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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 2, 2015
THE MODERATOR:¬† Thanks, everybody, for being here.¬† We can get started with Coach Kelly.
COACH KELLY:¬† As everyone is aware, we had this press conference scheduled for Friday, but we lost one of our most influential if not, other than Father Sorin maybe, important men of the 20th century in Father Hesburgh.
I think there are many, many stories and many significant parts of his life that we could sit here and chronicle.¬† I think one of the things that touched me the most was when he blessed that cross right over there for our team room that we display here every day.
I find it to be extremely important to us being here at Notre Dame, one of the great, if not the greatest Catholic institutions.¬† I know that was his mission.¬† It's borne out every day with that cross in so many ways.¬† We'll honor him and memorialize him this week.¬† I'm sure everybody understands that.¬† His legacy here is certainly unmatched.
We're talking football.¬† Certainly it pales in comparison to what he's accomplished.¬† We will, nevertheless, get to the things we want to talk about relative to our football program.
I will say that 2015 has been one of great momentum for us.¬† It began in December with a great, great win over perennial SEC power in LSU, a last‑second win in December.¬† It continued in January when we had two of our elite players forego the NFL and come back here to finish their education and want to be part of pursuit of a national championship in Sheldon Day and Ronnie Stanley.
February we signed what many people talked about as one of the top classes in the country.¬† The months of December, January and February, there's a lot of momentum leading into 2015.
We've had great workouts, which are more behind the scenes.¬† But as we lead into March, I'm announcing today what I consider to be collectively the most, and I use these words to define the staff that we put together, I consider it to be the most committed, cohesive, experienced, and probably brightest coaching staff that I've put together in my career.
Obviously I'm excited about the continuity we still have in place on our staff.¬† But the new pieces continue that momentum that I've talked about, starting with our bowl win in December.
So leading into March, in a couple weeks we'll begin our spring ball.¬† The challenges and competition of spring ball, which will lead us into recruiting in May, and then obviously our summer workouts and right into the season.
When we talk about committed, I think you look immediately to the staff members that I brought onboard that have a connection to Notre Dame.¬† Committed because they chose Notre Dame in their undergraduate career and wanted so badly to come back.
It's interesting.¬† In the interviewing process, in talking to Todd Lyght and Autry Denson and Ron Powlus, in particular those guys, even Maurice Crum, they get here, they're student‑athletes, they're so focused on their degree, how hard it is to get a degree and play football.¬† They want to move on.¬† Then they work so hard to get back here.¬† They're so committed to the principles and the ideas of Notre Dame and towards winning a national championship.
So I think when you talk about committed, you talk about those that walked those steps as student‑athletes here at Notre Dame and are now in a position to, from a different perspective, coach and teach here and help lead us to a national championship.
When we talk about cohesiveness, we talk about those that have worked with me before and have worked with other staff members.¬† I'd like to point to Keith Gilmore.¬† Keith has been with me at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati.¬† He played college football with Brian VanGorder and Paul Longo.¬† So there's great cohesiveness there.¬† We know Keith very well.
He's experienced.¬† He has great experience in the collegiate level as a coach, as a teacher, as a mentor, as a recruiter, and he brings that great cohesiveness to our staff, as well.
I think when you talk about bright, somebody that brings a lot of ideas, Mike Sanford.¬† When we were looking at bringing in the best and the brightest, we looked all over the country for that person that would fit into what we wanted to do offensively, coach the quarterback, somebody that could come in and coordinate the run and pass game together.¬† Mike Sanford was clearly a cut above everybody that we looked at.
So using those words that I did in terms of committed, cohesive, experienced and brightest, those are our new hires as it relates to our staff.
Then Donovan Raiola, who was under Harry, he comes in as a graduate assistant.
Maurice Crum, obviously somebody that knows Notre Dame.¬† Again, going back to committed and understanding Notre Dame.¬† Another great addition to our staff.
