this is the first class that signs the four‑year scholarships.
Q.¬† One more question about tweaking the roster and potential fifth year.¬† Possibility of more than one of those type players, adding the possibility‑‑ not the fifth year that he was asking about, but transfer.
COACH KELLY:¬† Yes.
Q.¬† Possibility of more than one?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yes.
Q.¬† And you talked about Greg Bryant.¬† Are there some other players that were instrumental in helping pull this class together?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, I think some guys that we asked a lot of on a day‑to‑day basis in recruiting, Corey Robinson with Equanimeous was outstanding.¬† You know, James Onwualu; of course with the Indianapolis kids, Jalen is a pretty good guy to get out there.
Those are just a few of the names, but I think we kind of have a few go‑to guys, if you will, that we know that we are going to match them up and say, we need your help here.
Q.¬† And how do you go about picking those guys?¬† Obviously not everybody on your roster is a good candidate for that.¬† Do you gather a list and then approach those players and say, hey, would you like to get involved with this?¬† How involved would you like to be?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, first of all, on our first Monday back, we tell our players that we need them for recruiting and they can't make plans without letting us know, because recruiting is so important.¬† They want better players, too.
Then we kind of talk as a staff, and Dave Peloquin and Tony will kind of make some decisions, I'll give some input and we'll make a decision.¬† There's some geographical kind of considerations there, too, whether it's a California kid and it's Max Redfield, we'll try to make some geographical connections.¬† It's not generally position as much as we think what their personality types are like and geography.
Q.¬† You mentioned Justin Yoon coming in as your kicker.¬† Does that mean Newsome is‑‑
COACH KELLY:¬† He's punter.¬† Yeah, he's always been the punter.¬† We've cross‑trained him a little bit, but his focus is the punt.
Q.¬† Talking about not losing many, you did lose a five‑star quarterback early on.¬† How important was it to get Wimbush?¬† You got him late in the process.
COACH KELLY:¬† We were going to be okay if we didn't take a quarterback.¬† Until I saw Brandon on film in his first couple games, and that changed my mind.¬† It just totally changed my mind after I watched him.¬† He just did so many of the things that I think a complete quarterback needs to do.¬† And as we went to work in the recruiting process, I just thought he was‑‑ we had to take a quarterback.
So I was okay not taking a quarterback to be quite honest with you, and we were going to pass for 2016, and then beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to this position.¬† And what I saw from him and what I was able to learn and develop over time with him, I just‑‑ there was no way we were going to pass on this young man.
Q.¬† And what need do you think this class fills most, that you think you had to get this class?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think the three corners.¬† That gives us the flexibility in our sub‑package, absolutely crucial.¬† I think that addresses an absolute must‑need, and of course the kicker.
I mean, if you really break it down to the two musts, we needed the quicker and we needed the three in and out corners.¬† We had to have those.
And you know, we could look at whether we needed, you know, two safeties, three safeties; we think when it all plays out, we're going to be all right at safety.¬† But we needed the three in and out corners, and we needed the kicker, yeah.
Q.¬† The last two seasons, last two recruiting classes, you had about 22 true freshmen get in there for you and I assume another handful of redshirt freshmen are knocking on the door right now.¬† Does this afford this class, first time in a while, chance for some seasoning, or have you grown comfortable with playing around ten to 12 true freshman?
COACH KELLY:¬† I don't think there's a set number in my head relative to who plays.¬† We're going to let you compete, and the watch word around here is you have together compete and embrace competition.
Look, I'm going to know right away, when we go out there and you're a freshman and you act like a freshman, then you're going to get what a freshman gets.¬† That's no playing time.¬† You get to watch.
If you go out there and you don't act like a freshman and you want to go out there and compete and you want to go out there and play, then go play.¬† So it's really up to them.¬† They will decide.¬† If they are physically able and they mentally want to compete, let's go compete.¬† I mean, I'm not getting any younger.
Q.¬† Probably too broad, but do you get more from them, do you think, even if it's finding a special teams role, you're not going to see the field from scrimmage, necessarily; does that help going forward into their sophomore years?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think so.¬† I try to use a general rule of about a hundred plays, that you can benefit from about a hundred plays.¬† Anything less than that, there may be some question as to whether you benefit enough from that.¬† I think a hundred plays, you benefit from it moving into the next year.¬† I think that's the minimum standard for me.
You'd want them to be impactful, those hundred.¬† They would have to be some kind of situational offensively, defensively and special teams.
Q.¬† I'm curious as you go through the recruiting process, each one of them is probably a little bit different but was there something that you learned from this cycle that's going to help you in future cycles?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, I think so.¬† I think so.¬† You know, I think that we have to‑‑ we always‑‑ look, it's one of those things where at NotreDame, you have to stay on top of not only the recruiting part of it.¬† You've got to stay on the academic part of it, too, and be vigilant there, too, in making sure that the application is filled out timely and your test scores are sent in and you've got all of the academic stuff has to be tightened up.
We do a really good job there, but we can't take anything for granted in that end of things, as well.¬† So we'll stay vigilant on the academic profiles, as well.
Q.¬† When Oregon and Ohio State played for the national championship, a lot of people kind of pull it out and say, okay, this is the new standard, this is the new blueprint for success.¬† As a coach, do you really see it that way, or are there things that you took from that game that can help you with your own program?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, I think if you just look at Ohio State's season, that if you lose a game early, you still have a chance to play for the National Championship.¬† So you can glean something very positive from staying together and getting better, right.
The other thing is, make no mistake about the fact that the next man in can help you get there.¬† They played three quarterbacks.¬† So the depth of your program is absolutely crucial.¬† That's No. 2.