Then we made some moves within the staff to strengthen it and to bolster the day‑to‑day operations.¬† Moving Mike Elston to the recruiting coordinator position is going to strengthen our operations on a day‑to‑day basis.
Mike brings an attention to detail, a vision for what it takes to communicate to today's kids out there that are being recruited, whether it be through the social media aspects or simply finding the right buttons to push when it comes to recruiting.
Great recruiters today have to have something to recruit to, first and foremost, but they also have to be able to connect.¬† Mike has done a great job since he's been here.¬† He's arguably been our best recruiter day in and day out.¬† If you just look at our roster, it's proven that to be the case.
He was my recruiting coordinator at Cincinnati.¬† Did a terrific job there.¬† You just need to look at the guys that are in the NFL that we recruited at Cincinnati when Mike was our recruiting coordinator there.¬† He'll do a great job for us as our recruiting coordinator.
We're moving him into the linebacker position on the staff, as well.¬† We think that really bolsters and strengthens our staff as Keith Gilmore goes to his natural position at coaching the defensive line.
Todd Lyght on the defensive side of the ball will coach the defensive backs, the corners and the safeties.¬† We love the skill set that he brings in particular.¬† We were looking for somebody that was experienced in coaching man‑to‑man techniques and really has a strong background and skill set there.
When we're talking about that defensive structure, what Coach VanGorder was looking for, we really think we hit a home run in putting the defensive staff together.
Coach Elliott, who was coaching on the field, has now moved into a very important position off the field.¬† His position in particular will be one that will assist in all facets of the program, but with a heavy detail towards things that I need accomplished on a day‑to‑day basis to help our football program.
It will be a special assistant and special project.¬† I can give you 10 of them right now.¬† But they are really pertinent to the day‑to‑day operations within the football program.¬† Everything from researching some of the current trends in option football, to analytics, to roster management, to our bridge program in the summer.¬† All of the things on a day‑to‑day basis that can help and assist me on a day‑to‑day basis so we can be more detailed, more organized on a day‑to‑day basis, as well as leaning heavily on him and his experience in game day and game week preparation.
We'll have another set of eyes relative to game management, and he'll be able to assist in helping in all facets of game day operations, as well.
Really, really lucky and fortunate that we're able to have Coach Elliott and his experience in that role assisting our football program accordingly.
I talked about Ron Powlus.¬† Ron coming back to Notre Dame, obviously as a heralded student‑athlete coming in here and playing here at Notre Dame is one thing, but being somebody that can build relationships was the most important thing for the director of player services.¬† He needs to have that ability.
Ron has demonstrated this, and one of his great strengths is his ability to forge relationships with student‑athletes because he's been in their shoes.
It's one thing to be in their shoes, but you still have to have the ability to connect with student‑athletes.¬† That's what has impressed me with Ron, is his ability to connect with student‑athletes.¬† That's why he'll be able to really do a great job of helping and assisting our student‑athletes on a day‑to‑day basis academically, athletically, going through the ups and downs of a long season.
It's more brain power.¬† He can't coach on the field, but he certainly has a lot of experience that he can lend as it relates to the game of football, the quarterback position.¬† Although he's not necessarily counted as one of the coaches by NCAA rules, make no mistake about it, he is a valuable asset as it relates to the game of football, as well, his relationships he can build with our student‑athletes.¬† Really fortunate and excited to have Ron back here at Notre Dame, as well.
As we look at the formation of the offensive side of the ball, Mike Denbrock now takes on a new role as the associate head football coach, especially on the offensive side of the ball.¬† Mike is going to oversee the organization of the offense, and in particular he's going to be installing, implementing and putting together the entire offense.¬† That will be his responsibility, where Mike Sanford will coordinate the run and pass game through daily practice and game plan preparation.
They're working together collaboratively.¬† It's a great room with Scott Booker still with our tight ends working with special teams, Autry Denson with the runningbacks.
But the collaborative approach to it, no egos, best idea wins is really the philosophy that we have really used as our mantra for the offensive side of the ball.
Again, I think when you're talking about what we want to achieve here, everybody on this staff has made a commitment that the title that they want the most is a national title.¬† They are certainly more interested in the title that goes with national champ than the title that goes next to their name.¬† That's why I'm so excited about the staff that we have and the staff that we put together here.
I can't tell you how important it is for Coach Denbrock in his role, how important it is for him to oversee our offense and the development of that, and then to have somebody like Mike Sanford with obviously the energy that he brings, the ideas that he brings to the room, and the day‑to‑day responsibilities that they have, the collaboration necessary where there are no big egos but just one thought, and that is best ideas, whatever it takes to be successful.¬† You can only do that with the right kind of guys, and we've got them on our staff.
Moving to the rest of the offense and talking about Autry Denson, let me talk about Autry a little bit more.
We had a number of candidates for this position, great candidates throughout the country.¬† I will tell you that we had no shortage of some of the best in the country.
Autry came up immediately, because of his background here as the all‑time leading rusher, and quite frankly his background as a Notre Dame student‑athlete, gave him a chance at an interview.
I really didn't think I was going to hire him, quite honestly, until he interviewed.¬† He blew me away in the interview.¬† His attention to detail at the runningback position, techniques, how he was teaching the runningbacks, the depth and knowledge at the position both in the run game and the pass game.¬† His philosophy matched mine in terms of development of the student‑athlete both on and off the field.
Then as we talked about recruiting, how he was going to go about that challenge of recruiting.¬† We had a long list of guys that we had ready to interview.¬† We called them up and said that we found our runningback coach in Autry Denson.
We feel lucky to have him and excited to welcome him here to Notre Dame.¬† I know our players are excited about him, and we're excited about having him on the staff, as well.
I talked about Mike Sanford.¬† I want to talk a little bit more about Mike.¬† As you know, he comes to us from Boise State which is his alma mater as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach here.¬† He's certainly taking over a position where there will be a lot of scrutiny.¬† Whether it was this year or any other year, there's a great amount of scrutiny on the quarterback position.¬† Mike understands that.¬† He welcomes that challenge.
Really love his attention to detail, his ease of communication.¬† In other words, he's very easy to talk to.¬† The players feel very comfortable with him.¬† It's easy for him to get his point across on a day‑to‑day basis.¬† Just love his ability to communicate.¬† He's an effective communicator on a day‑to‑day basis.¬† I think he's going to be able to do great things with our quarterback position and develop our quarterbacks on a day‑to‑day basis.
Leaving Boise State was not easy when it's your alma mater.¬† But coming here, there is obviously some history here.¬† That was that he was probably one of the most underrated sophomore quarterbacks at Penn High School.¬† That's a bit of a joke.¬† But he did play a couple years here at Penn High School.¬† His dad obviously was a coordinator here under Bob Davies.¬† He's familiar with South Bend.
But taking on the challenge as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach was one that he was excited about, and I'm certainly excited about just his mindset in terms of what he wants to accomplish.¬† Obviously it's the same thing that I just mentioned:¬† win a national championship.
We got a chance to spend a lot of time together.¬† It was pretty clear to me that we had found the best guy for this position in the country.
He'll do a great job recruiting for us as well.¬† He's got a great background as a former recruiting coordinator at Stanford.¬† He'll hit the ground running as it relates to recruiting not only the quarterback position but all positions across the country.¬† So extremely excited about Mike Sanford as our offensive coordinator, quarterback coach.
As I mentioned, again, a number of exciting changes with the continuity.¬† I mentioned Keith Gilmore on the defensive side of the ball.¬† 30 years, coaching veteran.¬† He did some great things throughout his career.¬† He's developed first‑round draft picks.¬† Again, I think across the board I couldn't be more pleased with the staff and the makeup and the direction that we're going.¬† It just continues to build the momentum across the board.
So with that, I'll open it up to any questions as it relates to the staff.