And I think No. 3 is that‑‑ and we preach this all the time; you take it one week at a time.¬† And I think the Ohio State model for me is things that we have talked about since we've gotten here, and they just showed them receive pretty clearly; that injury is part of the game, next man in.¬† If you lose a game, you just keep‑‑ stick with the plan and get to the next game and get better each and every week, and if you do that, you've still got a shot.
Q.¬† You've been a tempo guy.¬† You've been a non‑tempo guy, I guess, at different times in your career.¬† Did that game push you either way in terms of what you want to do in the future, how you want to recruit?
COACH KELLY:¬† You know, the tempo, to me, is really about keeping the defense uncomfortable.¬† What keeps them uncomfortable.¬† And so I think if you change it up, it's never one speed all the time but if you can change up tempo, I think that's probably the most important thing; that you can move it fast when you need to go fast and if you need to slow it down, you can do that, as well.
So tempo to me would be probably that you can dictate the pace of the game.¬† I think that's the most important thing.
Q.¬† Talk about the future.¬† Where do Russell and Williams fit in?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, I know KeiVarae's situation is that he's working on classes right now at the University of Washington.¬† He's had conversations with the appropriate people to get those classes transferred back here and to meet the needs that he has relative to transfer requirements and meeting eligibility. ¬†There's still some work to be done there but I know he's working towards getting that done and our expectations are to have him back.
I think Ishaq has similar kind of criteria.¬† His bar is a little bit more complicated, but he knows what he needs to do, as well.¬† So, you know, we are hoping that both of them can get it done.
Q.¬† Just to clarify, is Ishaq enrolled elsewhere like KeiVarae?
COACH KELLY:¬† I'm not sure what his enrollment status is at this particular moment.
Q.¬† Spring game in general with construction on the stadium, is there any clarity on that?
COACH KELLY:¬† We have had some preliminary discussions about it.¬† We're probably not ready to make a decision on it.¬† We're probably going to have a spring‑‑ some form of spring game.¬† I think the destination is probably going to be somewhere here on campus.¬† We just don't know where it's going to be right now.
Again, it's one that‑‑ it's a conversation that we are trying to figure out what the best venue is for us to have it.¬† Obviously the stadium is off‑line.¬† We want to keep it on campus but as you could tell, our options are limited and the format has yet to be decided.¬† We are still trying to sort that out.
Q.¬† During the season, you had mentioned during the academic investigation that there were conversations you wanted to have about how to improve the process.¬† Is that something you've been able to accomplish since the season ended or because recruiting has been such a grind you haven't been able to?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, I think those have been ongoing.¬† I think that progress is being made to that end.¬† There's still some work to be done there.¬† But I think we're all going to be better for a very difficult period of time that we went through.
But we're not there yet.¬† But I'm confident that some progress is being made there.
Q.¬† And with the quarterbacks and their mind‑sets, obviously it's not spring practice yet but have you seen anything yet from their mind‑set heading into that situation?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, not yet.¬† I haven't been around here enough.¬† So it will start to be clearer to me when we get with the guys here and begin some of our work outs later next week.¬† And so it's going to be a competitive situation.¬† How they embrace competition will be the first criteria.
Q.¬† And lastly with, Daniels going to the NFL, was there room for him to come back?¬† Was he welcome to come back or was it a mutual decision?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, I think there were some complications with eligibility that we were going to have to work through.¬† I think some high standards were going to have to be met.¬† I think I would need somebody here with me to go through the interpretations to give you a really clear answer on it.¬† But there were some academic eligibility requirements that were going to be difficult for him to meet.
Q.¬† Curious about the proposal for the early signing period, I think you've been a supporter of that.¬† Could you just address that, how you feel that might go and what you think of that idea?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, I'm in favor of it.¬† I think any time, especially here at NotreDame, when we have a school that really kind of gives a young man a clear indication of what they are looking for with a Catholic university, small campus, high calibre academics; that kids can make an early decision on a NotreDame, that we are in favor of that.
Now, I know they think it's going to be probably on a trial basis but we are certainly in favor of those kids if they are ready to make a decision early to do that.¬† I think that's something that's going to be examined in the next NCAA meeting and voted on.
Q.¬† Young men that want to commit‑‑ to get the process out of the way, fairly obvious, but from a coaching staff standpoint, I think there have to be benefits, as well.¬† Could you talk about those a little bit?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, certainly, we can refocus our efforts.¬† For example, I can't go on the road till December 1.¬† Then, you know, sometime around the tenth or 11th of December we've got to come back off the road because we've got Bowl games and then it goes dead 8‑ to ten days later and then doesn't open backup until after the National Championship Game.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† So I have a very short period of time to get to all of our recruits.¬† For me personally it's nice that our coaches have that time off but it makes for a very, very short window.¬† So having an early signing date allows me to really focus on those guys that are not committed and I can spend a lot more time with those guys.
Q.¬† Where would you say or how do you feel this class ranks amongst ones you've had here so far at NotreDame?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, it's a different class in that I think the first couple classes were‑‑ I'd say the first one, you're kind of‑‑ you're learning about recruiting to NotreDame.¬† So there's that process of going out and figuring out how to recruit to NotreDame.
I think your second class, you know a lot more about NotreDame and now you're more specific about the position.
I think in year three and year four, I think we were really trying to recruit across the board and this one now is for depth.¬† I think I would characterize it as that we are starting to build depth for the program.¬† It seems like for the first time, we are adding‑‑ I think it's the first question I've asked since I've been here, hey, you're a little long for the first time in a particular position.¬† We want to try to get long in positions.¬† I think that's where we want to get to.
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