Q.¬† Brian, who do you envision calling plays offensively between Mike's role and what you do?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think that's something we're still kind of working through at this point.¬† I don't think we've made a definitive decision.
We're still in the process of really working through the offense, making any improvements to it.¬† That's not really on the priority list.
We'll get to that.¬† I think we want to get through the spring before we make any final decisions on that.
Q.¬† How much of a challenge has it been overhauling so much of your staff in such a short period of time?
COACH KELLY:¬† Quite frankly, when you have the resources that we have here at Notre Dame, and when I say that what Jack Swarbrick has provided me as the head coach in terms of resources, it's been pretty easy.
We have been provided resources that allow us to attract anybody in the country here, as well as it's Notre Dame, and you're getting a chance to coach at one of the great places in college football.
From that standpoint, a lot of it has been really on Chad Klunder, our associate athletic director, because he's had to work so much on the HR process.¬† But when it comes to candidates and then vetting those candidates, it's been pretty easy.
Q.¬† You've got a whole operation in place that goes 12 months.¬† When you have so much changeover, does that get set back at all, does your timeline change at all?
COACH KELLY:¬† We changed our spring practice.¬† We were going to start this week.¬† We bumped it back to accommodate getting the staff settled in.
Then maybe a little bit in recruiting relative to not having as much manpower on hand.¬† Megan Whitt moved on.¬† She's going to be looking for a job.¬† She was our coordinator in recruiting.¬† She's moving on to another position.¬† Maybe a little bit there.¬† But nothing that we can't overcome.
So if you said that I could put together the staff that I've been able to put together under these circumstances, and you would have to push back spring ball a little bit, you'd have to put a little bit more on the other coaches in recruiting to put this staff together, I said I would take it any day.
Q.¬† You have position groups listed for Keith Gilmore, Todd Lyght, Mike.¬† What will Brian VanGorder's position be?
COACH KELLY:¬† Brian will definitely float.¬† I'm sure he'll spend quite a bit of time in the back end of the defense.¬† He'll spend some time back with the safeties.¬† I think that's something that we talked about.
But he's responsible for all the positions.¬† I would think that his plan right now is to spend more time in the back end.
Q.¬† You lost top recruiters in prime areas such as Florida, Texas, California.¬† Have you delegated as to who is going to be responsible for what territories?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yes.¬† We don't think we'll miss a beat.¬† As a matter of fact, we feel like we'll be stronger.¬† I think Autry Denson will have Florida.¬† He'll be assisted in there with some other coaches.¬† But he'll have a strong area in South Florida.
I think Mike Sanford is going to have a large part of Texas.¬† He's had some great success in Texas before.
So in those two particular areas, two of our new hires will have those two geographical areas.
Q.¬† How about California?
COACH KELLY:¬† Mike will have California, as well.
Q.¬† Mike Sanford?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yes.
Q.¬† Will you have Mike Denbrock?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah.¬† Mike will be more involved this year in some of the geographical areas, as well.
Q.¬† How about Todd Lyght?
COACH KELLY:¬† Todd is going to be in those geographical areas as well.¬† We're kind of matching them up in those same areas.¬† So Texas, Florida.¬† He'll have responsibilities in those areas, as well.
Q.¬† Will Mike Elston have his usual areas in the Midwest and the Atlantic border?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yes.
Q.¬† How much of the support staff with Coach Elliott and others will you have in recruiting?¬† They can make calls but can't go on visits?
COACH KELLY:¬† That's correct.¬† They can be on campus, they can make calls.¬† They're going to make sure that on a day‑to‑day basis that the process is moving seamlessly.¬† Sometimes the recruiting evaluation system where they can't get backed up, they're going to make sure it gets pushed along.¬† They can't sit there and evaluate, but they can make sure that coaches are getting their jobs done relative to moving the process along.
We just have more resources to make sure that the process is moving quickly.
Q.¬† Do you anticipate any more hirings in support staff?
COACH KELLY:¬† We're going to hire three more analysts, one on offense, one on defense and one on special teams.¬† It's going through HR right now.
Q.¬† What are their roles going to be?
COACH KELLY:¬† It will be more of an oversight, quality control.¬† They'll have some responsibilities as it relates to meetings.¬† They'll assist position coaches as well as they may have some weekly game plan specialty situations where they may be responsible for some specifics, maybe some short yardage or some third down responsibilities.
The offense and defense in particular are veteran coaches, so they're going to add some brain power to the room.¬† We'll rely on their experience, again, to add some veteran coaches who bring a lot of experience.¬† We'll call on them to assist.
Q.¬† They just can't help?
COACH KELLY:¬† They can't be coaching on the field.¬† They can assist in meetings, be part of film study.¬† They can be given a specific responsibility of film break down.¬† Hey, you're responsible for all the third down and long fronts, all the blitzes in the red zone.¬† They can have a particular responsibility and oversight.
Q.¬† We often hear about athletic directors having a list of head coaching candidates in the front drawer.¬† Does a head coach have a list of assistant coaching candidates that you can turn to immediately?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, I think so.¬† I think in this instance, there's probably a group of guys that I'm familiar with.¬† But we reached outside that group, as well.¬† Especially when you have guys that have a background with Notre Dame, you're going to look at that list, as well.
But I think you also have to look at those that come highly regarded by your peers, as well.¬† So I'm talking to fellow head coaches.¬† You're talking to your own agent who wants the best for you so he can still get paid every year, too, who has a list out there that he's looking at as maybe the next head coach.
So you're using a lot of resources, you know, your own tree.¬† You're listening to our assistant coaches on your staff that have contacts from their time.¬† You're putting all those together to find the right fit.
Q.¬† Tying in with what you said.¬† I know you and Chip Kelly know each other well.¬† What was he able to tell you about Todd Lyght that allowed you to look past his relatively inexperience as an assistant coach?
COACH KELLY:¬† Just his ability to command the respect of the players that he's coached.¬† Once you have the ability to stand in front of the room and command the respect of the group that you have, then that takes away the inexperience portion of your r√©sum√© because you gain that, right?¬† You gain that comfort level through time.
He had that right away.¬† I think that goes to his long experience in the NFL, the confidence that he has in his own ability to communicate.¬† So I think a long career, a lot of success.¬† He's not used to not being successful.¬† You can tell when he walks into the room that immediately he has that.¬† It makes up for any shortness that he may have in a r√©sum√©.
Q.¬† When you started this search process, where was Mike Sanford on your radar?¬† If he already was on your radar, how were you familiar with him, or who turned your attention toward him?
COACH KELLY:¬† I was impressed with him going back at Stanford, just knew where he was.¬† But we had a very short list.¬† He was on the top of it from the very beginning.
We went after him hard right away.¬† We knew it was not going to be easy for him to leave a very good situation.¬† But we felt like we had a situation here that was going to be a great one for him.
But he was our number one candidate from the very beginning.
Q.¬† Did you speak to his dad about him?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, you got to recruit in this business.¬† I flew to Utah and home visited.¬† I guess the home visit went pretty good.¬† Met dad, met mom, met the family.¬† Went pretty good.
Q.¬† Moving forward, is this still your offense?¬† Are you inviting change by bringing somebody like Mike Sanford in?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, we're not going to change anything relative to verbiage, nomenclature.¬† The structure is still there, but we're always looking for improvements.¬† We're always looking for ways to run our offense more efficiently.
It still should be centered around the players first and the plays second.¬† So whatever best fits the players over the particular play.
We're not bringing in a new offensive structure relative to terminology.¬† What we're doing is we're bringing in more ideas.¬† Mike Denbrock will oversee that.¬† We'll put in what we think can make us more efficient, more dynamic, at the end of the day be a better offense than we were last year.
Q.¬† When you have this change in structure, some new people, do you look at this as an opportunity to change how involved you are in the quarterback and managing the offense?¬† Does your role change significantly?
COACH KELLY:¬† Look, I think more than anything else the structure of putting the offense together with Mike Denbrock and Mike Sanford, it's the trust in them for them to run this offense and get it running to the level that it needs to be run.
So ultimately my trust is in them to run the offense at the level that I believe it can be run.¬† So I have no problem not being involved in it.
The ultimate goal here is we're all involved in it at this point.¬† I was asked the question earlier, Where do you see your role as a play caller?¬† I think we're still in that process of figuring it out right now.
I just want to be part of the solution.¬† I don't have to be the play caller.¬† I don't have to be the quarterback coach.¬† I've hired people to do all those jobs.
If it means at the end of the day I don't have to be involved in that, but that puts us in a better position, I'm 100% okay with that.
Q.¬† You mentioned some of the benefits you thought of having more of a staff that had more ND on its r√©sum√©.¬† It's not only ND players, it's big‑name ND players.¬† Did that factor in at all, that they were not only Notre Dame players, but former stars?
COACH KELLY:¬† It does get your attention, I will tell you.¬† You look at Todd Lyght, you look at his r√©sum√©.¬† Look, he goes into a home, he's recruiting somebody.¬† First of all, when you get a chance to talk to him, he's a great person.¬† Take away the football.¬† He's a great family man.¬† He's a great person.
If a mom and dad are looking at Todd Lyght and say, If my son can be like him, forget about the football, we've already won.¬† You'll find that across the board with Autry Denson, as well.
Then he's won a national championship here.¬† He's gotten his degree.¬† He's paid back his scholarship here.¬† He's given back.¬† He's won a Super Bowl ring.¬† I mean, you're recruiting at Notre Dame.¬† That's pretty powerful stuff.¬† Yeah, that gets your attention.
Then you go to Autry Denson, all time leading rusher from South Florida who has a great spiritual base, great family.¬† All those things are very compelling.
Not to mention Maurice and Ron.¬† They're good people.¬† I want to be around good people.
Q.¬† Do you know yet where these good people will be coaching the spring game?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah.¬† We're going to be right here at LaBar.¬† We're in the process of bidding out temporary seating right now.¬† We've got a couple companies that I think we're involved in right now, putting together bids for that.¬† So we'll have temporary seating in there.¬† So we're in that process right now.
But we will be playing the spring game.¬† It will be at LaBar.¬† We don't know whether we'll have a partner for that relative to NBC.¬† That's still being negotiated right now.
But the game is on.¬† We're playing it.¬† You guys are invited if you'd like to show up.¬† We'll be there.
Q.¬† For the better part of 10 years, Coach Elston has been your defensive line coach.¬† What went into the move when you had a coach that you trusted so much already?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think a little bit of everything.¬† There are a lot of pieces there.¬† Coach VanGorder wanting to float a little bit away from the linebackers, and having Mike who has experience there at the position.¬† That's one.
Two, I think professional development for Coach Elston I think at the linebacker position gets him involved in the passing game, which is great for him.
So I think a little bit for Coach VanGorder so he can be a little bit more flexible and move around, and I think a little bit for Coach Elston.
Then, with a lot of young players, we wanted somebody that is a great mentor.¬† Not that Coach Elston isn't.¬† But somebody that fit that bill in Coach Gilmore, who is a great technician, has 30 years of D‑line experience.¬† So I think it's a little bit of all those things.
Q.¬† You mentioned Coach Booker remaining with the tight ends.¬† Is he the special teams coordinator as well?
COACH KELLY:¬† He'll have special teams.¬† He'll also have an analyst with him.¬† He'll also have help from Coach Elliott.¬† It will be one of his responsibilities, as well as all the coaches on the staff will be involved as well.
Q.¬† I know in the past you've had coaches separate.¬† Is having more people involved that can aid special teams to free up your coaches?
COACH KELLY:¬† Those analysts will be full‑time positions.¬† They'll be here full‑time and have a full‑time responsibility.
What it does, I think it's going to allow us to be even more detailed, even more fine tuning some of the things that we're doing.¬† Like I said, it gives us more experience and more staff.
Q.¬† Brian, you lost coaches before.¬† In a year when you mention so much momentum, you lost two guys who left for lateral positions.
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, we didn't lose them because of any reasons that have to do with finances or not providing them with the opportunities necessary for them to be successful.
People leave for reasons.¬† You'd have to ask them for that.¬† All I know is that it has provided me and Notre Dame with the kind of staff that I couldn't be more pleased with.
Sometimes those things happen for reasons.¬† It's opened up a door for us that we could have never opened unless those things happened.
Call it what you want, but it allowed us to bring in two all‑time greats from Notre Dame, then kind of a domino effect that really put together an incredible staff, one that I'm so excited about.
Q.¬† You have a history of coordinators, leaning towards people you know. ¬†What was it about Mike Sanford that led you to go away from that?¬† Did you consider staying with somebody you had a history with?
COACH KELLY:¬† I was committed, and Mike Denbrock and I had a long conversation about this.¬† We agreed at the end that what we were looking for was somebody that could turn the room upside down.¬† We didn't want somebody to be equal.¬† We wanted somebody that was going to turn that room upside down, that was that good.¬† We weren't going to settle for somebody that was on the same plane.¬† We wanted somebody that was going to challenge us on a day‑to‑day basis.¬† Mike does that.
That essentially was what we were looking for.¬† Mike Denbrock and I had a number of conversations.¬† Do we go this direction?¬† Do we go this direction?¬† As we got a chance to really think about it, we've been at it a long time, you know, the both of us, and I think we came to the agreement that we're going to get somebody in here that it's going to keep us on our toes, is going to bring that room up to a level that is going to create such synergy and energy on a day‑to‑day basis that it's going to make everybody better.
Q.¬† Any indication of how many fans you would be able to accommodate for the blue and gold game?
COACH KELLY:¬† If you're there, that's all we need.¬† If we get one, put us on TV, we'll be good to go.
2,500, 3,000 is the number we're throwing around.¬† You know, I don't know, Chad is working on it right now.¬† Does that sound fair?¬† Is that high?¬† Is that low?
Invite only.¬† You're in trouble now.
Q.¬† You talked about Father Ted in the beginning.¬† Could you share a story or two of your relationship with him, how much he meant to you.
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, I'll share really the first year here where I got a chance to spend some time with him and talk football.¬† You can imagine, he could have talked about Lou, Ara.¬† He saw Kelly.¬† And when he saw Kelly, he said, You must be Irish, I want to talk about Leahy.¬† I got a chance to learn about Frank Leahy.¬† Of course, at that time I was up to here just trying to find my way around campus.¬† Just hearing about Frank Leahy, his relationship with Frank Leahy was pretty extraordinary.
Then fast forwarding to current, we got back to current topics in college football.¬† It was interesting.¬† He finished it off by saying, Coach, I don't follow the game, and I don't see quite as well as I used to, but I still know that speed wins.
For all of that, for all that he was involved in, he still knew enough about the game to talk about speed in the game.¬† I just thought it was so insightful for somebody at that age, 92, to say, Coach, keep recruiting speed.
Q.¬† Brian, Mike Sanford is the first OC you hired you haven't previously worked with.¬† You talked about turning the room upside down.¬† When did those conversations start with Coach Denbrock about bringing in this new voice that neither of you guys had previously worked with?
COACH KELLY:¬† During the process of hiring, yeah.¬† During the process.¬† You know, Mike is central to all this because he's overseeing the offense.¬† He has to be part of this.¬† He has to be bought into what we're trying to achieve on offense.¬† Mike always is.
It can't be just being a good soldier.¬† That isn't what this is about.¬† This is about being part of what we want to achieve on offense.
Mike is more than that.¬† You can't minimize what he does on a day‑to‑day basis by calling him a good soldier.¬† He's part of what we're trying to achieve offensively, that is, be the best offense, the most dynamic offense.
Those conversations took place during the process, then just putting together that consistency.¬† When we recruited Mike Sanford, we could be clear on anybody's roles.¬† What you can't do is come in and say, Mike, you're doing this, then when he gets here he's doing something totally different.
Q.¬† What changed from this year's discussion about the offense to maybe different offensive coordinators about bringing in that new voice.
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, Mike will talk about this.¬† The first thing I talked to Mike Sanford about was the quarterback.¬† His first job here, job number one is developing our quarterback situation.¬† It started there.¬† Kind of got into the run game.¬† We talked in great length about the run game.¬† As we talked about the run game, then we got into the passing game.
This conversation started as me thinking about a quarterback coach, then he evolved into, wow, we got more here than just a guy that coaches the quarterbacks.¬† We got something much more here.
As we talk about the run game, pass game, coordinating the run and pass game, it fit with what my philosophy is.¬† I was asked, What's the difference here?¬† There's not a big difference because we come from the same philosophical background relative to how we want it done.¬† We just want to be more efficient and more effective.
Q.¬† Can I sneak in an injury update question?
COACH KELLY:¬† Sure.¬† But I'm disappointed in you.¬† You're slipping.¬† Too much basketball.
Q.¬† Anything new on Jarrett, Nicky, Joe, Jarron?
COACH KELLY:¬† Slow down for me.¬† Jarrett Grace looking great in workouts.¬† As a matter of fact, we had a morning workout where I showed some clips.¬† He beat Jaylon Smith in a couple of cone drives.
COACH KELLY:¬† Nicky Baratti, he's going to go.¬† Doing everything.¬† Is in the weight room.¬† Full clearance.
Q.¬† He would be part of the safety rotation?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yes, he would, absolutely.
Q.¬† Joe and Jarron, you said they're probably out for spring practice.
COACH KELLY:¬† Joe is making progress, moving straight ahead, starting to move a little bit.
Jarron won't get over the hump until we remove those screws.¬† He's got those screws, they start to protrude a little bit.¬† He's going to have to get those screws out.¬† We'll probably do that after break, then I think you'll see some progress.
But nothing that we're concerned about.
Q.¬† Is his recovery on the same timetable as Braxton a couple years ago?
COACH KELLY:¬† It sure is.
Q.¬† I don't think I'm forgetting anyone else.
COACH KELLY:¬† No, I think you've hit them all, as far as I remember.
Q.¬† A lot of talk in the emphasis on the four coaches you're bringing in.¬† How important is it for the other five coaches to be onboard with the guys you're bringing in to really make this staff hit the ground running?
COACH KELLY:¬† Listen, this is all about everybody rowing in the right direction, everybody here for the same reasons.
I think the continuity piece is they know where we want this to go.¬† The foundation here is rock solid.¬† They have been put in a position really to be kind of supported with the new staff members to continue to do their job.
So I think they feel immediately like coach went out and complemented what we already have here in place.¬† It's been a seamless transition.¬† I know I've gotten great feedback from everybody on the staff, that they really enjoy where we are at this point.
Q.¬† The last time you lost three coaches, had some moving around, was before the 2012 season.¬† What does it do for players when there's the new voices, even if it's like the linebackers?¬† Does it energize players, guys that aren't playing, here is a chance for me to make a fresh impression?
COACH KELLY:¬† I really believe that any business organization, the blending of change and continuity is a positive thing.¬† I know there's a great energy, there's a great sense of morale.¬† We're seeing it in our workouts.¬† We're seeing it on a day‑to‑day basis.
But, listen, that's only one component.¬† If you didn't hire really good coaches, teachers, then that's short‑lived, right?¬† That energy ends if you don't have great coaches.
We put together an incredible staff that is only going to get this thing moving quicker and quicker.¬† I think that's the real key here.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Thanks, everybody.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports